Buddha Issara arrested II

25 05 2018

We continue to be mystified regarding the motives for the arrest of Buddha Issara, now defrocked and held in jail, now known as Suwit Thongprasert.

We are not sure how his arrest relates to that of other senior monks, although such reorganizations or “cleaning” of the senior monkhood have previously occurred with a royal succession and/or a new political regime.

The story is now that he was arrested for actions by “a group of anti-Yingluck Shinawatra government demonstrators he led which robbed Special Branch police of guns during their protest on Feb 10, 2014.” We mentioned this yesterday.

It is added that the “case also involves using the initials of the names of the late King Rama IX and … the Queen … on the back of Buddhist amulets without royal permission.” This seems to relate to a case discussed some time ago as a lese majeste accusation.

At the time we stated that he may be a detestable person and worse but that does not mean the accusation of lese majeste is any less ridiculous.

It is also added that the arrest warrant for the monk, issued by the Criminal Court, involved both lese majeste and “charges of ang-yee (running an illegal secret organisation)…”. The latter is a law that’s been on the books probably longer than Article 112, and was initially enacted for the control of Chinese “secret societies” during the absolute monarchy.

Tell us this isn’t a mysterious case. That probably means big powers are involved.

Buddha Issara arrested I

24 05 2018

Like others, we are somewhat mystified by the arrest of fascist monk Buddha Issara. The English report we have seen states:

At Wat Onoi in Kamphaeng Saen district, police arrested activist abbot Phra Buddha Isara, who gained front-page notoriety for his support of the Bangkok Shutdown movement in 2013-14. He was held on a charge of supporting robbery during the demonstrations led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

The police case against Phra Buddha Isara relates to a group of anti-Yingluck Shinawatra government demonstrators he led which in 2013 robbed Special Branch police of guns during their protest.

We do recall that the events mentioned and the monk’s many interventions, as well as the support he had for The Dictator. We recall his support for the popcorn gunman and other shooters. We remember that he held and tortured some police. Maybe the police are paying back.

Buddha Issara and friend


Updated: Held, supported and undefeated

24 05 2018

As we write this post, those anti-junta activists arrested at and near Thammasat University are thought due for release after being held longer than expected. The police say they intend to hold them longer. The courts are due to decide.

Meanwhile, as The Nation reports, there has been an outpouring of support for the detainees.

Local and international organizations calling on authorities to release the anti-junta/pro-election protesters arrested on Tuesday:

[a] dozen activists, led by the Democratic Restoration Group (DRG), were arrested and charged with sedition which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, and with violating the military junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than five people.

Several activists and politicians visited them in detention. They included “Thanathorn Juangroongruan-gkit of Future Forward Party, former police commissioner Pol General Seripisut Temiyavet, and representatives of the Pheu Thai Party.”

The former top policeman offered bail for all the detainees. However, “they had not been granted bail at press time last night.”

Updated: The 15 detainees were released on bail after police requested further detention from the court. As one declared: “Down the dictatorship. Long live democracy.”

APHR calls for immediate release of activists

23 05 2018

The following is reproduced in full:

Lawmakers from across Southeast Asia today condemned the arrest of at least 15 activists following peaceful pro-democracy protests in Thailand, calling for their immediate release and for all charges to be dropped.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) stressed the Thai military government’s responsibility to uphold civil and political rights in line with its international obligations and reiterated its call on the regime to urgently restore democratic rule.

“The arrest of peaceful activists under draconian legislation, for simply expressing their opinions, exemplifies the entrenchment of intolerance under this regime – a worrying signal of a junta that is unwilling to relinquish power any time soon,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“Some of these young men and women, the future of our region, are facing the possibility of years behind bars under archaic sedition laws just for calling for accountability and a return to civilian rule. This is not acceptable in today’s ASEAN. As supporters of democracy and the people’s prerogative to fully exercise their human rights, we stand in solidarity with all human rights defenders and community activists in Thailand whose right to peaceful assembly continue to be curtailed.”

At least 15 pro-democracy activists were arrested and have been charged under a list of laws, including sedition (Section 116 of the Penal Code), being part of a gathering of more than nine persons that have either caused or threatened to use violence (Section 215 of the Penal Code), disobeying orders to disperse by the authorities (Section 216 of the Penal Code), violating a ban on political gathering of more than four persons (Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2015) and for obstructing traffic (Section 108 of the Road Traffic Act). As of 3pm today, the activists are being detained at the Phayathai and Chanasongkram police stations, and APHR understands that they are granted access to lawyers.

The arrests followed their involvement in a peaceful rally held on 22 May to mark the four-year anniversary of the military regime’s seizure of power and to call for a return to civilian rule. The rally, one of the largest acts of dissent since the military regime came to power in 2014, was eventually dispersed following the arrests of the leaders.

“The Thai regime has a responsibility to ensure that fundamental freedoms are respected, including the facilitating of peaceful demonstrations. Such rights form the bedrock of any functioning democracy and their exercise should only be restricted in very limited circumstances,” Santiago said. “This is clearly another attempt to scare the Thai people into silence.”

Since coming to power, the military regime has repeatedly delayed promised elections and has used a long list of laws to clampdown on genuine criticisms against the government, which APHR has previously highlighted as a contravention of accepted democratic norms.

Lawmakers reiterated their call on the military regime to end its crackdown on fundamental freedoms and take concrete steps to pave the way for democratic elections.

“As elected representatives, it is vital that we listen to the demands and aspirations of the people. It’s time the junta does the same and make good its pledges to restore true democracy in Thailand,“ Santiago concluded.

Updated: The Dictator declares victory

23 05 2018

There have been many reports on the rally by hundreds of anti-coup activists that ended yesterday, blocked by hundreds of police.

The report at The Nation interested PPT as it seemed The Dictator declared victory over the protesters.

While the leaders of the rally could not reach their objective of marching to Government House and were arrested, they vowed to fight on.

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha dismissed the rally. He stated, again, that the poll “would be no sooner than early 2019” but, as usual, provided no specific date.

He declared that the protesters “cannot march, whether they support or oppose us. It breaks the law. They will just cause conflict and upset the economy…”. That’s Prayuth’s mantra, selectively enforced and it is his electoral campaign slogan: the junta means political stability.

As usual, The Dictator deliberately confused junta decrees and human rights, stating that “[e]nforcing the law and breaking up the protest did not violate their human rights…”. He added, “the law is the law,” except that junta law is the law of double standards and selective use.

The junta boss referred to the organic laws for the election. An election can only be held within 150 days of the four laws coming into effect.

On cue, Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman Meechai Ruchupan warned of further delays on the laws, seeming to predict that the Constitutional Court would rule on Wednesday that it violates the 2017 charter. He said: “If the court rules they [the provisional clauses] break the charter, the whole bill will be revoked and we will have to start over and draft a new one…”.

He says that shouldn’t delay an election. He means the one for which there is no stated date. Delaying an unannounced election does indeed seem improbable.

Update: Meechai, while touted as a constitutional ‘expert” was wrong. The Constitutional Court unanimously approved the bill.

World’s richest royal families

22 05 2018

The recent wedding in England of a British royal with an American entertainment industry woman caused some sober newspapers to consider aspects of monarchy, constitutional monarchy and royal wealth.

Business Report published a list of the five richest royal families, which is somewhat different from the usual Forbes list.

Its list had Thailand’s royal family ranking a distant 5th on the rich list after a bunch of Middle Eastern autocrats. That seems reasonable to us, as does the estimate of wealth for the royals of $60 billion.

The family ranked 1st was Saudi Arabia’s with a staggering $1.7 trillion.

Selectivity in the judicial system

22 05 2018

“Selectivity in the judicial system” is another way of expressing the notion of double standards. Several recent stories in the Bangkok Post highlight the junta’s continued emphasis on legal mechanisms to selectively repress its political opponents.

The first Bangkok Post story is about a civil court having “temporarily disposed of a civil case against Suthep Thaugsuban and 39 others for impeding the 2014 general election, pending the outcome of a criminal case against them.” Essentially, the court decided to ease the pressure on Suthep while other criminal cases are ever so slowly sorted out.

One of the oddities of this case is that it is brought by the EC which itself managed to impede the election through the decisions and actions of its then members.

A second Bangkok Post story tells of Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook, Chaturon Chaisang and Chusak Sirinil being “charged on Monday with sedition for holding a press conference” that criticized the military dictatorship. It is the military that filed the case.

The notion that rights that even appear in the junta’s own constitution are ignored by the junta to claim sedition for relatively mild criticism is yet another example of double standards.

Five other party leaders were charged with violating the ban on gatherings for attending the press conference.

Pheu Thai’s secretary general Phumtham Wechayachai was mild in his response to the charges: “This government abuses the laws. They use laws to prevent people from investigating (them)…”. He added that none of those charged had broken the law.

But that’s the point. Under a military dictatorship the law is whatever the junta decides it will be.

Phumtham asked why it was that speaking “about the government’s performance for the last four years and how unsuccessful they are” should constitute an attempt to overthrow the regime or to incite insurrection.

Well, again, the dictatorship can decide what it wants. There’s no “legality” involved, just the whim of The Dictator. In this instance, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning vigorously to defeat parties that may not campaign, sees a chance to stick yet another dagger into the country’s most successful political party.

And finally for this account of double standards, the third Bangkok Post story is of three junior officials being charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “the illegal purchase of Alpha 6 narcotics detectors 10 years ago.”

In fact, these devices are more or less the same at the GT200. Both are devices shown to have failed and to be scams, but widely purchased by official agencies including the military. Some 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht were bought by various agencies. Their use was vigorously defended by senior Army officers, including Gen Prayuth, and Army spokesmen

Five years ago, following convictions in the UK on these scam devices, PPT asked: will the Thai military brass and bosses of other agencies that purchased – often at inflated prices – will also be held accountable. The answer seems clear: not when the military runs the show.

Double standards and legal selectivity rule. Ask Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. One of his “borrowed” luxury watches costs more than an Alpha 6 at inflated prices. Maybe there’s a connection?