Repressing “the few”

18 12 2014

As everyone knows, the military dictatorship is ultra-royalist and desperate to “defend” and “protect” the monarchy and the system of power and recession it stands for.

This is why it is “normal” to view yet another report, this one at the Bangkok Post, that has a senior junta general declaring that “Thailand has asked countries where lese majeste suspects are believed to be hiding to extradite them so they can face legal action…”.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwon knows that most countries of the world do not have ludicrous and medieval laws like lese majeste. Most of them do not have extradition treaties with Thailand. This means that “extradiction” is pretty much a nonsense. Equally nonsensical is Prawit’s claim that he’s reporting lese majeste suspects to Interpol.

Prawit explained that The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha “wants all fugitives in lese majeste cases who have fled abroad, including Thammasat University history lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul, to return and fight the cases.” As everyone knows, “fighting” a lese majeste charge is virtually impossible, with almost all those accused eventually being convicted following long periods o jail time where bail is repeatedly refused.

In the same report, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, who is also a part of the junta, is reported as declaring that the military dictatorship’s massive lese majeste dragnet does not amount to having the “the law … applied too stringently.” It is just that the “army is working with various agencies to tackle the problem…”.

Udomdej is like most ultra-royalists, and can simply not grasp that others can think differently from himself and the people he surrounds himself with: “I think most people in the country love and respect the monarchy while only a few have a different point of view…”. He sounds like someone who believes palace propaganda when he declares:

“They [people opposed to the lese majeste law] may forget that our nation has remained peaceful for as long as it has because we have a monarch who has long been the soul of the nation and who has dedicated his time and energy to his people…”.

In such circumstances, it is “normal” for him to declare that he can’t think of a single case where the “lese majeste law has been abused for political reasons…”. In fact, every lese majeste case is political and is an abuse of human rights.

Tracking down “the few,” keeping them jailed without bail and denying constitutional rights is not a case of the regime having “abused any law to intimidate anyone…”. Udomdej is either lying or is dense or both.





Hunting and hating critics

17 12 2014

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who selected himself to be premier, is worried. Or at least he claims to be. He is apparently under pressure to arrest and jail dissidents who have fled abroad.

Khaosod reports that The Dictator has had to explain [to whom we are not sure] that the “authorities are seeking to extradite critics of the Thai monarchy living abroad for legal prosecution in Thailand but that progress is slow. Perhaps he is explaining to the “uneducate” amongst the ultra-royalists who do not understand that the Thai military dictatorship’s powers are limited. Perhaps he is explaining to the “uneducate” amongst the ultra-royalists who do not understand that other countries have laws. Perhaps he is explaining to the “uneducate” amongst the ultra-royalists who do not understand that lese majeste is a feudal remnant that is only regularly used in royalist Thailand.

Prayuth declared: “You can’t expect me to have all of them arrested right now.”

Royalist wanted poster

He also complained that some of the “wanted” critics didn’t play “fair.” Apparently, they “told security officers they would stop commenting on the monarchy, only to later flee abroad and continue with their ‘libelous’ remarks.” Prayuth is hardly one to complain about this. After all, he is a skilled practitioner of the publicly spoken lie.

But never fear dear ultra-royalists, for The Dictator is there to protect the royalist regime: “We are monitoring them…. We have many agencies involved in this, the ICT [Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology], the army, the Ministry of Defence. We have many.”

Prayuth went on to attack Thammasat University professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul, “who fled Thailand shortly after the military staged a coup on 22 May 2014″ and is living in exile in France.

Somsak has been a particular target for Prayuth. When he was Army chief, Prayuth was behind a lese majeste accusation against Somsak. Then, in February 2014, Khaosod reported that Prayuth was at it again: “The Royal Thai Army is considering a legal action against a prominent historian for his remarks about the monarchy…”. Acting for Prayuth, the Army claimed that Somsak “gravely insulted the Royal Family in his Facebook posts.” At the time, Somsak stated that “he has been simply parodying and criticising certain type of royalists.” He asked: “Can′t the Army Commander-in-Chief read Thai?” The Army then promised “unspecified ‘social measures’ to deter such inappropriate action.” The result was thugs attacking Somsak’s house.

Now The Dictator attacks Somsak for daring to write about the decrepit monarchy: “For example, Mr. Somsak, today he is still writing about the monarchy… All of you have seen that. He writes about this, he writes about that, he just keeps writing.” Prayuth seems befuddled: “He’s a teacher, how could he do this?… He can’t teach people to break the law. He’s supposed to teach people to respect the law. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but as for today, I cannot allow this to happen.”

Prayuth prefers no critics and would hope that all Thais would be disciplined and arranged in a hierarchy, just like the fascist military that socialized him as an ultra-royalist dolt.

Responding to The Dictator, Somsak took to Facebook declaring he was “exceedingly satisfied” that The Dictator mentioned him. He lampooned Prayuth: “It’s been less than a month since I returned to writing [on Facebook], but Our Dear Leader has noticed me already.”





Regime challenges

25 11 2014

Readers following Thailand’s politics will recognize that there have been a series of events that have challenged the military dictatorship in recent days. These events may be suppressed, but they represent a turn in events, as anti-coup activists are not simply going away, as the regime had hoped.

Many of these activists are relatively young students. They have used three-finger salutes, social media and a a range of activities to directly challenge the junta and its royalist regime. They are seemingly inviting arrest by the jittery authorities. They seem unafraid of the prospect of police or military action against them.

The most recent example is of university students at Thammasat University’s inner city campus. At least eight students distributed leaflets at the campus celebrating the return to Facebook of prominent historian and monarchy critic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who went into hiding after the 22 May coup and who has apparently fled to France.Leaflet

Police swiftly arrested eight students for distributing the leaflets. According to Khaosod, the leaflets included “an excerpt from a poem by the late historian and activist Chit Phumisak, who was summarily executed by authorities in 1966,” which had been cited by Somsak on Facebook. It stated: “Even in the ruthless era when evils rule the country with their guns … people are still people.”

The student activists were members of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), described as “an anti-coup student group based in Thammasat.” This group has been a persistent and brave opponent of the military dictatorship.

Prachatai reports that: “One of the detained students is Natchacha Kongudom, a Bangkok University student who was previously arrested for flashing the forbidden ‘three finger salute’ in front of Siam Paragon cinema in Bangkok downtown on 19 November.”

Persistent challenges to the military and royalist regime by brave young students are emblematic of a broader change that has wafted through Thailand in recent decades and suggests a rejection of the hierarchical traditions of monarchy and military that may well become louder and will resonate more widely as the regime seeks to re-embed authoritarian structures.

In responding, the military dictatorship has urged that protests be curtailed. General Prawit Wongsuwan babbled about “opinion surveys that show most people disapprove of anti-coup protests.” Prawit asked that protesters keep quiet for a year: “We only ask for one year to achieve our mission…”. Meanwhile, The Dictator has directed the National Reform Council (NRC) and the King Prajadhipok Institute to “allow students to participate in the reform process by expressing their views and knowledge.” This seems like his attempt to direct student opposition into the junta’s controlled environment.

 





More comical military lies

30 08 2014

We assume that having to be in exile is not a joke. But the military dictatorship’s recent call for political opponents to return to Thailand for a “fair trial” is comical.

Khaosod reports that the junta’s spokesperson Colonel Winthai Suvaree as stating: “We want them to come back. We never shut the door to them. We never prohibit them [from coming back]…”. He went on to claim that The Dictator Prayuth Chan-ocha “has personally invited all dissidents to return to Thailand, with promises to treat them fairly.”

To be honest, PPT does not believe that Prayuth understands “fairness.” This is snipped from Wikipedia [click on the image for a larger view]:Fairness

The record of the military and the judiciary is of remarkable double standards that could not be further from any notion of fairness. Winthai, and presumably The Dictator too, was responding to a comment by a lawyer numerous opposition activists and lese majeste defendants. The record on lese majeste is clear: even laws, international conventions and constitutional provisions are routinely ignored in seeking to punish the accused.

Those who have fled the countryinclude “former Minister of Interior Affairs Charupong Ruangsuwan, Redshirt leader and former Deputy House Speaker Apiwan  Wiriyachai, and historian and critic of the Thai monarchy Somsak Jiamteerasakul.”

Winthai added to the lies by disingenuously stating:

“The case is the duty of the police to decide how to proceed. Everything is in accordance with the law. The NCPO will merely ask for cooperation [from Mr. Apiwan] to come back and contest the charge in Thailand,” Col. Winthai said. “Let me stress that we have no policy of hunting down individuals who are taking exile abroad.”

The media has quoted several officials who claim to be hunting down those overseas and seeking extradition. Think of Aum Neko as just one example. Winthai lied further – has he no shame? – “People who are contesting their charges in the country, those that don’t run away, get their bail release.” This is clearly, unequivocally a blatant untruth. Khaosod gives an example:

Contrary to Col. Winthai’s claim, a Thai criminal court recently denied a bail release for two activists charged with lese majeste for their role in a play that was performed in October last year. Police say the theater performance was offensive to the Thai Royal Family.

The two activists are currently imprisoned as they await their trial. If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in jail.

What is the purpose of continually and intentionally making false statements? After all, everyone know that these are lies. We at PPT can only assume that the military is so accustomed to false claims and impunity that they can no longer detect the truth.





Monarchy madness increases

5 08 2014

Under the military dictatorship the role of the monarchy has been elevated to an astral level. The Leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, soon to grab the premiership for himself, claims to hold the monarchy in the highest possible esteem.

Monarchism underpins or justifies all the political operations of the military dictatorship. It is lese majeste that has been a significant element of political repression.

Even with all of this mad monarchism, PPT is still confused by a recent Khaosod report, where it is reported that the media regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), “has fined Thai PBS channel for broadcasting discussion about Thai monarchy, a taboo subject in Thailand.” The report states:

The episodes [of Tob Jote], presented in a series called “Monarchy and Constitution”, featured a number of historians and politicians talked with well-known TV host Pinyo Traisuriyathamma about the roles of the Royal Family in modern history.

The most controversial episodes were the debates between Thammasat University historian and regular critic of Thai monarchy Somsak Jiamteerasakul and prominent royalist writer Sulak Sivalak, in which Mr. Somsak argued that the power in the hand of Thai monarchy far exceeds the acceptable limit of a modern constitutional monarchy.

According to the NBTC, the episodes violate Article 37 of the 2008 Broadcasting Act, which prohibits dissemination of “content which leads to the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy system of government, or affects national security, public order and morality…”.

PPT had never considered “discussion” of the monarchy to be “taboo.” After all, there’s shelves of books on the monarchy, they are on television every single day, and there is endless “information” provided on the royal family and monarchy.

So we thought we should look up the word “discussion.” We found that it means “consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate.” The problem seems to with the word “open.” As we all know, the lese majeste law does not allow open consideration of the monarchy.

That confirmed, it still seems odd that the state-owned channel should be considered to have been promoting the “overthrow of the constitutional monarchy system of government…” or anything similar.

We understand that a herd of mad monarchists, fearing the sky was falling through (barely) open conversation, “protested at the Thai PBS headquarters” and demanded that the rest of the series be banned. (Of course, Thai PBS quickly capitulated.) But, then, these were quite deranged ultra-royalists.

Then we located our earlier post on this and saw this:

… Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has lashed out at the Tob Jote TV programme for broadcasting a debate over the role of the monarchy.” … He considers the “broadcast was inappropriate at a time of political conflict.” So the timing was wrong? Probably not. Prayuth doesn’t want any discussion of the role of the monarchy that goes outside the narrow boundaries of the official treacly narrative.

At least the bellicose general agrees that the media has “constitutional rights … to present a programme,” and is reported to have made the remarkable claim that “there are many other pressing problems to be tackled other than the role of the monarchy.”…

The then army boss, now dictator, stated the:

… programme was inappropriate. He said the monarchy is part of the country’s history and prestige and must be preserved. He said he has served the royal family himself and can testify that the institution provides happiness to the people…. The monarchy has been under the constitution since the 1932 revolution. Gen Prayuth said the only way the monarchy can be protected is by Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law…. He said this is not the right time to make changes to the lese majeste law.

The picture is thus clear: Prayuth is settling old scores and others are settling them for him as well. Settling them is a part of lese majeste repression. Madness on the monarchy continues to stifle debate, and even “discussion.” The military dictatorship prefers its “information.”





Updated: Lese majeste regime

13 07 2014

The Bangkok Post reports on the recent surge in “lese majeste charges following the May 22 coup has raised concerns that more lawsuits will only undermine political reconciliation sought by the junta…”.

Well, yes, there has been a surge, but reconciliation. Surely this is nothing more than buying into the propaganda of the military dictatorship! “Reconciliation” doesn’t come from repression and censorship.

According to the report, “[a]t least 13 people have been arrested or charged with lese majeste under the Criminal Code’s Section 112 since the coup took place.” In years gone by, that would be the total over 2-3 years, not in a few weeks. The report mentions these cases:

… former Pheu Thai Party MP Prasit Chaisrisa, cyber activist Kathawut Bunpitak; 24-year-old engineering student Akaradet Eiamsuwan; Red Sunday group leader Sombat Boonngam-anong; freelance writer Siraphop, aka Rung Sila; and Thanat Thanawatcharanont, aka Tom Dundee.

Other high-profile people facing lese majeste charges who have had arrest warrants issued for them but have failed to report in include a hairdresser based in England, Chatrawadee Amornphat; former PM’s Office minister in exile Jakrapob Penkair; and Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

Readers might note that PPT does not have some of these cases listed. We are having trouble keeping up with the rash of charges.

Niran Pitakwatchara, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said: “The more arrests and charges are made, the more the revered institution will be politicised…”.

That is a false line that has been used by many as a means to make the proponents of the law feel somehow shamed because they bring the monarchy into disrepute. PPT finds this naive and politically daft, for those using the charge use it to repress these very persons and the palace supports the law in times when they feel threatened, as they surely do at present.

Update: It is worth adding two pieces of related news here. The first is about academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who has had his passport cancelled for failing to show up when the military dictatorship demanded it. The hopeless ThaiPBS has reported it this way:

Singapore-based Thai academic’s passport revoked
The Foreign Ministry has revoked the passport of Singapore-based Thai academic Pawin Chatchavalpongphan who is facing criminal charges in Thailand and has defied the order to report to the National Council for Peace and Order.

The decision to have Pawin’s passport revoked was based on the recommendation of the National Police Office.

Foreign permanent secretary Sihasak Puangkatekaew explained that the Foreign Ministry simply acted in accordance with procedure after it was recommended by the police.

Pawin who is a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore has vigorously campaigned for the amendment of lese majeste law in Thailand or Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He is also the man who initiated the “Ah Kong’s Palm” sign – a symbol of defiance against the lese majeste law.

There’s a couple of things to note here. First, the emphasis on lese majeste is politically significant in the current context. Second, ThaiPBS and the junta seem to think that Pavin is in Singapore. He moved many, many months ago, and this is no secret.

The second piece of news is kind of good news but based on the bizarre. Prachatai reports that the dopey police have released Chaowanat Musikabhumi without charge. She was arrested for her “Long Live USA Day” placard considered potential lese majeste for parodying the propagandistic “Long live the king” slogan. She isnow  banned from political activity.

She was released on Friday 11am. Similar to other detainees, she was forced to sign an agreement that she will stop all political activities.





Updated: The lese majeste regime

5 07 2014

Tucked away in the Bangkok Post a couple of days ago was this lese majeste announcement:

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) is setting up a team to pursue legal action against lese majeste suspects who have fled or are living abroad.

Attorney-General Trakul Winijnaiyaphak said his agency was working with state agencies to form the team to be made up of representatives from the OAG, the police and the Foreign Ministry.

He said the team would review lese majeste cases after it received reports from the police. The team then would forward the cases to the OAG for indictment if there were grounds for prosecution.

The OAG could seek arrest warrants for suspects if they had fled or were staying in countries which had compatible laws and extradition agreements with Thailand, Mr Trakul said.

We know well enough that the military dictatorship has proclaimed its loyalty to the monarchy. We also know that it has set about dredging up every lese majeste case of recent years, accused, in process or completed, and it reviewing them. And we know that the junta’s lackey police bosses have been active in the hunt for the “disloyal.” What we are seeing is the enforcement of a lese majeste regime, with the legal arms of the state being ever more firmly being oriented to act politically for the junta and monarchy. Of course, these agencies have long been heavily biased. Now that bias is being heavily institutionalized and regularized as a lese majeste regime.

UpdateThe Bangkok Post also reports that the Foreign Ministry has also indicated the establishment of this lese majeste regime by revoking “the passports of lese majeste opponent Somsak Jeamteerasakul and hardline red-shirt leader Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kochthammakhun.” Note that Somsak is not charged with lese majeste but that The Dictator has long been after him, hoping to pin a lese majeste charge on him.








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