Updated: Defining the junta by its double standards

21 02 2018

One of the defining characteristics of this military regime has been its double standards.

While the temporary cessation of the planned coal-fired power station in the south is good news for the environment and represents a victory of sorts for the local villagers and supporting activists, this outcome demonstrates the regime’s embedded double standards.

The Dictator has urged “calm after the government decided to put the contentious projects on hold.” Not that long ago, the junta was arresting anti-coal protesters. These protesters have by and large been junta supporters. The junta’s actions against them were a serious splintering of the pro-junta and anti-democrat side.

It may be coincidental, but as the pressure has mounted on the junta from activists it identifies as opponents, the pressure on the anti-coal activists has gone and the junta is bending over backwards to be seen to be meeting their demands and end their Bangkok protest that has lasted more than three weeks.

Indeed, the most recent concession has been to order a fresh environmental impact assessment and to drop all law suits (well, “suspend” the legal actions).

That backdown by the junta was made politically symbolic when Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan sat on the sidewalk with protesters after a court refused a police request to ban the assembly.

The political outcome was the protesters packed up and returned to their homes in the south.

Such a harmonious outcome is impossible when it comes to pro-election activists. The double standards are obvious. One side can protest for weeks. The other side sees police charges.

A second set of double standards is within the junta itself. As everyone knows, the Deputy Dictator has been caught out flashing luxury watches all over the place. Despite the case having been taken on by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, it has all gone quiet. The Dictator has refused to abandon his old boss and elder military brother.

Rather, he’s supported Gen Prawit. When Totrakul Yomnak, chairman of a junta sub-committee against corruption, a puppet committee, sent Gen Prayuth Chan-och “a letter expressing concern about the watch scandal,”and imploring the military “prime minister to take action and show his determination to address graft, which he [Prayuth] has declared a top priority.”

Prayuth “lashed out” and said leave it to the (quiet, compromised and slow) NACC.

Double standards define the regime.

Update: We have noticed on social media a strong rumor that Totrakul is said to have been told by “someone” to attack Prayuth. We haven’t seen anyone naming a name, but the assumption seems to be that the old meddler Gen Prem Tinsulanonda is the one. He’s long talked about corruption as a threat to the nation. If there is a Prem-initiated move against Prayuth, we can’t wait to see who is anointed to replace The Dictator.

Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, making our point point on double standards on protesters, the military has filed charges against six participants in a pro-election rally at Chiang Mai University “for violating the junta’s ban on public assembly.” The six face up to six months in prison and fine up to 10,000 baht.

They did, anti-coal protesters didn’t. This six face court, the anti-coal protesters met a minister who came to them. The picture is crystal clear.





Policing activists calling for the junta’s election

20 02 2018

Thailand’s military rulers reckon that “pro-election” activists are in the pay of others. The regime has good reason for alleging this as the military, and particularly ISOC has spent decades creating and funding the right-wing groups that have been instrumental in bringing down elected governments. In the process quite a few people have been murdered.

So whenever they see others agitating they automatically assume they are like the groups they form and back. National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Wallop Raksanoh has “pledged to go after those who are financially supporting pro-election activists…”.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Before going any further, we need to note that these activists are agitating for an “election” to be held according to the rules set by the military junta and a timetable that was promised by The Dictator not that long ago. In other words, the military junta is threatened by a small group of activists promoting the junta’s own “election.”

Of course, yet again, the junta has backed away from its “election” pledge, so now these pro-election activists – the junta’s election – are seditious. The military is spending huge amounts of taxpayer money policing those who have called for the junta’s election to actually be held.

General Wallop pledged to “hunt down those who are the backers of the group,” saying that the “activists’ would not pose such a major problem if people were not egging them on…”. He warned of possible violence saying “officials must ensure no third party would exploit the group’s activities by causing violence.” Funny that. It is usually ISOC that provides the infamous “third hand” in Thailand’s politics.

In “hunting down” backers, the regime’s internet police are more heavily blocking websites that support the activists, PPT included.

Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisad also says his men are “searching for the people thought to be supporting the group.” He suspects political parties and he means Puea Thai and Shinawatra money. With both Thaksin and Yingluck visible and in the region, the military junta is having kittens.

Gen Chalermchai said “[s]tate authorities will enforce the laws in a proper way…” against activists, with as many as 100 now having been charges. Ironically, it is Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who is instructing the authorities on these measures. He himself is accused of multiple acts of corruption and unusual wealth. That’s leaving aside the illegality of the coup he helped plan and implement.





Law and junta “law”

20 02 2018

The issue of junta law versus rule of law has been discussed by academics.Discussing this aspect of “rule of law,” where the junta uses law for propaganda and for political repression, is of critical importance.

An academic forum at Thammasat University “heard doubts about the legitimacy and lasting effects of laws enacted by the NCPO and the current appointed branches of government.” Teerawat Kwanjai, a law lecturer at Prince of Songkla University, observed:

The NCPO [the military junta] always claims that it follows the law, which is in fact the offspring of the junta’s own appointments…. This has paved the way for the NCPO’s almost four years in power, combined with the public’s fear of prosecution.

Teerawat pointed to examples of laws being used for repression and engendering fear as including “martial law; NCPO order no 3/2015, which authorises military officers to exercise police powers and arbitrarily detain people for seven days; the computer crime bill; and the public assembly bill.” Lese majeste appears to have gone missing due to self-censorship.

Whereas the junta “had initially relied on martial law but recently invoked its own orders to detain people in specific cases.” The junta now trusts the courts to enforce its will.





Parties bail, activists keep going

19 02 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on the activist “roadmap” on rallies to demand an “election.” In demanding that the junta hold the election it has promised but repeatedly “delayed,” the activists made a call for all political parties to join them.

The spineless politicians from all sides rushed to decline the offer. While some of their excuses sound reasonable, it should also be remembered that political parties have almost never been in the vanguard of political change in Thailand. More often than not they have been resistant to real change or in bringing down military regimes.

Meanwhile, activists held another pro-election rally in Korat.

Activist leader Sirawith Seritiwat said activists would soon host similar activities in other major cities.

The event in Korat “included the distribution of leaflets and was lived-streamed on Facebook, while officials in attendance apparently did not disturb the activities.”

As in the past, activists are leading the political way forward.

 





Updated: An authoritarian royal embrace

18 02 2018

Nothing surprises when it comes to the military dictatorship. It has jailed hundreds, ignored the law, sent refugees back to jails several times, covered up murder and corruption, ignored human rights and embraced the nastiest of autocrats.

BenarNews reports that the junta has “defended its decision to award the chief of Myanmar’s armed forces a royal decoration…”.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was awarded the Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant” and was “nominated for the honor by Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Aug. 21, 2017, four days before violence erupted in Rakhine state.”

That dating sounds suspicious but even if it is accepted, he has a nasty reputation. In fact, he seems the kind of military leader who would be a brother in arms with the Thai generals. Whatever the timing, the award represents Thai military and palace support for human rights abuses in Myanmar.

He received the award from his Thai counterpart, Gen. Tarnchaiyan Srisuwan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The award, the Thai military said, was “to show the long and close relations” between Thailand and Myanmar.

That truth is confirmed when Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich told Reuters that the presentation of the honor to Myanmar’s military chief was “a separate issue from human rights…”.

The royalness of the award frightened human rights advocates. Those “interviewed by BenarNews also criticized the decision to honor the head of the Myanmar military, but asked that they not be identified for fear of being accused of violating Lese-Majeste…”.

Update: Helpfully, the Bangkok Post has an interview with Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing, pointing out that this is his second royal decoration. He states:

The military leaders of both countries have been quite close for some years now.

I have had a close relationship with Thai generals starting with [chief of Defence Forces] Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn’s predecessor, Gen Songkitti [Jaggabatara].

The one I was closest to is Gen Tanasak [who served in the post between 2011-2014] but I am also close to the others. His successors are Gen Worapong [Sanganetra] and Gen Sommai [Kaotira] then Gen Surapong [Suwana-adth] and the current chief, Gen Thanchaiyan Srisuwan].

He is also close to privy council head General Prem Tinsulanonda and thus has that palace connection that links military and monarchy. When asked of his status as Prem’s “adopted son,” he replied:

During the time when Gen Tanasak was the defence chief, he gave me a chance to pay respects to Gen Prem who is the same generation as my father. When we met, we had an exchange of experiences, of being leaders. He [Gen Prem] gave me advice. Being like father and son is very good and makes things better in many ways.

Frighteningly he says of the relationship between the two sets of murderous militaries:

We are like brothers.

Every time we meet, we exchange experiences.

Thailand is experienced in democracy and has passed so many things.

When we are close like brothers, we open up and share the experience.

The good things in this era contributed to the changes in Myanmar’s democracy.

We are scratching our heads on “good things,” but guess that “good things” for these military thugs are probably bad things for the rest of us. For example, when asked about “problems in Rakhine state, ” he answered:

I would rather not talk about it. But I will only say that I will do my best to take care of the problem. Furthermore, in Myanmar, there is no ethnic group called Rohingya. They are Bengalis who came from somewhere else. We will follow the laws.

That last bit is also among the lies peddled by Thailand’s military dictatorship.





Lese majeste catch-ups

18 02 2018

Natthika Worathaiwit was one of The Facebook 8 who were arrested by the military dictatorship because of a satirical Facebook community page that poked fun at The Dictator. They were charged with sedition and computer crimes on 28 April 2016. Tow of them, Harit Mahaton and Natthika were charged with lese majeste.

Initially all were refused bail. When six of the eight were bailed, a military court refused bail for Natthika and Harit. The two firmly maintained their innocence. After more than two months in prison, on 8 July 2016, the two were released on bail. A month later, a military prosecutor indicted the two anti-junta critics on lese majeste and computer crimes.

Little more was heard about the case until in January 2018 Natthika revealed that she had decided to flee Thailand to seek asylum in the U.S. She remains critical of the military dictatorship. Prachatai has an interview with her in the U.S.

Prachatai also reports on a case with a curious twist. Back in March 2016, it was reported that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul who later went into exile, conservative royalist Sulak Sivaraksa, the execrable Surakiart Sathirathai and retired ultra-monarchist Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

Later, in July 2014, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) imposed a 50,000 baht fine on ThaiPBS for broadcasting political discussions about the monarchy. The NBTC declared that the broadcasts violated “Article 37 of the NBTC Act. The Commission accused the station of publishing content that instigated conflict, damaged peace and order, or damaged the good morality of the people.”

Royalists and the junta could not abide by notions that Thais could have a reasonable discussion of the monarchy or be allowed to think for themselves about the monarchy.

On 15 February 2018, the Administrative Court invalidated the fine. In doing so, it ruled that the NBTC showed bias (which is standard operating procedure for this bunch of junta minions). That bias got a name:  Lt Gen Peerapong Manakit, one of the NBTC members. According to the report, the “court ruled that bias on the part of … [Peerapong] who proposed the punishment, led to an unfair trial. The court ordered the Commission to refund the fine to Thai PBS…. However, the verdict does not rule whether the show’s content was legal or not.”

It is an interesting ruling. If Peerapong’s name rings a bell, it could be because he is another of those military hogs who can’t keep out of the trough, as reported in The Nation:

… there was a public outcry after an Office of the Auditor-General investigation revealed Peerapong Manakit had topped the list of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission members who had made the most overseas “study” trips last year…. He spent about one-third of his time (129 days) on 20 overseas trips at a cost of Bt12.03 million…. Peerapong has reportedly appointed his wife Janya Sawangjit as his adviser, effective October 1. Her salary is Bt120,000 a month…. It is not clear if NBTC commissioners can take their advisers on overseas trips.

Of course, nothing happened about this nepotism and he remains a commissioner, with a bunch of other military and royal-connected men.





A non-junta roadmap

17 02 2018

The junta has a roadmap that we have dubbed the map for the road to nowhere. We say this because the junta’s “roadmap” changes whenever the generals want more time in power.

A roadmap that might be more likely to be followed has been announced by pro-election activists.

They have set “a clear timetable for rallies until May” that is also “challenging politicians to make up their minds whether to stand alongside the people or the military.”

The challenge to the politicians is useful because they have shown themselves spineless before the military dictatorship. They have been “conspicuous by their absence at pro-election rallies so far…”.

The next pro-democracy gathering “would take place at Lan Ya Mo in Nakhon Ratchasima at 5pm on Sunday, followed by a rally at the Thammasat Tha Phra Chan campus at 3pm next Saturday.” Other events are planned for March 10 and 14.

Then in “May the groups plan to gather every Saturday, and to stage a non-stop rally from May 19-22.”