Glacial NACC

27 04 2018

The pattern of “investigations” by the National Anti-Corruption Commission is that political opponents of the military junta tend have judgements made in quick time, while the buddies, allies and members of the military junta proceed at a glacial pace or are quickly dismissed.

An example of glacial “investigation” is that of Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who was caught with more than a score of expensive luxury watches and sundry precious gems. The result, so far, is that the general has declared his case “over” but the NACC claims that its investigations continue – they are now in a fifth month – despite the relative simplicity of the case in investigative terms. Of course, because of conflicts of interest in “investigating” a boss, the cover-up inquiry drags on.

The Bangkok Post reports another case that is slower than a glacier. In recent days, the NACC “has pledged to speed up probes into irregularities in bungled police station construction projects which allegedly involved Suthep Thaugsuban, the former leader of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) which led a mass street protest against the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.”

Suthep is treated with great respect and some circumspect in the circles of the great and good because he’s a thug but his “work” for the “cause” in bringing down Yingluck is to be rewarded.

Back in April 2015, an NACC subcommittee decided to “charge former deputy prime minister Suthep Thuagsuban of malfeasance in office for arbitrarily changing the method of the bid for the construction of 396 police stations in defiance of a cabinet’s resolution.” If we recall correctly, that subcommittee has begun its work in 2013.

Recall that Yingluck was also accused, “investigated,” and sentenced on a malfeasance claim in May 2014. The case, far more complicated than that involving Suthep, was completed and through the courts by September 2017.

When the NACC subcommittee began the case, it “said that Mr Suthep was fully aware that the National Police Office would have to call bid for the construction of the police stations in each region as proposed by the NPO and endorsed by the cabinet.” Yet in 2009 Suthep “arbitrarily changed the method by holding just one bid for the construction of all the police stations across the country.”

Subsequently, “the company which won the bid was unable to fulfill the contractual commitment to build 396 police stations and eventually abandoned the job.” It was a was a 6.67-billion-baht project.

Three years later, five years after NACC “investigations” began, and nine years after his alleged malfeasance, NACC president Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit says his “agency is in the middle of examining the money trail in the case and the result will be presented to the NACC committee no later than September…”.

Such timelines for the NACC just never seem to mean anything when “investigating” the buddies, allies and members of the military junta.

Serving authoritarians and other scoundrels

26 04 2018

Only a few days ago we posted on how the military dictatorship has proven itself to have the right attitudes and ideology for dealing with other authoritarian regimes. Most especially, Thailand’s military regime has felt most comfortable in dealing with military leaders in those countries. That’s also been true of its dealing with the military in Myanmar, where bonds have been formed with another nasty military leadership.

And what nasty military types want, they get, whether Thai thugs or the military in Myanmar. A recent report, worth reading in full at The Irrawaddy, refers to “a launch event for a new report warning of a humanitarian crisis in Karen State and detailing ongoing human right abuses against local people there by the Tatmadaw [the army],” being shut down by the commander of “Thailand’s 3rd Army based in Phitsanulok, who received a letter from the Myanmar military attaché, Brigadier-General Khin Zaw…”.

The report states that:

The Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) had planned to launch its report, “The Nightmare Returns: Karen Hopes for Peace and Stability Dashed by Burma Army Actions,” at an event in Chiang Mai. The event was to include a documentary film screening, photo exhibition and two panel discussions in order to raise support for more than 2,400 Karen who have been displaced by the resumption last month of operations by the Myanmar military in northern Mutraw (Papun) district of Karen State.

It was to be at Chiang Mai University’s Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development. However, “CMU … canceled its booking at the venue. The event was moved, but had to be canceled on Wednesday morning when police showed up at the second venue.”

The Center’s director Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaputti said “the center agreed to the request [for the censorship], which was passed on by the head [rector] of the CMU.” He added that: “This is the first time an RCSD-hosted event has been blocked by officials,” and he described this as an “intervention against academic freedom.”

Of course, academic freedom has been strangled under the military junta. Embracing a military infamous for its human rights abuses seems all too normal for Thailand’s military dictatorship.

Updated: That sucking sound

25 04 2018

We just posted on the unbelievable things that come from the mouths of military leaders and their supporters and minions.

Following one disgraced politician have accused The Dictator of offering jobs in the government to politicians in exchange for their support when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha decides to be an “outsider” premier after an “election,” the General has denied and rejected this as an “allegation.

Rather, like a a well-seasoned politician, he “showed sympathy towards those politicians and former MPs who he said did not have enough opportunity to express their opinions and were neglected by their party executives.” He could do better!

Then there’s the “accusation that the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO, the junta] or the government would go and force individuals, businessmen and the people [to bend to my will]. How do I get the power to do that?”

No answer required, he’s The Dictator.

The more interesting things he said made it clear that there is a Military or pro-junta party. He’s previously been coy about this.

Gen Prayuth said “he did not want anyone to say that he was ‘luring politicians to join his pro-junta party’.” He went on: “There was no way the pro-military party could lure anyone unless their current affiliate parties had not done their job well…”.

That military party or parties is/are sucking up as many “politicians” as it can.

This is one claim we believe. Everything is falling into place in The Dictator’s Suchinda Kraprayoon-like planning for staying in the top job.

Update: The (ever erratic) Dictator, after having confirmed a pro-military party in the making is now angry with a Democrat Party politician for comments about that party and its cost. The Dictator threatens legal action and his cronies babble about “fake news.”

The unbelievables

25 04 2018

As a rule never receive information from military juntas as factual. Junta members, leaders and minions have no compunction about making stuff up. They may sometimes tell the truth, but they are the unbelievables.

In recent days we have seen examples of this manipulation of facts and truth.

For example, Khaosod reports that activists are incensed about judges and court officials demanding that their luxury “forest homes built … on Doi Suthep…” be maintained.

Supreme Court judge Chamnarn Rawiwannapong “suggested the protesters should let the court officials stay in their new mountain homes 10 years before assessing the environmental impact.” In other words, forget how this project was done and allow the judges to enjoy their luxury residences for a decade. Of course, by then, the protests will be forgotten and the judges and other judicial lucky ones can have their houses.

Chamnarn also argued “it’s not possible for the court to stop the construction because it already signed contracts and paid for the construction.”

Another former senior judge added to this creepy, self-centered and grasping narrative. Chuchart Srisaeng stated “that society would plunge into chaos if people allowed their emotions to guide their actions and judgement, and consider something wrong only when they did not gain any benefits from it.”

Who is getting the benefit in this? Protesters or the judges. It’s clear who is emotional and gaining benefit: the judges who worry they will miss out.

These selfish members of the bureaucratic elite cannot be believed.

Then there’s The Nation reporting ridiculous claims by The Dictator and his armed and unarmed colleagues that he’s not campaigning. Chief mouthpiece in this case is Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul.

Anutin “played down suggestions that party members might be headhunted after it was revealed that the junta’s mobile Cabinet would take place in Buri Ram province next month.” As the article states, “Buri Ram is a political stronghold for Bhum Jai Thai and is the base of its prominent politician Newin Chidchob, who has gained greater popularity in recent years after becoming owner of the Buri Ram football club.”

Don’t believe these military opportunists.

Newin joined up with the military and judiciary to overthrow an elected government in late 2008 which brought Bhum Jai Thai into the ministry. Bhum Jai Thai was a proxy military party in the 2011 election.

Anutin said he “would welcome Prayut to the province and he would not want anyone to link the trip to politics.” That sounds like a lie and a threat.

While some “believe they [the junta] may arrange a secret deal, Anutin said he believed Newin was already happy where he was.” He added: “I don’t believe that anyone would dare to headhunt our men…”.

Believable? Not really. The claim does not preclude a deal between the military junta and the military-loving Bhum Jai Thai.

Updated: A sorry story of military repression

24 04 2018

We all know that Thailand is under the military boot. The US State Department’s 2017 human rights report is now out and chronicles some aspects of the natur of military repression. We summarize and quote some parts of the report below. A general statement worth considering is this:

In addition to limitations on civil liberties imposed by the NCPO, the other most significant human rights issues included: excessive use of force by government security forces, including harassing or abusing criminal suspects, detainees, and prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detention by government authorities; abuses by government security forces confronting the continuing ethnic Malay-Muslim insurgency in the southernmost provinces…; corruption; sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons.

As the report notes:

Numerous NCPO decrees limiting civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, remained in effect during the year. NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which replaced martial law in March 2015, grants the military government sweeping power to curb “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability.”

The military junta continues to detain civilians in military prisons. Some prisoners are still shackled in heavy chains.

Impunity and torture are mentioned several times as a major issue. This is important when it is noted that the number of “suspects” killed by authorities doubled in 2017.

Approximately 2,000 persons have been summoned, arrested and detained by the regime, including academics, journalists, politicians and activists. There are also “numerous reports of security forces harassing citizens who publicly criticized the military government.” Frighteningly,

NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March 2016, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”

Too often detainees are prevented from having legal representation and are refused bail.

The use of military courts continues:

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. In September 2016 the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. According to the Judge Advocate General’s Office, military courts initiated 1,886 cases involving at least 2,408 civilian defendants since the May 2014 coup, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives. As of October approximately 369 civilian cases involving up to 450 individual defendants remained pending before military courts.

On lese majeste, the reports cites the Department of Corrections that says “there were 135 persons detained or imprisoned…”.

Censorship by the junta is extensive, with the regime having “restricted content deemed critical of or threatening to it [national security and the monarchy], and media widely practiced self-censorship.” It is added that the junta “continued to restrict or disrupt access to the internet and routinely censored online content. There were reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.” In dealing with opponents and silencing them, the junta has used sedition charges.

Restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression are extensive against those it deems political activists. This repression extends to the arts and academy:

The NCPO intervened to disrupt academic discussions on college campuses, intimidated scholars, and arrested student leaders critical of the coup. Universities also practiced self-censorship…. In June [2017] soldiers removed artwork from two Bangkok galleries exhibiting work depicting the 2010 military crackdown on protesters, which authorities deemed a threat to public order and national reconciliation.

It is a sorry story.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a timely editorial on torture in Thailand. Usually it is the police and military accused and guilty. This time it is the Corrections Department, which runs almost all of Thailand’s prisons. All these officials are cut from the same cloth.

Stealing an “election” V

24 04 2018

A reader pointed out a recent op-ed at East Asia Forum on rigging the “election” in Thailand.

Academic Kevin Hewison points to the many “delays” to an “election” and writes that these:

delays are one element of a set of processes devised by the junta to prevent the election to government of any party associated with exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. For the junta and its supporters, ‘reform’ means neutering the Shinawatra clan’s Pheu Thai Party. The junta’s determination to crush Pheu Thai and the related red-shirt movement draws lessons from the military’s failure to defeat its opponents following the 2006 coup.

Another element of the strategy is the military boot:

Repression has been an important instrument. Immediately after the 2014 coup, the military showed that it had been assiduously acquiring intelligence on the vast red-shirt network by arresting and intimidating its leaders across the country. Several hundred red-shirts went into exile while local networks were penetrated and disrupted. The regime gave particular attention to anti-monarchists and lodged dozens of lese majeste charges. In one case, a red shirt leader was pursued internationally and ‘disappeared’…. At the same time, the regime prosecuted and incarcerated Pheu Thai leaders.

The junta has also:

plagiarised several Thaksin-era policies and launched concerted efforts to win the allegiance of those who voted for pro-Shinawatra parties. Like its yellow-shirted supporters, the junta believes that the provincial citizens who repeatedly voted these parties into government were duped or bought, or are simply ignorant. It assumes that these voters were insincere in their support for Thaksin parties and can be made ‘less stupid’ and weaned from Pheu Thai.

Hewison notes that the “regime and military intelligence is encouraging the establishment of small parties that, while nationally insignificant, may diminish Pheu Thai support in local constituencies” and has restructured the electoral, oversight and political system “to prevent any elected government from actually governing.”

He sees this as a kind of throwback to the 1980s when Gen Prem Tinsulanonda was an “outsider” prime minister, never elected. Prem “mostly ignored parliament” as it was “an unimportant place” where politicians argued and Prem ruled, with the “locus of political power was in the bureaucracy and the military.”

He views the rise of new and self-proclaimed “progressive” parties, as well as the junta-loving parties as “a measure of junta success.” Why?:

Small parties and a fragmented party system mean the military can maintain its political dominance in a Prem-style quasi-democracy that is better thought of as a stifling, semi-authoritarian political system.

This actually leads beyond “elections.” The arrangements put in place will indeed be stifling until, somehow, some way, the military is depoliticized and its repressive ménage à trois with monarchy and super-rich is unpicked.

Dictatorship and royalty

23 04 2018

The military dictatorship has proven itself to have the right attitudes and ideology for dealing with other authoritarian regimes, especially the party dictatorships of China and Laos and the Hun Sen regime in Cambodia. Most especially, Thailand’s military regime has felt most comfortable in dealing with military leaders in those countries.

It has had some issues with Laos, where red shirt and republican dissidents reside having fled the royalist military dictatorship following the 2014 coup. The military dictatorship has kept the pressure on, and we can assume some collusion in the enforced disappearance of Ko Tee from his residence in Laos. He’s presumed dead.

Thailand has a long history of political interference in its smaller neighbor’s politics, and there have been many ups and downs. So it is to be expected that all Lao regimes develop the relationship with some caution.

The current Thai dictatorship has been especially agitated about republican dissidents in Laos and has been seeking a deal to get them jailed in Thailand or, if that fails, to have them silenced.

Speaking in Vientiane, Lt Gen Souvone Leuangbounmy, chief-of-staff of the Lao People’s Armed Forces has “played down Thai authorities’ concerns about political fugitives and those wanted under Section 112 of the Criminal Code…” in Laos.

He says that “Thai political fugitives in Laos will be kept under strict surveillance to prevent them from engaging in lese majeste activities…”. He added that “Laos would be vigilant in trying to stop any acts which could affect Thai people” and soothed the military junta: “Please rest assured. You can count on us…”.

He made these comments as Thai military leaders visited Laos. We assume that he was saying this because the Thai military visitors had raised the issue (again).

Perhaps Lt Gen Souvone’s position is a compromise by his regime, under pressure from the “big brothers.” Will they accept this?