Release Somyos now

23 02 2017

PPT has written an large number of posts about lese majeste prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Somyos was arrested at 12 noon on Saturday, 30 April 2011.He was accused of lese majeste and eventually convicted, not for anything he wrote, but as the editor of Voice of Taksin, which was said to have published material deemed to constitute lese majeste. somyos

Essentially, the royalists wanted a “message” sent to opponents by persecuting Somyos.

Unlike almost all other lese majeste prisoners, Somyos bravely stood up to the threats, unconstitutional pressure and dragged out court procedures and dragged him around the country in a form of torture. He refused to plead guilty and the royalist courts and prosecutors persecuted him.

He was repeatedly refused bail.

Today, the long-time labor activist “was sentenced to six years in jail by the Supreme Court” for lese majeste and another year for defaming a military general, the latter, Saprang Kalayanamitr, being a royalist tool involved in planning the 2006 coup.

That seems to be his last legal avenue to prove his innocence. Given the time spent in jail, the junta should release him now.





Lese majeste and the collapse of human rights

23 02 2017

Amnesty International joins Human Rights Watch in declaring human rights at a new low in the military dictatorship’s Thailand.

AI’s overview of the past year in royalist Thailand states:

The military authorities further restricted human rights. Peaceful political dissent, whether through speech or protests, and acts perceived as critical of the monarchy were punished or banned. Politicians, activists and human rights defenders faced criminal investigations and prosecutions for, among other things, campaigning against a proposed Constitution and reporting on state abuses. Many civilians were tried in military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread. Community land rights activists faced arrest, prosecution and violence for opposing development projects and advocating for the rights of communities.

Read the sorry story here.

As if to confirm the human rights decrepitude of the junta’s human rights record, the Bangkok Post reports that Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (or Pai), accused of lese majeste for circulating a BBC story somehow deemed critical of Thailand’s king, was again refused bail.

The report states that Pai’s “family and lawyers … vowed to keep on appealing to secure bail for the 25-year-old after their seventh request was rejected by a court.”

The junta’s court reportedly “took less than 20 minutes in considering [the bail] … petition and again ruled it would not allow temporary release for Mr Jatupat…”.

That denial of bail “came even though the lawyers increased the surety from 400,000 cash to 700,000 baht and had prominent social critic Sulak Sivaraksa as a second bail guarantor, apart from Mr Jatupat’s father, Wiboon Boonpattararaksa.” The application included “letters [guarantees] from academics and people with credibility which confirmed Mr Jatupat would not flee the trial or do anything of concern.” This included senior academics like Gothom Arya and former National Human Rights commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara.

The court denied and dismissed “the defence lawyer’s argument that there is no point in detaining Jatuphat further because the case’s investigation process is already completed, the court reasoned that the suspect could try to interfere with evidence or jump bail if he is released.”

Pai is being framed by the military junta because he is identified as a troublesome anti-junta activist and his fate and jailing is considered by royalist and military thugs as a way to threaten and silence others.

His case is not unique, but Pai’s travails do show (again) how the royalist junta denies rights and destroys the rule of law. Its also indicates (again) that the courts have no independence and that the courts are partners in human rights abuse in Thailand.

In essence and in fact, lese majeste is a law that underpins dictatorship and domination in Thailand.





Unusual, extraordinary, exceptional

23 02 2017

The amendments to the junta’s draft constitution remain secret. At last, the media is beginning to notice that this secrecy and the processes involved are strange.

Khaosod quotes legal scholar Jade Donavanik who said that it is “unusual for constitutional revisions to be submitted for royal consideration without first disclosing them to the public…”.

He added that this was especially the case since the draft charter was “approved by public referendum.” Of course, that referendum was a farce and a PR show by the junta, so it has no particular reason not to alter a document “approved” in such a sham referendum.

But the law professor did hedge, saying such secrecy “could be acceptable under certain conditions…”. What conditions might these be? Jade isn’t clear, at least not in this account. PPT can’t think how any constitutional changes could be kept secret in the modern world.

Jade did say: “It’s an extraordinary circumstance…”. It is indeed. He continued: “I’m not sure if this has ever happened in history, but I suppose it probably happened before in exceptional cases such as this one.”

We can’t think of a previous situation like this, ever, but if readers can help, let us know.

Thailand’s serfs must wait for the king to tell them what he demanded and what he got. And, they can do nothing about it. When the secrets are revealed, under threat of lese majeste, we assume that no critical commentary will be permitted.





Toys for boys

22 02 2017

PPT has been trying to find a “space” for this post for a few days. Now we have it.

An op-ed at the Bangkok Post comments on Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who doubles as the Minister for Defense, and his confirmation that “the Royal Thai Navy will spend 13.5 billion baht for one Chinese-made submarine, delivery guaranteed in 2017.” Another 27 billion baht will be paid “for two additional subs have been approved in principle.”

The op-ed states that this is “a disappointing rejection of both public and expert opinion that opposes the long drawn-out plan to equip the navy with submarines on every conceivable ground imaginable.”

That’s about as strong a rejection as possible! It gets stronger, saying the junta’s justification for the sub purchase “should be grounds for immediate cancellation of the order.”

The reason given by the navy “has boiled down to a single reason: neighbouring countries have submarines. This justification is entirely unremarkable.” The author continues: “That other countries have submarines can have no real bearing on Thailand…. But there is no arms race in the region, no palpable threat of war — nothing to justify taking 40 billion baht from the public coffers to begin a brand new military branch.”

The op-ed then mentions other military purchases that have been farces: an aircraft carrier that carries no aircraft that can fly and the army’s dirigible, the ill-fated Sky Dragon that has never been operational and the GT200 magic wand that was said to be a “bomb detector” but was a fake.

No one has ever been held responsible for these (and myriad other) ridiculous purchases. Who got those commissions?

The author concludes:

It is becoming more difficult by the day to shake the thought that the coup of May 2014 was more about the coup-makers than the nation. The junta, the prime minister and every ministry has refused to engage the public on every decision — political, social and economic. The purchase of these costly boats for the navy are often derided as “toys for boys”. The lack of credible justification for the purchase of yet more non-strategic hardware makes that tough to refute.

That seems a reasonable conclusion about an unreasonable regime.





Activism and ingrained despotic paternalism

22 02 2017

Prachatai has a series of reports that deserve attention.

Anti-military base activism:

The military in southern Thailand have summoned villagers campaigning against a junta development project to a military base.

On 19 February 2017, the Assembly of the Poor, a civil society organisation advocating for marginalised communities in Thailand, reported via its Facebook page that 15 soldiers have visited villagers of Tha Sae District in the southern province of Chumphon.

Activists call for justice:

Human rights defenders accused by the military of criminal defamation for exposing torture in the Deep South have urged prosecutors to seek more witnesses.

On 21 February 2017, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF); Somchai Homla-or, Advisor to the CrCF; and Anchana Heemmina, President of the Duay Jai group, submitted a letter to the Prosecutor Office of the Deep Southern Province of Pattani.

The letter asked the prosecutors to demand police officers interrogate 14 more witnesses, reasoning that the police have only questioned some 10 witnesses even though there are more than 20 witnesses willing to testify in the three’s defence.

Activist calls for a counter-coup:

A leader of the recent protest against a coal-fired power plant has urged a high ranking general to stage a coup against the ruling junta if it does not keep its promise to postpone the power plant project.

On 20 February 2017, ML Rungkun Kitiyakara, one of the leaders of the recent protest at Government House, posted on his Facebook urging Army Region 1 Commander Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong to side with protesters if the junta breaks its promise to delay the power plant project.

While the first two stories refer to political activism defending human rights, the final story suggests how yellow shirt activists continue to rely on the military. This is an elitist “activism” of rightists who seem unable to dispense with the military’s despotic paternalism.

That story went on, indicating the elitist activists identifying splits within the military:

Rungkun posted that if the junt[a] pushes the power plan project forward, he will ask for more than bus tickets.

“I believe the junta won’t dare to break the agreement. But if it does… in addition to the bus tickets, there’s a high chance that we will need your [Apirat’s] tanks,” read Rungkun’s post.

[Ultra-nationalist yellow shirt] Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of Anti-Corruption Network and an opponent to the power plant project, also posted a similar message on his Facebook.

“Dear ‘Daeng’ (Apirat’s nickname), I believe you’re a soldier, a soldier of the King. If the junta betrays the people and the nation, you will not let it remain in power and keep ruining the country, will you? You will not disappoint the people, right?”

The monarchism expressed here reinforces political notions of despotic paternalism.





Still pressuring Laos

21 02 2017

The Nation reports that Army Chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart has declared that “Laos has agreed to consider Thailand’s proposal to help tackle Thai criminals including anti-monarchy dissidents in its territory.”

The royalist Army boss spent two days in Laos on an official visit meeting with “high ranking security officials there.”

Chalermchai seemed to feel that the most important thing from the meetings was that “he had expressed concerns over the moves against Thailand in Laos and asked the counterpart to help Thailand in the matter.”

Thailand’s junta seems remarkably paranoiac and apparently wants to lock up everyone who is critical of the monarchy.

Interestingly, the boss “said he did not discuss with his counterpart about extradition.” But he reckons the Lao authorities are “working on it…”.

It is clear that the anxious junta is putting a huge amount of pressure on its neighbor.





The political double-cross

21 02 2017

In discussing the “resolution” of the stand-off between the military junta and its “friends” protesting a proposed coal-fired power station for the south, PPT had the feeling that the junta had managed to get its political ducks in a row.

It seems not.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has denied that the junta has backed down “from the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant in Krabi but only ‘slowed down’ its implementation.” As he “explained,” the junta was “slowing it down in order to proceed…”. He said the only option was to “build the coal-fired power plant…”. Then he said that perhaps the plant will use “other fuels such as palm oil to replace coal is another topic. In any case, we must build it.”

The first suggestion we recall for palm oil-fired power station in the south came from the Democrat Party. It seemed to want two plants, one with palm oil and the other with natural gas.

On palm oil-fired power stations, read The Guardian (“the maddest energy scheme the world has seen”) and Friends of the Earth’s 2006 position paper. Denuding what remains of the southern forests, adding to the haze and planting palms all over the place is unlikely to do wonders for the environment and tourism.

Back to the General: “The government has not backed down and everything has been carried out according to procedural and legal steps…”. He seems to mean that a new environmental and health impact assessment will be completed.

As an op-ed at the Bangkok Post observes: “What is the point of having the EHIA redone when the decision that the project will go ahead has apparently been made?”

As that op-ed points out, the coal-fired plan had “not been approved by the responsible agency, the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONREP).”

Further, it states that “ONREP said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) which is in charge of the Krabi power plant project, withdrew its EHIA from consideration by the ONREP’s panel of experts two years ago.”

Despite the “health and environmental impacts study still pending, the National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) chaired by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, however, gave the project the go-ahead last week.”

Meanwhile, “Egat has also gone ahead and awarded a contract to build the 32-billion-baht plant to a consortium of Power Construction of China and Italian-Thai Development…”.

The conclusion in the op-ed is: “If the project is pre-determined to proceed as stated by the Gen Prawit, it should be presumed that whatever the public has to say about it will not make any difference.”

We wrote about double standards but we can now see we should have discussed the political double-cross. The junta may still be in trouble with its natural political allies.

(As a footnote, we can’t help but think about Rolls Royce, Diageo, Tyco, General Cable, and more.)