Murderous monarchists VII

1 02 2019

Two recent op-eds on the grisly discoveries of the bodies of tortured, disemboweled and murdered activists deserve wide attention.

One is by Ann Norman at the Washington Post. The author is a member and former director of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights.

She refers to the “disappearance of … three Thai political refugees in Laos” in December, bringing the total disappearances “to five in three years.” These three were among the “40 to 50 active dissidents (and some 200 altogether) living in Laos.”

She notes that the “disappeared” Surachai Danwattananusorn “was one of many regime critics in exile producing YouTube shows skewering the military dictatorship of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha …[and] the corrupt and oppressive Thai monarchy.”

The op-ed reveals that Surachai and his two comrades disappeared around the time Gen Prayuth made a visit to Laos, when “Lao officials told all the exiles to hide before the arrival of Prayuth…. Rumors flew that Prayuth might be bringing a death squad targeting ‘lèse majesté suspects’…”. In Surachai’s case, he “had told his wife there was a $300,000 price on his head.”

Norman compares Surachai’s case to that of Wuthipong Kachathamakul:

[He] … was kidnapped and presumably assassinated in Laos on July 29, 2017, just one day after the birthday of the new Thai king. The rumor among the Thai dissidents was that Wuthipong’s murder was King Vajiralongkorn’s present to himself. Wuthipong was tied up and tasered, and the last words heard from him were “I can’t breathe” – eerily reminiscent of Jamal Khashoggi, whose recent assassination by a Saudi hit squad shocked the world. Wuthipong had complained on his YouTube show that he was being “hunted by the king’s servants.”

She mentions another case that has not received wide media coverage:

One year earlier, on June 22, 2016, yet another anti-monarchist in Laos, Itthipol Sukpan, a 28-year-old pro-democracy broadcaster known as DJ Zunho, was snatched from his motorcycle by unknown assailants and pulled into the woods, leaving behind just one shoe. He was never seen again. Everyone, including his family, believes he is dead.

Her conclusion is as bleak as it is frightening: “It is no longer plausible that these are random killings.”

In the second op-ed, academic Claudio Sopranzetti writes for Al Jazeera.Aon the same grisly topic, also referring to a “pattern of disappearances.” He suggests that “a Thai death squad [is] operating abroad…”.

The similarities in the disappearances of so many with anti-royal profiles is no set of accidents:

All five disappeared activists were adamant anti-monarchists, wanted in their homeland on charges of lese majesty. All five of them were refused refugee status in Europe, Japan, and Australia, despite continuous attempts. And all five refused to remain silent and used social media to amplify and disseminate their dissent from outside Thailand.

Sopranzetti observes that there are “[m]any other activists with similar profiles … still in Laos and Cambodia, [and] abandoned by an international community that refuses to see them as persons at risk…”.

Exiled Thai political activists believe that “these extrajudicial killings are replacing the use of lese majesty in this new royal regime.” He cites one of them who argues that:

Lese-majesty cases have been attracting too much attention, both internally and internationally…. Instead of arresting us, killing us may be a better way to stop us from talking about regime change, republic, and freedom of speech.

Sopranzetti asks: “How many more of them[bodies of exiles] will need to pile up before we start paying attention?”


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3 02 2019
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