BBC on king’s health

23 11 2014

As readers will know, the king went back into hospital on 3 October this year, and since then there have been several official reports stating that he has had relatively minor ailments related to stomach inflammation and related issues.

The BBC has reported that the king has “failed to appear for a scheduled event, raising fresh concern about his health.” He was scheduled to “preside over the confirmation of two ministers appointed by PM [they mean The Dictator and general] Prayuth Chan-ocha…”. The king’s minders canceled.

The report notes that the king’s “health is a sensitive issue in Thailand” and adds that “[a]ny discussion about the royal succession is tightly constrained by a stringent lese-majeste law.”

That sounds like a death watch is established.

The report then makes this somewhat odd claim that warrants a footnote: “BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says he is accorded a revered status that is considered vital to the country’s stability.” That is the usual media claim, but here the BBC seems to be disowning it.

Purging police

23 11 2014

The Bangkok Post has a remarkable report on a purge taking place within the police, apparently arranged by wealthy police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang. This purge can only have been completed with the approval of The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. If not, expect to see Somyos sent packing pretty soon. THe nature of the purge – personal or political – is currently unclear to us.

PPT simply reproduces this report from the Bangkok Post, for it is so astounding that it must be read in full:

The Criminal Court on Saturday approved warrants for the arrest of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayaphan, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), and his deputy Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongrungroj on serious charges including lese majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

Five other police officers and three civilians were also now wanted for other charges under the warrants approved by the court yesterday.

The requests for approval of the warrants were filed with the Criminal Court on Nov 21 by Pol Lt Gen Sriwarah Rangsiphramanakul, the Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner, as ordered by Pol Gen Somyot Phumphanmuang, the national police chief.

A high-level source said all of the ten persons had now been arrested and were being detained at an undisclosed location for interrogation.

The ten persons and charges against them are as follows:

- Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayaphan, the CIB commissioner, on charges of lese majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, bribery under Sections 148 and 149 of the Criminal Code, abuse of power under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, and violating the the Anti-Money Laundering Act;

- Pol Maj Gen Kowit Wongrungroj, the CIB deputy commissioner, on the same charges as Pol Lt Gen Pongpat;

- Pol Maj Gen Boonsueb Praitheuan on charges of demanding bribes under Section 149 and malfeasances under Section 157 of the Criminal Code;

- Pol Col Wuthichart Luansukhan on charges of demanding and taking bribes under Sections 148-149  and malfeasances under Section 157 of the Criminal Code;

- Pol Sr Sgt Maj Surasak Channgao (Pol Lt Gen Pongpat’s driver) on charges of violating Sections 148 – 149 and 157 of the Criminal Code;

- Pol Sr Sgt Maj Chatrin Laothong on the same charges as Pol Sr Sgt Maj Surasak;

- Pol Kowit Muangnual, commander of the Samut Sakhon immigration police, on charges of forest destruction and encroachments in violation of the Forestry Act and illegally building of structures over public waterways in violation of the Thai Waters Navigation Act;

- Sudathip Muangnual, Pol Kowit’s wife, on the same charges as her husband;

- Sawong Mungthian on charges of having carcasses of protected animals in possession in violation of the Wildlife Protection and Conservation Act; and

- Roengsak Saknarongdej on the same charges as Mrs Sawong.

All of the police officers had earlier been transferred to the police operations centre at the Royal Thai Police Office, including Pol Col Akrawut Limrat, an officer of the Crime Suppression Divison, who was pronounced dead at Phra Mongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok on Thursday after he had sustained several spinal fractures in a “fall from a high place.”

A meeting of totalitarian minds

23 11 2014

A reader rightly points out that PPT should have noted a report of almost a week ago at Prachatai that was revealing of the mentality of military dictatorship in the era of the monarchy cult.

Prachatai reports on a remarkable meeting between Thailand’s Education Minister, Admiral Narong Pipatanasai, his Deputy Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, and Permanent Secretary Suthasri Wongsamarn with Mun Song Mo, the Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. The meeting took place at Government House on 14 November.

Cults meet

While it is a very brief report, the junta’s minister made clear that he is clear that, for his troglodyte regime, education in Thailand is about indoctrination and social control. As Asia Correspondent puts it, this is an education system fit for zombies.

The admiral agreed with his North Korean visitor that “the educational systems of both countries are similar.” He went on to propose that his “Ministry will talk with Thai universities with a view to an exchange programme with North Korean universities.” We suspect that some of the first exchanges will be with Chulalongkorn University, where anti-democracy is well understood by several “academics.”

Thai school

Given that the monarchy cult has been an ideological centerpiece of the military-monarchy-tycoon ruling triumvirate for several decades, the schools and universities have been critical for disseminating and enforcing ideological “correctness.”

Thai schools and universities are poor by both regional and international standards. Analysts often wonder why this is when so much of the national budget goes to education. The answer is clear: the system is not designed to educate but to indoctrinate for the ruling elite. In that sense, the comparison with North Korea has some validity.

Lese majeste detentions skyrocket under military rule

23 11 2014

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is an important “international NGO defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It acts in the legal and political field for the creation and reinforcement of international instruments for the protection of Human Rights and for their implementation.” It has released this statement on lese majeste repression in Thailand:

Thailand’s military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), must end the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of individuals under the country’s draconian lèse-majesté laws, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) urged today. Fifteen of the 20 individuals currently behind bars on lèse-majesté charges have been either detained or imprisoned after the 22 May 2014 military coup.

“Under the pretext of protecting the monarchy, the junta has embarked on a witch hunt that has significantly eroded fundamental human rights,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Trials in military courts, closed-door proceedings, and the systematic denial of the right to bail have become a disturbing reality of the junta’s overzealous enforcement of lèse-majesté laws.”

“The junta must immediately end the unnecessary deprivation of liberty for alleged violators of lèse-majesté laws and restore all guarantees of fair trials,” urged UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.”

Under the military junta, authorities have stepped up investigations, arrests, and prosecution of individuals suspected of lèse-majesté.

On 14 October 2014, National Police Acting Deputy Chief Lt Gen Chakthip Chaijinda said that police aimed at bringing charges in about 50% of the 93 lèse-majesté active investigations by the end of the year.

Since 22 May, 18 individuals have been arrested for allegedly violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code. Two have been released on bail and five have been sentenced to prison terms for offenses committed before the military coup, with one released on a suspended sentence.

On 18 November, a military court in Bangkok deliberated its first case and sentenced web radio host Kathawuth Boonpitak, 59, to five years in prison. The court found Kathawut guilty of making comments that defamed the monarchy during a political talk show aired on his website in March 2014. Defendants cannot appeal the verdicts of military courts.

On 4 November, a Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced 24-year-old student Akkaradet Iamsuwan to two-and-a-half years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. Akkaradet was found guilty of posting a Facebook message on 15 March 2014 that the court deemed it insulted the monarchy and threatened national security.

On 1 September, a Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced behind closed doors Chaleo Jankiad, a 55-year-old tailor, to a three-year suspended prison term for uploading to the web an audio clip in late 2011 that was deemed to be offensive of the monarchy. Chaleo is the only defendant who has been released as a result of a suspended sentence.

On 14 August, a Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced Yuthasak [last name withheld], a 43-year-old taxi driver, to five years in prison. Yuthasak was accused by a passenger, a Chulalongkorn University lecturer, of expressing anti-monarchy views. The passenger recorded the conversation on her phone and filed a lèse-majesté complaint against Yuthasak in January 2014.

On 31 July, the Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court sentenced 28-year-old musician [name withheld] to 15 years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. The court found him guilty of posting messages on Facebook between 2011 and 2012 that were deemed to insult the monarchy.

All five defendants saw their original sentences halved because they pleaded guilty to the charges.

In addition to these verdicts, on 19 September, the Court of Appeals upheld a Bangkok Criminal Court’s lèse-majesté conviction of Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk. The court failed to inform Somyot, his lawyer, and his family members that the hearing would take place on that day. On 19 November, Somyot filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction. Court officials have denied Somyot’s requests for bail 15 times. Somyot suffers from hypertension and he is not receiving adequate treatment at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

In the overwhelming majority of lèse-majesté cases, courts have denied bail for detainees awaiting trial. FIDH and UCL believe that this deprivation of liberty is in violation of the principle that release must be the rule and provisional detention the exception, as stipulated by Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a State party.

Fear the people II

22 11 2014

Fear of the people within Thailand’s military dictatorship extends to a fear of allowing the people to express their political preferences, whether through peaceful protest or via the ballot box.

Khaosod reports that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has “dismissed call[s] for democracy from student activists who were arrested for protesting against his iron-first regime.”

The Dictator who has had hundreds of people locked up for various periods, commanded troops that murdered protesters in 2010, and who uses the lese majeste law to suppress and repress those he sees as opponents, reportedly stated: “I am not an enemy of anyone, but I’d like to ask all of you not to obstruct my works. I am willing to listen to all opinions. The students may send me what they have in mind…”.

The students hardly need to do this. They were crystal clear: they do not want the coup, The Dictator or his repression.

Prayuth knows this and he too is clear: “But don’t ask me for democracy. Don’t ask me for an election.”

The Dictator said that democracy is a pipe dream: “I may not be hundred per cent democracy, but I want to ask you, what can the country possibly has to gain from a hundred per cent democracy? Go and find me the answer.”

Sure, democracy can have problems and can be captured, but it does have some undeniable pluses. These might include: A say in who rules. The capacity and right to organize. The right to think and express opinions freely. A chance to change a government. Readers will think of many more.

Prayuth didn’t notice the idea of a free media when he stated:

The media has to assist me…. The media has two duties. One is to explain the situation and create understanding with the people, with some critical reporting and criticism. But you also have the duty to support the missions of this government. If you keep saying, that thing is [protesting] this thing, we won’t get anywhere. All the good things that I have done would have been in vain.

When a reporter asked The Dictator “if the media is still permitted to criticise his flaws,” seemed unable to comprehend that he had ever doe anything wrong.

Democracy, for all its potential and actual flaws, is really far superior to rule by a self-important dolt and murderous thug who controls guns and has the support of plutocrats and royalists.

A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed VI

22 11 2014

Paul Handley, the author of the seminal The King Never Smiles, has reviewed A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century, by Andrew MacGregor Marshall at The Financial Times. We reproduce it here, with only a little emphasis added here and there:Kingdom in crisis

A journalist argues that the issue of royal succession lies behind Thailand’s political impasse

Sulak Sivaraksa has hovered for decades at the edges of Thai politics, never a real threat to anyone as he advocated a socially activist Buddhism, mainly to audiences of university students. Last month Sulak nevertheless was accused for the fourth time of lèse-majesté, which can bring 15 years in prison. His offence? To challenge the heroic battlefield story of Naresuan, who ruled the kingdom of Ayutthaya at the turn of the 17th century.

The Thai constitution holds it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir or regent. It says nothing about others in the royal family, the monarchic institution or the current Chakri dynasty, much less an earlier realm full of bellicose royals. But that is where Thailand is now, as it endures the long twilight of the reign of Bhumibol Adulyadej. Applied sparingly during most of Bhumibol’s 68 years as king, the law of lèse-majesté has been invoked dozens of times over the past five years in a desperate effort to shore up respect for the throne.

This is just one of the symptoms, Andrew McGregor Marshall writes in A Kingdom in Crisis, of a country in existential panic over what happens when Bhumibol, almost 87 and in poor health, passes away. The overthrow and exile of popular prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the deadly street battles of pro-throne yellow shirts and pro-Thaksin red shirts, and the two military coups since 2006 are all manifestations of the same problem: who controls the succession and who succeeds.

Like this writer, Marshall, a former Reuters journalist, has given up a comfortable existence in Thailand, and any hope of returning, to tell the story of how the succession crisis has paralysed a country once seen as Asia’s democratic beacon. And it is a deep crisis: it is no secret that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is disliked and feared. But there are no great alternatives to his rule.

Readers of Marshall’s work will know him as a strident advocate against the royal family. With little direct information on the thinking of the king and palace elite, he mines the WikiLeaks files of US diplomatic cables, which show that succession is on everyone’s mind. One document, from early 2010, is especially devastating. Three top royal advisers, two of them former prime ministers and one a foreign minister, freely disparage the crown prince to the US ambassador. Yet what they also make clear is they have no idea what to do about him.

Marshall suggests that generals of the current junta, as well as other elements of the Thai elite, aim to sabotage the prince’s accession even at risk of a civil war. Here he is on weak ground, however, offering no evidence of a plot besides fear of Vajiralongkorn and a history of succession intrigue in ancient Siam. It is possible that the crown prince could be blocked but what then? For Marshall, popular revolution is nigh-inevitable: “The people of twenty-first-century Thailand will not allow democracy to be taken away without a fight.”

Never mind that the people are deeply divided themselves. Thailand’s history is also replete with pragmatic, last-minute deals done to pull back from the brink. Marshall at least owes it to readers to sketch out other possibilities – that the prince’s sister Sirindhorn could take the throne, or that it could skip a generation and fall to one of his daughters or even a once-estranged son. Indeed, the prince, 62, does not appear to exhibit a strong desire to don the crown.

But whether Marshall’s theory is right or not is secondary. The fact remains that Thailand’s elite have violently wrested control of the state from the elected government in order to manage succession, and yet have not convinced anyone that they have a viable plan. That is frightening for Thai people, red shirts and yellow shirts alike. And as Marshall makes clear, this ominous void has in turn made Thai people increasingly question the role of the monarchy itself – not exactly the outcome the elite wanted.

Fear the people I

21 11 2014

Military dictatorships repress people because they fear the power that comes from collective action. This is why quite ludicrous actions are taken by military dictators when they perceive a threat to their rule.

So it is that Khaosod reports on the seemingly bizarre attack by the military leadership on two women in the far north. Siripon Chaipetch, aged 39, and Jindarat Permlarpwirun, aged 30, were arrested at a military checkpoint in Chiang Mai for “allegedly sharing photo of themselves with anti-coup placards with their friends on a chat application.”

Police and military became worried when the two were allegedly shown in a photo holding placards denouncing the coup went viral on social media.

The ever so brave cops set up a check point to capture the women who, under martial law, are banned from all political activities and displays. Khaosod states that “[v]iolators have been sent to face trials in military court, where appeals are not permitted.”

Siripon and Jindarat “said they only expressed their personal opinions, they only sent the photos to their friends on a LINE chat group…”. They were eventually released without charges but warned by the military dictatorship’s flunkies that they should be careful. The cops warned the women that “if they do such action again the future, the military may summon them for detention in a military camp to adjust their attitude, in accordance with the military system…”.

These gormless enforcers of totalitarianism stated: “This incident should be a warning to all other individuals who have not yet understood about what they should or should not post on social media.”

When the military dictatorship fears a couple of young women communicating with friends, it displays how fragile the military dictatorship fears it is.


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