Junta repression deepens IV

21 08 2017

The military junta’s fears for 25 August have reached the stage where it is going to set up nationwide roadblocks to prevent persons its thugs believe to be Yingluck Shinawatra supporters getting to Bangkok.

The Nation reports that police “plan to set up checkpoints at every gate of the Chaeng Wattana government complex, with only the main gate near the administrative court open.” In addition, “security checkpoints would be set up in various areas across the country starting on Wednesday.”

The police state that “[a]ny suspicious movement would be blocked and the people involved could be detained.”

This is a threat but also one that is likely to be carried out. The junta seems desperate.





Nepotism, face and boredom

21 08 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the nephew of General Prayuth Chan-ocha and son of General Preecha Chan-ocha “has resigned from military service following criticism of nepotism over his appointment to an officer position…”.

Readers might recall that (the briefly, but forever holding the title) Sub Lt Patipat Chan-ocha was appointed to the “3rd Army’s Civil Affairs Division in Phitsanulok in April last year.”

The now former officer took “advantage of the high-profile position of his father, who was then permanent secretary for defence, to land the job.” He got some criticism until the powerful brothers denied any problems or issues.

There was also support for this nepotism, with some suggesting that the ‘position was natural given his upbringing in a military family.” These dopes seemed to suggest that being a military thug or a general’s son was somehow in his genes.

Patipat complained that he “had to remove many hostile comments posted on his Facebook page, block people who were not his friends and eventually had to deactivate his Facebook account.”

The person who revealed this also “added that Sub Lt Patipat was not personally interested in pursuing a military career but that his parents wanted to see him follow in his father’s footsteps.” Apparently he didn’t like the work and wasn’t very good at it.

That hasn’t stopped others. Indeed, many senior military officers aren’t very good at their jobs either, but they take the loot, make the connections, polish posteriors and do very nicely.

So there was nepotism – his parent’s pushed him – then the two generals had to save face, and now Patipat has become bored and discontented. That’s kind of definitional of Thailand’s military.





Neutering media

21 08 2017

The military dictatorship has generally been able to neuter the media. It got rid of most of the red shirt media soon after the 2014 military coup. It has then managed and manipulated the media. Initially, this did not require much effort as the mainstream media cheered the coup.

As the regime has gone on and on, some elements of the media have become just a little more critical of the junta’s nepotism, corruption, political repression and so on. The Dictator has shouted orders at journalists on those many occasions where he has felt the media should be doing more for his regime.

Most recently, as widely reported, the regime has been doing a little more to direct the media:

The government has ordered all television channels to promote the work of its ministers in an effort the head of its public relations division said was meant to take the focus off the prime minister.

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the government spokesman who heads its Public Relations Department, said Thursday that he ordered each channel assigned to different ministers because he did not want the coverage to focus only on the prime minister.

“I didn’t force them. I let them choose freely but each channel must do differently,” he said after word got out and the effort was slammed as state-mandated propaganda. “Some channels even asked me to choose for them, but I didn’t because I know each channel has a different interest.”

It should be no surprise that most media enthusiastically signed up.

Dissent in the media is difficult under a military regime. One example of rare but consistent dissent by a journalist has seen Pravit Rojanaphruk who is now being punished by the military junta. He says:

It never occurred to me that what I write could be seditious.

Under military rule, criticizing the junta on social media can be construed as an act of sedition, however.

I learned this the hard way when police rang me up at the end of last month, informing me that I had been charged with sedition for a number of my Facebook postings.

That this is yet another fit-up. Each of Pravit’s posts was critical of the military junta. Yes, criticizing the junta constitutes sedition in totalitarian Thailand.

Pravit comments on the junta’s charges:

… no one really knows what constitutes sedition under military rule makes this a chilling effect and ensures greater self-censorship of anything critical of the junta in social media, however. The hazier the boundaries of what constitutes sedition, the more effective they become in instilling fear.

It may also be baffling that people who criticize the military junta, which usurped and continues to usurp power from the people, are the ones being charged with sedition. Control is more effective when fear is induced by logic-defying situations because one suspends disbelief of the illogical and absurd in Juntaland Thailand any longer. When right is wrong, wrong is right and might is right, rationality no longer gives guidance. We live not under the rule of law but under rule by arbitrary law of the junta. And logic is not necessary. Just obey. In fact, to obey without logically asking why or questioning the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the military regime, makes control effective. Just obey. Don’t ask what’s wrong with the order imposed upon us.

On the future and on dissent, he declares:

It’s a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression on social media during the past three years. It is also an honor to be singled out among the select few Thais who have stood up and effectively disturbed the make-believe world of Juntaland Thailand.

We cannot defend freedom of expression if we are not willing to pay the price. The price is worth paying when one takes the long-term benefits of society to heart.





Kings and lese majeste

20 08 2017

In another interesting op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson comments on lese majeste. This is always a difficult topic in royalist Thailand.

On Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Dawson considers, as we do, that his case is a “fit-up.” He says that:

Clearly, as the 3,000 people who weren’t charged [for sharing the BBC Thai story that got Pai charged] show, there’s more than a little bit of Beria in all this — the dreadful Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret police hatchetman who bragged: “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

He continues with “[a]nother example of that unique aroma of extra-careful selection” on lese majeste:

Patnaree Chankij, a 41-year-old domestic worker, wrote “ja” (yeah) in response to a Facebook post that kicked off a social media discussion about the monarchy. After police refused to charge her, the military prosecutor lovingly culled Ms Patnaree from among dozens of posters on that thread to face lese majeste charges.

There are those so blind that they actually deny that the motherly Ms Patnaree was selected from all the other candidates because she is literally the mother of Sirawit “Ja New” Serithiwat. Ja New, referred to by Bangkok junta supporters as a “pain in the extreme lower back area”, is an unrepentant coup opponent.

The fit-up:

Two events occurred. Ja New refused to take military advice to stop protesting against the coup. Ms Patnaree, his mother, was chosen for arrest, detention and prosecution on lese majeste charges for “yeah”.

Dawson concludes this comparison saying: “You can claim publicly these two acts are unrelated, so long as you enjoy people pointing at you and laughing uproariously.”

We get the point. Yet lese majeste is hardly a laughing matter even if the gyrations of its exponents are comical and extreme.

Like others who write on lese majeste and express some criticism of the law, Dawson also quotes the late king on lese majeste. He argues that the dead king “spoke several times in public against the lese majeste law.”

We are not convinced. The quotes that Dawson uses, like all the others who use it, are from the almost unintelligible and rambling 2005 birthday speech.

Yes, the king appeared to say that lese majeste was a bother, and also claimed that “the king” had never used it. But read the whole thing and read it in context and it is clear that the dead king was not advocating an end to the law or even its revision. He was criticizing Thaksin Shinawatra and complaining about the “trouble” caused for the king most especially when foreigners are charged with lese majeste.

(Recall that Thaksin’s government had caused an international kerfuffle when the Far Eastern Economic Review reported on alleged financial and business dealings between then Prince Vajiralongkorn and Thaksin, and used lese majeste.)

At the same time, we also know that that king’s offices have engaged in lese majeste cases, appealing sentences considered too light and even making complaints. So the dead king was embellishing the truth.

Then Dawson gets to the current king:

… the King has shown his feelings about Section 112 and about the government’s obsession with it. In the very first set of details given before last December’s royal pardons, His Majesty’s announcement stated specifically that prisoners imprisoned for lese majeste would be eligible. It was a slap against the junta’s fixation.

The general prime minister says His Majesty has clearly stated that he wants no one, ever, to be punished for lese majeste. That wasn’t the shock. The shock was the junta leader’s reaction. Which was to state that Section 112 exists to protect the monarchy.

The monarch does not want protection to extend, ever, to punishment. The military regime will continue to push for maximum punishment anyway.

This is buffalo manure.

The use of lese majeste against the king’s former wife Srirasmi, her family and associates is well known. So has been the use of lese majeste charges against unfortunates who have fallen out with the new king.





Juvenile lese majeste

19 08 2017

A couple of days ago, when posting on the prosecutor of the Provincial Court in Phon District of Khon Kaen Province charging eight people with lese majeste for burning some royal portrait arches in the local area.

At that time, we stated a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly involved in the burnings. He was sent to the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection for detention but there was no further information on him.

Now Reuters has reported on the boy:

A 14-year-old boy, along with 8 others, have been charged with royal defamation, a police officer in Khon Kaen province told Reuters on Friday.

The nine suspects were allegedly involved in setting fire to portraits of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in several spots around the northeastern province of Khon Kaen in May.

If the juvenile court in Khon Kaen province accepts the case, it could become the first royal defamation case in the country for a person under the age of 15.

The military dictatorship seems determined to use lese majeste even against children.





Thai academics and students at risk

19 08 2017

Scholars at Risk is making a call “for letters, emails, and faxes respectfully urging Thai authorities to drop any charges against the accused arising out of the non-violent exercise of the rights to expression, association, or academic freedom; and to ensure that the case against them otherwise proceeds in a manner consistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law.”

SAR has a link that allows a letter be sent from its web page (highlighted above).

We are not sure about the need to be “respectful” to a barbaric military dictatorship or about the notion that fake charges should be tried at all, under any circumstances. The regime has shown no respect for its political obligations under any law, domestic or international but we think that people should express concern for these academics and students charged by the military regime.

SAR states:

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is concerned over the summons of two professors, two students, and one independent intellectual in connection with their attendance at the International Conference on Thai Studies.

SAR understands these five individuals attended the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, held from 15 to 18 July 2017 at the Chiang Mai Convention Center in Chiang Mai. The International Conference on Thai Studies, which takes place every three years, is the largest global gathering of scholars from different disciplines who work on topics related to Thailand, including topics that touch on the country’s military rule. In connection with their attendance, these five individuals have been summoned to report to the Chang Phuak Police Station in Chiang Mai by August 21, 2017, and have been accused of violating Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558, which bans political gatherings of five or more persons. If convicted, they are subject to imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both.

The five individuals are: Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Associate Professor and Director, Regional Center for Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University, and Organizer, 13th International Conference on Thai Studies; Chaipong Samnieng, Ph.D. Candidate and Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Chiang Mai University; Teeramon Buangam, M.A. Candidate, Faculty of Mass Communication, Chiang Mai University, and Editor, Prachaham News; Nontawat Machai, undergraduate student, Faculty of Mass Communication, Chiang Mai University; and Pakavadi Veerapaspong, independent writer and translator.

SAR calls for letters, emails, and faxes respectfully urging Thai authorities to drop any charges against the accused arising out of the non-violent exercise of the rights to expression, association, or academic freedom; and to ensure that the case against them otherwise proceeds in a manner consistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law.





Further updated: Protesting ICTS charges

18 08 2017

Sent by a reader:

Statement by participants at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies on the Summons and accusations against fellow participants

We the undersigned express our alarm and dismay at the Summons issued by Col Suebsakul Buarawong, deputy commander of the 33rd Military Circle in Chiang Mai, to Dr Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam. They are accused of violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief’s Order No.3/2015, Thailand’s military regime’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons. Conviction on the charges issued against these five scholars carries a potential six months in prison.

The International Conference on Thai Studies is the main international scholarly forum for presentation and discussion of research on Thailand. It has been held every three years since 1981, hosted by universities in Thailand, Australia, China, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. In July 2017 the conference was hosted by Chiang Mai University and achieved a record turnout of 1224 participants. The conference was a resounding success. It was marred only by the intimidating presence of uniformed and non-uniformed security personnel.

The intimidating presence of security personnel at ICTS13 and more generally at scholarly events is in direct contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. It also contravenes the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Thailand has also signed, and which guarantees academic freedom.

We call on the military government of Thailand to:

  1. Immediately withdraw the summons and implied charges against Dr Chayan
    Vaddhanaphuti, Ms Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Mr Chaipong Samnieng, Mr
    Nontawat Machai, and Mr Thiramon Bua-ngam.
  2. Cease forthwith the intimidation of academics and students in their conduct of
    scholarly teaching, research, public discussion and debate, on- and off-campus.
  3. Cease the restriction of free and open discussion on pressing issues of concern to the
    wider Thai public, in line with Thailand’s international commitments.

Dated Friday 18 August
Signed by 291 ICTS13 participants

(ไทย version and Signatories to the Statement can be downloaded as PDFs.)

Update 1: A reader has sent us another statement by academics on the summoning of Thai academics and students from the ICTS by junta thugs. This one is an international effort. But to do what, we are unsure. It weakly expresses concern about the events and it is unclear who it is addressed to. Pussy-footing around the military dictatorship seems all academics are able to do, fearing for themselves and perhaps Thai colleagues.

Update 2: Another petition signed by more than 400 academics worldwide has been posted at New Mandala. It is a little stronger, expressing “alarm and dismay.”