Further updated: Ministry jumps for the junta

9 04 2019

Many readers will have seen photos of the representatives of foreign embassies and other international organizations attending and observing the police reporting and charging of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The response from the junta has been to spur the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into action that is hugely damaging to the already battered reputation of both the junta and its “election.”

The MFA’s first jump was when spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks, pointing a crooked finger at Future Forward, “told the media on Sunday she had information claiming the international bodies had been invited to the event.”

We weren’t aware that MFA was an investigative agency, but, heck, anything’s possible these days when Thailand is at the bottom of the slippery slope.

Future Forward did indeed have contacts with embassies and the like, but so does every party, and the case against Thanathorn is so emblematic of a junta fix/stitch-up/frame-up, that these embassies and organizations just had to be interested.

Diplomats from “Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, as well as EU and UN human rights officials, went to the [police] station as observers.”

By Tuesday, junta foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, decided that his ministry should attempt the high jump.

Don declared that “the diplomats’ actions amount to ‘interfering‘ with Thailand’s justice system.” He stated that “foreign dignitaries are only allowed to observe legal proceedings involving their nationals, not Thais.” And he added: “This kind of incident has never happened in other countries, and it cannot happen [here]…”.

Then going for the whip, he further declared that:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will invite them for a discussion to ask for their cooperation and reach a mutual understanding to not let it happen again, because it’s against diplomatic principles.”

Over the past several decades, and most especially since the 2014 military coup, foreign diplomats have observed police and court procedures.

Don now says this is wrong and claims that they can only get information from the MFA alone. He went into a bit of a rant, declaring: “We will ask them to cooperate and not to do that again. It was against the diplomatic protocols of the United Nations…”.

We are not exactly sure which “protocols” Don is drawing on, but a bit of searching suggests he may not be entirely correct. For example, one document states that “it may be useful” for UN human rights observers “to notify the Government of the operation’s intent to send an observer to the proceeding.”

This may not be UN gospel, but it suggests that Don is manufacturing his response. And that action adds to the giant weight dragging Thailand down. MFA sunk below the pale long ago, defending all kinds of dictatorial practices, and continues to respond enthusiastically to the dictatorship.

It might also be noted that the MFA’s stand appears to coincided with a vitriolic set of attacks from anti-democrats and yellow shirts on the diplomatic observers. It is a little difficult to discern who is leading who here. But, then, there seems little space between the junta and the rising (again) anti-democrats.

Update 1: A story at The Nation muddies the story of the diplomats and Thanathorn. Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibhramanakul has stated that the diplomats did not attend “the interrogation” of the politician but “were invited to a briefing after the interrogation … finished.” Did Foreign Minister Don yelp before knowing the “facts”? Or is he still barking because he is part of the junta plot to bring down Thanathorn/steal the “election”?

Srivara said the 12 diplomats “began to ask many questions after the questioning of Thanathorn finished. Police then invited them to a briefing…”. He also showed documents to the diplomats. He adds: “They asked, we answered. No problems at all…”. Tell that to Don.

Update 2: Another story at The Nation states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “yesterday summoned foreign envoys one by one to accuse their embassies of taking sides in Thai politics.” The Nation cites the aide memoir presented by MFA: “Regardless of the intention, the presence of embassies’ representatives at the police station, with such visibility and [with] the publicity it generated, was clearly an act of political significance, seen by the Thai public largely as a show of moral support for Mr Thanathorn…”. The response has been, in diplomatic terms, “interesting. The US Embassy told reporters that “attendance at legal prosecutions is standard practice.” The Embassy stated: “The US interest in this case, as in many other cases, is to observe the judicial process and obtain first-hand information about the handling of the case…”. In Thailand, and particularly under the junta, there have been so many “political” cases that foreign embassies have been run off their feet monitoring these.


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