Chasing red shirts internationally

23 09 2014

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, himself in trouble with the military dictatorship in Bangkok, has an important op-ed at The Japan Times. In it, he points to the actions of the military junta hunting political opponents inside Cambodia.

As is well known, there are many opponents of the royalist junta who have gone into hiding outside the country.

Pavin refers to the case of Ekaphop Luera (or Tang Acheewa), accused of lese majeste prior to the military coup, but who fled to Cambodia.

Ekaphop has now had to leave Sihanoukville for an undisclosed location. He says he “knew he had to run to avoid being captured by agents of the Thai military.”

Ekaphop is being tracked and hunted by the military junta even while “under the protection of the Cambodian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).”

Pavin worries that this “protection” does not “necessarily guarantee his safety, particularly after the recent rapprochement between Thailand and Cambodia.” This naturally raises concerns about others who have fled Thailand.

Ekaphop states that:

the Thai military sent officers to monitor his movement in Cambodia, even to rent a room next door while he was hiding in Sihanoukville. Earlier the Thai Army arrested a Cambodian friend of Ekapop who crossed the border into Thailand to conduct business. He was interrogated and forced to disclose the whereabouts of Ekapop. Now the Thai Army has received a “green light” from the Cambodian authorities to abduct Ekapop and take him home, even if it infringes Cambodian sovereignty.

And, Pavin adds, Ekaphop is “not the only target.” He says “[o]ther fugitives have complained about similar harassment from the Thai military with the consent of the Cambodian government.” He says: “[t]heir lives are in danger.”

The junta came into existence as an illegal regime. Today it continues to operate outside the law, domestic and international.

Updated: Junta warns academics

22 09 2014

It is probably correct to say that most of Thailand’s university teachers are not likely to oppose the military dictatorship. Some are huge supporters of royalist anti-democrats and Thai fascism. A brave few are prepared to stand up to the junta, its total control and its oppression.

As reported in the Bangkok Post, “60 academics from 16 universities … signed a petition against the action taken by police and soldiers who abruptly cut short a forum on ‘The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries‘ on Sept 18 at the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University.”

The scholars “asked” the junta to “show more respect for academic freedom,” describing the military dictatorship’s action as “highly unacceptable.” They were being polite to the military despots.

Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister, junta member and General Prawit Wongsuwan was not so polite in his response. He ordered them to “toe the line and stay within the law because the country is not yet back to normal and is still in need of reconciliation…”. By “reconciliation” he means toeing the line of the military junta.

As is usual when the military dictators do what they want, Prawit barked that “everything must be done according to the law.  Since the NCPO wants peace and reconciliation, I am afraid we can’t allow a politically-related (seminar) to be held…”.

His message is the same as all dictators: do what we tell you to do or you are in trouble.

Update: The Asian Human Rights Commission has comments on this action and condemned the military dictatorship:

September 22, 2014

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand 

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to express grave concern about the arrest, interrogation, and harassment of four academics and three students during a public lecture on 17 September 2014 at Thammasat University in Bangkok. This is the latest in a series of actions by the authorities in the four months since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) overturned the civilian government in a coup on 22 May 2014. These actions constrict the freedom of thought and expression of individual citizens while simultaneously contributing to the creation of a broad climate of fear in Thailand. Since the NCPO took power, the junta has demonstrated a profound lack of respect for basic human rights principles, despite their repeated claims otherwise.

On 17 September 2014, the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), a student organization, had organized a lecture in their Democracy Classroom series, titled “Democracy Classroom #2: Toppling Dictatorship in Other Countries.” The primary lecture was to be given by Nidhi Eoseewong, prominent senior Thai historian retired from Chiang Mai University and public intellectual, with commentary by Janjira Sombutpoonsiri (Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University) and Chaowarit Chaowsangrat (Faculty of Arts, Thammasat University) and with Prajak Kongkirati (Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University) as moderator. The LLTD had requested and been granted permission by the university to hold the event.

One day prior to the event, General Pallop Fuangfu, the Commander of the Control Division of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment in Pathumthani province, where the Rangsit campus is located, sent a letter to the deputy rector of the university asking that he liaise with the LLTD to cancel the event. In the letter, General Pallop commented that, “…the aforementioned lecture may affect the resolution of the nation’s problems. In addition, at present, in order to protect against the increased arising of divisions or different political opinions and perspectives, every entity is cooperating in support of the reconciliation and harmony of people in the nation” (unofficial AHRC translation). In response, the university locked the door of the lecture room for which they had originally granted the students permission to use. The students then decided to use an open air space on the first floor of the building instead, and many people crowded into the space to listen.

Before Nidhi Eoseewong had completed even thirty minutes of his lecture, at approximately 5:30 pm, the authorities approached him directly and told him to stop speaking. Then, he, as well as Prajak Kongkirati, Janjira Sombutpoonsiri, Chaowarit Chaowsangrat, and three of the student organizers, were ordered to go to the local police station in Khlong Luang. The seven individuals were then interrogated during which time they were denied access to legal counsel. After several hours, at approximately 9:30 pm, all seven individuals were then released without charges being brought.

By not charging the seven individuals with the violation of any laws or orders, the authorities can still attempt to claim that this was not an arrest, but was rather a discussion to “create understanding,” as they have in cases of arbitrary detention following the coup. However, the lack of formal charges does not change the meaning of this incident as a form of intimidation and violation of the rights of the seven individuals to freedom of thought and expression. At the conclusion of the interrogation, the authorities announced that in the future, topics and outlines of the content of academic events needed to be submitted for approval beforehand.

The incident at Thammasat University is not an isolated one, but is rather part of a broader pattern of intervention by the junta in public events organized by students, academics and human rights activists. The intervention is carried out by the local military unit in a given area, which then cites the authority and wishes of the NCPO as the reason for their intervention. While the interventions have been described by the authorities as “requests for cooperation,” those who have made the requests have the power of guns, military courts, and executive power behind them. These are not “requests” but are rather a form of intimidation and harassment. The authorities have the sole power to decide who can speak when, where, and on what topic. If their wishes are not followed voluntarily, then they will act with the power they have under the gun, the military court (AHRC-OLT-006-2014), and executive power, to compel citizens to follow their wishes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup and the ongoing criminalization of thought and speech by the National Council on Peace and Order. The AHRC calls on the NCPO in the strongest terms possible to cease intervening in academic and other public discussions and to cease harassing students, academics, and citizens who think differently. To think differently than the junta is not a crime. Finally, the AHRC encourages all concerned with human rights and justice to closely monitor the situation in Thailand.

Junta, death and airports

21 09 2014

PPT was sent a news story from Z News/ that at first seemed difficult to believe. However, redialing to allow for the idiosyncrasies of military dictatorship, we accepted this odd story as real.

It begins: “Anyone found guilty of causing closure or damage of an airport in Thailand could face the death penalty under new proposed law by the military junta.”

The Dictator’s handpicked National Legislative Assembly is reported to have “already passed the first reading of the new bill proposed to replace the 1978 and 1995 laws.” In the first reading bill, “[f]orcing the closure of an airport, damaging airport facilities or aircraft at an airport plus any action that maims or kills someone in an airport would result in the death penalty or a life sentence…”.

Bangkok-Airport-ClosedOf course, anyone who follows Thailand’s politics will know that the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy occupied both of Bangkok’s airports in late 2008.

At the time, as well as being supported by members of the Democrat Party, when the incumbent government requested the then Army commander, General Anupong Paojinda to clear the airport, he reportedly mutinied by refusing a lawful order.

Interestingly, the mutinous Anupong is now Interior Minister in General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s junta-appointed cabinet.

The idea of such legislation does seem a bit odd until it is considered that the military gets worried when there are political mobilizations that it can’t necessarily control.

Not unexpectedly, PAD-associated appointee to the junta’s National Legislative Assembly Somchai Sawaengkarn muttered that “putting someone to death for causing an airport’s closure might be too harsh.” He then lied: “Personally, I don’t support the closure of airports.” We know this is a lie because he immediately added: “in some cases an airport operation needs to be shut down for other reasons…”. And his example was 2008.PAD

Another PAD-associated NLA appointee, Klanarong Chanthik “said some articles in the proposed bill were not realistic…”.

In the recent demonstrations by anti-democrats in 2014, PPT recorded at least two declarations that airports were to be targeted (here and here).

As far as we can tell, the cases under the previous legislation against PAD airport occupiers continues but without much seriousness.

Interestingly, as a footnote, we did find one mention of a policeman who headed up that “investigation” for a while, before resigning from it. Guess who? None other than current top cop, appointed by The Dictator, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang. Supporting the royalists has been significant for his career advancement.


Unenforced amnesia

21 09 2014

Our header is probably as polite as PPT can be about a report in Khaosod that says “[l]eading members of the Democrat Party have denied the allegation that their party supported the anti-government protest campaign that was launched at the end of last year.”

Any one with even the slightest knowledge of the events associated with the anti-democrat movement will recognize that this is a lie.

In amongst all of the lies of recent years, this is probably the whopper to beat all whoppers.

abhisit and whistleApparently, the “leading” members of the so-called Democrat Party was brought on by “a complaint filed by Redshirt activist Sa-ngiam Samranrat to the Constitutional Court, asking the court to dissolve the Democrat Party on the grounds that it engaged in politics through non-parliamentary means.”

abhisit whistle suthepSa-ngiam complained about “the involvement of prominent Democrat party leaders in the six months of street protests staged against then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra starting last November.” That anti-democrat movement was led by former deputy premier and secretary-general of the Democrat Party, Suthep Thaugsuban. The entire leadership of Suthep’s movement were “former” members of the Democrat Party. Democrat Party leaders including Abhisit Vejjajiva repeatedly joined the protests and appeared with its leaders.

Wirat Kalyasiri, director of Democrat Party’s legal department, fibbed that:”The party did not organise the protests…”. He said “Suthep and other Democrat leaders had already resigned from the party when they joined and organised the protests.” That may be accurate. However, Democrat Party members were all over the rallies, stage and more. Only eight resigned from the party.

Just in case this defense isn’t convincing to anyone, Wirat “insisted that previous court rulings deemed the PCAD protests legal, peaceful assembly.” That kind of lie is about having one’s cake and eating it too. We weren’t supporting it, but if we were, the courts side with us.

Nipit Intarasombat, deputy chairman of Democrat Party, said “his party never agreed to endorse the PCAD protests.”

Funny, really, that Nipit says this now when he was one of the Democrat Party leaders who was directly involved in organizing the movement that became Suthep’s anti-democrats.

As we posted at the time, Kalaya Sophonpanich was one of the “first leading Democrat [Party] figures to appear on the anti-government People’s Army stage at Lumpini Park…”. Two days before that, Kalaya “joined Democrat MPs Kasit Piromya, Nipit Intarasombat and Chalermchai Srion to meet People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders to talk about forming an alliance.”

Under the military dictatorship lies are standard operating procedure, and so we doubt that anyone will raise an eyebrow. In any case, unless The Dictator declares otherwise, the Constitutional Court is unlikely to ever find against the Democrat Party.

HRW fails on the military dictatorship

21 09 2014

Human Rights Watch is wasting its collective breath on Thailand’s military dictatorship. Declaring that the “Thai government and military authorities [PPT: in fact the two are indistinguishable] should immediately end its crackdown on academic seminars and respect freedom of expression,” really is a waste of time and effort. The truth is that the military dictatorship is true to form; Thailand’s military governments are generally authoritarian book burners who repress and oppress in the name of monarchy and ruling class.

When it detains academics and “activists for several hours for organizing [a] … seminar,” this is nothing new for the uniformed troglodytes.

Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch seems a little confused when he says: “While telling the world that they are not dictators, the Thai military authorities are extending their grip into universities and banning discussions about democracy and human rights,” he seems as if he really wants to believe the criminals who seized power in an illegal coup. He seems to think that “the world” does not recognize that men in uniform with dyed hair and propaganda machines extolling a cult of personality in the name of the monarchy is not a fascist dictatorship.Human Rights Watch

When Adams declares: “Prime Minister Prayuth should immediately end this crackdown on academic freedom and free speech,” he may as well be trying to make gold from iron filings. Prayuth is The Dictator and recognizing him as anything else is politically dumb. He should know this for he quotes The Dictator who is clear:

“We are working on reconciliation.… This is not a time for them to talk…. They did not get permission to talk. And what did they want talk about? They talked about democracy at Thammasat University. They talked about political issues that we told them not to talk about.”

Thinking is banned. Talking is banned when it does not conform.

HRW quotes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to The Dictator. We are sure that he couldn’t care less whether Thailand is a party to such an agreement as it doesn’t accord with His ideas.

Again Adams sounds as if he believes junta claptrap when he says, “Thailand is clearly not on a path toward democracy when free speech is censored, criticism is prosecuted, and political activity is prohibited…. The path that such repressive action leads to is dictatorship.”

Has HRW lost the plot again?

This is not a regime on the path to dictatorship, it is a fully-fledged and operating dictatorship.

Lese majeste and the degradation of the rule of law

21 09 2014

Military dictatorships are usually established via a putsch. By the nature of their illegal seizure of power, such regimes are not usually much interested in the law as it applies to them. However, military dictatorships will often make use of certain laws to maintain repression and oppression.

In Thailand, since the military coup of May 2014, there has been yet another spike in the use of the draconian lese majeste and computer crimes laws. These are convenient tools for the maintenance of repression and the silencing of critics. The current military dictatorship’s use of these laws has its heritage in the 2006 palace-military coup. Following this previous putsch, the use of these laws has skyrocketed and been directed against those who are seen as enemies of the royalist state.darunee

Indeed, PPT came into existence. As we say elsewhere on this blog, PPT is dedicated to those who are held in Thailand’s prisons, charged with political crimes. It also seeks to raise the cases of those who are accused of political crimes. Our focus is the contemporary period where political cases revolve around the use of Thailand’s lese majeste law and, increasingly, the Computer Crimes Act. Our beginning was prompted by the Democrat Party-led government of 2008-11 that rapidly expanded censorship, blocked tens of thousands of web pages it considered offensive to the monarchy and presided over hundreds of new charges and arrests. All of this in the defense of some ill-defined notion of “national security.” The monarchy was defined as an issue of national security, not least by the military officers who seized power in 2014.

In amongst the plethora of convictions and continuing cases, two of the most egregious are those of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul and  Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. In both cases, the law has been used and abused in order to lock up and silence political opponents of the royalist regime. In each case, constitutional provisions were simply ignored by the courts. In the case of Somyos, his treatment has often amounted to a form of torture. Neither of them was ever allowed to access bail.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk shackled in 2012

Somyos shackled in 2012

This degradation of the rule of law through the bizarre legal machinations associated with these political laws has been noted by others, including academics, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

All of this background is to observe that Somyos has recently been back in the courts. Denied bail at least 15 times, Somyos appealed his 23 January 2013 conviction and sentencing to 5 years on each of two lese majeste charges. Within a short time, Somyos lodged an appeal, and on 19 September 2014, the Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s decision. Reports of the appeal outcome were carried in the Bangkok Post, Khaosod and Prachatai. Thecourt reportedly rejected Somyos’ appeal, saying “his new evidence could not override that of the prosecution.”

What struck PPT, however, was not that the courts continued to make politicized decisions but the continuing basic inhumanity associated with the case. Somyos was taken to court for the verdict and no member of Somyos’ family nor any of his lawyers were reportedly present at the court. It is stated that this is because they were not informed by the authorities in advance. His wife Sukunya noted that this failure indicated the lack of transparency and flouting of rules and law in lese majeste cases.

Following this failed appeal, Somyos has indicated that he would fight on to the Supreme Court.

Lese majeste has poisoned Thailand’s judiciary and undermined the rule of law just as completely and effectively as military coups do.

Enforced historical amnesia II

20 09 2014

Also looking at the ways in which the military dictatorship is “managing” history, the New York Times has an editorial examining the junta’s recent efforts at erasure and manipulation. It is short and to the point, posted in full below, with some PPT highlighting:

Borrowing a page from the propagandists in George Orwell’s “1984,” Thailand’s military government has removed Thaksin Shinawatra, the country’s former prime minister, from new editions of high school history textbooks. Not content with ousting a democratically elected government in May, the generals running the country now want to whitewash the past in what appears to be a broader campaign to get people to support military rule.

The government has not explained why Mr. Thaksin’s name has vanished; the books do say that the government that existed at the time — the very government presided over by the scrubbed-out Mr. Thaksin — became popular through public spending. The chairman of an official committee on the teaching of history and civic duty says the omission was an aberration he cannot explain. This sounds highly suspicious coming from a military government that has been aggressively trying to mold public perceptions and behavior, especially among young Thais, and whose Education Ministry has been telling students to write down their daily behavior and attitudes in a “merit passport.”

The Thai military has a history of overthrowing democratic governments and cracking down on dissent. It ousted Mr. Thaksin from office in 2006, and earlier this year removed a government led by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Her name has also disappeared from the new textbooks. The military, along with much of the country’s economic and cultural elite based in Bangkok, has long despised the Shinawatras. They say the family is corrupt and has misled the majority of Thais into voting for its political parties through unsustainable populist policies.

The government’s latest propaganda tactics are ominous, suggesting at the very least that Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was named prime minister in August, is in no hurry to return the country to democratic rule.

PPT thinks that the NYT might have said more about the use of monarchy and palace-like propaganda to support The Dictator’s ambitions.


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