Updated: Impunity and violence

24 04 2014

Recent events suggest the importance of understanding violence and the impunity of its perpetrators who are usually state officials or goons associated with state and royalist projects, often in the name of protecting nation or monarchy.

The disappearance of “Porchalee Rakchongcharoen, an ethnic Karen also known as “Billy,” is involved in a lawsuit that accuses Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park” again raises questions about state officials solving “problems” by enforced disappearance.

Of course, this is almost a “standard practice” condemned by human rights organizations for many years, but producing little change amongst officials and the military. More than a year ago, the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.” Somchai Neelaphaijit’s case is just one of dozens that has received considerable attention but no action.

State violence is made more likely because of impunity, and we can mention state violence against protesters in Bangkok in 2010, 1992, 1976 and 1973 and add to the sorry list the cases of state murders at Kru Se, Tak Bai and in the so-called War on Drugs in the fourteen short years of this century as examples. The assassination of political opponents has been unfortunately common, highlighted by the recent murder of anti-lese majeste activist Kamol Duangphasuk.

In all of this, PPT was pleased to see that Tyrell Haberkorn raised these issues at the International Conference on Thai Studies, with a panel on “The State, Violence and the Unspeakable in Thailand.” Dr. Haberkorn has a list of publications that address all of the issues raised above. Unfortunately, the papers in this session do not appear amongst those available at the Conference website.

Update: We added some additional links to the post.





Lese majeste and vigilantism

23 04 2014

Saksith Saiyasombuthas a useful and chilling blog post on this topic, spanning the vigilantes of the extreme right and the two most recent lese majeste cases against Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee and Rose Amornpat, to the vicious assassination of anti-lese majeste activist Kamol Duangphasuk or Maineung K. Kunthee.

On lese majeste vigilantism, Saksith makes this good point:

Pro-monarchist vigilantism online is not a new phenomenon in Thailand – at one point in recent history it was even state-sponsored. Those accused of being critical of the monarchy have often been the target of cyber witch hunts. Victims of such attacks have often have their personal details and contact information disclosed in public.

For PPT, this new group of so-called rubbish collectors, which is both an online group and active in the real sphere, represents an unleashing of extremist repression that is armed and murderous, as in the 1973-76 period. We say more about this group in an upcoming post.





Further updated: Lese majeste extremism

23 04 2014

As Thailand’s Consul-General in Sydney slammed the International Conference on Thai Studies for its panel on succession, news of an apparent lese majeste assassination became available.

The consul-general stated: “The Thai monarchy will remain a unifying pillar … No matter what you may believe…”.

Meanwhile, as extremism has expanded in Thailand, a devastating report has been attributed to AP, sent to us by a reader:

Police in Thailand’s capital say a pro-government activist who opposed a law punishing critics of the monarchy has been shot dead.

Police Col. Thanawat Watthanakul says Kamol Duangphasuk was shot by unidentified gunmen Wednesday in a restaurant parking lot in northern Bangkok. The victim, a poet also known as Mainueng Kor Khuntee, was a member of the Red Shirt political movement….

While there was no immediate indication of who committed the slaying, Mainueng was known as an active opponent of Thailand’s lese majeste law, which carries severe punishment against anyone who defames or insults the country’s monarchy. A vigilante group recently threatened to hunt down people perceived as opposing the monarchy.

The coincidence of this reported assassination and the unleashing of lese majeste extremists is telling.

Update 1: Posted by Ji Ungpakorn:

Royalist Scum Are Responsible For The Brutal Murder of Mai-Nueng Goontee

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

“Mai-Nueng Goontee” or Kamol Duangpasuk was a radical Red Shirt poet. Today he was gunned down in cold blood by assassins as he left a Bangkok restaurant.

Mai-Nueng opposed the military coup in 2006 and had been active in the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement ever since. Unlike the Pua Thai government and the mainstream UDD leadership of the Red Shirts, he also took a principled stand against the draconian lèse-majesté law. Lèse-majesté has been used by the military and the conservatives to imprison and exile many pro-democracy activists. Mai-Nueng was also a tireless campaigner for the release of Thailand’s political prisoners. His poems were hard-hitting and upset the establishment.

In recent days right-wing royalist extremists had set up what they called the “Rubbish Collection Organisation” to deal with people who oppose the royalists, the military and the conservative ruling elites. They are responsible for their first death. They have blood on their hands.

Others with blood on their hands include all those who have systematically supported the destruction of democracy and supported the use of lèse-majesté. This includes the military, the judiciary, the establishment politicians, the right-wing academics and the yellow shirted NGO leaders.

This is a grim day for Thai democracy. While the fanatics hunt down people who dare to criticise the elites, accusing them of lèse-majesté, those who commit violence on the streets against pro-democracy activists continue to enjoy impunity.

Update 2: An obituary for Kamol Duangphasuk is available in English.

 





Buddhism and royalist extremism

23 04 2014

In an earlier post we made comparisons between extremist political groups in the 1970s and the emergence of lese majeste extremists today.

Back in the 1970s, another defining element of rightist extremism was the rise of fascist monks. Most notorious was the palace-linked monk Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster.

The contemporary equivalent of Kittivudho is Buddha Issara who heads up one of the anti-democratic groups aligned with Suthep Thaugsuban.

A report at the Bangkok Post indicates  how this political activist monk has decided to take up the lese majeste cudgels to attack his political opponents. He has “accused several pro-government radio stations of lese majeste, and demanded the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to take then off the air.”Buddha Issara

This is not his first effort at vigilantism. The anti-democrat monk  got in on the lese majeste sycophancy by holding a rally and offering a reward of 500,000 baht for anybody who could arrest or locate the red shirt iconoclast Ko Tee, recently accused of lese majeste. He’s also exhibits a considerable interest in money.

Political extremism in Thailand begins with monarchy and lese majeste. Here’s the rest of the Post report:

The monk led a number of PDRC protesters to the NBTC head office in Soi Phahon Yothin 8 after calling at the Miracle Grand Hotel where the Election Commission and political parties were meeting.

Luang Pu met NBTC secretary-general Thakorn Tanthasith, and asked him why no action had been taken against several radio stations of the red shirts which he alleged had broadcast programmes containing lese majeste remarks in violation of the Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

He said such radio stations included the one run by Wuthipong Kochathamkhun, alias Ko Tee, the Pathum Thani red-shirt leader. He gave a tape which recorded a programme broadcast by Ko Tee’s radio station on Tuesday morning to Mr Thakorn. Ko Tee has been charged with lese majeste in a separate case, but has apparently fled rather than answer charges.

Mr Thakorn explained to the monk that the NBTC had set up a task force centre to monitor radio and TV programmes. It has no authority to order the closure of any stations, including those accused of violating lese majeste laws. It is a police matter, he explained.

The protesters said they were not satisfied with the explanation and shouted disapproval, accusing the NBTC of neglect of duty.

They vowed to stay at the NBTC office until they receive the “satisfactory answer” they are seeking.





For the successionists

22 04 2014

For those who follow succession politics, PPT felt that some of the points made in a recent article at The Atlantic on Swaziland, Africa’s last hereditary monarchy, might be of considerable comparative interest:

AtlanticThe aged king passed away after ruling for more than six decades in one of history’s longest reigns. He fathered more than 200 children but left no heir, unleashing an epic struggle between the queen regent and a handful of challengers in the royal court….

This is a feudal society….

There are obviously many differences, but the article is certainly worth a read. Perhaps this is Suthep Thaugsuban’s royalist future?





Abhisit and elections

22 04 2014

Since Abhisit Vejjajiva became leader of the Democrat Party, the party has boycotted two elections, lost all the others, supported a coup and military junta, supported a gaggle of anti-democrat/anti-election groups, been hoisted into power by the military and other powerful forces, and twice shot down protesters. When in opposition, it has also trashed parliament by adopting violent methods and when in power was responsible for a regime of repression. The party is now in the hands of political extremists driven by ultra-nationalism, ultra-royalism and similar reactionary ideologies as well as deep personal hatreds of Thaksin Shinawatra and those associated with him.

That is an abysmal record. It is made worse by the party’s incapacity for anything with even a whiff of creative policy and Abhisit’s incapacity as a leader.abhisit whistle suthep

Yet Abhisit, born of the elite and with a huge ego, seems to think that he matters and makes grand statements to the media from time to time.

Most recently, the leader of the Democrat Party’s demise “has insisted that a new election is not a sufficient solution to Thailand’s ongoing political crisis, contrary to the government’s claims.” Indeed, Abhisit doesn’t just criticize the government, but a broad swathe of society that has viewed an election as an important element of decision-making in a so-called democratic polity. He whines: “At this moment many think … a smooth, problem-free election is an adequate solution…. But that is not the truth.”.

We are not sure what truth could emanate from Abhisit, and we agree that an election may not solve all of the political problems facing the country, but what is Abhisit’s alternative is unstated, at least in this report. However, as a famous philosopher once said, don’t look at what they say but what they do. In Abhisit’s case, what he and his party does is try to bring down elected governments by undemocratic means. To do this they support anti-democrats and fascists.

Abhisit’s view is that “even if the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra manages to organise a new round of polls—the previous general election on 2 February was invalidated by the Constitutional Court—the public may not accept the election results because of widespread mistrust towards the government.” We can only assume that Abhisit is again going to make his party boycott and election. Indeed, the report states: “Abhisit refused to say whether his party will run in the next election…”.

Of course, Abhisit’s hope is that the creeping judicial coup will have solved his problem of not being able to win an election before the dinosaurs at the Election Commission manage to arrange another poll.

Abhisit’s other hope is that the military ousts the government in favor of the Democrat Party-backed anti-democrat movement. He droned on about a possible coup if there are “clashes between rival protest groups” and compared this with the coup “that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.” There were virtually no clashes before the 2006 coup, but Abhisit is clear: “I want all sides to look at the events of 2006. The date of the election was already set, political parties already began vote canvassing, but it ended in a military coup…”.

Abhisit continues to head a political party that is meant to engage in electoral politics but repeatedly boycotts them in favor of extra-legal, semi-legal and illegal attacks on the electoral system.





Updated: Lese majeste fascism

21 04 2014

We began a post on a bizarre lese majeste trial yesterday with mention of a Khaosod story. A reader rightly points out that one aspect of the Khaosod story is not correct. This is the statement that the “number of lese majeste accusations has surged in recent weeks, as the political battle in Thailand deepens and both sides of the divide seek new ways to take their adversaries down.” As the reader points out, the use of lese majeste as a political weapon by rightists is hardly new. Indeed, our Commentary page indicates this.

On that PPT page, the use of lese majeste as a way to suppress and repress is a regular pattern of right-wing governments, especially those with close links to the palace, and of rightists who also close to the palace. Think of the 1976-77 government of Thanin Kraivixien and the Village Scout movement that was instigated by the palace as an anti-leftist movement in the early 1970s.

In the darkest days of the 1970s, royalist thugs conducted witch hunts for anti-monarchists. Like the royalist zealot who was made premier in 1976 with the support and approval of the king, these gangs had palace and royalist support. A report at the Bangkok Post warns of royalist efforts to establish “an organisation to eradicate those accused of anti-monarchy behaviour could spark [similar] witch-hunts.”

Back in the 1970s, one of the fascist groups that was formed and managed by royalists was the Red Gaurs. Robert F. Zimmerman in his Reflections on the Collapse of Democracy in Thailand, noted the efforts of Police Colonel Sudsai Thepsadin.Sudsai
As Wikipedia has it, “set up by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) of the Thai military to counter the country’s students movement after the democratic revolution of October 1973.” It adds:

In August 1975, the group assaulted the Thammasat University, trying to burn down the school building. Assassinations of labor and peasants union officials (namely of the Peasants Federation of Thailand), as well as progressive politicians, and grenade attacks on crowds have been attributed to the Red Gaurs. The organization’s militants often attacked and injured photo journalists who tried to take pictures of them and their guns. The Red Gaurs interfered in the campaign for the 1976 parliamentary election by harassing candidates and attacking political parties they perceived as “leftist” (in particular the New Force Party). Besides, the Red Gaurs were also employed to guard road construction crews against attacks in areas with communist insurgents.

Membership and support

The ultra-royalist vigilante group focused its activities on Bangkok. Its membership consisted mainly of discontent young unemployed, vocational school students and high school drop-outs. The majority of their key cadres however, were veterans of the Vietnam War or former mercenaries in Laos, and former army soldiers dismissed for disciplinary infractions. The Krathing Daeng [Red Gaur] militants were well paid, provided with free liquor, taken on drinking sprees and to brothels out of public money.

They were heavily funded and backed by the United States government. The US provided at least 250 million baht to help organize the Red Gaurs. Paul M. Handley, the author of The King Never Smiles, an unofficial biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, reports that the king also gave support to both the Red Gaurs and the “Village Scouts”, another patriotic anti-leftist paramilitary organization.

More than 40 years later, it seems that another military royalist has been given the job of forming a fascist gang of thugs, the so-called Rubbish Collection Organisation as a means to threaten and repress those with different political positions. Major-General Rientong Nan-nah says his thugs “will work to find and hurt those who insult the monarchy.”

Reportedly a director at the Mongkutwattana General Hospital and a medical doctor, Rienthong claimed his group was established “exterminate” – yes, that was the word – “people who insult the monarchy.”

Riengthong

Rienthong gets his anti-democrat photo op.

Amongst others, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that Rienthong’s gang will ignite “violent and deadly” attacks as in the mid-1970s.

Rienthong, like his fascist predecessors, “has denied the RCO is an underground organisation and vowed that it will operate within the law, without links to political or business groups.” No one should or could believe him as he is already an organizer for the anti-democrat movement.

The Post reports that the “RCO’s Facebook page had already attracted more than 93,000 followers as of Saturday. The page is intended to act as a channel for the public to share personal information on those accused of lese majeste.”

Sunai warned that:

the RCO’s activities could lead to the violent suppression of people accused of being disloyal to the monarchy, adding that even the name of the organisation attempts to “dehumanise” people. “I am also alarmed by the RCO’s offer of legal and financial assistance to members who take action against people accused of lese majeste ‘out of anger’,” Mr Sunai said.

“The group also announced that some anti-monarchists need to be handled using ‘special means’, which could implied as encouraging violence.”

Sunai is reported to have “said political groups on all sides had long used Section 112 of the Criminal Code to suppress their rivals. “Therefore we see a strong need to reform this law…”.

He’s wrong. The use of lese majeste has been almost entirely by rightists and royalists, and PPT can’t think of a case raised by red shirts or others associated with them that has made any legal progress. Likewise, this law doesn’t need reform, it needs to be abolished.

Not surprisingly, yellow-shirted “intellectual” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, of Chulalongkorn University, said:

political groups should not use the monarchy to try and justify their cause, but argued the RCO was an acceptable organisation, so long as it acts within the bounds of the law.

“All societies have their taboo issues. In France, people will not accept those who support Nazis.

“In Thailand, lese majeste behaviour is not acceptable and that is why a group like the RCO emerges to counter such acts.”

 Chaiyan has clearly identified himself with anti-democrats since he threw his support behind the People’s Alliance for Democracy and then signed up in support of the coup and the military junta. But even for an academic with such a record, to condone a hate group with fascist ideas is moving a long way towards condoning extremism. His claims about France are meaningless twaddle. For example, French skinheads remain active, and while some French do not accept them, they are connected with a range of far right groups and even the rightist parties that did well in recent elections, headed by Marine Le Pen. Nonsensical statements like these by Chaiyan indicate an “academic” who is muddying the waters in order to condone fascist royalism.

Update: Like most on the extreme right, Rienthong has already claimed that he is a victim, but that he will fight against those who “intimidate” him. Yes, the fascist who has declared he will exterminate those he disagrees with on the worth of the great feudal institution bizarrely seeks sympathy and an opportunity to extend his threats.

He vows “tit-for-tat measures against opponents who he claims are trying to intimidate him.” He has “warned critics that he would ‘respond with violence’ to any violent attacks committed against his supporters.” He was firm: “My policy to deal with your violence is to respond with violence…”.

Are you listening Chaiyan Chaiyaporn?

He creates a rationale for his future violence by asserting that “the anti-monarchy movement has an armed group inside it. If they are allowed to grow, they will pose a grave danger to the monarchy.”

This is sounding like the extremists of the 1970s. It is very dangerously so when he states: “I have my battle colleagues who are ready to respond. If we do it, we will have no mercy.” Even more so when he talks of a “People’s Army to Protect the Monarchy”, and invites “retired military and police officers who are loyal to the King to a meeting at his hospital … to help the National Police Office punish perpetrators of the lese majeste law.”

His other claims were largely a nonsense recital of lies about not using violence and rule of law.

One claim that will be chilling for many is his allegation that his:

group has now located almost 300 suspected offenders and is gathering evidence to file police complaints, he said. Many of the suspects are close associates of politicians, while others were teenagers who had “bad thoughts”, he added.

Rienthong said he has also “set up a team of online volunteers to stand by around the clock to monitor websites with anti-monarchy content.” Hopefully the vigilantes will enjoy PPT’s content, although we wonder about their capacity for dealing with facts rather than the fiction that royalists find they need to believe. We imagine that like some fundamentalist preacher, Rienthong has measures in place to re-indoctrinate his fellow snoops.

 

 








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