There are two reports in Khaosod about quite significant stories that the military dictatorship has decided it wants to change. There seems a pattern in the junta’s refutations of earlier stories.
The first is about a red shirt that Khaosod and other media reported received a death sentence, reduced to a lifetime sentence, for allegedly torching a provincial city hall in 2010. A lower court had earlier found Pichet Tabudda guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison. The Supreme Court then stepped in and overturned that sentence and sentenced Pichet to death, said to have been reduced to the life sentence because of a guilty plea.
Now Khaosod reports that the “court … has refuted reports the Supreme Court handed down a death sentence to a Redshirt leader convicted of setting fire to a provincial city hall as widely reported earlier this week.” Apparently, a lawyer was “confused.” Many will be confused, not least because Pichet was interviewed at Prachatai and stated, when asked about his sentence:
In fact, I wish they had left the sentence as execution, so I could get executed and everything will be over by tomorrow. I don’t care. I believe I followed the right path, and there’s no need for me to beg anyone for anything.
The second story at Khaosod is about Thanet Anantawong. Thanet is accused of sedition, computer crimes and lese majeste and was reportedly arrested at a hospital and taken to an undisclosed location by police and/or military. It seems his crime is to have spoken and “shared” information on Corruption Park, the military’s expensive project to slavishly honor a select group of monarchs, past and present. Khaosod reports that stories of the people involved are changing.
When Thanet was produced in court, with no reference to a lese majeste charge, and bailed, other bits and pieces of the story of his arrest began to be reconfigured.
A week ago, mainstream and social media lit up as Thanet was said to have been dragged from a hospital bed and taken to detention. The military junta was decried as inhumane.
While Prachatai states that “[o]n Sunday, 13 December 2015, two officers in plainclothes reportedly arrested Thanet at his sickbed in Sirindhorn Hospital, Bangkok, as he awaited medical operations…”, the story now being purveyed by authorities is that Thanet was arrested after he had discharged himself from hospital. The Khaosod report states that “[p]olice have flatly denied he was dragged from his sickbed.”
The story gets strange when a “nurse who did speak initially said she did not know the circumstances, but several minutes later reversed herself to say Thanet was not taken from his bed.”
It gets stranger when the same Sirindhorn Hospital Director Supaporn Kuralak reported a few days ago and said nothing to dispute the earlier accounts of Thanet’s arrest, now “insisted that Thanet – who admitted himself Dec. 10 – was not dragged away, although she said she does not know the circumstances of his arrest either.” But then she adds: “If he was arrested, it must have been done by plainclothes officers after he discharged himself. We didn’t know that he was wanted…”.
She sounds odder still when she states: “If a patient is really not well, no doctor would allow the patient to be discharged because no doctor would allow a patient to leave and die…”. Supaporn then added that “Thanet deserves medical attention under military detention, however.” The report observes: “Two days after saying a medical doctor ‘should be dispatched to have a look’ at Thanet, Supaporn today said that maybe he’d already recovered.”
The hospital director also “said that she has seen CCTV footage of Thanet leaving the hospital building alone, which she said proves he was not dragged away from his sickbed on the seventh floor of the building’s surgery ward…. Supaporn would not produce even a still image of the said CCTV footage…”.
Supaporn volunteered that “[s]ecurity officers have frequently returned to the hospital since Sunday…”. She states: “I don’t know why they [police and military officers] want to interrogate us so much…”. It is added that a “security guard at the hospital, whose name is being withheld for his own safety, said the military and police interrogated more than 10 hospital staff and appeared furious the hospital had not informed them about Thanet before the arrest.”
Curious, yes. Suspicious, yes. It seems to us that the military junta is embarking on a new media strategy that is in line with the anti-democrat strategies of 2013-14, where news is manipulated sufficiently to allow negative stories to be mired in confusion and contradiction.
Update: Khaosod reports that the diminutive “sedition” suspect Thanet Anantawong, now released on bail has told friends that “plainclothes security officers arrested him inside his room at Sirindhorn Hospital while he was consulting with nurses in the pre-surgery ward on the building’s seventh floor…”. The report adds that this claim is quite different from that belatedly “offered by both security and hospital authorities.”