The monarchy-military alliance

28 06 2016

The alliance of the military and monarchy goes back to the foundation of the modern military under the absolutist King Chulalongkorn.That link was broken with the 1932 Revolution.

Sarit

Sarit

Despite continuous struggle between the 1932 Promoters and the royalists, the monarchy-military alliance was not fully re-established and made exceptionally strong under the military dictator General Sarit Thanarat and the military-dominated regimes that followed.

Sarit took over a boy-king who came to the throne after the death of his brother, with an ambitious mother and surrounded by restorationist princes. It was only after the 1973 uprising against military dictatorship that the current king began to really feel his oats. With the military’s role in politics reduced and challenged, it was left to the king to maintain the alliance in the interests of the rising royalist elite.

By 1976, the military was back, with the support of the monarchy, following the military-backed murder of workers, peasant leaders and students that came, in part, from the monarch’s expressions of concern and fear about the rise of the Left.

This potted history leads to the big challenge that faced the alliance in May 1992. Then, as is its penchant, the military brass decided to gun down civilians protesting yet another military attempt to dominate politics.

These events saw the military in disgrace and the monarchy worked hard to rehabilitate its murderous allies. The usual image – endlessly promoted in palace propaganda – is of the king sorting out the crisis, with his meeting with the military premier General Suchinda Kraprayoon and the self-proclaimed protest leader Chamlong Srimuang.

This video shows the meeting, which included privy councilors General Prem Tinsulanonda and Sanya Dharmasakti. It is preceded by calls from Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn.

The king’s belated intervention in the events was meant to “save” the military. Even so, the military was shunned by a stunned public following the attacks on demonstrators.

Within a few short months, however, the king was speaking to rehabilitate his allies. As reported in the Bangkok Post on 15 November 1992, this was expressed in this way:

Recently there has been much talk about having too many generals, and why is there such ceremony to confer two hundred more general ranks to military personnel? … In truth, if we compare with foreign countries to the west or east or us we will find that they all have as many generals as us. One difference is that when their generals move to other jobs, they are no longer called generals.

Even in the United States, when a general becomes president he will be called mister which makes it seem as if they have fewer generals. But in Thailand those with a military rank retains it even when they go to work in other jobs. This is because they consider it an honour, an indication of a man with good performance. No matter what job you do, if they carry the rank with them, it is an honour, and it makes their colleagues trust them.

Therefore the number of generals in the country must be taken as not too many. We are not top-heavy. So do not feel disheartened after listening to those words, since it is only a kind of tongue wagging, and it is not damaging.

In fact, according to the Thai concept, those with a military rank consider it an honour which makes them proud and any job they do will be done better because of this realisation of the honour. There is no negative side to this. If they are transferred to other job or retired, their military salary Will not be tied to their rank. This means that the government does not have to pay more because of it.

But every person who acquired a military rank is proud of it. He will do a good service without the government having to pay him any extra salary. It is a way of saving government budget. If an army officer loses his rank when he is transferred to another unit he will feel sorry and may be discouraged. If there is a military rank attached to him when he works outside the military service it will encourage him to work efficiently, and the country will benefit more from him.

The king’s support for the rehabilitation of a murderous military is an act of loyalty and one of self-protection.

One result is that the military was not reformed, meaning it was again able to conduct coups in 2006 and 2014, seeing off supposed threats to the palace and the status quo.





Junta and the undermining of law I

28 06 2016

PPT has been harping on the junta’s destruction of law and rule of law because of its capricious use of laws and its announcements, orders and decrees that are used as laws in the interests of the junta and always against those it thinks are its political opponents.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued a Statement on the issue, reproduced below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-100-2016
28 June 2016

THAILAND: How coup d’état undermined fair trial concept

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, where the king serves as head of state and has traditionally exerted political influence. In May 2014, military and police leaders, taking the name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) led by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, overthrew the interim government led by the Pheu Thai political party. The NCPO replaced the 2007 Constitution with an interim constitution.

The NCPO has maintained control over the security forces and all government institutions since the coup. With regards to the justice system, prior to the coup, the Thai justice system was recognized as independent and the government generally respected it. Since the NCPO overthrew the interim government, declared martial law, issued a series of NCPO orders and announcements and imposed Article 44 of the interim constitution however, both the civilian and military court systems have been affected.

According to Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the junta leader and Prime Minister, has absolute power to give any order deemed necessary to “strengthen public unity and harmony” or to prevent any act that undermines public peace. As a result, the status of the order issued under the power of Article 44 is equal to an act passed by the legislature.

This article affects civilian law enforcement directly due to the fact that even though martial law was revoked on 1 April 2015, it was replaced by NCPO Order No. 3/ 2015, which was issued under the authority of Article 44. In practice, the effect is no different from martial law as the order permits the boundless exercise of power and also inserts military officials into the judicial process and provides them with the authority to carry out investigations along with the police. In addition, the order gives authority to military officials to detain individuals for up to seven days. During this 7-day period of detention, detainees do not have the right to meet with a lawyer or contact their relatives, and the military officials further refuse to make the locations of places of detention public.

As a result, many forms of human rights violations have occurred throughout the country. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), since 22 May 2014 until 30 April 2016, at least 1,006 individuals were summoned to report to authorities for questioning and attitude adjustment, while 130 academic discussions and public forums were prohibited and intervened by the authorities. Moreover, at least 579 individuals were arrested and sized under NCPO Order No. 3/ 2015.

Further, the prosecution of some civilians by military courts for offences stipulated in NCPO Announcements Nos. 37, 38 and 50 is of grave concern. Although the Thai government processed civilians in military courts due to the charge under the Anti-Communist Activities Act B.E.2495 (1952) and during the political conflict on 6 October 1976, the AHRC views the present use of the military judicial system in civilian cases to be graver and more expansive than in the past.

This is due to the fact that under Announcement No. 37/2557 of 25 May 2014, the NCPO made clear its intention to establish military courts to process people accused of certain categories of offences. In particular, it listed offences of lese majeste, offences concerning internal security, and any offences deemed to be contrary to the orders of the NCPO. In Announcement No. 37/2557, it added that persons brought before military courts with cases pending against them from the ordinary criminal courts could have those cases dealt with simultaneously. Moreover, on 30 May 2014, the NCPO issued Announcement No. 50/2557, which placed weapons-related cases within the jurisdiction of the military court, retroactive to 4:30 pm on 22 May 2014.

According to the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG), from 22 May 2014 – 30 September 2015, there have been 1,408 civilians tried in the military court including 1,629 alleged offenders/defendants, most commonly for violations of Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (lese majeste, defaming or insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent), failure to comply with an NCPO Order, and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

The AHRC and other rights groups are particularly concerned by the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts, due to the lack of legal rights. In ordinary criminal courts, defendants have a broad range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their choosing, prompt and detailed information of the charges (including no-cost interpretation if needed), and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence. These are not provided in the law for the establishment of military courts. For example, military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal. Also, civilians have to seek private counsel from among the limited number of lawyers able and willing to take their cases in military court. In addition, civilians facing trial for offenses allegedly committed from 22 May 2014 to 1 April 2015–the period of martial law–have no right of appeal.

With regard to Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) and TLHR, there are some particular cases in military courts that should be noted. On 26 June 2015, police arrested “the 14 student activists” from the New Democracy Movement group, who carried out a symbolic action at the Democracy Monument on 25 June 2015. They were charged with violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015 banning gatherings of more than five people and Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code (sedition).

It is worth noting that the remand hearing of the 14 student activists took place at night. Normally, the Military Court’s office hours are until 16:30, but on that day, the Military Court was open at 22:00 when the inquiry officers handed in the request for the remand. The whole process for the remand hearing finished at 00:30. It was the most late-at-night remand hearing known to have taken place, and according to critics, it reflected the military court’s clear lack of independence and impartiality.

In addition, when an accused person decides to fight the charge in the Military Court, they fall into the trap of delays, as in the case of “Sirapop, Anchan, and Tom Dundee”. Since the announcement has been made in 2014 to authorize the Military Court to have jurisdiction over cases against civilians, the military court has scheduled the hearings in a drawn-out, staggered fashion. During some hearings, the prosecution witnesses were simply absent without informing anyone in advance. Therefore until the end of 2015, none of the trials in the cases in which the accused has decided to fight the charge have been completed.

Furthermore, the military court also meted out hefty punishment in the case against “Thiansutham”. He was found guilty by the military court on five counts from posting five Facebook messages, and sentenced to altogether 50 years, prior to a reduction to 25 years. “Pongsak” was found guilty on six counts by the military court from posting six Facebook messages and was sentenced to 60 years prior to the reduction to 30 years, and “Sasiwimon” was found guilty on seven courts by the Chiang Mai military court and was sentenced to 56 years prior to reduction to 28 years.

It is therefore clear that the military courts do not accord the same rights as Thailand’s civilian courts, while also violating internationally protected fair trial rights, especially rights to fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal, and the rights to legal representation and appeal. The AHRC thus calls for the NCPO to revoke Article 44 of the Interim Constitution and the NCPO orders and announcements that place civilians in military courts, and end all forms of violations and harassment to ordinary people.





No exit for Prayuth

27 06 2016

Self-appointed Prime Minister,  dictator and coup maker General Prayuth Chan-ocha is making it clear that he’s staying put for as long as possible.

When asked about Brexit and the UK Prime Minister’s resignation when his preferred result failed, Prayuth seemed dumbfounded. The idea that he should resign if his referendum was rejected was considered unreasonable.

David Cameron’s example has been seen by some as a principled resignation and no one has ever noticed anything like a principle in Prayuth’s kitbag.

Prayuth “explained” that the “two issues could not be compared…”. He declared his unprincipled position:

The two cases are different. Do you want me to resign? I won’t. I set the rules. He did not come up like I did. His country does not have the same problems ours does….

In an odd, warped way, he’s right. Cameron was elected, not a military dictator who seized power through an illegal coup. Cameron followed the rules. Prayuth rejects the rules he doesn’t make himself in the interests of himself and his regime and is prepared to jail and even murder those he believes are opponents of the royalist order.

For those who think Prayuth is willing to cede power to anyone else, think again.





Misunderstanding Thailand’s politics

27 06 2016

The Bangkok Post reports on an Amnesty International call for the military dictatorship “to free a group of 20 activists, mostly students, arrested for political gatherings and distributing ‘inappropriate reading material’ to people last week.”

PPT supports this call. However, we have some problems with the reported comments from AI.Amnesty

According to the report, “Amnesty International Senior Research Adviser for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Champa Patel, wrote: “These crude tactics represent the latest in series of attempts by Thai military authorities to muzzle dissent…. If a small group activists cannot hand out leaflets, then what hope is there that the rights to freedoms of expression and assembly will be respected in the run-up to the referendum?”

Quite simply, and Patel should know this, there is no hope. There never has been.

Why on earth AI should suggest that a military regime could “recover some of their much-demanded credibility on human rights, they must stop cracking down on peaceful activists and drop all charges against them,” is beyond us.

AI seems to misunderstand the basic facts of Thailand’s politics.

The situation is not complicated: the military dictatorship is a repressive regime.

That’s the starting point for any discussion of Thailand’s politics. Until this regime is booted out, nothing else really matters very much in the political sphere.

The regime is illegitimate. The draft charter is a fraud. The referendum is illegitimate and the regime is concocting a fraud on the Thai people.





Yes to Yes

26 06 2016

We now know that opposing the military’s draft charter is going to be made against some law or other. So too is campaigning for a No vote.

Who can support the junta’s constitution?

Anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban created a small problem for the military junta he supports when he spoke for 10 minutes in total support of the military’s draft charter. The Nation reports that there was a statement made that the junta would check that he hadn’t violated the referendum law. The Election Commission seems to have already decided he didn’t offend.

The military itself is able to campaign. Armed forces Supreme Commander General Sommai Kaotira is arranging for banners to “be hung at different military units calling on voters to cast their ballots on the referendum day.” The banners declare: “If you love democracy, you must vote in the referendum on August 7.”

Naturally, Sommai proclaimed that “the Armed Forces fully supported the referendum but would not attempt to influence the result.”

Sommai apparently thinks most Thais a gullible fools.





Updated: No to No

25 06 2016

The military dictatorship’s repression is increasing over its intention to hold a referendum for its draft charter.

For a while, the junta pretended that its repression was of those engaging in “rude” or deceptive” campaigning on the charter. The Dictator even lied to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

NOThat exceptionally thin veil of deceit has given way to the suppression of anyone who opposes the military’s anti-democratic charter. A series of reports at Prachatai confirm this.

One report states that on 22 June, “Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), … with another two members of the movement, handed out ‘vote no’ flyers to local people in Samrong District of Bangkok.”

Police and military thugs “approached them and asked them to stop, citing the Referendum Bill, but the activists refused the request, reasoning that the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has never said that such activity is prohibited. The authorities then allowed the activists to distribute flyers for only 30 minutes.”

A second report states that three days later, that police and military thugs arrested the activists when they attempted to hand out more Vote No flyers in a factory area.

Rangsiman Rome “was arrested while handing out flyers calling for a no vote in the August draft charter referendum, to workers at Bangplee Industrial Estate, Samut Prakan Province.” Some 9-10 others were also taken into custody.

Unionist and activist Jitra Kotchadej witnessed the arrests and “told Prachatai that while the activist and his friends were distributing the flyers, soldiers from the Royal Thai Marine Corps approached them and asked them to stop by 5.30 pm. The activists then asked the authorities to let them continue the activity until 6.00 pm as the workers in the estate would finish work by that time.”

The soldiers, some in uniform and others in plainclothes, then “carried Rangsiman away, put him in a car, and then drove off.” Prachatai has a video of the illegal abduction of Rangsiman.

A third report states that 13 were “arrested” by the junta’s thugs. They are described as “pro-democracy activists from the New Democracy Movement and the Try Arm workers union…”.

As usual, the regime is busy concocting charges against them. And, as usual, the charges seem to be that the activists have “violat[ed] the junta’s ban on political gatherings for distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.”

In other words, there can only be Vote Yes campaigns around the charter, all of them organized and mostly populated by the military.

The Dictator’s claim that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…” means those people who support the junta and a a Yes vote.

The 13 activists held are: Rangsiman Rome, Korakoch Saengyenpan, Worawut Butmat, Konchanok Tanakhun, Tueanjai Waengkham, Pimai Ratwongsa, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Anan Loket, Phanthip Saengathit, Thirayut Napnaram, Yuttana Dasri, Rackchart Wong-arthichart and Nantapong Panmat.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the 13 “refused to sign their names on the police reports.” Police then “refused to grant bail to some of the pro-democracy activists and filed an additional charge against the 13 activists for refusing to sign the police report.”

A fourth report states that the activists could face up to 10 years in jail as a military court allowed (what a surprise!) the thug police and military gang to continue to detain the activists, accused of “violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons” and of “refusing to cooperate with officers and for violating the controversial Draft Referendum Act which lays out 10 years imprisonment for persons who distributed content about the draft constitution…”.

Following these events, UN Human Rights – Asia released a statement. In part it reads:

We are concerned by the arrests of 13 activists in Thailand who were detained for defying a military order banning political gatherings of five or more people. Eight of those arrested on June 23 in Bang Plee Industrial Area in Samut Prakarn Province, south of Bangkok, were students affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM). The three others were labour rights activists. At the time of their arrest, they were distributing leaflets related to the upcoming referendum on the draft Constitution. Eight of the activists are due to face a military court, while the five others have been released on bail.

The junta will ignore these and other human rights statements not just because it rejects the notion that its opponents have rights but because the junta is intent on having its illegitimate charter “pass” an illegitimate referendum.

Update: Khaosod reports that six of the arrested 13 have been released on 50,000 baht bonds. The other seven have been “ordered to be locked up … by a military tribunal [court] as they await their trial.” These seven “refused to pay bonds … demanding to be released without any conditions, arguing that they did nothing wrong and that the legal action against them is illegitimate.” They are right.





Going back to find a future

25 06 2016

A reader drew our attention to a small story in the Bangkok Post that our correspondent says is indicative of the backwardness of the military regime as it “reinvents” a past as the nation’s future.

This story is of “[p]eople … being taught how to make their own large concreted jars to store rainwater for home use during the dry season under a training project launched by the army.”

Our reader directs us to a document at our own pages (opens a PDF that would be illegal in Thailand), from 1987, that refers to royal celebrations that saw the “Department of Local Administration made sure that, want them or not, millions of suitably inscribed, large water storage jars would be distributed in rural areas.” These are the very same jars the military is now making (again).

Soldiers are being trained “to make the giant jars, which are a traditional method of storage.” In fact, they aren’t “traditional” at all, but as noted above, developed in the 1980s. Earlier jars were made of clay and were much smaller. The big jars have been adopted in other countries, as seen in this UN manual, and have even made it to the US.

Maj Gen Supoj Buranajaree, reported to be the commander of the 36th Military Circle, said the “intention is for the soldiers to complete training and then be deployed through the 12 districts of Phichit to teach people how to make the jars.” He added that the “army project is in line with the government’s policy to promote occupational training and self-reliance.” He says “[s]imilar programmes are in place in other provinces throughout the country.”

Going back 30 years may be natural for the military, as it places them in the era of the unelected regime of royal restorationist General Prem Tinsulanonda. Yet it seems they only learn some things from the past and forget others.

The UN reported on the jars, and notes that they were a part of a program that began in 1981. It says this of the program when it was run the way the army is doing it now:

There was also some corruption involving the Government funds provided for village jar construction, which resulted in the production of some substandard jars. Leakage and breakage were common in such cases. However, shifting of manufacture of the jars from Government programmes to the private sector eliminated this corruption.

The UN report adds:

According to a 1992 review by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the numbers of 2 m3 jars in use in Thailand increased from virtually none in 1985 to nearly 8 million in 1992. This increase was partially due to the Government’s National Jar Programme, but mostly due to the willing adoption of the technology by the public and to the widespread promotion of the technology by the commercial sector. Government intervention is no longer necessary.

The military really is hopelessly embedded in the past and somehow considers this a reinvented future.








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