BANGKOK, Thailand -- Coup-installed junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha
said he does "not violate any human rights" because he is not using
violence to enforce his edicts including a new crackdown against
anti-regime jokes, political comments on Facebook, and subversive
graphic T-shirts.
   After twice meeting President Obama during trips to California and
Washington DC this year, Prime Minister Prayuth shrugs off U.S. and
international criticism of his regime but promises to enforce his
absolute power without brutality.
   "Exercising my power must not violate any human rights. By
'violate,' I mean using violence," the coup leader said on May 3.
   "We never touched them at all, because we have always been careful."
   Mr. Prayuth was describing his junta's treatment during the past
two years against dozens of political dissidents who suffered arrests,
week-long "attitude adjustment" detentions in military camps, and
longer imprisonment for civilians convicted in Bangkok's Military
   "Some people keep violating the laws. They get released, they get
arrested, they get released, they get arrested, it just kept going
like this.
   "Let me ask you, does it damage the justice system under my
[regime]? I think so," Mr. Prayuth said according to the
government-owned Thai News Agency.
   Eight people -- popularly dubbed "The Facebook 8" because of their
Facebook media activity -- are the latest to be charged in the
Military Court for alleged incitement under the Criminal Code and
violating a harsh Computer Crime Act which punishes illegal political
and other online activity.
   Each charge can result in several years imprisonment. The eight
were arrested in their homes on April 25.
   Most of them were allegedly involved in a satirical "We Love
Prayuth" Facebook page.
   "Just because I am a citizen mimicking the junta, should I be
detained?" Supachai Saibut, 30, told the Bangkok Post during a prison
   "In other societies, mimicking or joking about the leaders is not a
crime," said Harit Mahaton, 25, another Facebook 8 detainee.
   "We're creeping towards '1984'," said former Senator Jon Ungpakorn
after those arrests, comparing the late British author George Orwell's
novel about total control in a dystopian society to Thailand's
eavesdropping on unencrypted Internet and telephone activity.
   "It's an era where the state intentionally records private
conversations between two people in order to mete out heavy punishment
of up to 15 years," wrote Mr. Jon, who frequently challenges the
junta's domination.
   "If the state can eavesdrop on the conversations of every
household, family members will always have to be careful when
speaking, and privacy would be eliminated.
   "This is not just a dictatorial system, but goes way beyond," the
former senator said on Friday (May 6).
   Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk -- who is banned from traveling
abroad after twice undergoing the regime's dreaded "attitude
adjustment" for his political writing during the past two years --
wrote on May 7:
   "Short of shutting down Facebook and Twitter in Thailand, or
dragging tens of thousands of netizens to prison, this 'war" waged by
the junta is one they can only win through fear," Mr. Pravit said in
his report.
   A taboo screenshot, purportedly from the "We Love Prayuth" Facebook
group, showed digitally altered satirical pictures of the junta's five
top leaders.
   A politicized Buddhist monk who supports them was portrayed wearing
a Darth Vader head mask.
   Kong Rithdee, a popular Bangkok Post columnist who examines Thai
society, also wrote about the Facebook 8 and other detainees:
   "Mockers jailed, jokers scolded, caricaturists threatened,
sometimes by words, sometimes by pre-dawn commando raids, without
warrants, as if they were hunting armed terrorists.
   "Thailand is in such a fragile state that humor is now a matter of
national security that it requires swift detention of jokers," Mr.
Kong said.
   Some Facebook 8 supporters scheduled a small event at Bangkok's
prestigious Thammasat University titled: "Making Fun Is Not A Crime."
   Mr. Prayuth arranged for himself to become prime minister after
seizing power in a bloodless military coup on May 22, 2014 when he was
army chief.
   He toppled an elected civilian government while it was replacing
former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra amid crippling, pro-coup
occupation blockades and violent street clashes.
   The coup was necessary to stop the violence and "reform" Thailand's
"corrupt" political system, Mr. Prayuth said at the time.
   The royalist military's putsch was supported by so-called "old
money" aristocrats, much of Bangkok's middle class, southerners and
   A few weeks ago, to strengthen his forces, Mr. Prayuth gave
extensive policing powers to Thailand's U.S.-trained military.
   Army, navy, air force other security forces who are ranked
sub-lieutenant and higher are now allowed to arrest, investigate and
detain anyone they suspect of illegal activity, and confiscate their
property, without a warrant or other judicial or legislative
   "We continue to urge the Thai government to limit the role of the
military in internal policing and to allow civilian authorities to
carry out their duties," U.S. State Department spokeswoman for East
Asia, Katina Adams, said on April 4.
   Military officers used their new policing power to arrest the Facebook 8.
   Mr. Prayuth's escalating enforcement includes muzzling public
expression either for or against his chosen draft for a new
   The junta created a controversial 239-article draft constitution to
replace a more liberal charter which Mr. Prayuth abolished.
   The draft constitution was recently unveiled so it can be voted on
in a nationwide "yes" or "no" referendum on August 7.
   The latest constitution will be Thailand's 20th charter since 1932.
   A dozen military coups have resulted in the tearing up of previous
constitutions, while other charters were enacted after political
   Similar to Thailand's previous constitutions, the draft does not
forbid the military from staging future coups.
   "That is considered out of our hands and basically those that tear
it up, we have no control over," said Norachit Sinhaseni, a member and
spokesman of the junta's Constitution Drafting Committee.
   Defenders of the draft say it will bring prosperity to this
Buddhist majority Southeast Asian nation -- a staunch U.S. treaty ally
-- by ensuring tight control to stifle divisive political
   "I feel that in Thailand, when people feel that they have the
freedom, sometimes there are groups that take advantage of it and push
it, I should say, to the limit, maybe exceeding the limit, and just
using that opportunity for causing disturbance," Mr. Norachit said
during his news conference on April 27 at the Foreign Correspondents'
Club of Thailand.
   The draft limits elected politicians' powers by shifting more
control to a fully appointed 250-seat Senate and an enhanced
Constitutional Court.
   The draft also makes it difficult to amend the constitution and
allows appointment of an unelected prime minister.
   National elections may be allowed in 2017 for Parliament's 500-seat
House of Representatives.
   The Election Commission said on May 4 it is illegal to sell
T-shirts and other items bearing pictures or slogans about the draft
   "Images promoting the T-shirts...must be removed" from websites
where they are offered for sale for about $9, Election Commissioner
Somchai Srisuthiyakorn told reporters.
   Those T-shirts violate a new Draft Referendum Act which warns:
   "Anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either
newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that
is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening,
with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to
vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, will be considered as a
person creating confusion so that the vote will not proceed properly."
   Violators face 10 years imprisonment.
   People who write, or link to, illegal political content on Internet
-- including about the referendum -- and "those who press 'Like' for
[Facebook] messages and images that violate the law, will also be
penalized," the Bangkok Post reported on April 30.
   "These laws do not impinge on general freedom of expression --
which we believe to be a fundamental element of a democratic society
-- as long as such expression does not undermine public order and
social harmony," the Foreign Ministry said in a five-page document.
   The document was distributed to foreign governments through
Thailand's embassies on April 20 and posted online at the Thai
Consulate in Chicago, Illinois.

   "In recent days, a certain individual has acted in violation of
those laws -- and repeatedly so, despite warnings from the
authorities," it said, apparently referring to former Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra.
   Mr. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and is now an
international fugitive dodging a two-year prison sentence for
corruption committed during his administration.
   He occasionally blasts the junta through Skype and other online
broadcasts relayed to supporters and monitored by authorities.
   "During much of the past 10 years in Thailand, our democracy often
fell prey to unscrupulous politicians," the Foreign Ministry said,
describing Mr. Thaksin's relatives and allies who were repeatedly
elected by "mistakes" and "political merry-go-rounding."
   "Flowers are symbols of happiness," Mr. Thaksin's sister, former
Prime Minister Yingluck, said on May 8 on her Twitter account
@PouYingluck above a photo of her holding a bouquet.
   "May I send happiness & moral support to all my fanpages & all who
love democracy," Ms. Yingluck's Twitter post said.
   Mr. Thaksin said Mr. Prayuth "should admit his faults and change to be right.
   "Instead, he blames me for hiring lobbyists to convince foreign
countries to boycott Thailand," Mr. Thaksin said on April 22 on his
own Facebook page.
   Mr. Prayuth has not revealed what he will do if the draft
constitution is rejected by a majority "no" vote or if the result is
rigged against it.
   "In that case, it is I who will have the power to decide what to
do," Mr. Prayuth told reporters on April 11.
   "Do you understand the word 'power'? It is I who will decide what to do.