When the military is on top III

26 04 2017

When the military is running its dictatorship, secrecy and silence replace any notion of transparency, reinforcing arrogance and abuse of power.

We have already noted the junta’s secret approval of its controversial purchase of a 13.5 billion baht Chinese submarine. Taxpayers fork out the money but they are not told about how their money is to be used.

Yet secrecy goes far wider than this.

Most lese majeste “trials” are held in secret. This ensures that political “crimes” are heard in political courts.

Now it seems that more political “crimes” are to be heard in secret political courts.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “[s]even people accused of contempt of court in connection with a Feb 10 gathering to voice support for lese majeste suspect Jatupat Boonpattararaksa [and who] reported to the provincial court [in Khon Kaen on] Monday to acknowledge charges” were treated to a secret hearing.

The court that does this is indeed contemptible. It again demonstrates that the junta and its courts are lawless in delivering injustice.

Not only was the “hearing was held behind closed doors,” but police were “deployed to beef up security.” This for a group that has never indicated any semblance of “unrest.” In fact, the heavy “security” is but another measure of demonstrating who is on top.

The arrogance of power is breathtaking. The destruction and politicization of Thailand’s institutions is breathtaking. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny, no justice.





Updated: More lese majeste censorship

26 04 2017

The military junta is again exercised by lese majeste, suggesting they may be getting a boot in the backside from the new and the easily annoyed king.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, a regulator, and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society which is actually a censorship ministry, have, according to the Bangkok Post, “reiterated their demand that all internet service providers (ISPs) and international internet gateway providers block webpages and content that contain or promote illegal acts or breach Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law.”

“Illegal acts” usually mean things like sedition, gambling and pornography, but previous bouts of blocking and censoring have mostly been about lese majeste.

The junta has demanded that these agencies do more to protect the tawdry reputation of the king. It wants ISP cooperation “to remove illicit video streaming on Facebook and YouTube from their local network server, called a content delivery network (CDN).”

Takorn Tantasith, the NBTC secretary-general, opined that there’s been “good cooperation between the regulator and the ministry” but that “the government [he means military junta] hopes for more, and expects better result by next month…”.

Takorn is dutifully and enthusiastically calling for “serious cooperation” from ISPs and international internet gateway (IIGs) providers to “block webpages … after receiving a court order or when their own monitoring staff finds such [offending] material.” He demands that they “immediately inform the NBTC or DE if they cannot block a webpage due to it being encrypted overseas.” When that happens, these agencies again say they will “ask cooperation from embassies and the Foreign Ministry…”.

A more difficult area is when content they don’t like derives from “online video or video streaming stored with ISP servers in country on their CDN or cache server.”

It also seems that the Ministry and the NBTC are “reiterating their warning to people not to ‘follow’ or correspond with three well-known opponents of the regime, who are now living overseas.” This means exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, exiled political scientist Pavin Chachavalpongpun and journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

This military dictatorship has tied itself to the monarchy, meaning that, at least for the time being, it will reflect the views from the king, and he has shown that he is intolerant and violent.

Update: Prachatai has background on the NBTC’s new role on censoring streaming and online video. It also has information on a probably related piece of legislation that gives police the right to intercept communications. Welcome to the new reign (of terror).





When the military is on top II

26 04 2017

While some of the media seems prepared to join with the junta in allowing the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae be eased off the front pages, Prachatai continues to report on events related to the military’s efforts to bury the case in delays and silence. (Consider the same manufactured silence on the political vandalism of the 1932 plaque.)

A network of academics and several ethnic minority groups recently met in Chiang Mai and “issued a joint statement over the summary killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a young Lahu ethnic activist who was shot dead by a soldier on 17 March.”

This group pointed to the “intimidation of relatives of the slain activist and witnesses of the killing” and noted the failure of the (lying) “military must submit the CCTV footage of the crime scene to the police for further investigation process.”

The statement said:

After the incident, soldiers have visited Kong Pakping Community where Chaiyapoom lived almost every day. His relatives or even the head of the community were summoned [by the authorities]. Bullets were found placed in front of houses of Chaiyapoom relatives….

Such intimidation is standard operating procedure for the state’s thugs. It is also the modus operandi of the junta itself when dealing with critics.





When the military is on top I

25 04 2017

The military on top means remarkable arrogance in the use and abuse of power.

The Bangkok Post reports the junta “has secretly approved the controversial procurement of a Chinese submarine costing 13.5 billion baht.”

Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich stated: “… not all issues approved by the cabinet have to be conveyed to the press…”.

In fact, it isn’t entirely clear whether the decision was made by the junta’s cabinet or its Defense Council, both reported to have met around the time that the billions of baht were approved.

Kongcheep also gave an insight into the junta’s view of history, declaring that “60 years ago, Thailand had submarines so now the country is simply going to have them again.”

So conniving in the theft of an 80 year-old plaque commemorating constitutionalism would seem reasonable to this lot.

While on the Navy, PPT came across an interesting report at the website of the Thai Embassy in Washington, headlined “Navy investing in EEC ports, Phuket port expands.

It states that “The Royal Thai Navy is moving full steam ahead towards developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) with a nearly $60 million dollar investment in 13 projects including ferry ports…”. It goes on:

The Eastern Economic Corridor is a development zone that will showcase advances in Thailand’s economy and society and provide a home for higher-technology and green industries, research and development centers and more modern and environmentally friendly communities….

Developing the zone in and of itself should provide an important economic stimulus in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and through a robust building and construction program.

The Navy’s projects will include a business area covering five acres at Chuk Samet, Sattahip, along with two quays for ferries and cruise liners, a ferry terminal and multimodal transport links. The ferries will link the EEC with cities, towns, resorts and manufacturing centers along the … east coast on the Gulf of Thailand and the port will be expanded to handle cruise liners.

That investment is about 15% of a submarine.

It also shows how the Navy, like the Army and Air Force are businesses that deliver wealth to admirals, generals and air marshals, making them all unusually wealthy, at the taxpayers’ expense.

The arrogance of power is the source of corruption. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they can easily do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny.





The stolen plaque and repression

25 04 2017

Pro-democracy activist and former lese majeste detainee Akechai Hongkangwan has been “detained at the 11th Military Circle after attempting to submit a complaint regarding the missing Siamese Revolution plaque at Government House on Tuesday.”

The stolen plaque, presumably now buried, melted down or at the bottom of a lake in southern Germany is a subject added to the long list of items that may not be discussed in refeudalizing Thailand.

The Nation reports that a “police officer at Ladprao Police Station told the Thai Human Rights Lawyers (THRL) group that the activist had been detained according to an arrest warrant…”. Yet it is the military thugs who have him.

It is not clear what the charge could be. Perhaps the dastardly crime of asking about a missing plaque? Or perhaps the equally terrible crime of addressing The Dictator. More likely, there’s no real charge and that The Dictator is simply miffed that the activist asked about anything.

The report says a “security agency source” has said that the activist “had been invited” for something the military thugs call “a talk to create some mutual understanding…”. The “misunderstanding” is that the “the activist attempted to submit a complaint calling for an investigation regarding the missing [stolen] plaque.”

The military junta and The Dictator seem to believe that no-one can complain about this vandalism. That can only be so because the theft has the highest fingerprints on it. “The source said officers were afraid his actions could create confusion in the public.” Really? Everyone knows that this was a royal/royalist act of historical and political vandalism involving the deliberate destruction of public property.

Vandalism, military abductions and repression are likely to be the hallmarks of the new reign.





My heartfelt tribute to Mainueng, a great poet

25 04 2017

In Memoriam – a tribute to Mainueng

–  Narisara Viwatchara

วันที่ 23 เมษายนเป็นวันครบรอบสามปีที่ นักกวีเอก ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที นักต่อสู้เพื่อประชาธิปไตย ที่ถูกสังหารชีวิตอย่างป่าเถื่อนเลือดเย็นโดยการบงการจากเผด็จการกลุ่มใดกลุ่มหนึ่งที่ครองอำนาจอันป่าเถื่อนในประเทศไทยมาเป็นเวลาช้านาน ดิฉันแน่ใจว่าบาปนี้จะต้องมีการชำระสักวันหนึ่งค่ะ และจนถึงบัดนี้ตำรวจก็ยังจับผู้กระทำผิดไม่ได้

ในโอกาสนี้ดิฉันจึงเขียนบทความเป็นภาษาอังกฤษสดุดีและไว้อาลัยด้วยความคารวะอย่างสุดซึ้งต่อการจากไปของนักต่อสู้ ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที มาณโอกาสนี้ค่ะ

My Heartfelt Tribute to Mainueng, A Great Poet

On April 23, 2017, it’s the third anniversary of the untimely death of  Kamol Duangphasuk, widely known among Thailand’s Red Shirt activists as “Mainueng Kor Kunthee.” (ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที)

He was assassinated by an unidentified gunman who approached his car and shot at him five times at close range in a restaurant parking lot in northern Bangkok.

The assassin escaped on a motorcycle. Mainueng, whose pen name (ไม้หนึ่ง) means “Wood One” –to be passed on — was hit twice in the chest and died later in a hospital.  His death came one month before the military coup that locked down Thai society,  abolished parliamentary democracy and took away from the rural poor a voice in society. In doing so, the coup leaders, headed by Prayuth Chan-ocha, have restored the elites to their accustomed but hardly justified place in Thai Society.

Mainueng strongly opposed the 2006 military coup and the subsequent crackdown on critics of the monarchy. He took part in many rallies of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). He was also very active in the campaign against Article 112 of the Penal Code, the  lèse majesté law, which has been widely used to criminalize free expression and imprison writers, journalists, academics and publishers. His murder is one of a string of violent attacks on activists.

His poems were published in a number of magazines including the prestigious Matichon Weekly in the 1990s. His poetry had a hard political edge, enough to make him a target of a pseudo-vigilante group known as the Rubbish Collection Organization that threatened publicly to hunt down opponents of the monarchy, describing them as trash.

Mainueng was not just a democracy activist, he was bright and visionary. He had been at the forefront of the Red Shirt and civil rights movements. He risked his life on many occasions by speaking of injustices in Thai society in which the elite enjoy privileges they believe to be granted from heaven while the poor have always been at rock bottom. He had received prior requests and warnings from the Royal Thai Army to stop his activities in pursuit of democracy and free speech.

His poetry depicted the causes and effects of the political situation and the plight of the poor under the watchful eyes of Thai dictators. He was popular for his direct poetic style and for articulating strong political messages. His poems call for social justice, the rights of the rural poor and for challenging the forces of oppression.

His style of poetry writing was unique and outstanding, not always conforming to the rules of Thailand’s traditional upper-class poetry. Rather he used his own mind and the free flow of thought in telling of the everyday life story in a simple way. Some of his poems were terse and on target, equivalent to that of Japanese Haiku, which seeks to pack the maximum amount of meaning into the fewest possible words.

Because of Mainueng’s outspoken public speaking and poetry, Thai authorities, particularly from the Rubbish Collection Organization headed by a mean-spirited doctor and army general, Riengthong Nannah, put a price on his head.  Although it has never been confirmed, democracy advocates believe this organization declared open war on them at its launch in 2013 and was responsible for Maineung’s brutal death.

The rubbish collection organization, which, reportedly, has received funding from the military and/or the untouchable, has offered rewards to urge people to inform them of any anti-monarchy or anti-lese majeste activities. Those who are not staunch supporters of the royal family and the monarchy are targets. Many of us have gone into exile rather than face prison.

Mainueng came from an ordinary Thai family. He put himself through college like many students from the impoverished Northeast. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts while working part time doing odd jobs. Throughout his college years, he witnessed dictatorial behavior of many of his employers and thus he stated to himself in his various writings that he had to do something about change for a better society. He saw the democracy movement and politics as one of the ways for such a change.

With the third anniversary of his assassination, I wish to translate one of his most heartfelt political poems:

“Worship the free spirit and the courageous Red Shirts
Worship ordinary folks who dare to challenge the dictator
Worship the enlightened who escaped from the cult
Never ever worship those who tell you to live like the dust under the feet.*”

———————————-
*Dust under the feet (ฝุ่นใต้ตีน)” is a reference to ordinary people with no royal  lineage.





Self congratulations

25 04 2017

There’s very little scope for humility among the members of the junta and its minions which together constitute the military dictatorship.

The latest example of arrogance is in an “interview” with charter junkie and career anti-democrat Meechai Ruchupan by The Nation’s Suthichai Yoon.

A couple of decades ago, Suthichai portrayed himself as a journalist opposed to military dictatorship. Now he is an ardent supporter and his “interviews” and columns are propaganda pieces for anti-democrats.

Breathlessly, Suthichai asks how many times Meechai has been involved with writing constitutions. Of course, Meechai has been the rightists most important assets in opposing democratization, and this is why he claims roles in writing five charters, all military-backed constitutions. He also claims he “had parts in writing of the 1997 and 2007 charters.” He adds: “I did not help write them but I was in the Parliament and I helped checking and correcting. I also countersigned them after the royal endorsement.”

That’s quite a record of getting things wrong. Meechai’s task has been to ensure that royalist ideology is maintained and that popular sovereignty has been limited.

The aged Meechai complains that writing the military’s latest charter was exhausting for him: “It takes a lot of effort. Every day after work I always have to lay down very still. This is because it is not only the Constitution but also other legislation that is my job. This takes a lot of brainpower.”

We doubt the latter. Meechai essentially followed orders (orders he would have mostly agreed with). In fact, it was the military junta that dictated the terms of the charter, and with a puppet Constitution Drafting Committee and a puppet National Legislative Assembly, getting the required document approved was a doddle.

Suthichai then asks a seemingly rhetorical question that is is for the yellow audience. He asks if the new charter will keep those nasty “politicians” in line.

Yes, says Meechai.

He then asks if the military charter is durable. Meechai’s response is revealing:

Some said that when His Majesty the King presided over the ceremony to promulgate the Constitution it was the first time in 48 years. I thought to myself that this charter could be around for at least 48 years, too. I take it as a lucky number and think it is how long the charter will last.

He says this because the military makes it almost impossible to change the charter. Only a truly democratic revolution will change it, and the junta reckons they have seen this off.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to highlight his own greatness by asking how influential Meechai was in the process:

… I admit the wordings are mine because I was the one typing it for everyone to see in the screens. And we debated until we reached agreement. Also, we had to think about people outside the room, too. We tried to compromise.

Compromise and debate were actually missing from the process, along with any notion of public consultation. Debate was in a narrow circle of military and royalists.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to lie a bit when he asks, “Are you worried about criticism that you did this for the junta? Meechai’s response is a fairy tale:

No. We have treated the NCPO as everyone else. We sent letters to gather opinions from them. The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) members had never seen PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. And the PM also left us alone.

We might believe that The Dictator stayed away, but only because he had a puppet drafter and puppet assemblies. But everyone knows that The Dictator is a meddler and there can be no doubt that he directed and coached, and the public record shows it. In fact, when Meechai states, “… there were no orders from the NCPO, I insist,” he is lying. He then adds:

… in the meeting we have Maj Gen Veera Rojanavas who is close to the PM. He only took notes and reported to the PM. I also told him to report to the PM too, assuring that the charter would be done in time.

Meechai then engages in considerable propaganda for the junta: no, the military won’t form a political party; the junta does not have a political base; the “election” will be held as soon as possible; The Dictator works hard and he does not want to stay on.

We can’t wait to see what further role the aged Meechai gets in a military-dominated future government.