Charter changes are secret

23 01 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the draft constitution has been returned to National Legislative Assembly and the Constitution Drafting Committee for changes demanded by the palace.

The amendments demanded by the king are to be written into the charter “by a special 11-member committee in line with observations from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said on Monday.”

We would assume that the special committee has already been directed on what changes are required by the palace and acceded to by the military junta. It is reported that the “amended version of the new constitution must be returned to … the [k]ing within one month for royal endorsement.” (Of course, “endorsement” is now a euphemism.)

The report then has a truly amazing claim: “As for the observations from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, the new charter amendment committee agreed they could not yet be disclosed publicly…”.

The Thai public are not permitted to know how the “constitution, which was drafted by the CDC, [and] was approved by referendum on Aug 7 last year” is being changed and why.

Sure, they will eventually find out what has been changed, but they can’t know about it now and presumably won’t know until it is already “endorsed” by the very person who wants it changed.We did previously explain that the “referendum” was a PR stunt.

That, folks, is Thai-style democracy.

Release Pai VI

23 01 2017

Human Right Watch has demanded that:

Thai authorities [the military junta] should immediately release a prominent pro-democracy activist charged for a Facebook posting under laws intended to protect Thailand’s monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Jatupat (Pai) Boonphatthararaksa faces up to 15 years in prison for lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) charges initiated by the military.Human Rights Watch

Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director states:

The charges against Jatupat show the Thai junta’s misuse of lese majeste laws to persecute dissenters against military rule…. Thailand’s military rulers have aggressively clamped down on any speech they find objectionable, including what they arbitrarily deem is critical of the monarchy.

HRW point out that:

Jatupat, who is a 25-year-old student activist affiliated with the Dao Din Movement and the New Democracy Movement (NDM), was arrested on December 3. Although more than 2,800 people had “shared” the article on the internet at the time of Jatupat’s arrest, he was the only person Thai authorities charged with lese majeste.

The case against him “was triggered by a complaint filed by an army officer from the 23rd Military Circle in Khon Kaen Province.” Clearly, that officer acted to “rid” the Army of an “irritant” and to “warn” other activists that they can also be subject to the junta’s arbitrary “laws” and subject to arrest and jailing.

That military unit in Khon Kaen “has arrested him many times for holding public protests and other peaceful activities to oppose the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta and demand a transition to democratic civilian rule.”

The account observes that:jatuphat

… the Khon Kaen provincial court revoked his bail, ruling that he had made other Facebook comments satirizing the authorities, and failed to delete his original post of the king’s profile. The court has since repeatedly denied Jatupat’s bail requests.

HRW quotes some international law to the junta but knows that the military dictatorship thumbs its nose at such legal notions, preferring to make up “law” to suit itself.

HRW also suggests modifications to the lese majeste law, but this is whistling in the wind. In any case, modifying a political law is pointless; just get rid of it.

They are right to say:

The glaring injustice of Jatupat’s lese majeste case has been made even worse by his prolonged pre-trial detention…. Instead of punishing him before trial, the charges against him should be dropped immediately.

Military-led “reconciliation”

23 01 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported: on the junta’s plan and bureaucracy for military-led “reconciliation.” It is seemingly a part of the broader 20 year plan that the junta has for the on-going domination of Thailand’s politics it now seems to label as “rounded democratisation.”

We imagine that a “rounded democracy” is something like “Thai-style democracy” or “guided democracy.”

In its highly complex system of committees, super-committees, buzzwords and hocus pocus, the matter of “reconciliation” will, according to General Prawit  Wonsuwan, involve “plans to compile opinions from all sides over three months on what should be done to bring about national reconciliation.”

The “brainstorming period” will lead to a report and then “the next step to improve national unity,” involving an MOU, or as The Dictator put it, “a truthful social contract, under which you do what you say.”

This MOU notion has already rejected by the anti-democrats and military allies like Suthep Thaugsuban. Others of his ilk, like Kasit Piromya seem to want the military to sign up to the MOU. His position is supported by others from pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups who want the military to pledge no more coups and, in some versions, never overthrow a constitution ever again.

Prawit’s response was lame:

“There is no need for the military to sign it. I can assure you that nobody wants to stage a coup, except when the country is mired in conflict and lack of understanding. No soldier wants to do this…. Nobody wants to do this (stage a coup), except when the country is in a stalemate…. I’ll tell you what. Without the people’s support, nobody can stage a coup. There is no need to fear a coup if there is no support for it from the people….

There are several problems with this coup. Leaving aside Prawit’s nonsense self-justification, we know from Thailand’s history that plenty of officers are willing to seize power.

But the broader problem is the notion that “no more coups” is paired with a view that there should be no more overthrowing of the constitution. That’s dumb, now, when Thailand has a terrible draft constitution that is the military’s constitution. In fact, when Prawit says he doesn’t want another coup is because the current junta has set rules that allow only a “rounded democracy” that is no democracy at all and gives all power to the military and monarchy.

The proof of this is the dominance of military brass on the “reconciliation” control committees.

In response to criticism of that from many quarters, Prawit got lamer still, saying “that should not be a problem because the armed forces are politically neutral and they don’t have conflicts with any side.”

We’d be laughing if that wasn’t such buffalo manure. What the senior brass will do is manipulate and manage to get the outcome The Dictator wants.

And what’s that? Two articles in The Nation are virtually advertorials for the junta. In one of them (the other is linked above), PM’s Office Minister Suvit Maesincee, formerly Director of Sasin Institute for Global Affairs at Chulalongkorn University and one of Thaksin’s and Somkid Jatusripitak’s proteges gives a “hint.”

Suvit and Somkid  have collaborated in developing the junta’s 20-year strategy, and Suvit states: “Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership was also a crucial factor in supporting the implementation of the Thailand 4.0 vision.”

We get the message. Thailand’s future is The Dictator’s future and he’s going to be around for some time to come.

CIA documents released and accessible

22 01 2017

The automatic declassification provisions of US Executive Order 13526 (formerly EO 12958, as amended) require the declassification of non-exempt historically valuable records 25 years or older. At the CIA this meant that it maintains a program operating out of the CIA Declassification Center to review records under the purview of EO 13526 before they reach their automatic declassification deadline.

Since 2000, if one visited the National Archives College Park, Maryland in the USA, the CIA had installed and maintained an electronic full-text searchable system named CREST (the CIA Records Search Tool), with about 11 million pages of data.

However, in January 2017, the CIA published the records of the CREST collection online, and they can be searched and downloaded online.

Helpfully, Andrew MacGregor Marshall has done a bit of a search through the material and provided his initial impressions, especially searching for material related to the monarchy and posted. Readers will surely find this of interest

One document we at PPT found of considerable importance is in regard to General Sarit Thanarat’s 1957 military coup. A few pages into the report, it provides what we think is a first-hand corroboration of the king’s involvement. It has always been known that the young king found Sarit a father figure and supported him, as Sarit supported him and the monarchy. This document says something more:

king-and-1957-copyHe did not become disillusioned with Sarit or the military and the military-monarchy political partnership was born. That the king played “an active role in the events leading to and subsequent to the army coup” is a revelation that blows another hole in the palace’s now shredded propaganda that the king was “above politics.”

Not mentioned by Marshall in this particular post is another document PPT found interesting for its resonances with recent events:

khuang-1khuang-2Khuang was a founder of the Democrat Party in 1946, which was then, and is now, a royalist party of anti-democrats. After the shooting death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, it was Khuang and the Democrat Party that accused Pridi Phanomyong of having been a mastermind of the king’s death, leading to Pridi’s exile until his death. The palace and royals hated Pridi for his role in the 1932 revolution and they never forgave him.

However, it is the phrase that Thailand “would never be secure until Pridi and his chief followers were eliminated” that caught our attention. We guess that similar words have passed around the yellow-shirted cabals and we would assume that General Prem Tinsulanonda and the 2014 coup leaders said very similar things with Thaksin Shinawatra now the mortal enemy of their royalist Thailand.

“Commissions” II

22 01 2017

A few days ago we posted about the UK details of “commissions” – bribes – paid in deals surrounding Rolls Royce engines and service for Thai Airways.

In that post we reminded readers that “commissions” have long been about an illegally regulated flow of payments to state employees and senior military officers from almost every act of state procurement. We noted that the top officers aren’t usually doing the “deals,” but the “system” works so that funds flow to the top.

We added that this system was so deeply embedded that it is normalized among the heads of the military, police and other big procurement agencies.

And, we pointed to the results: the reporting of wealth by senior civil and military figures as if it is normal that they are unusually wealthy declared by these persons.

In a related action, reported ever so briefly at the Bangkok Post, “a different Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case filed by the US Justice Department” and involves PTT and PTT Exploration and Production dealings with a Rolls Royce energy subsidiary.

The amounts of “commissions” in this case appear to be well in excess of $11 million just for Thailand (the case involves several other countries).

The events covered are from about 2003 to 2013. As the PTT website states, “PTT Public Company Limited or ‘PTT’ was registered on October 1, 2001 under [the] Corporatization Act B.E. 2542 (A.D. 1999).” It is added that “PTT conducts the exploration and production business through our subsidiary-PTT Exploration and Production Company Limited (PTTEP).”

Details of the legal case can be downloaded as a PDF.

It is stated at the Post that “PTT Plc has … begun an investigation into allegations of bribery by Rolls-Royce.” This became known because, as a listed company, PPT had to make a statement to the stock exchange.

A reading of the available annual reports on PTT suggests that being a director of the corporation has been a sinecure for the flunkies of the party or regime in power at the time. It is also clear that whatever party or regime was in power, the rewards flowed to Thailand’s elite. Each board of directors has been made up of not just flunkies of a regime but royalists and senior bureaucrats, many of the latter serving at PTT while holding down a senior position in the civil or military bureaucracy.

Today, the board is made up of military men, loyal royalists and others who have served the military following the 2006 and 2014 coup. In fact, these corporatized state enterprises and the fully state-owned enterprises have been stuffed full of junta brass and supporters.

In our earlier post we noted that there are many such instances of such corrupt payments, and this new revelation is just one of them. As we said, “commissions” are paid on literally everything that is procured.

Eight long years

21 01 2017

Another year has passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand. How sad it is that we are still actively posting on authoritarianism, monarchy and political repression in Thailand.

As we said a year ago, PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners would have been released and political repression gone.

We began PPT on 21 January 2009, thinking our endeavors would be temporary. More than 6,000 post later, we are still at it, and Thailand is arguably in a more authoritarian political location than it was in 2009.

Thailand has an illegal military regime, founded in nonsensical royalism and bound to a monarchy that remains feudal in its politics and grasping in its economic location. A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream. The “reform” promised by the military junta and now embedded in a military-royal constitution promises that Thailand will remain dominated by an authoritarian elite for years to come.

When we sputtered into life it was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes and hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology.

Opponents of the military and the monarchy are detained, coerced and threatened. Lese majeste has been used against them, silencing them and those who become fearful that they too might be whisked away into detention.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, both conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a  political dark age where the lese majeste law has been a grotesque weapon of choice in political repression.

Royalists have fought to maintain a royalist state that lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few. The military junta is seeking to institutionalize this control and power.

On this anniversary, as in past years,  we want an end to this political repression. We hope for the release of every political prisoner.

We especially remember the unconstitutional and illegal treatment of brave individuals like Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (Pai). Their continued imprisonment is a travesty of justice and their treatment has been inhumane.

Under the current regime, hundreds of people have been jailed or detained, subjected to military courts and threatened by the uniformed masters of Thailand.

In recent years, lese majeste cases have grown exponentially. Worse, both military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than this,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the draconian lese majeste law has been extended to include implied lese majeste and the “protection” of royals not cover by the law and even royal dogs and kings long dead.

PPT has now had more than 3.4 million page views at our two sites. We aren’t in the big league in the blogging world, but the level of interest in Thailand’s politics and the use of lese majeste internationally has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to the issue than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of the issue is far more critical than it was.

In Thailand, however, political repression and the use of lese majeste has deepened. Unfortunately, we see very little light in this long, dark tunnel.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through all the attempts by the Thai censors to block us. We trust that we remain useful and we appreciate the emails we receive.

As in the past, we declare:

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

All political prisoners must be released.

The military dictatorship must be opposed.

Release Pai V

21 01 2017

As we noted in our last post, a secret court session refused Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (Pai) bail on trumped up lese majeste charges that he somehow “defamed” the new king by reposting a BBC story that mentioned some aspects of Vajiralongkorn’s dubious past. Thousands of others did the same “sharing.”

Khaosod reports that Pai was incensed by this pseudo-legal and opaque process and “will no longer ask the court to free him on bail.”

Secret hearings are the stuff of this military dictatorship and are more or less standard operating procedure for this pseudo-judicial system when dealing with lese majeste cases, especially when those charged are anti-military activists.

Pai’s father, also one of his lawyers, stated: “We will no longer appeal against his ongoing custody. We will not submit any more bail request. Whatever they want to do, they’re free to do it…. He [Pai] believes that it’s no use.”

The report adds that Pai was “incensed when he learned the judges decided to deliberate on his bail request in a secret proceeding reporters and rights observers were not allowed to attend. After his protest was overruled by the court, Jatupat ordered all his lawyers, except Viboon [his dad], to leave the courtroom in symbolic protest.”

He did this because he rightly “believed that the procedure was illegitimate, and he didn’t want the lawyers to take part in it…”.

The military dictatorship is using a strategy that it thinks effective in silencing dissent. It has singled out this student as an “example” to other dissidents. The threat is: Watch out! If you dissent, you too will be dragged into procedures that have you in jail for years.

There’s nothing legal about this repressive tactic. It is blunt junta manipulation of the law and judiciary to ensure its political domination.