Monthly Archives: February 2012

Bangkok Post: “Nitirat leader attacked at Thammasat”

The Bangkok Post says that the leader of the group of academics arguing for the reform of Thailand’s royal insult laws was reportdly assaulted at Thammasat Univ. today:

Law lecturer Vorajate Pakeerat, leader of the Nitirat (enlightened jurists) group, was punched in the face by an unidentified man at Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan campus on Wednesday afternoon, reports said.

Thanapol Aiewsakul, editor of Fah Diewkan magazine, was quoted as saying said two men arrived on the campus on a motorcycle.

They waited for Mr Vorajate in a car park in front of the law faculty building. When he showed up, one of them punched him in the face several times. Both men then fled.

Mr Vorajate suffered cuts and bruises, was left bleeding, and his spectacles were broken. He was quickly taken to Thonburi Hospital for a medical examination.

The Post story has security camera pics of the men who allegedly assaulted Vorajate.

Reminder: Previous posts on the Nitirat group and other related topics can be found via the lèse-majesté tag.

Sondhi Sentenced to 20 Years for Financial Crime

2012 02 29 sondhi

Speaking of jail sentences (see my previous post), the AP reports:

A Thai protest leader whose movement helped topple three prime ministers was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for falsifying financial documents aimed at securing a $32 million government bank loan for his media empire.

Sondhi Limthongkul faces separate charges in connection with the aggressive protests of his People’s Alliance for Democracy, or Yellow Shirts, who in 2008 occupied the prime minister’s offices for three months and Bangkok’s two airports for a week. The group is still active, though less influential.

The 64-year-old Sondhi pleaded guilty to crimes involving documents he submitted for his Manager Media Group to secure a 1 billion baht loan in 1997 from the state Krung Thai Bank.

He was sentenced to five years each on 17 counts, but the 85-year term was halved because he pleaded guilty. The final sentence was capped at 20 years because it is the maximum allowable on the charge.

He was later released on 10 million baht ($328,000) bail pending appeal of his sentence.

There are also stories from the Bangkok Post and The Nation.

(All emphasis mine.)

UPDATE: This Bloomberg story provides more details on Sondhi’s background. There’s also an AFP story.

UPDATE 2: The WSJ’s Southeast Asia Real Time reports that analysts suggest Sondhi “…is likely to serve at least some time behind bars.”

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Red Shirt Jailed for Lèse-majesté

Bloomberg reports today:

A Thai man who helped lead anti- government protests was sentenced to seven and half years in jail for insulting the royal family.

Surachai Danwattananusorn, 68, had a 15-year prison term cut in half because he pleaded guilty to the charges, Bangkok’s Criminal Court said today. His legal team will seek a royal pardon, even as police investigate an additional complaint against Surachai, lawyer Karom Ponpornklang told reporters.

“Surachai has accused the monarchy of being behind protests and conflicts in the country,” the court said in its ruling. “This is not true as the monarchy’s activities are for the benefit of Thai people. His move is considered a severe offense and does not deserve a suspended punishment. He’s mature and he still does this.”

The AP says:

A Thai court has sentenced a member of the Red Shirt political movement to 7 1/2 years imprisonment for remarks judged to have insulted the country’s monarchy.

The court ruled Tuesday that 70-year-old Surachai Danwattananusorn made speeches against the monarchy three times in 2010.

Surachai was a communist insurgent in Thailand in the 1970s and was imprisoned in the 1980s. More recently he has led a faction of the Red Shirts, who that took to the streets and clashed with the military in 2010.

There are also stories from Reuters, the BBC, the Bangkok Post, and MCOT.

(Note that reports of his precise age are inconsistent.)

3 More Iranians Questioned over Alleged Bangkok Bomb Plot

The AP reports today:

Thai investigators questioned three more Iranian citizens Monday for possible links to an alleged bomb plot that was discovered in Bangkok on Valentine’s Day.

National Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo said that two men and one woman were found Sunday during a search of an apartment in the capital that had been rented by an Iranian woman who is also wanted in the case.

And:

One of the those questioned was 33-year-old Madani Seyed Mehrded, Piya said. He said Mehrded had been in contact with other detained suspects, including an Iranian man who blew his legs off by mistake as he fled police on Feb. 14.

Immigration police chief Police Lt. Gen. Wiboon Bangthamai later told reporters that two of the three questioned Monday had been released. Mehrded is still being held, but Wiboon said he had denied being involved in a bomb plot.

Elsewhere, the Bangkok Post reports today:

Three more Iranians were detained by the police yesterday on suspicion of involvement in the bombings on Sukhumvit Soi 71 on Feb 14.

The three detainees — two men and one woman — were identified as Madani Seyed Mehrded, Rahimi Rad Iraj, a chef at a hotel in Soi Nana, and his wife Mahboobh Tasbehi.

They all live in the Naza Vegas building in Watthana district, where fellow Iranian suspect Leila Rohani also lived.

Mr Mehrded, 33, was detained yesterday afternoon when police raided a room on the 14th floor of Naza Vegas.

The police seized a computer, a mobile phone and some other objects from the rental apartment for inspection.

And:

The call logs on the Sim cards showed Mr Mehrded had regularly communicated with the two suspects by mobile phone, police said. On Feb 14, he allegedly was waiting for the other suspects in front of the Israeli embassy on Asok Road, police said.

MCOT also has a story today along with some images, presumably of Mehrded.

Red Shirts Rally in Khao Yai

2012 02 26 red shirts khao yai

The Bangkok Post reports:

The red-shirt movement’s drive to amend the constitution and oppose a future military coup has gained momentum with an estimated 30,000 supporters gathering at Bonanza Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima on Saturday evening.

Members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and governing Pheu Thai Party loyalists from all over the country began converging on the resort in in Pak Chong district on Friday evening.

Among the UDD core leaders and Pheu Thai MPs attending the event were UDD chairwoman Tida Tawornseth, her husband Weng Tojirakarn, and Jatuporn Prompan.

Mrs Tida said the 2007 constitution had been used for five years and Thai society had seen its best and worst points. The UDD rally, she said, showed there were many people who wanted to declare that they did not accept the post-coup charter.

Meanwhile:

The yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Demcocracy (PAD) has been threatening to regroup and step up its protests if the charter amendments go ahead.

Some hard-core PAD members are even said to favour a military coup to prevent the passage of a new charter that they believe could consolidate the power of Thaksin and his allies.

Meanwhile, Tul Sitthisomwong, a core member of the Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land, or the multicoloured-shirt group, told 100 supporters at Victory Monument that his group would also oppose changing the charter.

Elsewhere, The Nation has this story about the red shirt gathering:

Red-shirt supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra began to gather at Bonanza Square in Khao Yai National Park yesterday, in the heat of the day, for a “Stop the Coup, Change the Charter” concert – their first rally in months.

And:

More than 10,000 people had arrived at the venue before dusk. Police Major General Phanu Kerdlarpphol, head of Region 3 police, said 500 officers had been deployed for the concert.

Police will monitor the concert for any violations in regard to lese majeste. Video and picture cameras would be used.

For background info on the efforts to change the Thai constitution, see the AP story I linked to in my last post.

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: The Nation.)

AP: “Thai Parliament takes first step toward contentious constitutional change”

The AP reported yesterday:

A joint session of Thailand’s Parliament has taken the first contentious steps toward revising the country’s constitution, implemented after a 2006 military coup.

After two days of debate, lawmakers on Saturday approved by a 399-199 vote measures that call for establishment of a constitution drafting assembly.

Divisions over whether the constitution should be revised mirror the split in Thai society since the 2006 coup that ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, with opponents threatening to fight any amendments.

Constitutional change is favored by the current government led by Thaksin’s sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and opposed by the opposition Democrat Party. The government says changes are needed to make the charter more democratic. The 2007 constitution was approved by a popular referendum, but was drafted by backers of the coup and pushed through with pressure from the military.

Those against change say the amendments are intended to pave the way for Thaksin to return home from overseas exile without having to serve time for a corruption conviction.

(All emphasis mine.)

Update: The WSJ has a story today that begins:

A fragile détente between Thailand’s powerful armed forces and a populist government led by the younger sister of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra is looking increasingly fragile after the country’s parliament Saturday began moves to change the country’s military-backed constitution.

Self-Promotion: New WSJ Southeast Asia Real Time Story on Thai Cheerleaders Documentary

2012 02 23 thai cheerleaders

My newest story for the Wall Street Journal‘s Southeast Asia Real Time blog is called Thai Cheerleaders Documentary Draws Applause.

It begins:

A new documentary about the surprising international success of a Thai cheerleading squad is attracting attention in the Southeast Asian nation and abroad.

Please give it a read and share it online.

(Image: A Single Production Company..)

7 Links

Some Thailand-related, some not:

  1. How 1-Minute Intervals Can Improve Your HealthThe New York Times’ Well blog
  2. Thailand Proving Best Bet After China of Global Emerging Market Investors — Bloomberg
  3. If an Earth-like planet was discovered by scientists and NASA built a multi-generational spaceship and were looking for volunteers, would you go? — Reddit
  4. Myanmar Still Balks at International Election MonitorsThe Wall Street Journal
  5. Building Self-Control, the American WayThe New York Times
  6. Must see: ADVENTURES of the EYEs — incredible creations by artist Takanori Aiba
  7. Embedded above and available on YouTube: TEDxHarvardLaw: Stephan Guyenet on the American diet

(Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)

Iranian Bomb Supspects Update: ABC News Has Photos of What Appear to be Explosive Device Hidden in Radio

ABC News has the images and reports:

Forensic photographs obtained exclusively by ABC News show an undetonated explosive device that was designed to be a part of a failed bomb plot in Thailand. Three Iranian suspects were arrested last week for their alleged involvement in the plot which fell apart when a similar device apparently exploded in an accident at the house where the Iranians were staying

Click through to see the pics.