No torture reporting

28 09 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has prevented “an Amnesty International seminar today on torture and other abusive practices in Thailand, arguing that the foreign speakers do not have work permits.” The event was to launch a report on torture in Thailand covering the last two years.

The Amnesty International team said: “The authorities do not want to cancel the event but they asked that the foreign panelists do not speak during the panel discussion…”. Yet all the panelists were foreign nationals.

The report is said to provide “details [on] 74 cases of alleged torture of detainees, in the far South and [of] political activists, at the hands of Thai soldiers and police.”

The junta continues to use Cold War methods to “protect” itself and its murderous police and military.

The Asian Human Rights Commission produced a “press release from Prachatai.”

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FORWARDED PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-FPR-032-2016

THAILAND: Thai authorities prevent press briefing on state-sponsored torture

Police and public officials have prevented a press briefing of Amnesty International (AI)’s about state-sponsored torture, saying that AI speakers might be charged for not having working permit.

On 28 September 2016, at Four Wings Hotel in Bangkok, Special Branch police officers and officials from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare intervened at a press briefing of an AI report titled “Make Him Speak by Tomorrow”: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Thailand.

The report documents 74 cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of soldiers and the police, including beatings, suffocation by plastic bags, strangling by hand or rope, waterboarding, electric shocks of the genitals, and other forms of humiliation.

The Thai authorities said that they are not barring the press briefing, but the AI speakers from the UK might be arrested if the briefing continues because they do not have a work permit.

In the report, AI states that since seizing power in a 2014 coup, Thailand’s military authorities have allowed a culture of torture and other ill-treatment to flourish across the country, with soldiers and policemen targeting suspected insurgents, political opponents, and individuals from the most vulnerable sections of society.

“Thailand may claim to be tough on torture, but actions speak louder than words. Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

 





Better propaganda for the junta

27 09 2016

The military junta already has pretty extensive control of the media. With planning for an “election” victory by the junta, however, it seems to feel the need to have even more control.

The Bangkok Post reports that junta spokesman Maj-Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd “has been appointed acting director-general of the Public Relations Department (PRD).”

So desperate was the desire to appoint this junta flunkey that The Dictator used Article 44 of the interim constitution to slam through the appointment, outside all of the normal regulations and rules.

The political reasons for the appointment, stated in the decree, were clear. The appointment of a military hack was for “the benefits in mobilising the public relations works of state agencies, of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] and of the government [the junta and a couple of others], especially the administration of national public relations plans during the transition period for reform…”.

Sansern has been favored by the dictatorship for his loyalty and service in repeatedly concocting and repeating lies for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime during the military’s murderous actions against red shirts in 2010. He loyally stuck to the military’s stories about that crackdown before inquiries and courts. He was promoted for that.

He was promoted again recently for his loyalty to The Dictator and the junta.

Now The Dictator has rewarded Sansern again with a plum job. At the same time, the junta expects him to coordinate the state’s media and propaganda arms for the junta’s planned “election” victory.





Re-ordering the palace

26 09 2016

As we and others have posted over the past couple of years, as the health of the king has gone from bad to worse, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has been re-arranging palace affairs.

He has changed the command relationships associated with troops assigned to the palace. He got rid of an unwanted consort and her family. Although we cannot be sure, he seems to have been behind several of the efforts to clean away various royal hangers-on, through lese majeste cases.

A recent reshuffle of the royal household suggests that the slow, slow succession continues. The Bangkok Post reports that a “Royal Command has been issued to appoint Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau.”

Chirayu was previously a Grand Chamberlain and is the head of the Crown Property Bureau.

While the announcement follows the recent death of Lord Chamberlain, Keokhwan Vajarodaya, a couple of the new appointments are getting attention.

The Post states that the “royal command, issued on Sept 23, 2016 and countersigned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, was published in the Royal Gazette on Sept 25.” Normally it would also be stated that the king signed the command. This may be an oversight at the Post.

It also states that “eight other persons have been appointed to positions in the Royal Household Bureau…”. In fact, as can be seen below (and here), several of them have held these positions for several years. Presumably the order derives in part from the prince’s re-ordering of the palace.

The appointments are:

1. ACM Satitpong Sukvimol to be Grand Chamberlain for policy administration and operations.

From Wikileaks: Separately, Niphon Promphan (Secretary General to the Prime Minister and a close associate of the Crown Prince) told us that he had met on March 2 with the Secretary to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, Air Chief Marshall Satitpong Sukvimol, and had relayed our concern that Bout would receive assistance from the Crown Prince’s office (reftel). Niphon told us that Satitpong denied that he or others in the Crown Prince’s entourage had any association with Bout. Satitpong said he would use his resources to investigate this false claim of ties to the Palace.

2. Lt Col Somchai Kanchanamanee to be Grand Chamberlain for royal residences.

We can’t find any information. Maybe readers can assist?

3. Pol Gen Jumpol Manmai to be Grand Chamberlain for security and special activities.

Jumpol or Chumpol is a former National Intelligence Director when Thaksin Shinawatra was premier.

From Wikileaks: the ongoing dispute over appointment of a new National Police Chief [link added by PPT] and the possible resignation of PM Abhisit’s Secretary General Niphon Promphan, who also works for the Crown Prince. At the Crown Prince’s direction, Niphon opposed Abhisit’s choice, GEN Patheep, in favor of the Crown Prince’s choice, GEN Chumpol Manmai. The inside story on why the Crown Prince wanted Chumpol so much, and risk criticism for intervening in a high level personnel choice against the evident wishes of the PM, is that Chumpol allegedly served as Thaksin’s bag man, personally delivering to the Crown Prince monies skimmed off the proceeds of the lotteries involved in the current court case. While such a story cannot be reported in the Thai media due to Lese Majeste concerns, the Crown Prince-Chumpol connection underscores the sense of lottery critics that Thaksin launched the lottery scheme to create a government slush fund which he could use to fund not only populist schemes like scholarships but also pet projects off the books for personal and political gain, without any accountability.

4. Khwankeo Vajarodaya to be Grand Chamberlain.

Has held this position for several years. His recently deceased brother, Keokhwan, was previously Grand Chamberlain.

5. Narongrid Snidvongs Na Ayuthaya to be Grand Chamberlain.

Has held this position for several years.

6. Jintana Chuensiri to be Grand Chamberlain for finance.

Has held this position for several years.

7. Songkram Supecharoen, M.D., to be Personal Physician to His Majesty the King.

Has held this position for several years.

8. Pol Gen Pongsak Rohitopakarn to be Grand Chamberlain.

Has held this position for several years.





Snouts in search of the senate trough

26 09 2016

In our last post, PPT indicated how observers think the future of “big” parties is limited. Indeed, we happen to think that the future of all political parties – except, perhaps, a military party – is limited. This is because the military junta has “arranged” a political and electoral systems in a manner that diminishes the role of political parties by reducing popular sovereignty.

The main “electoral” game will revolve around the unelected senate, to be appointed by the junta. The Bangkok Post reports on this. It states:

The 250 seats to be offered in the Senate under the new constitution have sparked a frenzy of lobbying as hopefuls jockey for position long before any of the posts are ready to be decided. The organic law that is needed to complete the promulgation of the Senate laws is also far from complete.Snouts

The 250 members of the Upper House, appointed by the junta, will play a key role along with the House of Representatives in the selection of a prime minister during the country’s post-election five-year transition to democracy.

In effect, elections are now replaced by intra-elite lobbying.

The military junta will appoint 194 senate members and select 50 more from another pool of candidates who will represent 20 professional groups. Another six seats are “reserved for the chiefs of the three armed forces and the Supreme Command, the defence permanent secretary and the police chief.”

The Post reports that “there are several thousand hopefuls eyeing the Senate seats and they are gearing up to lobby the military regime for a favourable nod.” This includes those who have already served the military dictatorship as selected members of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Steering Assembly. They want another five years of unelected power and influence.

Nepotism and favoritism are likely to be important, along with a need for unquestioned loyalty to The Dictator, the monarchy and the military junta.





Updated: Strangling the Puea Thai Party

25 09 2016

A series of reports at the Bangkok Post show that the military junta’s plans – implemented from before the 2014 coup – to destroy the Puea Thai Party are proceeding apace.

One Bangkok Post story states that a “government committee has concluded that Yingluck Shinawatra must pay 35.7 billion baht in compensation for losses from her rice-pledging programme from 2012-14.” That’s more than a billion dollars.

That may not be enough as the “military regime pursues several other cases against the former premier, including compensation for losses from the ‘poorly planned’ responses to the severe flooding in 2011.” After all, her brother is listed as being worth $1.7 billion, and the regime probably wants all of that or wants Yingluck in prison.

As the Puea Thai Party has pointed out, Yingluck is “still being tried in the Supreme Court in connection with the rice scheme,” making it “inappropriate to use administrative orders to demand compensation unless culpability is legally established first.”

If this manipulation of power to crush Yingluck is not sufficient, the regime has let it be known that she will likely “be prosecuted for failing to deal effectively with the 2011 floods…”. Such a case would not only be unprecedented but would require a remarkable investigative effort (except that finding truth and facts are not in the TOR for most of these witch hunts).

Another Bangkok Post has the Puea Thai Party pointing out that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has used Article 44 to authorize the “seizure, confiscation and auction of properties of those accused of being responsible for the [rice] scheme’s losses” while also “granting protection to officials involved in filing civil liability lawsuits against the accused.”

The Party states that the junta’s intentions are clear: “to implicate former prime minister Yingluck … in the huge losses the rice scheme incurred without following legal procedures.”

It seems the political writing is on the wall. The “big” parties – the (anti)Democrats and Puea Thai – are both doomed to be smaller and probably much smaller. The new “election” system means “the bigger the party, the more prone it will be to shrinking.”

The system will be rigged to produce weak coalition government that will allow the military junta to continue to be politically powerful and will probably allow a military premier.

The complex election system, combined with the cases designed to financially cripple the Shinawatra clan, ban several of them and their senior politicians and (perhaps) to imprison some of them, is a strangling of the party.

As with the “referendum,” the “election” will deliver what the junta wants.

Update: Readers will be interested to know that Thailand’s military dictator has declared that the 15 individual cases against Yingluck do not amount to a witch hunt. He is quoted as saying: “the statute of limitation in the compensation case expires in February next year, and said he gave no instruction to any agency to rush the order.” That’s not what the reporting of this case has shown.





The way of the military

24 09 2016

Prachatai reports that on 22 September 2016, Naritsarawan Keawnopparat was indicted under the Computer Crimes Act “for disseminating information deemed defamatory to the Royal Thai Army…”.

Her alleged crime is making information available on her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, then aged 26, who was a conscript “tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011.”

Naritsarawan “is accused of defaming the Thai military and violating the Computer Crime Act by posting information in February 2016 about the torture of her late uncle.

While Wichian’s family sued “the Ministry of Defense, the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister’s Office for malfeasance,” and received “7 million baht in compensation for their loss,” none of the 10 soldiers involved has been prosecuted.

As previous PPT posts and media reports have made clear, the torture of recruits to ensure their blind obedience and acceptance of social and military hierarchy is essentially normalized in the Army.

The Army has acknowledged this and defended it. Naritsarawan’s “crime” is in challenging this murderous and hierarchical organization.

The details of Wichian’s torture are horrific:

An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training. The Army report said that on 1 June 2011, a number of soldiers, on the orders of Sub Lt Om Malaihom, stripped Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.

The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the wounds of the torture victim to increase the pain and wrapped his entire body in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and reading the funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.

Rather than abide by the law and reform, the corrupt Army chooses to protect criminals and maintain its traditional feudal practices and attack a whistle blower.





“Corruption” lese majeste cases mount

23 09 2016

About 10 days ago, PPT posted on yet another case of using the monarchy/royal family name for defrauding others or for enhancing personal wealth and power. Police had arrested Patthapol Uttarat, alleged to have claimed he was a lieutenant-colonel attached to the Directorate of Joint Intelligence of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Command and had links to “someone” much “higher.”

His lese majeste case is one of many such cases over the past year or so that have seen people accused of real or concocted links to Prince Vajiralongkorn or Princess Sirindhorn.

Khaosod reports on two more cases.It is unclear if these cases are related to that of Patthapol, although the modus operandi seems similar. They were in different provinces and arrests were made by different sets of authorities.

Kraisri Chantarapanya, 47, and Pitsanu Amwongsa, 65, were arrested on 18 September 2016 and accused of “scamming recruits into a fake royal guard were being held on an army base Tuesday in Nakhon Si Thammarat province…”.

An army report stated that “Kraisri claimed to be of royal bloodline, while Pitsanu recruited men to serve as ‘royal bodyguards’.”

They were said to take 2,500 baht per applicant for the allegedly bogus royal guard positions.

Khaosod states that their searches online for Kraisri’s name “turned up many news articles over a period of several years detailing his visits to mosques and local government offices in the south.”

It states that “[i]n those stories, he was identified as a royal secretary for a distant relative of His Majesty the King, a woman holding the title mom chao named Praphaphan Kornkosiyakart.”

They are likely to be charged with lese majeste, although we may never hear any more about their cases.