Kind of like a second-rate celebrity, the Department of Special Investigation’s boss Tharit Pengdit seems to crave the headlines. The Bangkok Post alone has three stories that include him today.
The first story that PPT noted had to do with his wife. In July 2010, Tharit’s wife Wassamon was accused by red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan “receiving 150,000 baht from a businessman an in return her husband, Mr Tharit, would to use his authority to help him out in a case involving 1.7 million baht in back taxes.” The businessman produced records of bank transactions and more to prove the allegations.
Wassamon filed the defamation lawsuit on July 28. Her lawyer now says she has “agreed to withdraw the case against Mr Jatuporn during arbitration mediated by court officials. Details and conditions of the settlement could not be disclosed, the lawyer said.”
Now what did happen to the investigation of those accusations? And why hasn’t the media looked at the allegation in more detail?
The second story relates to yet another DSI attempt to have Jatuporn jailed. And that has failed. Tharit has pushed the request to have Jatuporn’s bail rescinded (and Jatuporn jailed) several times. “The DSI said Mr Jatuporn had breached the court’s conditions set on Dec 28 prohibiting him from taking part in a gathering of five or more people or other political activities or disseminate information to the public, except in parliament, in a way that may obstruct investigation or court precedures in the terrorism case against him. The court ruled that Mr Jatuporn had not breached the conditions. However, the court warned Mr Jatuporn against criticising the justice process as a whole.” Heavan forbid that anyone should be allowed to criticize the justice system for what it is: a corrupt and politicized tool of the royalists.
The third story relates to Tharit’s explanation that the DSI “can still not clearly establish responsibility for the deaths” that occurred during military operations to clear United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters from the streets in April and May 2010.
Tharit explained that after the UDD protest on 19 May 2010, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) set up an investigation into 89 deaths. The oddity of this should be noted: CRES was responsible for the suppression of the demonstration and, hence, bears responsibility for the state’s portion of the violence, and they are the organization that ordered investigations. But CRES no longer exists, having been disbanded after the lifting of the emergency decree.
It is reported that the “Metropolitan Police Bureau subsequently handed over the 30 cases involving the 89 deaths to the DSI.” That is, the police investigations were halted as they were handed over to DSI, which was a part of CRES.
The DSI claims to have “cooperation from prosecutors and scientific crime investigation police, gathered evidence from eyewitnesses and government authorities who performed their duties in connection with the protest, and obtained still and motion pictures from members of the mass media and the general public…”, but can’t seem to get any further.
The report is a little unclear on what DSI currently claims – perhaps that is reflective of the nature of the investigation as a politicized event. DSI says there are “12 people whose deaths were believed to have been caused by the UDD. They include Col Romklao Thuwatham, other soldiers, police and those who died in the CentralWorld fire.” It isn’t clear if this is the outcome of investigation or of allegations. There are another “13 people whose deaths might have been caused by government authorities. The eight cases covering these deaths had been forwarded to local police to take action under Section 150 of the Criminal Procedures Code.” That bit seems clear. It seems DSI is sure that the “three people who died at Wat Pathumwanaram, the man who died in the Dusit Zoo, army Pvt Narongrit Sala who died near the National Memorial, and Japanese photo-journalist Hiroyuki Muramoto, killed in the cross fire at Khok Wua intersection on April 10″ were a result of state action.
The remaining “64 deaths … cannot yet be concluded…. The dead include Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, alias Seh Daeng, Kamolket Akhahad who died at Wat Pathumwanaram, and Italian reporter Fabio Polenghi…. However, the investigators have gathered much information on places, dates, conditions of injuries and directions from which gunshots were fired in these 18 cases.”
Tharit says that the “incidents took place amid rioting, confusion and burning of important places both in Bangkok and other provinces. Therefore, the investigators encountered many limitations, which made it difficult for them to complete their inquiries.” Well, yes, but is something else going on. Think of this: “Mr Tharit asked for justice for government authorities, particularly soldiers, who had to perform their duty in critical situations in which loss of lives and property damage were inevitable.” This sounds remarkably close to the usual call for impunity when the state murders citizens. More so when Tharit adds: “Police and soldiers involved in peace-keeping operations in these situations were protected by the law, and the courts would make the final decision in each case, he said. It was not fair for the UDD to accuse these people of thoughtlessly killing people.”
PPT believes that the UDD and many others are not claiming that authorities “thoughtlessly” killed people. Rather, we’d suggest premeditated and planned murder.
Making the political nature of DSI even clearer, this story also includes details on a DSI arrest of “a man who was a security guard of the UDD during the rally last year. Manop Chanchangthong, alias Ped, was arrested on Wednesday. The DSI chief said Mr Manop took part in the seizure of a large number of weapons from soldiers during the clash at Khok Wua intersection on April 10 last year. The weapons were later shown on the UDD stage and then distributed to UDD guards for use against soldiers.”
Correct us if we are wrong, but PPT’s understanding is that the soldiers dumped their weapons and fled, with red shirts collecting them up.
Manop is also accused of taking “pistols from police who tried to arrest red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong at the SC Park Hotel on April 16…”. That refers to an apparent attempt to arrest and/or assassinate Arisman. Manop is to be charged with “terrorism.” We doubt that the state will ever subject itself to serious investigation of state terrorism that breaks out repeatedly in Thailand, whenever populist mobilization challenges the existing socio-economic power structures.
Update: The Bangkok Post has updated and filled out the story cited above on the investigation of deaths in the events of April and May, which the DSI insists on fallaciously labeling “riots.” The Post now says the DSI has explained and attributed some deaths. We think that is incorrect and some of these results will be challenged, including the death of Romklao.