He’s back!

9 04 2014

We find it a little difficult to believe, but we are very pleased to see that veteran democracy campaigner Chalard Worachat is back at it. Prachatai reports that 22 years after he put backbone into the movement to prevent the military consolidating power in 1992, Chalard is camping out near Parliament House and has been there since 22 March (another report says 21 March). That is the day the Constitutional Court nullified the 2 February election.

Back in 1992, it was Chamlong Srimuang, now a grinning leader of the rightist Dhamma Army and of the People’s Alliance for Democracy who got credit for his hunger strike that eventually led to demonstrations and a massacre of civilians (note this report where a little-known intervention by the king is reported, trying to get Chamlong to abandon his hunger strike). In fact, though, it was Chalard who, as a very lonely protester, began a hunger strike that forced usually spineless politicians like Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party to take notice.

Chalard

A Prachatai photo

Prachatai sates that:

Chalard’s very first hunger strike took place [in 1980]…. He protested against the right-wing Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan, who was installed after the 1977 military coup, for raising oil prices…. It caused Kriangsak to resign on the 36th hour of Chalard’s hunger strike.

In 1983, Chalard was back, protesting:

during the General Prem Tinasulanond government, the House tried to pass a bill allowing bureaucrats and military officers to become Prime Minister, in effect allowing Prem to extend his term. Chalard held a hunger strike for nine days before successfully stopping passage of the bill.

He was back again in 1992, and then “played an important role in pushing for the 1997 constitution…”. From 1965 to 1987, Chalard was a member of the now disgraced Democrat Party. He once represented the Party in parliament. However, he:

protested against his party leader by holding a hunger strike to call on Chuan to amend the 1992 constitution to be more democratic, but on the 49th day, he quit due to his deteriorating health. The Supreme Patriach asked him to ordain instead…. His strike however led to “Chalard’s Friends,” a committee which successfully pushed for political reform as its main social agenda, and later paved the way for the drafting of the 1997 constitution.

In the hours after the 2006 palace-military coup, Chalard was arrested for protesting against it.

As Prachatai puts it, he is now back at the spot:

… where this 71-year-old man held a 45-day long hunger strike in 1992 to protest against General Suchinda Kraprayoon, then Prime Minister who came from a coup he led in 1991. The protest led to Black May, a people’s uprising in Bangkok which toppled the military regime and paved the way to a more democratic government for Thailand.

And, he has much the “same demands — to abolish an undemocratic constitution and oppose an appointed Prime Minister, as well as a military coup.” He isn’t refusing food yet, “but he says he will, should a military coup happen.”

Today, Chalard said “the core problem of Thai politics is the 2007 constitution which allows independent agencies too much power over the government.” He says: “We must call for the abolition of the current seditious constitution, and bring back a more democratic one.” If this doesn’t happen, Chalard states that the “situation will lead to chaos, more violence and a military coup for sure…. What we need is a new election to be held as soon as possible. We need a Prime Minister who comes from elections.”

Asked about the failed Democrat Party, “Chalard said he first decided to join the party because it was against the military in the 1970s…. Now it changed from opposing dictatorship to supporting it…”. In fact, even in the 1970s, the party’s opposition to military government was tepid.

Chalard’s actions always spur reaction, so it will be interesting to see if this current lone protest has any impact.





Updated: Coup and reform

9 02 2014

While denying that the whistle-blowing farmer rallies are not [corrected] funded by him or backed by his legal teams and have nothing to do with the anti-democrats, Suthep Thaugsuban has again talked of “reform.”

A reasonable observer would have thought that the antidemocratic movement would have a plan or strategy for “reform” in place by now, but apparently not.

The Bangkok Post reports that on Saturday – yes, yesterday – “Suthep held a seminar with public health representatives to discuss national reform plans.”

With whiteboard, with all the expensive overseas education of his team, and with all the brains of trained medical professionals, here is what he came up with:

Ideas on national reform should be crystallised within 18 months. If it’s taking too long, the Yingluck government will still try to cling on to power….

After all these months of rallies and speeches, in 18 months, someone will have some idea of what “reform” is required…. And we think he means after getting rid of the current government.

Perhaps Suthep didn’t need to think when he hoped for the military coup “solution.” Now that a judicial coup looks the more likely option, what then? Just leave it to the old dolts who think they run the country? With the old codgers in place, then presumably Suthep’s thugs can get on with “cleansing.”

Update: The Nation reports that the meeting with doctors came up with these areas for reform: “political process, graft and corruption, decentralisation of government, social and economic inequity, and judicial reform.” We assume that Prawase Wasi is involved.

Of course, none of these areas were addressed by Suthep when he was in power, so welcome to the royalist reform agenda! Of course, they were there in 1992-97 when the 1997 constitution was debated under the royalist patriarchs. It is a pity that that basic law was ditched by the same lot demonstrating now when they supported the 2006 coup.

It is not as if these areas are apolitical or not likely to result in struggle for the royalists define these reforms in ways that protect them.





Updated: Busy day in Bangkok II: reform, rice, old kings, censorship and impunity

10 08 2013

As we noted in the first part of this post, it has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are now posting a second  combination of stories.

In another story that cites PPT, Asia Sentinel had a story a couple of days ago regarding the politics of amnesty. PPT is cited as an “NGO,” which is probably rather too much of a grand title for our small effort to shine a light on aspects of politics and political prisoners in Thailand. The story also seems to erroneously suggest that Thaksin Shinawatra put the 1997 constitution in place. Even so, it is true that: “Any time amnesty or constitutional reform looms, the protesters take to the streets. Pheu Thai leaders have been waiting for almost three years to attempt to push through a series of constitutional reforms…”. It would be even more accurate to notice that when the military junta’s 2007 constitution was put in place, all of the old conservatives said it could be changed by elected governments, and even made this an article of the constitution. Since then, this pledge has been shown to be a lie. In fact, then, elected governments have been waiting six years to make changes.

Also worth reading is Robert Amsterdam’s post on the Wat Pathum inquest findings. This note caught our attention:

Without truth there is no justice. And without justice there can be no real workable amnesty. Some might argue a de facto legal amnesty already exists for the extremist anti-democratic People’s Alliance for Democracy and the groups aligned with them, including Abhisit’s Democrat Party. Abhisit and his former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, have both been charged with the murder of civilian protesters in 2010, yet arrogantly strut around, even dismissing the court’s bail conditions, assured of their own impunity.

Prachatai has a post regarding censorship of books – an unofficial removal from sale – at Asia books. Of course, the books relate to the monarchy. But not the current king. These two books relate to past kings and the royalist response to the 1932 revolution. Prachatai says: “The books concern the history of the 1932 revolution and the controversial relationship between King Rama VI and his palace servants.” So why the “ban”? Asia Books withdrew the two academic titles reportedly for reasons of “political sensitivity” but declined to comment further. The book by Dr. Nattaphol Chaiching studies the “counter-revolution led by the royalists” following the 1932 revolution. Readers without Thai skills can get an idea about the book through the author’s chapter in Saying the Unsayable. The book was published by Fa Diaw Kan as part of its “Monarchy Studies Series.” The second book by Chanun Yodhong is about “Gentlemen-in-waiting”, and deals with the relationship between the gay King Vajiravudh and his palace flunkies. Prachatai states that the book “poses questions about King Rama VI and his projects such as the Boy Scouts and Vajiravudh College, a private boys-only boarding school he founded in 1910.” It is published by Matichon.

While on censorship, we feel compelled to add to the outcry about the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology’s continuing stupidity regarding Facebook posts and its use of the draconian Computer Crimes Act. Minister Anudith Nakornthap has lost his marbles if he thinks social media users should be charged and locked up for “sharing and clicking ‘Like’ on social media posts, since they could be deemed as damaging to the country’s security.” His view that “postings that are political in nature or meant to stir up public confusion might be in breach of the Internal Security Act and Computer Crime Act” is utter nonsense but clearly neanderthals can use the law to censor and stifle. Interestingly, the cyber-cops have declared the warning as a successful scare tactic. Update: Asked if clicking “like” is now against the law, Police Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, says: “It will be if you ‘like’ a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press ‘like’, it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible.” Officials like this are appallingly dull and through their dullard actions, dangerous to Thais and their rights to free speech.

PPT also wants to draw attention to a couple of posts at Bangkok Pundit. The first is not that different from what PPT said on the story/retracted Bangkok Post story on Anand Panyarachun. The second explains what happened, and comes from a source that we also had, but since Pundit has it posted, there’s no need for us to do the same.

Finally, we want to give a few lines to a report in The Economist, which identifies the rice policy as an economic millstone for the government. We agree, but then the politics of reducing the guaranteed price saw farmers protesting just a few weeks ago. An economic millstone is becoming a political millstone, and the government’s policy wonks need to find a way out.





Back to 2005 royalism I

17 06 2013

With the royalists mounting yet another challenge to an elected government, the only thing that seems new for this lot is the use of the Guy Fawkes masks. Even these masks are a tired plagiarism of something done elsewhere.

Just to make everyone realize that absolutely nothing has changed for the royalists, the Thai Patriotic Front or Network has dredged up a ploy that was the strategy that marked the People’s Alliance for Democracy as a royalist instrument.

Yes, in a throwback move, the so-called Patriots have:

filed a petition seeking the Royal appointment of a new prime minister, citing what it described as failures by the current government on such issues as amnesty legislation, the rice-pledging policy and the Bt2-trillion infrastructure loans.

Chaiwat Sinsuwong and his small band anti-elected government ultra-royalists have submitted a “petition to the Royal Household Bureau seeking the Royal appointment of a new prime minister.”

We can only assume that this throwback action is a reference to Article 7 of the constitution. It states: “Whenever no provision under this Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be decided in accordance with the constitutional convention in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”PAD_King

Readers may recall that Article 7 of the then 1997 charter was also used by anti-Thaksin Shinawatra protesters in 2005 and 2006. PAD pushed the use of this article very strongly. As Michael Connors explained it in his well-known Journal of Contemporary Asia article, the call for royal intervention was persistent and became a plea for the king to sack Thaksin [Shinawatra], supported by PAD and the Democrat Party. He also notes that the Democrat Party was prepared to use Article 7 in other circumstances in 2006 (p. 158). They made another call for its use in 2012.

Article 7 was introduced to the 1997 constitution by conservative royalists just before it was promulgated, and after public hearing were completed (p. 150). Connors argues that “the effect of Article 7 was to limit the reach of all … new [democratic] claims by empowering a traditionalistic and royalist interpretation should one be so required” (pp. 150-1).

While the 2005 plea was rejected by the palace, it led to the king’s call on the judiciary to intervene following the abortive 2006 election, which eventually led to the 2006 military coup and the political struggles that have continued to this day as the royalists prefer the intervention of unelected and unrepresentative powers against elected and popular political regimes. Article 7 pits the elite against the people.





NLA Sit-In Trial

19 02 2013

FORWARDED PRESS RELEASE

AHRC-FPR-009-2013

A Press Release from Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

THAILAND: The “NLA Sit-In” Trial of 10 Thai Human Rights Defenders

For immediate release on 18 February 2013

Since 21 February 2012, ten prominent Thai NGO/ labour union/ human rights activists have been on trial at the Criminal Court, Rachadapisek Road, Bangkok on serious criminal charges relating to national security, public peace, and trespass with use of force arising from a mass sit-in staged in the lobby in front of the meeting chamber of the National Legislative Assembly on 12 December 2007. If found guilty of all charges, they could face prison sentences of up to 7 years.

The defendants and their lawyers wish to invite observers from the diplomatic community in Thailand to attend the trial from Tuesday 19th February 2013 onwards during hearings for the defence, which will begin with testimony from the defendants themselves during the first five days. This is to help ensure that they receive a fair hearing, as they believe that the charges against them and the possible penalties that they face are grossly disproportionate to their non-violent actions of civil disobedience against a legislature appointed by a military junta which was rushing through legislation affecting human rights and civil liberties just 11 days prior to a general parliamentary election.

The Defendants:

1. Mr. Jon Ungphakorn, NGO and human rights activist

2. Mr. Sawit Keaw-wan, state enterprise union leader

3. Mr. Sirichai Maingam, state enterprise union leader

4. Mr. Pichit Chaimongkol, NGO and political activist

5. Mr. Anirut Khaosanit, farmers activist

6. Mr. Nasser Yeemha, NGO and political activist

7. Mr. Amnat Palamee, state enterprise union leader

8. Mr. Pairoj Polpetch, NGO and human rights activist

9. Ms. Saree Ongsomwang, NGO and consumer rights activist

10. Ms. Supinya Klangnarong, freedom of expression and media reform activist

The Charges:

Collaborating to

- incite the public to violate the law through speech, writing, or other means outside the boundaries of constitutional rights or legitimate freedom of expression (Section 116 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment);

- gathering in a group of 10 or more people, in the capacity of leaders or commanders, to threaten or to carry out an act of violence or to act in a way which causes a public disturbance (Section 215 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to Baht 10,000);

- trespass with use of violence (Sections 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalties of 5 years imprisonment and/or fines of up to Baht 10,000 under both Sections 362 and 364 as qualified under Section 365)

Trial Dates: (Tuesdays to Fridays from February 19- March 14, 2013)

Hearing witnesses for defence (Total 30 sessions)

February 19 – 22, 26 – 28 Morning session 09.00-12.00, Afternoon session 13.30-16.30

March 1, 5 – 8, 12 – 14 Morning session 09.00-12.00, Afternoon session 13.30-16.30

Background Information

Following the military coup on 19 September 2006 and the suspension of the 1997 Constitution, the military council formed by the coup leaders established a “National Legislative Assembly” (NLA) to act as an interim unicameral legislature for enacting legislation until parliamentary elections were held under a new constitution. All members of the NLA were selected by the military council.

After the promulgation of the 2007 constitution on 24 August 2007, the NLA continued to function as the legislature, and during the last two months before the general parliamentary election of 23 December 2007, the NLA rushed through the passage of a number of extremely controversial laws affecting human rights, civil liberties, community rights, and social justice. This was done despite strong opposition and protests by many civil society groups. The most controversial of these was Internal Security Act, a law demanded by the military to allow them to hold special powers to deal with national security issues after the return to elected civilian government. Other controversial laws passing through the NLA included legislation on privatisation of state universities, water management, and state enterprises.

On 11-12 September 2007 the Thai NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-COD) with Jon Ungphakorn (1st defendant) serving as Chair and Pairoj Polpetch (8th defendant) as Vice-Chair held a consultation involving a number of civil society networks and labour union leaders which ended with a public statement and press conference calling on the NLA to abandon consideration of 11 controversial bills considered to violate the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the public according to the 2007 Constitution.

On 26 September 2007, a delegation from NGO-COD and the Confederation of State Enterprise Labour Unions submitted an open letter to the NLA Speaker, Mr. Meechai Ruchupan at the parliament building.

On 29 November 2007, a mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, demanding that the NLA immediately abandon consideration of the 11 controversial bills, requesting members of the NLA to consider resigning their office , and asking members of the public to sign a petition for the NLA to cease all legislative activities in view of the coming elections for a democratic parliament.

On 12 December 2007 another mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, this time involving well over one thousand demonstrators. At around 11.00 a.m. over 100 demonstrators climbed over the metal fence surrounding the parliament building using make-shift ladders to enter the grounds of parliament. Then, around 50-60 demonstrators were able to push their way past parliamentary guards to enter the lobby in front of the NLA meeting chamber where the NLA was in session. They then sat down peacefully in concentric circles on the lobby floor. Negotiations with some members of the NLA and with a high-ranking police official ensued, until at around 12.00 noon the demonstrators were informed that the NLA meeting had been adjourned. The demonstrators then left the parliament building and grounds, returning to join the demonstrations outside the premises.

Further demonstrations were held outside the parliament building and grounds amidst tight police security on 19 December 2007. Despite all the protests, the NLA passed the Internal Security Act which remains in force to this day. Some of the other controversial laws were also passed.

On 22 January 2008 the ten defendants were summoned by police to acknowledge a number of charges against them. Later prosecutors asked police to investigate further, more serious charges which were then brought against the defendants, while less serious charges such as using a loudspeaker without prior permission were dropped. The prosecution was submitted to the Criminal Court on 30 December 2010, and all the defendants were allowed to post bail by the court.

Further Sources of Information

1. Judicial proceedings against ten human rights defenders – FIDH (2008) http://999.fidh.org/Judicial-proceedings-against-ten

2. Concerns over legal proceedings against 10 human rights defenders – HRCP (2010) http://hrcpblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/thailand-concerns-over-legal-proceedings-

against-10-human-rights-defenders/

3. English translation of Thai Criminal Code http://thailaws.com/law/t\_laws/tlaw50001.pdf

Contact persons:

1. Nakhon Chompoochart , Head of legal defence team, nakhonct@truemail.co.th

2. Jon Ungphakorn, Defendant no.1, ujon@truemail.co.th





Political nonsense and the constitutional referendum

20 12 2012

As PPT has made clear, we think any referendum on constitutional change is unnecessary and, as the junta’s charade in 2007 showed, a referendum can be simply anti-democratic and a political nonsense. That said, the royalists, led by “Democrat” Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, suddenly changed their tune on a constitutional referendum is revealing. From a well-orchestrated symphony calling for a referendum before any changes could be made to the military junta’s constitution of 2007, the sudden discordance has resulted in a cacophony of shrieking about a referendum being just about the worst thing that could happen. This sudden change of song again reveals the royalist political on democracy.

The degree of royalist manipulation of truth on the proposed referendum is again illustrated in a Bangkok Post op-ed. The sudden outpouring of op-eds from the Post is revealing of a coordinated campaign, bringing together the royalist mainstream media, “Democrat” Party opposition and yellow-hued academics. This op-ed by Kamolwat Praprutitum, an assistant news editor, begins: “Tearing up a constitution is no laughing matter. Without a thorough consultative process, there is a huge risk the charter rewrite efforts will heighten colour-coded conflicts needlessly.”

As PPT has indicated in a recent post, the tearing up is almost always done by the military and royalists. It was, for example, the palace and the military that drove their tanks over the 1997 constitution, grinding it into the dust. It is they who tutored their lackeys in constitution drafting to put the 2007 constitution in place and mounted a wholly repressive and deceitful referendum campaign to put it in place. It is they who established the referendum as a wholly inappropriate procedure.

That the yellow shirted ones will oppose any rewriting of the military’s constitution is already known, and their previous support for a referendum was simply a political ruse and had nothing to do with any notion of democracy.

The op-ed points out that “[n]o sooner did it occur to the government that defying the Constitution Court ruling could spell doom for the party than the politicians in power swung toward supporting the referendum.” Well it was “advice,” but had the effect of being a “ruling” because of the threat to the ruling party and government by the royalists in the court. In efect, the current government is again kowtowing to the demands of the royalists but that is not enough for the royalists. In fact, nothing is enough for the royalists; they just want the government out and their lads back in place. Hence, questions like this one are 5-6 years late:

Will a single question be a sufficient summary of the voters’ mandate? Will a simple “yes” or “no” to the new charter reflect the majority of voters’ true understanding of the meat of the new constitution?

But the question is only relevant now because the royalists want what they want and back then they wanted a junta constitution, and now they want to keep that in place, and not allow the “disloyal” lot to change or amend it. Raising a whole bunch of legal reasons for a referendum being a problem now – finding demon-seed clauses in the junta’s constitution – shows that all the royalist calls for a referendum were simply a nonsense.

Kamolwat then embarks on a royalist call for “consultation” on the constitution because…. well, the elected politicians who campaigned on charter change and won a remarkable majority can’t be trusted and they will attack “pillar sections of the constitution” – read monarchy – and engage in “another vote-buying splurge tilting favourably toward the welfare of a single individual desperate to come home.” Kamolwat puts the “Democrat” Party position. The vote-buying claim is also a nonsense right out of the ultra-royalist playbook.

Kamolwat concludes: “Unless the referendum is free and fair, we might be better off not having it at all. We want to be asked, not bought.” This is a false claim. (Where is the criticism of 2007?) What the royalist lackeys like Kamolwat want is no change to the junta’s constitution because they think these rules, drawn up by them and enforced by them, serve them best.





1932 principles of democracy and constitutional rule

30 09 2012

“Thailand needs a re-incarnation of the 1932 democracy philosophy in drafting a new charter to return sovereign power to the people…” says the Bangkok Post in a report. It would never be an editorial! Heaven forbid! This is an article reporting an event at Thammasat University called “Lawyers and the Coup.”

What was it that the People’s Party/Khana Ratsadon said in 1932? The initial constitution of July 1932 that the toppled absolute king hastily scrawled “provisional” on is the one that most clearly reflected the view before the royalists got their politically grubby hands on the first “permanent” constitution, they said:

Article 1: The supreme power in the country belongs to the people.

Article 4: The person who is the king of the country is King Prajadhipok. The succession will proceed in accordance with the Royal Household Law on the Succession of 1924 and with the approval of the Assembly.

Article 5: If there is any reason that the king is unable temporarily to carry out his duties, or is not in the capital, the Committee of the People will execute the right on his behalf.

Article 6: The king cannot be charged in a criminal court. The responsibility for a judgement rests with the Assembly.

And so it goes on, establishing the sovereignty of the people.

Kasian Tejapira, a political scientist from Thammasat University opined that “the monarchy has become the core of whatever form of administration rules Thailand.” For PPT this means that the spirit of 1932 has been defeated. In fact, while the pre-1946 royalists tried violence, murder and rebellion to turn back the clock, from the time of the gunshot death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, the effort has been to compete for the allegiance of the military, and from 1957 to use the military to support the return of the monarchy’s wealth and power.

Worachet Pakeerut, a core member of Nitirat, declares – quite correctly – that the “1947 coup … was a landmark coup that unbalanced the power nodes between the monarchy (from the old power) and other political institutions (Khanarassadorn legislature). The post-1947 coup constitutions … strengthened the monarchy and created the privy council.”

Kasian points out that this unbalancing means that “[c]oups … have been endorsed in Thailand as long as they uphold the monarchical institution…”. That’s why some, including Nitirat, want to “add punitive measures against those who attempt to tear down the constitution…”. Kasian says that Nitirat is the only “the only group of public law scholars to stand up to coups…”. That he considers them a “a spectre haunting Thammasat University” is a sad reflection on the fact that royalists have come to control the university that was meant to be the people’s university rather than a school for royals and royalists.

Kasian declares that “Nitirat should, from now on, work towards collaborating with scholars in other fields in order to revitalise the image of ‘Thammasat University for the People’, as it once was…”. What a great idea!

Worachet explained that “all constitutions after the 1947 coup, particularly the 1991, 1997 and 2007 charters, returned power to the monarchy, including the decision on the succession to the throne without referring to the endorsement power of the parliament.” He added that the succession of coups meant that “judges and lawyers therefore would always abide by the coup rules and regulations.”

Worachet called for a new constitution that would include “reforms of monarchy, political institutions, judiciary, and military.”








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