Interview with released political detainee

27 05 2014

Andrew Spooner’s interview with detainee Nattapat Akkahad. It is one of the first insights into life inside the camps for the detainees.

Nattapat was grabbed on junta orders on 22 May. He is the son of Phayao Akkahad whose daughter, Kamolkade, was shot and killed by the Army on 19 May 2010 who was working as a medic.

How were you seized?

I was seized at the UDD rally at Aksa Road on the 22nd May. The Army were shooting in the air as they approached and they were fully armed. They took six of us away. First of all they put in me into an Army truck then transferred me into a van. They looked after us all quite well. I didn’t really feel scared as I knew we’d not done anything wrong. I cannot say where they took me because that’s a condition of my release.

Do you know the condition of any of the other UDD leaders?

No, they are all in different locations. When we were taken they were all ok but I can’t speak of how they are now.

Can you describe the conditions you were kept in?

It was in a very small prison cell. There was no bed, just a mat on the floor. No fan, so it was very hot, extremely hot. I had a toilet in the cell but it was in very bad condition. Food quality was ok. I was being held in an army camp. I wasn’t allowed out for any exercise. I was allowed to telephone my family over the weekend – only the one time. I didn’t ask to speak to a lawyer and was never offered access to one. I was also given a medical examination.

Was anybody mistreated in the prison?

To my knowledge, no. But I was there alone and so there was nobody for me to speak to.

What were the conditions of your release?

I’m not allowed to take part in political activity, not allowed to leave the country. These are the main two conditions. If I want to leave the country I have to ask for permission from the army.

How do you feel now?

I am not scared. I have done the right thing in calling for justice for what happened in 2010. I will now fight for those who are detained to be released. I want to speak to the diplomatic and international organisations about what happened.

Are you happy for your full-name to be used in this interview?

I’m not afraid. I can only speak the truth about what happened.





Thailand is screwing up

23 05 2014

That’s some of TIME magazine’s headline: “Thailand Is Doing a Great Job of Screwing Up Its Potential.”

Moody’s agrees, according to documents posted by Andrew MacGregor Marshall:

The deterioration of the political situation in Thailand to the extent that the army felt compelled to impose martial law reflects the heightened degree of political uncertainty, as seen in repeated delays to hold national elections, the unchanged intention of the main opposition party to boycott a future poll and the unwavering desire of the main anti-government opposition group to dismantle democratic governance in Thailand. We see the latest development as further weighing on the economic and financial performance of the Thai economy.

From AP: “Countries including the United States, Japan and Australia expressed concern and disappointment over the coup, with the U.S. saying there was “no justification” for the takeover, Thailand’s second in eight years.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary stated: “I am extremely concerned by today’s coup…. The UK urges the restoration of a civilian government that has been democratically elected, serves the interests of its people and fulfils its human rights obligations.”

Military arrests a red shirt activist

Military arrests a red shirt activist

PPT reckons that the hardening attitude of anti-democrats to “outsiders” will probably lead to verbal attacks on these “stupid foreigners.” But what do they say about Thais? Perhaps the military will lock them up?

Academic Prajak Kongkiarti at Prachatai: “People will soon rise up against the military, coup lead to deeper conflict and violence.”

Prajak

Prajak

They are arresting more and more red shirt leaders. According to Andrew Spooner, others like Abhisit Vejjajiva and his anti-democrat Democrat Party leaders have been “released” from protective child minding.

Just to make things more confusing, The Nation reports that:

Leaders of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee have been taken to a safe house in Bangkok, a military source announced on Friday.

They were taken from the First Infantry Regiment to a safe house after the coup makers released representatives of the ousted government and the Democrats who attended the failed seven-partite meeting at the Army Club on Thursday.

The coup makers also released three Pheu Thai representatives but detained two – Pheu Thai secretary general Phutham Wechayachai and party spokesman Prompong Nopparit – and took them to the safe house along with the UDD and PDRC leaders.

Sombat

Sombat

One red shirt – always at the forefront of dissent – Red Sunday Group leader Sombat Boonngamanong has, according to The Nation, become:

the first person in the list of 114 summoned to report to the military junta who has publicly refused to do so, citing that staging a coup is illegitimate and challenging the junta on Twitter and Facebook to catch him if they can.

“Hilarious. Not reporting [to the junta] is considered a criminal offense. But when they deploy tanks to seize power and tear down the constitution, it is not even a violation of the Criminal Act,” Sombat tweeted at around 1.40pm yesterday (Friday) ….

The Bangkok Post says “the coup-makers warned those defying the summons will be arrested and face legal action.” It also reports that he junta has called in 155 people, and we reckon this does not include those being arrested elsewhere.

Arresting people, setting up “safe houses” under military control, imposing strict censorship and tramping about in big boots makes Thailand look like it is doing far worse than just screwing things up. We’d like to be wrong on this!





Red shirt response

10 05 2014

Several readers chided PPT for observing in a recent post that “Red shirt protests about this so far seem feeble.” At the time we wrote that, the official red shirts were preparing a rally, well away from Bangkok to protest the Constitutional Court’s politicized decision-making. There is now an official red shirt response.

The Bangkok Post reports that Saturday’s red shirt rally was large and represented “a robust red response.” Andrew Spooner writes of the rally:

… over 100,000 pro-democracy Red Shirt activists gathered in a suburb of Bangkok to express their resistance to the Thai establishment’s moves to derail a fairer, more accountable society. That powerful and supposedly ‘educated’ Thais – like the cabal of well-groomed thugs in expensive suits who lead the PDRC/Democrat Party – are so ready to destroy Thailand’s hard fought for democratic gains whilst risking civil war, reveals them to be closer to nihilists than a credible political alternative.

He also notes what might be a warning to the red shirts – armored vehicles moving through Bangkok.Armor

According to the Post’s report, for the official red shirts, the line in the sand is not the Constitutional Court’s decision or the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s dubious decision to refer charges against Yingluck Shinawatra nor is it the Election Commission’s determination to not hold and election. Nor is it the anti-democrat’s illegal occupation of Government House or the senate’s unconstitutional actions. The line in the sand is any attempt to remove what remains of the interim government.

Jatuporn Promphan delivered a fine account of why the anti-democrats, in cahoots with the royalist elite and their tools in the judiciary and senate, are engaged in illegal actions. Yet these anti-democrats can pretty much do as they want. The sandy line is supporting the lame duck government:

Jatuporn said the UDD was ready to continue its rally for as long as it takes to support the government. The sight of tents along a four-kilometre stretch of Aksa Road, not far from a residence of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, indicated people were willing to stay for a week or longer.

He said the UDD would try to exercise full tolerance and not move anywhere yet.

“As long as the country’s democracy is not safe, we will be here,” he told reporters. If there is a coup or an unelected prime minister is installed, the red shirts will “escalate our fight immediately…”.

 Meanwhile, Suthep Thaugsuban has all but declared that he is in charge:

“The people hope there will be a new prime minister of the people by Monday. If not, we will have no choice but to take action by ourselves. We can’t allow the country to continue like this anymore,” Suthep said.

“From tomorrow [Sunday], we will issue statements. And I will read the statements inside Government House.”

Suthep is now ensconced in Government House with the armed and extremist Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform group, led by PAD’s  Nittithon Lamlua, at his side. He is joined by PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang and his Dhamma Army, and all of the other PAD leaders. It is looking increasingly like 2008, when the elected government was overthrown with barely a whimper. Could that happen again? The events of 2009 and 2010 suggest it shouldn’t, but the path across the line in the sand seems defined.





On democracy in Thailand

19 12 2013

Readers will find something of interest in two recent posts by Andrew Spooner. The first is at Left Foot Forward, a UK political blog, about the fascist turn in Thailand and those opposing it. He concludes:

Thailand stands at crossroads – the potential for civil war is now obvious and fascism is rearing its ugly head. It’s time for the global community of democrats – whether on the left or the right – to stand shoulder to shoulder with those battling extremism in Thailand.

The second is at his own Asia Provocateur blog, where he has “asked four prominent persons from what I would call Thailand’s “pro-democracy alliance” the four same questions to gauge the range of thoughts and feelings as to the country’s present political situation.” The four are: “trade unionist and possible prospective party list MP candidate for the new Palang Prachathipatai Party (Democratic Force Party)” Jitra Kotchadej, political exile, Jakrapob Penkair; Secretary General to Yingluck Shinawatra, Suranand Vejjajiva, and Panuwat Panduprasert, a lecturer in the Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration at Chiang Mai University.

 





Violence and bias

28 11 2013

Readers will find Asia Provocateur Andrew Spooner’s recent post on violence and media bias of interest. His point is that these demonstrations, like those of PAD in earlier days and the various ginger groups that preceded Suthep Thaugsuban’s current lot, ooze right-wing and violent ideology. He uses the term fascist to describe the “movement.”

Their spokesperson says they are “civilized.” If they say it, the idea seems to be that it will eventually be believed. She should have just said that the protesters represent the rich, for the rich believe they are civilized compared with the nasty red shirt lot who are farmers and workers.

It seems that some of the media supporters of the current lot are having second thoughts:

It is undeniable the government has reached an impasse and lost legitimacy to run the country…. But the protesters are also destroying their own legitimacy more and more by violating the laws.

The first sentence is wrong, but the second betrays the concern that Suthep is losing momentum.





Spooner and Suranand

18 11 2013

Readers will no doubt find Andrew Spooner’s interview with Suranand Vejjajiva of some interest. Suranand is Secretary General to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. PPT will highlight a couple of points while urging readers to consult the whole interview.

The first interesting point for us is on the amnesty:

Was it a mistake to attempt a blanket amnesty?

The intention of the blanket amnesty bill is based on to forgive (but not forget). Many countries with violent political conflicts eventually end up with amnesties as a mechanism to set the country back on track. It is not a mistake but maybe a little too naive and “off” in terms of timing and communicating to the general public.

SuranandThis is surprising. Suranand usually has a good feel for the political pulse. This response might be spin, but if it is in any way real it suggests that the Puea Thai government is out of touch with its support base. If that were the case, it would be very dangerous for the party and government. It is important that Puea Thai not take the red shirts or the voters for granted. They are comrades and supporters who expect to be heard.

Critics claim the govt let down their supporters by not reforming laws like lese majeste or not doing enough to free the Red Shirt prisoners – what would you say to them?

The government has been trying to work to free the Red Shirt political prisoners as hard as possible. Some has been released but many remained, stuck in the judicial maze. The work will need to continue. As for lese majeste, the law remains a sensitive issue in Thailand.

Excellent question and a tired and rather pathetic answer. Wouldn’t it be remarkable to hear some one in (any) government actually explain the real reasons for sensitivity on the now completely bonkers lese majeste law.





HRW and orders

30 05 2013

PPT draws attention to a statement by Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch, Sunai Pasuk in a Bangkok Post article on the murder of Fabio Polenghi.

Sunai is right when he says that “the finding highlighted the need to hold the military to account for the 2010 deaths…”. He’s also right to complain about the Yingluck Shinawatra Government apparent decision to not hold soldiers responsible for their actions in April and May 2010 is legal  travesty.

However, Sunai also makes a remarkable claim: “According to Human Rights Watch’s research, there was no order given to shoot unarmed civilians…”.

PPT has not heard such a claim previously and has not seen the “research” Sunai says his organization conducted.

As Andrew Spooner points out, this claim seems different from a recent HRW statement on this matter.

Sunai needs to make the “research” he cites available or explain his claim.








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