Protecting police business

31 10 2014

Recalling police boss Somyos Pumpanmuang’s links to the Tungkum Company and his massive wealth, we felt this press relase deserved attention:

PRESS RELEASE

Criminal Defamation Case against Loei Human Rights Defenders

BANGKOK (31 October 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) is seriously concerned that criminal defamation is being used in Thailand as a means to pressure human rights defenders. In the latest example on 29 October, the Phuket Provincial Court decided to proceed with a criminal defamation suit against Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat from Loei province in north-eastern Thailand. The suit has been brought by Tungkum Company Limited, a mining company. It has also brought a number of other civil and criminal cases against members of the Khon Rak Ban Koed Group (KRBK), including Ms. Porntip Hongchai, who is due to appear at the same court on 3 November on criminal defamation charges. The criminal defamation cases followed the 15 May incident in which a group of armed men attacked and injured more than 20 villagers, including members of the KRBK, who were blockading the transportation of minerals.

OHCHR is concerned by the continuation of the lawsuit as it appears that it is being used to silence those who raise legitimate issues publicly and echoes a trend of the use of defamation suits against human rights defenders. OHCHR is aware of at least five other human rights defenders facing criminal defamation cases for raising issues such as trafficking, labour rights and torture.

The criminalisation of defamation has a chilling effect and can unduly restrict freedom of expression. Human rights defenders need the full protection of the state to carry out their work without fear of criminal prosecution. We urge the Government of Thailand to carefully review such cases and ensure the full compliance with international human rights standards.

ENDS

The Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts.

OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org
OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org/

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for South-East Asia
ESCAP, UN Secretariat Building
6th Floor, Block A
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200
Tel. (662) 288 1235, Fax. (662) 288 1039
Website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org
Email: ohchr.bangkok@un.org

As posted previously, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang has amassed declared assets of almost 375 million baht. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers now being taken to court. Maybe that’s how he acquired so much land.





Judicial secrecy

31 10 2014

At The Nation there’s an attempt to shine a light on the military dictatorship’s desire to hold “closed-door trials in military court for civilian defendants and forbidding observers from taking notes in other cases undermines the due process of law…”.

Military regimes in Thailand use the law but are not governed by it.

Special concern is expressed by “both local and foreign observers” in for political prisoners, especially those held or charged with lese majeste.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch states: “This [secrecy] is a cause for serious concern and goes against the National Council for Peace and Order’s assurance that the military court would follow due process [of law]…”.

Yingcheep Atchanont, from iLaw, stated that the sentencing of the two anti-coup protesters saw observers “instructed not to take any notes.” Yingcheep went on to speculate “that the judges might have banned observers from taking notes because they know this is not something the international community would appreciate,…” and stated: “My guess is that the court is also afraid, as they’re being watched by the media and the international community. The military court is aware that these are political trials, and that it would not look good in the eyes of the international community…”.

The right to fair trial is compromised “by the very fact that note-taking is forbidden and that the four lese majeste cases are being heard behind closed doors, without any observers or media.”





Succession law review

30 10 2014

Here’s a story that should get quite a bit of attention and speculation:

Minister of Finance Sommai Phasi will submit the law of succession to the Cabinet early next month before it is reviewed by the National Legislative Assembly.The minister on Wednesday said the ministry was now discussing the succession legislation draft with the Council of the State and Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Khruea-ngam. After they finished reviewing the draft, it would be proposed to the Cabinet for consideration, said Mr. Sommai.

It might take 3-4 months for the NLA to review the draft. The law would not take immediate effect after it was published in the Royal Gazette since the law executors needed around three months to prepare, said the minister….

 The current law has been in place since 1924. Why change it now?




More on the regular use of torture

30 10 2014

PPT has posted regularly on the use of torture by Thailand’s police and military.

These authorities use torture against locals and foreigners.

A report in The Cambodia Daily indicates the use of torture against three poor villagers from Cambodia “arrested in Thailand last week [who] were returned to Preah Vihear province on Monday…”. They claimed they were “tortured by the Thai military before being released…”.

The men were arrested in Thai territory “while searching for wild vegetables.” Perhaps they were seeking valuable timber.

A Cambodian military officer stated “the men told him that Thai soldiers persuaded one of the men to admit he was a Cambodian soldier in order to expedite his transfer back home.”

That confession led to them being tortured by “Thai soldiers … to get information about the location of Cambodian military troops and supplies.” Shockingly, “The Thai soldiers used pliers to pull out both of his big toenails in order to extract a confession…”. The man was also beaten with a belt and stomped on.

Video evidence shows that his toenails are missing.

Some Cambodian authorities dispute the claims. Whatever the truth of this particular claim, the torture sounds familiar to those who follow, for example, the torture used in the south of Thailand by soldiers there.

In this case, the Thai military are seeking to protect its monopoly control of the smuggling of forest products in the border area. Torturing and mistreating Cambodian villagers and other interests serves as a warning to others who may trespass on the illicit profits gained by the corrupt Thai military.





Fixing the rules

29 10 2014

The Nation reports on the response to the selection by the puppet National Reform Council’s selection of 20 of its own to be members of the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee that will fix the rules of politics for Thailand. By “fix,” we mean in the sense of the sporting use of the term, where a game or match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result.

One comment is from retired “academic” and yellow shirt activist Surichai Wankaew, said the 20 NRC members chosen “would help improve the political situation as they had been selected for their neutral stance towards the ongoing political conflict.”

Compare that bit of propaganda with Sirote Klampaiboon, who has previously been identified as “independent” or “red shirt,” who says that the newly chosen members of the CDC “can be categorised in four groups: former military generals, former members of the Group of 40 [the mainly unelected former senators], academics from King Prajadhipok’s Institute and NGOs who have close ties with the 2006 coup-makers.”

Given that preponderance of yellow-shirted, royalist puppets, Sirote is correct to question the “credibility of the newly selected CDC members…”.





A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed V

29 10 2014

Lee Jones has published what seems to be the first academic review of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis. Some clips from its top and tail. Read all of it:

Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis has been eagerly and long awaited by many Thailand watchers. Having resigned from a senior Reuters post in 2011 to publish a series of articles on Thailand’s political crisis based on leaked US diplomatic documents, “AMM” has become a vociferous critic of Thai elites and especially the monarchy, developing a wide following on social media. A Kingdom in Crisis was anticipated as the definitive statement of AMM’s most controversial thesis: that “an unacknowledged conflict over royal succession is at the heart of Thailand’s twenty-first political crisis” (page 3). However, despite its many merits, the book does not quite clinch this argument.

A Kingdom in Crisis is a bold, uncompromising and highly critical survey of Thailand’s ongoing political crisis. The focus, however, is squarely on the monarchy, rather than on its place within Thailand’s broader polity and political economy. The first nine chapters all relate to the period before 2000, delving into ancient history to underscore the brutality of the absolutist monarchy and the normality of power struggles over the succession. Only three chapters then deal with the current conjuncture and make AMM’s central argument. The background is, of course, interesting and useful, and although it may contain little new for Thailand specialists….Kingdom in crisis

… Fundamentally at stake here is the basic explanation of the last ten years of Thai history. Was an extant concern with the royal succession merely “catalys[ed]” by Thaksin’s rise (page 155)? Would it have caused political conflict whenever Bhumibol died? Or is the concern of the Yellow Shirt faction primarily with Thaksin’s mobilisation of the masses into Thai politics and his growing monopolisation of political and economic power? From the latter perspective, the king’s looming death is problematic not because traditional elites fear radical personal retribution from Vajiralongkorn as a powerful individual, but because, as Thaksin increasingly colonised the state apparatus, they came to fear losing direct control of yet another institution – an extremely important one – that they had long manipulated for their benefit. Crucially, this concern would have been minimal in the absence of the political movement headed by Thaksin. He was, as AMM notes, seeking to “flush out the ghosts” (page 219), to thrust aside rival networks and colonise the state apparatus with his own cronies. Elites have always done this. What made Thaksin uniquely dangerous was his colossal popular support and unprecedented parliamentary majorities. Power no longer alternated among rival factions, with venal elites horse-trading in parliamentary coalitions to carve up the spoils of office between them. Thaksin’s faction appeared to have found a winning formula for permanent control of state power. Unable to defeat him at the polls, anti-Thaksin elites were forced to rely upon institutions that they manipulated or controlled: the courts, the election commission, the army and, of course, the monarchy – both to whip up the Yellow Shirt protests and to legitimise judicial and military coups. In other words, it is Thailand’s violent and bitter social conflict that has lent such importance to the succession, not the other way around.

This perspective explains why, even in private discussions, anti-Thaksin elites are primarily concerned not with Vajiralongkorn, but with Thaksin. It also explains why their primary efforts have not been directed at altering the succession – despite having an opportunity to do so under the 2006-2007 military regime when, as AMM notes, Prem indirectly controlled the state, yet mysteriously made no “arrangements with Bhumibol to keep Vajiralongkorn off the throne” (page 167). Instead, they have overwhelmingly concentrated on rigging the Thai constitution and state apparatus to prevent Thaksin-aligned parties from regaining their popular majorities. That is, after all, the clear goal of the current military regime. If the elite clustered around the palace are really so fearful of Vajiralongkorn, why, since they have twice been able to use the king to endorse their armed seizure of power, do they not also use him to install their allegedly preferred heir, Princess Sirindhorn, at least as regent? According to AMM, precedents and legal procedures enable a female succession, and Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit are now physically and mentally incapacitated (page 199) – so they could not resist. The only reasons can be that these elites are not sufficiently concerned or that they fear a split within the security forces, since several army units are technically commanded by Vajiralongkorn. Even if the latter were true – and I have seen no compelling evidence for it – it would again be a case of potential social conflict – a possible civil war –shaping the succession crisis, not vice versa.

So is the monarchy an important element in Thailand’s political crisis? Undoubtedly, and we are indebted to Andrew MacGregor Marshall for revealing the sordid soap opera of the succession. But is the succession really “the heart” of Thailand’s crisis? I, for one, remain to be convinced.





Fiction and lese majeste

28 10 2014

The lese majeste repression dragnet is cast and those trapped in it are increasing in number.

We have noted that arrests and charges against university student Patiwat and colleague Pornthi. The Bangkok Post reports on their recent court appearance. Interestingly most of the photos in the media strategically left out Patiwat’s leg irons. Feudal chains are usually used on males charged under this feudal law.

Formally charged on Monday, “they won’t enter a plea until December, but feel the play that sits at the heart of their alleged crime is being taken out of context.”

The play is, of course, the October 2013 performance of fictional drama about a fictional monarch entitled “The Wolf Bride.” It was performed for “a commemoration of the 37th and 40th anniversaries of the Oct 6, 1976 and Oct 14, 1973 pro-democracy student uprisings at Thammasat University.”

The “prosecutors cited nine passages from the pay’s scripts they claim insulted the monarchy in violation of the Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

Patiwat told the Bangkok Post his “first impression” of the charges laid was that the prosecutors had sliced and diced the script “and consider only certain paragraphs [the prosecutors consider] as insulting to the monarchy.” He says they “should look at the big picture and that this is a fictional play.”

The Post reports that “two [other] red-shirt activists, Watt Wallayangoon and Jaran Ditapichai, also face arrest on lese majeste charges for their roles in the play event.” PPT knew of Jaran, who is in exile in France, but not of Watt.








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