Nostitz, HRW and 2010

26 10 2012

PPT was scrolling through some of the posts at New Mandala earlier today and noted a brief exchange on an old posting, with an intriguing recent comment from photojournalist Nick Nostitz.

Readers will know Nostitz as the author of two books on recent street politics in Thailand. His most recent post at New Mandala was on the Democrat Party’s “men in black” sham rally. It will also be recalled that Human Rights Watch released a much debated and criticized report on the events of 2010 about a year after the military crackdown was concluded. That report is available here.

The genesis of Nostitz’s comment on the HRW report is a poke he receives from one of the yellow-shirted antagonists who regularly comment at New Mandala, Vichai N. This Vichai asks about Nostitz and the HRW, sort of implying that Nostitz was unreliable [reliable we fixed a typo here] as he wasn’t cited in that rather biased and incomplete report. For PPT, Nostitz’s response is revealing of the methods used by HRW, and should come as no surprise to those who follow HRW’s side-taking in Thailand.

Nostitz reveals that “HRW investigators” interviewed him.” He then explains that HRW:

decided not to include my accounts, especially over the killing zone incident, as the believed another person who wasn’t even there during the incident and at the day, and had very little background knowledge or contacts (we had quite an argument during the interview over this, which pissed me off tremendously, especially as this was only a very short time after this whole mess, when i was psychologically still very stressed).

Nostitz goes no to explain that HRW “decided to believe the massive discrediting campaign that at the time was launched by the DP [Democrat Party-led] government against me, and decided not to listen to the people who supported me [his account]…”. He adds that the HRW account of the killings at Wat Pathum Wanaram was shallow and accepting of “simplistic” media stories.

Nick Nostitz

On the HRW report, he concludes: “It has merit, but also some weaknesses which could have been avoided.”

As an aside, Nostitz comments on the role played by HRW’s Sunai Phasuk, claiming that “contrary what many believe, was not part of the HRW report.” Given that Sunai is an employee of HRW and their designated “researcher,” this assertion demands more detail, especially as Sunai was reporting to HRW throughout the period the report discusses. Nostitz claims that “Sunai is one of the very few people here who are extremely knowledgeable, factual and objective, and do walk neutral ground.” Nostitz is simply wrong to claim that Sunai is “neutral.” While we agree that he is knowledgeable, PPT has demonstrated Sunai’s pro-coup bias (found here, here, here, here, here and here).

With a major update: Democrat Party men in black I

13 10 2012

Members of the Democrat Party have dressed as so-called men in black in what The Nation reports as “a mobile rally in Bangkok to raise awareness of the role of the so-called men in black during the political strife in 2010.” In fact, the Democrat Party, urged on by its leader on by Abhisit Vejjajiva has done little more than show its continuing disdain for the people murdered by the Army when it was the party of government. This “rally was meant to publicize another event at Lumpini Park where Abhisit has promised to provide more information on political violence.

As PPT noted before, we once attended a political rally organized by this party when it promised to unveil new evidence about “men in black,” only to find them inexpertly cobbling together YouTube video that had been available for months. Nor is this the first time that a convoy has been organized by the party. The last we recall was during the 2011 election, when then Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban went on one to try to stem the popularity of the Puea Thai Party by “reminding” voters of 2010’s political violence.

On that occasion, it was the Bangkok Post trumpeting in support of the Democrat Party, with an op-ed lamentably asking, “Do we remember the burning of Thailand?” That op-ed began by explaining the surprise of amongst the elite that Puea Thai was so popular and admonishing the Democrat Party for not reminding people of these “heinous and treasonous” acts. PPT assumes that the Democrat “men in black” rally is based in a similar realization that the party continues to be flailing and drowning with a leader who is politically damaged goods.

This small Democrat Party “rally” was little more than a stunt as a few “participants” drove to what they claimed were “key sites … where men dressed in black appeared to intervene in crowd-control operations aimed at the 2010 red-shirt rallies.”

Note that The Nation’s “report” is little more than a Democrat Party handout, with its use of terms like “crowd-control operations” that were, in fact, Army live-fire zones involving the heavy use of snipers.

The Democrat Party claims that “men in black” appeared at “34 spots around the capital and took part in the political violence.” Interestingly, the Democrat Party “rally” shows that “men in black” can be easily “created” by anyone, as being a “man in black” means nothing more than wearing a black balaclava and a jacket and carrying a weapon like those used by the Army.

Perhaps the most disgusting element of the Democrat Party’s stunt was its call at Wat Pathum Wanaram, where medical workers were gunned down by the Army, and the party’s claim – one made by the Army – that “men in black at the temple had triggered violent clashes with security forces, resulting in casualties and the deaths of civilians.” That this is a lie is shown by numerous accounts by journalists present at the time. The idea that this temple event “triggered” any violence by the military is simply nonsense. Even a claim that the military’s use of deadly force in April and May 2010 is not supported by the evidence so far produced by any of the reports produced on the violence.

They will continue to seek to muddy the waters when they “rally”at Lumpini Park to” disseminate information relating to the violence involving the red shirts.” PPT believes that the “information” will be the same they “disseminated” in 2011, when trying to damage the Puea Thai Party’s huge popularity.

The Democrat Party seeks to exonerate itself from culpability in the murder of citizens when Abhisit, Suthep headed the government. We recall Suthep’s earlier claims that red shirts got themselves killed by running in front of bullets. That was sick too.

Update: As predicted, the Democrat Party came up with nothing new in their “rally” at Lumpini Park. At least that is what we get from media reports. The biggest claim they made is that Thaksin Shinawatra was behind the so-called men in black. That is exactly the claim made in Suthep made in June 2011 when he stated that every single person killed on 10 April was shot by Black Shirts in the pay of Thaksin.

The Democrat Party in power didn’t manage to locate any man in a black and get him through the courts and their histrionics fail to explain why so many red shirts were killed unless one accepts their claim that men in black were killing red shirts (when they have earlier claimed that they supported red shirts). The failure to get men in black to court is even more remarkable when Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha now claims “that the army had information about the black-clad men who attacked security forces on April 10, 2010.”

Korn Chatikavanij added to the illogical claims of his brethren with a concocted nonsense that the government hadn’t ordered snipers to kill Khattiya Sawasdipol, because if they had they would have used snipers to kill more red shirt leaders. Bizarre.

Suthep was reportedly had “tears rolling down his face” as he recalled the deaths of soldiers (not the large numbers of civilians) who died and as he whined that “the Pheu Thai government was trying to unfairly prosecute him and Mr Abhisit for the crackdown.” He would never have expected to have been challenged on his decisions and orders when in power.

Interestingly, none of the reports we could find stated how many people attended the “rally.” We found it in another Bangkok Post report: 2000 attended.

Cold-hearted “testimony”

9 10 2012

In amongst a report in The Nation that is about Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd providing what was euphemistically called “testimony” to the parliamentary sub-committee on political development and mass communication chaired by a Democrat Party MP, there’s some interesting comment.

While “testimony” is usually a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter and is said to be planned and thought through, Sansern’s approach is mainly to resort to the unbelievable stories concocted by the Army.

Sansern claims that of the 69 weapons belonging to the Army that were “confiscated by red-shirt protesters in April 2010, only one M-16 rifle has been returned to the military, the rest are still missing…”. The first point to make is that red shirts simply picked up some of these weapons as Army infantrymen shed them and other equipment as they ran away from events on that gruesome night. Red shirts claim they handed all the weapons over to police. If that is true, perhaps between the police and Army these weapons have been lost or “misplaced.”They both have a record of “losing” weapons.

More significant is Sansern’s repetition of his story that “[t]he military did not fire live bullets at the protesters but shot into the air to frighten them…”. Absolutely no-one believes this fabrication and there is not a shred of evidence to support the lie. In the same cold-hearted way, he again claims that the Army killed no-one at Wat Pathum Wanaram and raises the specter of “men in black,”claiming “clear evidence” but not producing any.

Meanwhile, Sansern’s political bosses in the Democrat Party, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva said the party “would hold a major rally at Lumpini Park on Sunday. The rally would be … special … as he would reveal the truth about the men in black during the political turmoil of 2010. There would be a presentation about the group…”. PPT can’t wait. Well maybe we can. The last time the Democrat Party promised this was at an election rally at Rajaprasong that produced not a shed of new evidence.

Abhisit also mentioned that he has a book, “The Colourless Truth”, that will soon be launched. THat will create some interest. Presumably he will again tell his “story.”

Truth for Reconciliation report on Battle for Bangkok

13 09 2012

Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation reports on the Truth for Reconciliation Commission final report on the violence associated with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s several attempts to clear red shirts protesters in April and May 2010. Pravit states that he received an advance copy of the report, so PPT hasn’t seen it.

We won’t comment in detail on Pravit’s report, but as far as PPT can ascertain, there is nothing particularly new in the TRC’s account, and it’s methodology is unclear until the report is released.

Pravit focuses on claims that “men in black” were involved in the violence and that they “may have got cooperation from red shirts.” Neither claim is new, and in his account, Pravit sheds no light on the claims.

The report states that “security officers eventually used live bullets, deployed snipers and were likely responsible for the six deaths at Wat Pathumwanaram on May 19, 2010.” Again, nothing new in this, but as it is a  515-page report, PPT would expect that something original might be in there somewhere.

What isn’t at all clear is how the TRC concludes that: “Both [sides] believe they were victims. The operation by the ‘men in black’ were very instrumental in creating and elevating the violence with the aim of provoking the Army to use weapons against protesters and wanting to exact the loss of lives…”. The claim that the death of Colonel Romklao Thuwatham “led to the confusing and out-of-control use of weapons by soldiers”, seems to excuse the already confused and deadly actions by the army prior to that incident.

That the TRC is able to say that “soldiers then used rifles and fired ‘many’ live bullets in the direction of the red-shirt protesters” but is unable to “explicitly link… the deaths to soldiers” is bizarre.

The report’s claims about events at Wat Pathum Wanaram seem curiously outdated by recent events, at least as reported by Pravit.

We are sure that the report will unleash further discussion when it is released next week.

With a major update: Some red shirts bailed/ICC case

25 06 2012

Some readers may have missed a report buried in the Bangkok Post that makes two critical points.

First, it states that “a court in Mukdahan agreed … to release 13 jailed red shirts on bail of 2 million baht each.” They should be released today as the “Rights and Liberties Protection Department and the Lawyers Council of Thailand will put up 26 million baht…”.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said:

the department and the lawyers’ council would also earmark funds to seek bail for 18 other red-shirt protesters who are in jail for similar offences in Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Maha Sarakham. The lawyers’ council will also proceed with a bail request for 14 other red-shirt suspects detained in Bangkok.

Then there is this cryptic note: “Authorities have yet to decide whether they will seek bail for suspects accused of defaming the monarchy…”, citing the minister.

The second note states:

Tida Tawornseth, chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, said yesterday she would go to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands on Tuesday to tell the international community via the court that there were plots to kill people in April and May 2010, referring to the crackdowns on red-shirt protesters.

Both notes are worthy of more attention and should readers have more information, please email us:

Update: The Nation includes a report on the continuing efforts at the International Criminal Court. It reports the mother of slain nurse Kamolkade Akkahad will provide a statement to a prosecutor at the ICC in the Hague. Phayao Akkahad’s daughter was murdered at the Pathum Wanaram temple. Recent reports and most of the evidence suggests that Army shooters killed Kamolkade on 19 May 2010.

It seems that the ICC is investigating the complaint lodged on behalf of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship in January 2011.  However, it seems clear that the ICC has not yet accepted the case.

Phayao, who said “she did not care about the amnesty law,”  stated:

I’m going there as a victim who had to face the loss. I want to give the information to the prosecutor, as my daughter should not have died at the event. Didn’t the Red Cross sign mean anything to the (Thai) state officials? My daughter was a volunteer. She graduated in nursing. I will speak via a translator without a script….

She added: “The government must care about people’s feelings. The justice process must go on so the cases go to court. Don’t just let the people forget it…”.

The report notes that red-shirt leaders Weng Tojirakarn and Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn were also traveling to The Hague.

Prayuth wants secret trials

25 06 2012

That Thailand’s constitution is nothing but a scrap of paper was proved by the Constitutional Court during the various lese majeste trials that Darunee Charnchoensilpakul had to suffer.

Article 40 of the 2007 Constitution clearly states:

A person shall have the rights in judicial process as follows:

… (2) fundamental rights in judicial process composing of, at least, right to public trial; right to be informed of and to examine into facts and related documents adequately; right to present facts, defences and evidences in the case; right to object the partial judges; right to be considered by the full bench of judges; and right to be informed of justifications given in the judgement or order;

When Darunee’s trial began in June 2009, the judge, citing reasons of national security, closed the trial, meaning it became a secret political trial. An appeal was also made to the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of her trial in secret. Any reasonable person reading Article 40 would see that the secret trial was unconstitutional. But the Constitutional Court is not reasonable and not even interested in the constitution. This politically biased kangaroo court decided that a secret trial had not violated Darunee’s rights.

Thus it would probably seem reasonable that the Army’s boss would also demand secret trials. He can rightly assume that the Constitutional Court will continue to ignore the constitution!

At the Bangkok Post, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is reported as having”called for the testimony of witnesses in court hearings into the deaths of six people at Wat Pathum Wanaram in Bangkok two years ago to be kept secret.” That testimony is about the cold-blooded murder of red shirts, medical assistants and bystanders.

Of course such testimony should be secret! Why not? Prayuth certainly doesn’t want any gruesome details of the Army’s murder of civilians to threaten the Army’s longstanding impunity. Prayuth himself wouldn’t want to be accountable for the murder of civilians. The outspoken army boss is said to have “expressed irritation at disclosures of witness accounts…”. Yes, keep it all secret so that it will eventually disappear.

Prayuth bleated that: “The justice system will decide who is guilty or not.” We know that the “justice” system does that, but we also know that the courts are corrupt and politically biased.

The Army boss also issued a warning: “The army chief vowed he would guarantee justice for his subordinates and protect those who did their duty.” Oops, coup talk? Of course Prayuth was also part of the cabal that tore up the last constitution. Law and justice? As far as the Army bosses are concerned, they are the lawmakers, they make the rules and break them at will.

No order to shoot, army didn’t kill anyone!

21 06 2012

Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Army brass have repeatedly claimed that someone else killed and wounded thousands of people in April and May 2010. If the lives and health of people weren’t involved we could make a , Fawlty Towers-like joke of arrogant men blaming others for their errors and refusing to take responsibility for them.

At PPT we have long noted that Abhisit is skilled with untruths and he seems at it again. At The Nation he is reported at the Truth for Reconciliation Commission saying that he “denied his government had ordered troops to open fire on the crowds in connection with the bloodshed at Rajdamnoen Avenue on April 10, 2010.”

How could that denial be read? That the Abhisit government sent troops with loaded weapons to the demonstrations cannot be denied. That these troops were ordered to clear the demonstrators is also undeniable.

Abhisit says they lugged loaded weapons about because “the Centre for the Resolution of the Crisis Situation gave the green light for riot forces to be armed for self-protection and safeguard the people’s lives…”.

Abhisit’s tale seems to be that the Army lads were just milling about, safeguarding people’s lives when they were attacked. His line has long been that unknown, never apprehended others, dressed in black, attacked them. Hence, the Army either fled in panic or fired on the crowds in acts of self protection.

Many royalists believe this story because one of their heroes of anti-red shirt action was killed. Of course, the men in black angle has been widely canvassed. Most recently, Army sources have said that internal Army conflicts led to military-on-military fighting.

But back to Pinocchio Abhisit. When asked about the later public declaration of live fire zones, he answered that “the true purpose was to deter the crowds from joining the protests.” Even those who believe the men in black line would have difficulty accepting this pathetic concoction.

We can’t wait to hear more of this kind of manipulation when former Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban gives his statement on 27 June.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post, the Army bosses have decided to continue with their remarkably stupid denial that they killed anyone with their weapons. In particular, they have “insisted soldiers did not kill people at Wat Pathum Wanaram during the crackdown on red shirts on May 19, 2010 after police testifying in court had implicated the army.”

Deputy army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwari made the claim while stating that the “bullets and firearms used to kill the people in the temple had been stolen during the riots [sic.]” in April 2010. The colonel is apparently referring to the Army’s loss of Tavor and M16 rifles, shotguns and hundreds of bullets.

The Army regularly “loses,” sells and steals its own weapons and sells them to others, so there are indeed former Army weapons floating about. In addition, Thailand is a heavily armed society. We also know that some ordinance was dumped when troops fled before the crowds on 10 April 2010, with some even said to have been returned to the Army.

Colonel Winthai then makes a remarkable claim that the Army has “proof that the stolen firearms and bullets were used during the unrest.” We look forward to seeing that presented in courts.

The colonel gets more fantastical when he says that there were no soldiers beyond the Chaloem Phao junction and the Siam BTS station “because they had been held back by men in black firing at them. Security forces were not positioned along the entire length of the skytrain track because they were obstructed by men in black.”

It is interesting that all the video and other evidence we have seen contradicts this. But evidence is never a big deal in such cases of soldiers killing civilians because soldiers always have impunity when acting to protect the royalist elite.

Deadly army bullets

19 06 2012

Readers will be interested in a report at the Bangkok Post which has police investigators confirming that “five of the six people killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram during the crackdown on red shirts on May 19, 2010 were shot with bullets normally used by military forces.”

Testifying in court, the deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Division 6, said: “the bullets were .223 calibre, which are used with M16 and Tavor rifles, which are for military use. All of the victims were shot from an elevated spot…”.

While queueing up to use a temple toilet, Suwan Sriraksa, 30, a farmer was shot. Atthachai Chumchan, 28, a law school graduate was shot while crossing the road to the temple. Rop Suksathit, 66, a driver and Mongkol Khemthong, 36, a rescue worker, were shot at the temple entrance. Akkahad, 25, a volunteer nurse; and Akkharadej Khankaew, 22, a day laborer “were shot while trying to flee…”.

Only Atthachai was not shot by a .223 calibre bullet and the report doesn’t say anything more about his case.

The policeman stated that his investigators team had questioned soldiers based at the Sayam Skytrain station and while they claimed so-called men in black had fired at them from the ground, “ballistic tests showed no bullets had been fired from ground level…”.

Inquests and court hearings are continuing.

Updated: Prayuth as tough guy

26 05 2012

Was there anyone who didn’t know that Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha had no regrets about the deaths of civilian red shirt demonstrators in 2010? Probably not. But just to confirm his position, the Bangkok Post reports that Prayuth “has rejected a call by the mother of a volunteer medic killed during the political violence in 2010 for him to apologise.”

PPT was sure that Prayuth would do this. He has shown no remorse; indeed, his position has been hard and unsympathetic to red shirts from the beginning. We assume he hates every one of them.

Responding to Phayao Akkahad, mother of volunteer nurse Kamolkate who was shot and killed inside Wat Pathum Wanaram on May 19, Prayuth declared that as he “had already expressed his condolences to those directly affected by the political violence from March to May in 2010,” so there was nothing else for him to do.

As usual, the loudmouthed general managed to bellow that: “… among the victims were soldiers. Is there anyone who wants to apologise to them?” He apparently “insisted soldiers were simply doing their job during the operations.”

In a truly unfortunate sense that’s true as the Army has, over several decades, repeatedly gunned down civilians and had impunity for its murderous ways.

Update: A reader points out that PPT should mention one attempt to assess the military’s murder toll in its efforts to defeat political opponents. The PDF 60 Years of Oppression and Suppression in Thailand is a compilation of political assassinations and extra-judicial killings since 1947.

On the anniversary of Abhisit’s crackdown III

19 05 2012

PPT has never been particularly supportive of the Democrat Party. It is a party that has never really deserved its own name, for it was a royalist party when first established and has always been a conservative party. More recently, with its love affair for the activist People’s Alliance for Democracy and other ultra-royalists, it has moved even further to the political right.

One of the Democrat Party’s leaders who has actively associated with the more extremist political right is Korn Chatikavanij. It seems almost natural that great privilege, Thai elitism, and the Eton-Oxford incubator should produce a politician of the right who supports anti-democratic and illegal activism that is sometimes racist and always ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist.

Royalist elite chums

Readers can grasp Korn’s political arrogance here and here, his elite position here, and see one of may posts on his political extremism here.

So it is that no one should be surprised when Korn engages in acts of deep political nastiness.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that Korn led Democrat Party supporters in a supposed act of “remembrance of the violence and tragedy related to the protest” of May 2010, while his buddies in the “multi-coloured group” did the same.

That is, Korn decided to lead a group to “commemorate” the orders by his elitist chum Abhisit Vejjajiva that was an order to kill civilian protesters.

Korn dressed up this political provocation as an attempt “to urge all parties concerned to refrain from violence and instead seek the truth” as he led Democrat Party “MPs to release 500 white balloons and make merits at Wat Pathum Wanaram.” Of course, this temple is one of the most significant sites where unarmed red shirts and medical staff were deliberately targeted and shot by soldiers.

Korn then gets on a ridiculous soap box:

He also called on the public not to to point the finger at any person or group for what had happened. Society as a whole should review its role and take responsibility…. [He adds:] “By assigning blame to others, we fail to avoid conflicts.”

Don’t blame me! Neither Korn nor Abhisit accept any responsibility for the deaths. What a lame statement from one who was amongst the decision makers who launched the Army against the red shirts.

His supporters amongst the ultra-royalist multi-coloured group led by the woolly-headed Tul Sitthisomwong staged activities at Lumpini Park that mimicked the Democrat Party and vice versa. In a further act of political provocation, this group of neo-fascists didn’t commemorate events they believe associated with red shirt violence on the anniversaries of those events, but chose to be provocative, targeting the red shirt commemoration.

When the Democrat Party and ultra-royalists get together and coordinate their political activities the political tone is far right, dogmatic and deliberately provocative. Korn sees himself as a future leader of the royalist party and actions like this – for which he has a long track record – suggest that Korn is a future political travesty waiting to happen in Thailand.

At Robin is a comment to link to.


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