A year under the military boot I

22 05 2015

It is now a year since the elected Puea Thai Party government was overthrown by the military in its second coup in eight years. In a well-planned political intervention, it threw out the military’s 2007 constitution, repressed opponents and established top-down processes and puppet bodies to embed conservative politics.

iLaw has an excellent post that summarizes, in words and graphics, some of the impacts of the putsch:

After the coup, at least 751 individuals were summoned by the NCPO [they mean the military junta]. At least 424 were deprived of liberty…. Meanwhile, at least 163 individuals have been pressed with political charges. The NCPO has imposed Martial Law and then issued the NCPO Order no.3/2015 to ban political gatherings, restricting freedom of the press, and forcing civilians to be tried by Military Court. At least, 71 public activities were intervened or cancelled by the use of military force.

Of course, these data do not take account of wider impacts of political repression including widespread self-censorship, the end of representative politics at all levels and the shift of power to security forces that encourages, for example, primitive accumulation (for the latest example, see here).

On lese majeste, iLaw notes two trends under the military dictatorship. One is the arrest of “at least 30 individuals” who have been “pressed with cases regarding the violation of Article 112 simply because they were accused of claiming their royal connection for personal gain.” This refers to the cases against Prince Vajiralongkorn’s ousted third wife Srirasmi and her family and associates.

The second trend is a rise in lese majeste as a political charge: “at least 46 individuals have been charged for violation of Article 112 to stifle their freedom of expression. This is comparatively high considering that prior to the coup, there were only five remaining convicts on lèse majesté charge and five cases pending in the Court.”

As the military dictatorship has determined, its current intervention is meant to repress and chill so that the rule of the conservative, royalist elite can be maintained. Its draft constitution is reflective of this anti-democratic intent.

FIDH on lese majeste and the military dictatorship

21 05 2015

We are re-posting this important statement in full. It is from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH):

Thailand: Unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions call for urgent reform of Article 112

Paris, Bangkok, 20 May 2015: In the first 12 months under the rule of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Thailand experienced an unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions, FIDH and its member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today.

“Unless the NCPO promotes an urgent reform of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, Thai jails will be increasingly populated by individuals who have merely exercised their fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

According to research conducted by FIDH, since the junta seized power on 22 May 2014, at least 47 individuals have been detained under the draconian Article 112 of the Criminal Code. [1] Eighteen people have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to 50 years, for a combined total of 159 years – an average of eight years and eight months each. In most cases, defendants saw their sentences halved because they pleaded guilty to the charges.

Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.”

Prosecutions under Article 112 are likely to continue at a steady pace in the coming months. On 24 April 2015, police said that there were 204 active lèse-majesté cases, of which 128 were under investigation. Authorities are also set to target lèse-majesté suspects beyond Thailand’s national borders. On 21 March 2015, junta-appointed Minister of Justice Gen Paiboon Koomchaya said the military-backed government would seek the extradition of 30 Thais living in exile who have been charged under Article 112.

FIDH and UCL urge the authorities to end lèse-majesté prosecutions of individuals who exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of opinion and expression. The two organizations also urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all individuals imprisoned under Article 112 for having exercised their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

“Protection of the monarchy must not impinge on the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion and expression. It’s time for the NCPO to heed the numerous UN recommendations for reform and bring Article 112 in line with international law,” urged UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.

Various UN human rights bodies have repeatedly called on Thailand to amend Article 112 and ensure that it complies with the country’s obligations under international human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. In the latest statement by a UN official, on 1 April 2015, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye expressed concern over the increasing arrests and detentions under Article 112 and called for an end to the criminalization of dissenting opinions.

Press contacts:
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
UCL: Mr. Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn (Thai, English) – Tel: +66890571755 (Bangkok)

[1] This number does not include individuals who have been detained under Article 112 in connection with the prosecution of relatives of former Princess Srirasmi

Missing the boat

21 05 2015

The Bangkok Post begins a story on boats and the human disaster of large-scale trafficking and slaving with this:

Thailand is prepared to help the thousands of boat people in the region only by extending humanitarian assistance, despite Malaysia and Indonesia agreeing to provide temporary shelter, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says.

“Thailand is midway, so we have more problems [than other countries]. In terms of policy, we agree to help but all remains to be discussed,” he said.

The country will provide humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants, but not allow them to stay on Thai soil, he said Wednesday.

Like us, most readers probably don’t understand The Dictator’s contradictory dictum. Thailand isn’t “midway,”but is a major node in trafficking, with significant involvement of corrupt official and military, all of whom have enriched themselves by the suffering of those being trafficked. This case is just one of many; think of Burmese migrants and their huge movement into Thailand and how this has enriched so many. Think of the camps controlled by the military from the 1970s to the 1990s. And there’s more. Using people in these ways has been normalized for the rich and powerful.

What we do understand is this photo:

Thailand missing

Yes, that is the Thai flag on the right. The puppet Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Tanasak Patimapragorn is missing. Why? The report states “he had to first refer back to whether the move would be allowed by Thai ‘domestic laws’.” Naturally, he had to refer any decision to The Dictator. Equally naturally, he has to be careful about the powerful interests involved in human trafficking.

A PR disaster for sure, but more significantly, a humanitarian disaster.

May 2010, part IV

20 05 2015

Human Rights Watch has a post on the impunity of 2010. Brad Adams, Asia director, Human Rights Watch:

The failure of successive Thai governments to prosecute anyone from the military for the 2010 political violence sends a stark message of impunity. Fully five years on, commanders who gave the orders to soldiers and those who pulled the triggers all remain untouchable.

Five years after the events,

Despite overwhelming evidence that soldiers used excessive and unnecessary lethal force against protesters and others, not a single soldier has been held accountable for deaths or injuries during the crackdown on street protests.

On May 2010, part III

20 05 2015

The inquests that have been held on the deaths of protesters in April and May 2014 have been unable to determine perpetrators. However, quite a number have determined that the security forces and Army were responsible, even if an individual could not be identified.

This fact and the hatred that The Dictator has for red shirts and public displays of solidarity is why the military dictatorship does not permit public remembrance of the dead.

The Bangkok Post reports that Phayao Akkahad, “mother of the volunteer nurse Kamolkade who was killed on May 19, 2010 inside Wat Pathumwanaram, held the annual religious rites for her daughter in the presence of plainclothes police and military officers who asked her not to make comments critical of the government.”

She was joined by a “dozen other families who lost loved ones during the demonstration against the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and other red-shirts who were at the 2010 protest joined Ms Payao at the temple…”.

For some reason, “[m]embers of the National Reform Council’s committee on reconciliation* also turned up at Wat Pathumwanaram but some families of the victims felt uneasy with their presence and did not greet them.” One woman who lost her husband in 2010 asked: “Is this a proper place to talk about reconciliation? We’re here to remember our families but they’re here to do a big PR job by joining the commemorations and taking pictures with the photos of our family members…”.

She was clearly not happy with a stunt she considered was “disrespectful of the dead.”

*Phayao is a “member of the reconciliation committee which is chaired by Anek Laothammathat, a member of the Constitutional Drafting Committee.” Anek showed up with others.

General corruption

19 05 2015

PPT has been watching the Rohinga boat people reporting with considerable interest and concern. We were waiting to see how long it was going to take for the military to be mentioned. After all, there was the big story on this in Reuters and Phuketwan some time ago. The Navy sued.

If social media is any barometer, it is widely believed that the massive human trafficking that has been going on in the south for several years could not continue without military connivance (and profit).

We were interested to read that the police “investigating human trafficking rings smuggling boat people into southern Thailand believe a major general [from the Army] was involved.”

Unsurprisingly, the Army and The Dictator say “none of its officers are directly linked to the illegal activities.” The report says:

Evidence showing this unnamed military official’s possible involvement in Rohingya trafficking was found during a raid at a suspect’s home in Ranong’s Muang district last Wednesday, a security source revealed Monday.

The evidence included four receipts for money transfers to a bank account belonging to the major general and a document with the bank account and the major general’s name written on it, the same source said.

The trafficking of Rohingya and illegal migrant workers, from Ranong down to the southern border, has long been a very lucrative business because handsome bribes were paid to people in uniform, the source said….

“In this case, although police found evidence to prove the major general’s involvement in trafficking, no one dares do anything with this suspect. Of course, you know who is in power. So, who wouldn’t be afraid?” the source said.

An important observation.

On May 2010, part II

19 05 2015

Some of the links may no longer work, yet we thought it appropriate to remember the events of the 2010 crackdown and the dead with our post from that day as the military cleared Rajaprasong. It is reproduced in full below with photos added.

We also suggest a look at the photos taken on the day in an album that remains online.

* * * * * * * * * *

The crackdown on red shirts has begun. CNN and the BBC are reporting protesters and journalists killed as armored personnel carriers and hundreds of troops rolled through barricades. Fires are burning near and inside the red shirt barricades. Troops are firing into the area.Military_red shirts

Ji Ungpakorn sent this out: “04.00 hrs Bangkok Wednesday. At least forty armoured vehicles move out of army barracks to attack the Rajprasong protest site as Abhisit’s military-backed Government rejects negotiations and a cease fire and tries desperately to cling to power by using more violence against unarmed Red Shirt protesters. Red Shirts move children and vulnerable people to a nearby temple.”

Government acting spokesman Panitan has gone on television and stated that “the government is in control” and has again made the claim, twice in the same speech, that the government forces have “followed international rules” – the media reports clearly show that this is a lie. He states that the red shirt leaders have escaped, and he asks anyone seeing them to report them to the security forces.snipers

He and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will be remembered for the rest of their political careers as responsible for – at present – 65 killed and hundreds of injuries. They will continue to claim the law on their side and international standards, but they have been shown to have ignored these. Human rights organizations worldwide have stated this and the international media has shown it. They deserve international condemnation for their illegal actions.

The AP is reporting three journalists shot and one killed.

Red shirts are said to be fighting back with primitive and small weapons, but “are no match for the heavily armed government forces.”Army guns

The troops are through Lumpini Park but are not up to the main stage area as of 0625GMT.

At 0632GMT the government has claimed that most red shirts have fled the Rajaprasong area, but there is no evidence of this provided by reporters. Indeed, Richard Lloyd Parry reports that there are red shirts fighting back. Smoke all over the area.

CNN reporters who are not on the scene are spending a considerable time speculating about the red shirts being armed. It is rather odd stuff because their reporters on the street and others phoning in cannot confirm these comments. What their video shows is troops shooting at protesters.Thailand Politics

CNN had a telephone interview with government hardliner Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, who makes the same points about “armed red shirts” being the “only” reason for the troops firing on protesters. Another clear lie or is it that Korn and other Democrat Party leaders are convinced by their own propaganda?

At 0652GMT CNN is reporting continuing heavy firing from the army as they move down Rajdamri Road, near the BTS station.

From Fabio Polenghi's funeral in Bangkok on 24 May 2010Press reports are now hitting the search engines and all are reporting casualties. AFP reports: “One Italian journalist and two anti-government demonstrators were killed Wednesday during battles in the ‘Red Shirts’ protest camp in Bangkok, an AFP photographer and hospital sources said. ‘An Italian man was shot and died before arriving at the hospital,’ said Police Hospital director Jongjet Aoajenpong. ‘He’s a journalist, he was shot in the stomach,’ he added. An AFP photographer saw two protesters lying dead on the ground after being shot in the head and killed shortly after troops pushed through barricades built on the perimeter of the camp.”

PPT received this from Pravit Rojanaphruk: “I’ve talked with Naruemon Tabchumphon, behind-the-scene mediator from Chulalongkorn University, she asked me to convey an open-urgentmessage to the red-shirt leaders at Rajprasong to turn themselves tothe authority in order to save lives as the dispersal has begun.’Their status will then change to like protagonists like Gandhi,’ she said at 7.40am,  May 19.”

A file photo from the Bangkok PostFor PPT this seems remarkably naive. Why doesn’t she just say a savage government is about to kill even more people and are not open to discussion? Why is she only able to call on the red shirt leadership? Why not government? Surrendering and going to jail may be an option for the protest leaders, but this call to them alone is remarkable.

Also from Pravit: “I talked with a senior NGO worker made a contact with Jaran Ditaphichai at about 9.30am saying that the red leaders are ready to turn themselves to the police “but some 3000 red-shirt are not backing down.”

TAN reports this on red shirt action in Khon Kaen: “As security officials tightened its blockade of red-shirt protesters in Bangkok, pockets of red-shirts in the provinces have begun to stir up chaos in their respective provinces. In Khon Kaen, a group of red-shirt protesters have managed to rain the province’s City Hall. They are currently not yet able to proceed to the second floor of the building. There are riot control officials present at the scene (11.55 A.M.) but no action has been taken to neutralize the situation yet.  The protesters are demanding the government cease its operation and violence against the protesters in Bangkok.”Abhisit and Suthep

Bangkok Pundit has a live blog.

At 0800GMT, CNN says that the red shirt leadership has “called off their protest” and said that they are willing to surrender. If nothing else, this says that Panitan’s earlier statement (see above) was yet another lie. CNN reports a “methodical” movement of troops towards the red shirt stage. Fighting seems sporadic. The BBC is showing fires and says there are 5 dead. While the BBC says it has “heard” reports of the red shirt surrender, but that there is “no sign” of the troops “standing down.” Several grenade explosions heard. It reports that the troops remain under control and acting on orders. The military states (at 0804GMT) that they have halted their advance. A BBC reporter states that at least one red shirt leader appeared on stage in handcuffs to emotional scenes.

Fighting is continuing in some pockets but the stage area has been abandoned by 0807GMT. A BBC reporter is there and giving a description of all of this.

The BBC is interviewing a journalist (Patrick Barta, Wall Street Journal) saying that there “is no answer as to where Thailand goes now.” He speaks of reports of actions in other parts of the country. There is “mischief all around” and talk of Thaksin remains high on the agenda. Basically says this is not over as there is no political solution. Some red shirts seem to agree, saying “this is not over.”Thailand Politics

BBC reporting large fires. The BBC reports that many red shirts are “angry” about the surrender. They report that it is not clear that the on-the-ground protesters will follow their leaders on surrender. Huge plumes of smoke breaking out to the north and south (at Klong Toei perhaps). Guerrilla activism seems to be breaking out around the city.

No doubt the government will claim that these are paid terrorists…

BBC reporting (0826) that 1000 crack troops have been ordered to “shoot on sight” anyone inciting violence or committing arson.

Red shirts released


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