Stunned by reporting

23 03 2017

Well, we know nothing should stun us when it comes to Thailand, its politics and its media. Yet a report at the Bangkok Post is seriously stunning. We are stunned because the report seems to buy, consume, digest and reproduce junta propaganda.

In a report at the Bangkok Post, the newspaper combines reports on Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul and the claims by the junta that he was seeking to kill a couple of dictators, a story on the junta’s instrument, the Department of Special Investigation, a senior monk from Wat Dhammakaya surrendering himself for interrogation and a falling out between a DSI man, now assigned by The Dictator to head up the National Buddhism Office and fascist monk Buddha Issara.

Without the junta’s stories from a few days ago, there’s no connection between the stories, except for DSI being involved in each. But that’s not the headline, which is the junta ruse. That’s either really lazy editing or its a dumb acceptance of junta stories.

We also note that, as The Dictator demanded, the media is dutifully cutting back on its reporting of the Ko Tee story.

While on that story, does it seem odd that Ko Tee is reported charged: “A police source said warrants have been issued for Mr Wuthipong’s arrest on charges of possessing weapons of war and violating the Firearms Act.”

Now how does that work?

After all, the junta “plans to seek the extradition of Mr Wuthipong from Laos following the discovery of a huge [sic. that’s the Post accepting the junta story, again] cache of weapons…. They suspect the weapons were his.”

So he’s been on the run outside Thailand for more than three years but “charged” with “possessing weapons”? Poor reporting or dopey reporting?

Or is the new story that these weapons were sitting there for years and police didn’t find them in previous searches? We think we’ll go for dumb junta and dopey reporting.





Lies and impunity

22 03 2017

The story about the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae gets more unlikely by the day. Of course, it was never a “likely” story, we are just emphasizing that its getting ragged and ridiculous. Ragged and ridiculous is a standard strategy used by the police and military when they murder citizens and need a cover story, no matter how ridiculous.

In our last post, we quoted some dopey police spokesman claiming that Chaiyapoom “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.” This official version of the story was supported by a junta spokesman.

The story has now changed as the military dissembles. Reacting to massive criticism on social media, The Dictator has ordered a “probe” into the death. By whom, we are just not sure, but we would guess its those with impunity seeking to grant impunity to their minion murderers.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan weighed in. He knows what happened:

… he had received a report from Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, which said officials had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade that was found at the scene.

“What can they do? The officials also fear dying,” Prawit said, when told the suspect was a youth activist.

That’s pretty clear. Meanwhile,

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the case would be handled in accordance with legal procedures, adding that officials involved in the operation had to give testimony justifying their actions and police would proceed with their investigation, he said.

As we have said many times recently, there is no justice in Thailand and legal procedures are ways to grant impunity.

Winthai knows what happened:

“If the relatives [of Chaiyapoom] have doubts over the investigation and the case, they can have lawyers raise inquiries during the investigation and court trial,” Winthai said. “The army is ready to make the case clear and give justice to all.”

If only the poor in Thailand could afford to buy the “justice” the rich purchase. If only the poor had an institutional system that worked for them rather than the murderous thugs working for the military dictatorship.

The military’s report states a soldier is charged with something or other, but there are no details. The report says this:

Soldiers stopped, searched and found 2,800 methamphetamine pills in a car in which Chaiyapoom and his friend were riding. The soldiers took the two into custody, but Chaiyapoom broke away and was about to throw a grenade at the troops, prompting the soldier to shoot.

According to Col Winthai in an earlier report on Monday, the soldier fired a single shot to kill Chaiyapoom, and no other troops fired.

Col Winthai, who knows what happened, “told reporters the shooting was in self-defence.”

This is different from the original claims. The boy did not throw a grenade.

But there’s more. Prachatai reports that there are other witnesses:

in an interview that Thai PBS broadcasted on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said several other civilians saw the incident, adding that three gunshots were heard before Chaiyapoom was killed. “Many villagers saw that he was dragged out of the car and beaten. [A soldier] put a foot on his face and fired two shots to intimidate him. When [Chaiyapoom] broke free from the beating and ran, the soldier shot him. They did not allow the villagers to approach the site,” the Thai PBS quoted the anonymous witness as saying.

Based on previous experience, it is likely that the military thugs will be hunting down these witnesses to silence them or, perhaps, charge them with something.

This is how military dictatorships operate.





Release Pai XI

22 03 2017

Thailand justice system is a mess. In fact, it has become and injustice system, crippled by the junta and warped by monarchism. A corrupt judiciary does not interpret the law but seeks to determine legal outcomes according to the whims and needs of its masters.

In that linked post, we had information regarding the Khon Kaen Provincial Court going after student activists who had the temerity to support lese majeste victim Jatuphat (Pai) Boonpattaraksa.

Jatuphat is the sole person of more than 2,000 who shared a BBC story on the new king who is accused of lese majeste and is currently sweating in a junta jail.

The Khon Kaen court accused several supporters of Jatuphat of contempt of court for participating in a peaceful gathering to demand for Pai’s release.

Not content with that, like a stormtrooper’s dog, the court is now going after others. Prachatai reports that “three more youth activists [are accused] of contempt of court for joining a peaceful gathering demanding Pai Dao Din’s release from prison.”

On 20 March 2017, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the well-known anti-junta activist Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat; Panupong Sritananuwat, an activist from the Dao Din group based at Khon Kaen University; and another law student who requested anonymity had received court notices.

The notices state that the three are accused of contempt of court for gathering in front of the court on 10 February 2017 to demand the release of Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, a law student and key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM).

The pathetic and disgraceful excuse for a judiciary that sits in Khon Kaen has “ordered the activists to appear in court to hear the charges against them on 24 April 2017.”

Pai’s case now sees him in jail and facing a trial, refused bail for an eighth time and seven students from activist groups charged. The junta and its legal minions are seeking to smash a moderate and engaged group of youngsters who want a better Thailand.

When Pai gets to court again, he’ll see that its judges and administrators have new rules for lese majeste cases:

The Khon Kaen Provincial Court also announced a strict code of conduct as the initial lese-majeste proceedings against the pro-democracy activist began.

In a large banner placed near the front gate, the court announced that it was prohibiting any misbehaviour or disorder around its compound.

The court also banned documents, leaflets, banners and any other objects that contained messages deemed insulting to the court and the justice system, or which provoked others to do so.

The court also forbade any symbolic action and photo-taking intended to show disrespect to the court and the justice system.

You get the idea. These judges are reprehensible.





“Evidence” for an “assassination” plot

22 03 2017

The assassination story, already remarkable, is becoming increasingly stunning for its contradictions.

The Bangkok Post reports: that the junta has now “found” a “movement” working against it and called it “Red Radio.” It claims it has been “for several months been planning to assassinate Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon…”.

Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said “Red Radio” had also been “working to stifle the authorities’ efforts to investigate Wat Phra Dhammakaya by causing unrest there…”.

No one could possibly believe that the junta’s own efforts at Wat Dhammakaya could have caused any unrest there.

Pol Gen Srivara said his lot are “now seeking arrest warrants for six people who are suspected of being involved in the group including red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, who goes by the alias Kotee and is believed to have taken refuge in neighbouring Laos.”

That seems to be six in addition to the nine already arrested. (We are surprised that they have not been paraded yet, although that usually awaits the passing of seven days in military custody somewhere secret.

Then a claim that it is “not clear whether the group has ties to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)…”.

The police claim is that “Red Radio” “aims to kill Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit and had been told to attack military, police and other officials during the authorities’ raids on the temple, according to the police investigation.”

And the evidence is….

Our investigation has shown that several of the suspects, detained previously, were spotted at Wat Phra Dhammakaya and nearby Khlong Luang central market, for reasons unknown….

As police investigators have found no link between Mr Wuthipong or Red Radio and the temple, they believe the group’s main goal has been to stir up unrest during the authorities’ operations there….

Yes, that’s “no links,” none, zilch.

The temple itself has “denied any involvement with Mr Wuthipong or the group.”

And, The Dictator is playing down the Wat Dhammakaya link: “Gen Prayut said he was more concerned about the alleged assassination plots and the seizure of weapons of war.” He’s also playing down the size of the “plot,” saying it was small.

Previous reports stated that police said “some of the seized weapons had been taken from soldiers during the violent red-shirt political rallies in mid-town Bangkok in 2010.”

Now, Justice Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said just one “M16 rifle seized at the weekend has been confirmed to be among the state weapons stolen during the red-shirt protest … in April 2010.”

The story is changing and the evidence is flimsy, but the junta seems rattled.





Seeing red

21 03 2017

As the junta approaches the anniversary of its third year of military dictatorship, it is going through another phase of red shirt repression. The regime is again seeing reds under its beds and it doesn’t like it.

There are frantic junta imaginations of fantastical red shirt assassination plots, reds infiltrating Wat Dhammakaya, separatist rebellion and more.

This reaction appears to derive from two closely related perceptions: first, a view that any opposition is an immediate threat to the junta’s stability; and second, a desire for regime longevity, where “regime” is the broader elite military-monarchy-business alliance.

At least an element of this perception derives from yellow-shirted and anti-democratic grumbling about the junta having lost its zeal for “reform” – defined as rooting out the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. That grumbling has also been associated with some southern protests over ports and cola-fired power stations. It seems the junta felt its right wing was weakening in its support.

The result has been an intensification of both anti-Thaksinism and anti-red shirt repression.

The targeting of Thaksin has involved an effort to levy Thaksin for past taxes due (although we had somehow thought that the assets stripping case was part of the “tax’) and going after loyalists in a series of legal cases.

The anti-red shirt effort has been frenzied of late, with the Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee weapons and assassination stories and the earlier (and probably related in the minds of the junta) plots said to be originating in Laos.

At the same time, the courts have been at work, dealing with red shirt cases. The most recent of those sees the Appeals Court upholding a “lower court’s sentence of a four-year jail term each, without suspension, for singer Arisman Pongruangrong and 12 other red-shirts for leading protesters who forced their way into the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel in Pattaya, where the 2009 Asean Summit was being held.”

(What has happened with the yellow shirt occupation of airports in 2008?)

They were prosecuted “for defying an order prohibiting a rally of more than 10 people and causing unrest.”

(What has happened to all the yellow shirts who broke similar laws?)

In early 2015, they were sentenced to four years each in jail, without suspension, and a fine of 200 baht. Those sentenced were:

Arisman Pongruangrong, Nisit Sinthuprai, Payap Panket, Worachai Hema, Wanchana Kerddee, Pichet Sukjindathong, Sakda Noppasit, Pol Lt Col Waipot Aparat, Nopporn Namchiangtai, Samrerng Prachamrua, Somyot Promma, Wallop Yangtrong and Singthong Buachum.

The Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, which sentences the 13 to four years each in jail without suspension. Bail may follow, but the threat is clear.

This is a pattern seen previously, although the junta does appear more frantic in its efforts at present.





King, junta and politics

21 03 2017

We are not sure if we have ever quoted from StrategyPage previously, but a recent article on their webpage caught some attention.

Their story, titled “Thailand: Actions Have Long Term Consequences,” is the one we mention here. We have no way of judging the veracity of some of its claims when it comes to palace and king, but felt some of them worth quoting.

As is the custom in Thailand, compromise is in the works between the new king, the military government and the democratic majority. Once the new king took the throne at the end of 2016 he apparently made a deal with the military government that would, in theory, benefit both of them in the long run. First, the king wants to be freed from constitutional and parliamentary restrictions that were part of the 1930s deal that turned the absolute monarchy into a constitutional one. The military government is in the process of changing the constitution and that presents a rare opportunity to give the king more power. The generals need the backing of the king because they justified their 2014 coup by insisting they were doing it to protect the monarchy. Last year the military got their new constitution approved in a referendum and the king must approve it by May and apparently will do so as long as his requests are agreed to.

Where’s the “democratic majority in that you might ask. This is the StrategyPage answer:

Meanwhile the king is apparently also trying to negotiate a peace deal with the pro-democracy groups which have demonstrated that they still have the majority of voters with them. In late 2015 pro-democracy leader (and former prime minister) Thaksin Shinawatra called on his followers (the “red shirts”) to “play dead” for the moment and wait for the military government to allow elections. The military has agreed to elections in 2018 but only if some fundamental changes were made in the constitution. The king’s representatives have apparently been seeking a compromise deal that would allow Thaksin Shinawatra and other exiled democracy leaders to come home and abide by the new rules.

If there is any truth in this – it may just be an old story rehashed – then recent events have interesting potential meanings: think Jumpol Manmai as one once said to be close to Thaksin; think of Suthep Thaugsuban’s testy reappearance and emphasis on “democracy under the king”; and then think of the military’s manic obsession with red shirt and firebrand Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee. There’s more:

Since 2014 the troops have been ordered to arrest anyone who appeared to be leading resistance to the coup, but the anti-coup sentiments were so widespread that trying to decapitate the opposition by taking most leaders out of action did not work. The opposition had plenty of competent replacements for lost leaders and those leaders did not call for a civil war.

We do not get that sense of the red shirt opposition and certainly not from the Puea Thai Party. We actually think the military goons have succeeded in cowing much of the opposition, often through nasty but carefully planned example, i.e. capturing leaders and making their life a public misery so as to frighten others.

StrategyPage continues:

The king and the generals recognize that most Thais are fed up with the coups…. The royals have learned to keep their heads down, even though the military has always been staunchly royalist. The army and the king now seek to change this deadlock with “reforms” in the existing constitution.

We don’t think this is all true. The royals’ heads are always visible, scheming, wheedling, getting wealthy and allowing their status to be used against “threats.” Do they recognize that Thais are fed up with coups? Probably, but they can still pull them off whenever they feel the need to.

While the red shirts have lots of popular support, most Thais are more interested in economic issues and the army has not been able to deal with that because of widespread opposition to military rule in Thailand and abroad. The economic problems cannot be ignored…. So the army is paying attention to economic problems and is not doing so well at it.

That’s an understatement! The economy is looking awful and the junta is at a loss as to what to do. Its infrastructure projects are a mess of verbiage and little action. But StrategyPage has an upside (if you buy the “deal” notion):

The new 2017 compromise will restore elections with the king and armed forces believing they now have more power when the country is run by an elected government. The democrats note that long-term the kings and dictators lose. Most royalists recognize that if the king becomes too unpopular the monarchy could be abolished…. Actions have consequences.

Read in total, the article is highly contradictory, but the notion of the “deal” pops up often enough for this page to get a run.





Going after kids III

21 03 2017

Along with the alleged “assassination plot” or perhaps it is multiple “plots,” against Thailand’s dictator, another unbelievable event has unfolded with the killing of a young Lahu boy by soldiers.

No one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event. Their story is bizarre, the only credible witness is in their custody and the “investigation” of the killing is being conducted by the people who did the killing.

The Bangkok Post reports on what it says is an “extrajudicial killing.”

The police have “insisted …[the] Lahu activist … was linked to drug trafficking…”. They also claim that the killing “was carried out in self-defence.” As we said in our earlier post, this really does sound like a report from the 1970s or perhaps from the War on Drugs earlier this century.

A police spokesman has claimed that Chaiyapoom Pasae “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.”

This is the official spokesman making this claim of nothing untoward when there is meant to be an “investigation” into the events. It is pretty clear where that “investigation” is going.

Locals have called for a broader probe into the killing. They say “they don’t believe the [young] man was embroiled in drug smuggling and that he was an activist dedicated to local causes.”

Experienced in cleaning up such messes and managing official impunity, the police claim that they “found” some “2,800 methamphetamine pills hidden in a car.

Pongnai Saengtala, the driver of the car that Chaiyapoom was in, they say, was being “detained” when Chaiyapoom “ran away.” You can already see that this is is either concocted or that the soldiers and police involved were incompetent dimwits. If Chaiyapoom was a “suspect,” why wasn’t he under guard?

The next claim is equally suspicious: “A soldier chased Chaiyapoom, who turned and threw a hand grenade at the soldier, forcing him to shoot Chaiyapoom. It is not clear where the grenade came from.” That shooting was “only one shot…”.

There’s no story about the grenade going off. In fact, it is being “examined” in the “investigation.” The claim must be that Chaiyapoom threw the grenade as if it was a rock. Earlier versions had him with a knife and a grenade. Believable?

Now, cleaning up, the cops will “trace the source of the drugs that were found in the car…”. We suspect a real “investigation” wouldn’t have to go far to locate that source. As is widely known, the police regularly plant “evidence.”

Yet what they do is “investigate” his family and they will charge the driver and make a deal for a “confession” and for incriminating Chaiyapoom. That’s the pattern of these things.

Of course, the junta is on-side with cops and soldiers:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The military’s death toll of civilians murdered climbs by one more.