Updated: NHRC humiliated

12 08 2013

PPT has posted quite a lot that has been critical of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In our last post on it, we noted that, under Yingluck Shinawatra, the NHRC has become irrelevant as it is recognised as a failed agency. We observed that the process of de-fanging the NHRC has been a post-2006 coup phenomenon. This is because the military junta and the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime that gave the NHRC extra powers, used it as a political tool and stacked it with political flunkies, including current head, Amara Pongsapich.

This political tool of the previous regime has taken more than three years to report on the events of April and May 2010. It is no surprise that the report is dead on arrival. “Biased” is the word most used in describing it. That appears to be an overly generous description. The response has been a humiliation for Amara and the NHRC.

At Khaosod: it is reported that the NHRC report “has been blasted by a number of activists and academics … which, the critics say, shifts most of the blames on the side of the protesters rather than the authorities.” The NHRC report was meant to draw lessons that could be guidelines for future governments. Khaosod summarizes the 90-page report:

that the security forces did commit several inappropriate actions – such as dropping teargas from the helicopters onto the crowd below and censoring a number of websites – but the bigger issue is that it was the Redshirts who “violated human rights” by engaging in unlawful protests and provoking the authorities.

The report concludes that the red shirts violated the law and provoked the violence. This made the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s violent crackdown “entirely lawful,” as was the use of the  Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations and the emergency law. Further, the censorship  – closing down – of opposition media was “justified” by the need to eliminate  “inflammatory” speeches by red shirts.

Any casualties are claimed to have resulted from “clashes between the security forces and shadowy armed militants allegedly allied to the protesters…”. This includes the murders at Wat Pathum Wanaram! This clearly contradicts a recent court finding where the military was held responsible for the deaths.

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

Clearly, the NHRC report is a political document that simply ignores evidence (only 184 of the 1,036 witnesses called bothered to turn up for the NHRC) in seeking to protect the military and Abhisit government allies of the NHRC. This is no idle claim, as Amara spent time with CRES, the military and Abhisit and his lot at a military base during the events,

As red shirt Sombat Boonngamanong points out, looking through this travesty is like “reading a report written by CRES itself”, with former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuegsuban the author of many of the bizarre claims made. He calls it Abhisit’s report.

Other critics are cited in this report from Khaosod.

Amara defense of the report has been staggeringly bad. She:

… told Khaosod that she did state very clearly in her report that the Abhisit administration did violate human rights too by announcing the emergency laws which granted the government a sweeping power in 2010…. However, she insisted that the invocation of such powers were “acceptable” because the former government was observing the situation closely and only used the laws when it was clear that the protests were about to turn violent.

Yet she recently criticized Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra′s invocation of Internal Security Act to handle the anti-government protests. She has been unable to criticize previous governments she supported.

In a televised debate, Amara was even worse, and according to Khaosod:

appeared incoherent and even distracted throughout the interview, especially when pressed to explain about contentious issues such as the armed militants and deaths in Wat Pathumwanararm. Many of her replies were simply “I have not looked into that”, or “I am not sure about that”.

In another Khaosod report, Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch, no enemy of the Abhisit government, accused the NHRC of “bias against the Redshirts and downplaying the heavy-handed tactics of the authorities in its report on 2010 political unrests.”

Of course, the incorrigible Democrat Party leadership wants to translate the NHRC report and use it with an international audience to “prove” its position. We assume Abhisit and Suthep will use it to defend themselves on murder charges associated with the events of 2010.

Update: PPT was surprised to see disgraced NHRC chief Amara in the media again today. She has criticized and warned police “to be cautious about its reported plan to examine the chat-application conversation histories of some suspects.” PPT would generally agree and we have said so, in stronger terms than Amara’s. However, her position is damned by the fact of her hopeless bias. It is all very well to criticize censorship and excessive legal snooping, but she seems to apply her “human rights” measure in an exceptionally partisan manner. It seems that cyber-snooping is a problem, but not censorship and murderous repression when this is conducted by her buddies in the (anti-)Democrat Party. To be a leader on human rights, one needs to understand rights, law and impartiality, none of which seem to be in Amara’s back of tricks.





Prayuth and Suthep dissemble (again)

11 08 2013

Many readers will know that, last week, a Criminal Court declared that six persons killed on Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010 were shot by the soldiers. The court states that five were shot by the soldiers situated on the BTS sky train track above the temple, with the sixth shot by soldiers stationed on Rama I Road.

That seemed pretty clear, but not for Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The outspoken general is reported at Khaosod as insisting “that the military was not involved in the deaths of 6 civilians shot dead as they sought shelter inside a temple during the 2010 military crackdown.”Prayuth locked and loaded

In one sense this should not be surprising as the military has repeatedly “denied any involvement, despite stacks of evidences and witness′ accounts.”

Prayuth “insisted that he never gave order to kill civilians. None of his commanding officers ever admitted they had shot any civilian…”.

Adding to the the mood of rejection of courts, evidence and reality, Prayuth is joined by former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. Also reported at Khaosod, The newspaper points this out:

… the more mind-boggling denial of what happened in 2010 appears to rest with the Democrats, who have repeatedly argued that the military operating under Mr. Abhisit [Vejjajiva]′s government have not killed any civilian or protester throughout the crackdown….

Continuing this mind-boggling denial, with Suthep speaking in parliament, again “denied that the military ever used excessive violence against the protesters.” His explanation was appropriately royalist:

Suthep Thaugsuban (Bangkok Post photo)

“The soldiers were loyal to His Majesty the King. They knew they were the nation′s troops. They acted according to my orders within the lawful power.” Mr. Suthep announced to the Parliament. He said a group of unknown individuals was responsible for any death.

Remarkably, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Suthep claimed (again) that there were no snipers at work shooting down red shirts.

Puea Thai Party MP Khattiyar Sawasdipol, whose father, Seh Daeng or Khattiya Sawasdipol, was cut down by a sniper’s bullet, declared: “Mr. Suthep is lying right inside the Parliament…”.army-snipers

Even more remarkable and showing not a shred of normal human emotion or sense, Suthep reportedly responded: “Maybe your father was shot by one of your own people?”

Such responses derive not just from reprehensible elite arrogance but from the history of impunity for state officials who murder citizens.





ILO on 112

11 08 2013

A reader sends us this from the International Labour Conference, 102nd session, 2013, Application of International Labour Standards 2013 (I), Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.ilo It is on page 279 of the nearly 1000 page report.

Interesting that the ILO is taking an interest in lese majeste. Apologies for any typos below as we were cutting from a PDF.

Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) (ratification: 1969)

 Article 1 (a) of the Convention. Penal sanctions involving compulsory labour as a punishment for holding or expressing political views. Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. The Committee notes that section 112 of the Criminal Code states that whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years. The Committee also notes that sections 14 and 15 of the Computer Crimes Act of 2007 prohibit the use of a computer to commit an offence under the provisions of the Criminal Code concerning national security (including section 112 of the Criminal Code), with a possible sanction of five years imprisonment. Moreover, the Committee notes that, according to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, of 4 June 2012, there has been a recent increase in lese majeste cases pursued by the police and the courts. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur urged the Government to hold broad-based public consultations to amend its criminal laws on lese majeste, particularly section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act (A/HRC/20/ 17 paragraph 20). The Committee further notes the information in a compilation prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review that the UN Country Team in Thailand indicated that a number of individuals have received lengthy prison sentences for breaching the lese majeste laws.

In this regard, the Committee recalls that Article 1 (a) of the Convention prohibits the use of forced or compulsory labour, including compulsory prison labour as a punishment for holding or expressing political views or of opposition to the established political, social or economic system. The Committee therefore urges the Govemment to take the necessary measures to repeal or amend section 112 of the Criminal Code and sections 14 and 15 of the Computer Crimes Act, so that persons who peacefully express certain political views camwt be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which involves compulsory labour. The Committee requests the Government to provide information on measures taken ill this regard, in its next report.





Updated: Busy day in Bangkok II: reform, rice, old kings, censorship and impunity

10 08 2013

As we noted in the first part of this post, it has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are now posting a second  combination of stories.

In another story that cites PPT, Asia Sentinel had a story a couple of days ago regarding the politics of amnesty. PPT is cited as an “NGO,” which is probably rather too much of a grand title for our small effort to shine a light on aspects of politics and political prisoners in Thailand. The story also seems to erroneously suggest that Thaksin Shinawatra put the 1997 constitution in place. Even so, it is true that: “Any time amnesty or constitutional reform looms, the protesters take to the streets. Pheu Thai leaders have been waiting for almost three years to attempt to push through a series of constitutional reforms…”. It would be even more accurate to notice that when the military junta’s 2007 constitution was put in place, all of the old conservatives said it could be changed by elected governments, and even made this an article of the constitution. Since then, this pledge has been shown to be a lie. In fact, then, elected governments have been waiting six years to make changes.

Also worth reading is Robert Amsterdam’s post on the Wat Pathum inquest findings. This note caught our attention:

Without truth there is no justice. And without justice there can be no real workable amnesty. Some might argue a de facto legal amnesty already exists for the extremist anti-democratic People’s Alliance for Democracy and the groups aligned with them, including Abhisit’s Democrat Party. Abhisit and his former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, have both been charged with the murder of civilian protesters in 2010, yet arrogantly strut around, even dismissing the court’s bail conditions, assured of their own impunity.

Prachatai has a post regarding censorship of books – an unofficial removal from sale – at Asia books. Of course, the books relate to the monarchy. But not the current king. These two books relate to past kings and the royalist response to the 1932 revolution. Prachatai says: “The books concern the history of the 1932 revolution and the controversial relationship between King Rama VI and his palace servants.” So why the “ban”? Asia Books withdrew the two academic titles reportedly for reasons of “political sensitivity” but declined to comment further. The book by Dr. Nattaphol Chaiching studies the “counter-revolution led by the royalists” following the 1932 revolution. Readers without Thai skills can get an idea about the book through the author’s chapter in Saying the Unsayable. The book was published by Fa Diaw Kan as part of its “Monarchy Studies Series.” The second book by Chanun Yodhong is about “Gentlemen-in-waiting”, and deals with the relationship between the gay King Vajiravudh and his palace flunkies. Prachatai states that the book “poses questions about King Rama VI and his projects such as the Boy Scouts and Vajiravudh College, a private boys-only boarding school he founded in 1910.” It is published by Matichon.

While on censorship, we feel compelled to add to the outcry about the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology’s continuing stupidity regarding Facebook posts and its use of the draconian Computer Crimes Act. Minister Anudith Nakornthap has lost his marbles if he thinks social media users should be charged and locked up for “sharing and clicking ‘Like’ on social media posts, since they could be deemed as damaging to the country’s security.” His view that “postings that are political in nature or meant to stir up public confusion might be in breach of the Internal Security Act and Computer Crime Act” is utter nonsense but clearly neanderthals can use the law to censor and stifle. Interestingly, the cyber-cops have declared the warning as a successful scare tactic. Update: Asked if clicking “like” is now against the law, Police Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, says: “It will be if you ‘like’ a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press ‘like’, it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible.” Officials like this are appallingly dull and through their dullard actions, dangerous to Thais and their rights to free speech.

PPT also wants to draw attention to a couple of posts at Bangkok Pundit. The first is not that different from what PPT said on the story/retracted Bangkok Post story on Anand Panyarachun. The second explains what happened, and comes from a source that we also had, but since Pundit has it posted, there’s no need for us to do the same.

Finally, we want to give a few lines to a report in The Economist, which identifies the rice policy as an economic millstone for the government. We agree, but then the politics of reducing the guaranteed price saw farmers protesting just a few weeks ago. An economic millstone is becoming a political millstone, and the government’s policy wonks need to find a way out.





Court documents on Somyos

10 08 2013

somyosWe thought that those who can read Thai might be interested in the court documents related to the 15th appeal for bail by Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. Convicted of lese majeste in a royalist kangaroo court, his rights have been repeatedly violated by the judicial system.

PPT has posted two documents as PDFs at the page we maintain on his case.





Prince and politics

9 08 2013

The Nation reports:

HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has expressed his concern about the looming clash between police and anti-government protesters and suggested that the conflict be resolved through talks, Bangkok police chief Pol Lt-General Camronwit Toopgrajank said yesterday.Vajiralongkorn

The Crown Prince on Tuesday summoned National Police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, Camronwit and his deputy Pol Maj-General Chanthawit Rammasut for an audience with him and asked that he be kept informed about the current political situation, Camronwit said. He said the Prince has recommended guidelines for police who are carrying out their duty to prevent intrusion into the Parliament compound.

“I insist that no police officer do anything to upset HRH the Crown Prince. If there is violence, it definitely will not be caused by the police. Everything will be ended through negotiations,” Camronwit said.

A story on this also appeared at Daily News (in Thai):

วันที่ 6 ส.ค. เวลา 21.15 น. ที่กองบัญชาการตำรวจนครบาล (บช.น.) พล.ต.ท.คำรณวิทย์ ธูปกระจ่าง ผบช.น. เปิดเผยว่า ช่วงหัวค่ำที่ผ่านมา สมเด็จพระบรมโอรสาธิราชฯ สยามมกุฎราชกุมาร ทรงมีพระเมตตารับสั่งให้ พล.ต.อ.อดุลย์ แสงสิงแก้ว ผบ.ตร. พร้อมตน และ พล.ต.ต.ฉันทวิทย์ รามสูต รอง ผบช.น. ที่รับผิดชอบด้านการวางกำลัง เข้าเฝ้าฯ และถวายรายงานสถานการณ์ต่าง ๆ ที่เกิดขึ้นทั้งหมด ซึ่งพระองค์ท่านทรงเป็นห่วง และหากมีอะไรเกิดขึ้นต้องไปกราบบังคับทูลให้พระองค์ทรงทราบ ซึ่งพระองค์ทรงมีพระเมตตาแนะนำแนวทางการปฏิบัติ และทรงเป็นห่วงตำรวจที่ได้ทำปฏิบัติหน้าที่อยู่บริเวณดังกล่าว

“ในส่วนการปฏิบัติงานของเจ้าหน้าที่นั้น ขอยืนยันว่าเจ้าหน้าที่ทั้งหมดจะไม่ทำให้ทุกอย่างระคายเคืองเบื้องพระ ยุคลบาท หากเกิดเหตุรุนแรง ยืนยันว่าไม่ได้เกิดจากตำรวจอย่างแน่นอน ทุกอย่างจะต้องจบด้วยการเจรจา” ผบช.น. ระบุ

เมื่อถามว่า พระองค์ท่านทรงกังวลเรื่องเกี่ยวกับสถานการณ์การชุมนุมหรือไม่ พล.ต.ท.คำรณวิทย์ กล่าวว่า พระองค์ท่านทรงห่วงใย หากเกิดการกระทบกระทั่งเกิดขึ้น พระองค์จะไม่สบายพระหฤทัย และขอทุกอย่างจบด้วยการพูดคุยกัน

This would seem a significant political intervention.





Busy day in Bangkok I

8 08 2013

It has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are going to combine several of them in a couple of posts. We begin with monarchy stories.

First, the Bangkok Post reports that the queen is “recovering from shoulder pain and soreness in her left wrist.” That used to be called “poker wrist.”

Second, and more serious, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, the leader of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) has filed “lawsuits against group of anti-government activists who accused her of planning to overthrow the monarchy and install a Communist regime.”

Thida has “filed a formal complaint against the group calling itself ′People′s Army Overthrowing Thaksin Regime′…”. As Khaosod explains, this Dad’s Army, is “the latest resurrection of the anti-Thaksin faction,” and it has claimed Thida is anti-monarchy, which is considered a crime in Thailand and results in longer sentences than many meted out to murderers. Apparently, Thida’s complaint is against the aged leadership of the royalist ninnies:

The lawsuit names core leaders of the People′s Army as defendants. They are Mr. Thaikorn Polsuwan, the webmaster of the People’s Army website, Adm. Chai Suwannaphap, Gen. Chukiat Tansuwatna, Gen. Preecha Iaemsuphan, Am.Watchara Rittakhanee, Adm. Banwitya Kengrean, and Mr. Phichet Pattanachote.

Third, the Bangkok Post had egg all over its front page yesterday. Or does it? We’ll get to this, but the build-up to the egging is worth mentioning.

A couple of days ago, on its front page, the Bangkok Post reported at some length that former prime minister Anand Panyarachun has turned his back on Yingluck Shinawatra’s proposed political reform assembly, “saying he will not allow himself to be used as a political pawn.” It adds that “Mr Anand’s remarks yesterday came as Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana and PM’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn began visiting senior political figures, asking them to embrace the prime minister’s initiative.” Anand is then cited:

Mr Anand said yesterday he had not been approached by the government to join the proposed council, but stressed he would not take part in it to avoid being used as a pawn by any party.

He also questioned the motives of those who floated the names of people they wanted to take part in the assembly.

“[This tactic] would make it seem to the public that the government is trying to foster national reconciliation but the others just won’t cooperate,” he said.

These are direct quotes and reporting of statements. PPT had no reason to doubt the report. After all, the royalist Anand has long opposed Thaksin and pro-Thaksin governments, as our many Wikileaks posts attest. In addition, we would have posted on the story and asked why Anand is prepared to be a pawn of palace and military (as when he served twice as unelected prime minister) but not now? Once a pawn always a pawn? But maybe just on the royalist side?

But in yesterday’s Bangkok Post there is this:

Yesterday’s edition of the Bangkok Post carried a front-page article with the headline “Anand spurns advisory council”.

The Bangkok Post would like to clarify that both the headline and statements attributed to former prime minister Anand Panyarachun in the article are erroneous and totally groundless.

Mr Anand confirmed that he has never spoken to any Bangkok Post reporter about the matter.

The Bangkok Post regrets the error and apologises for any inconvenience or negative repercussions caused by the article upon Mr Anand and the government.

So the story is that the Bangkok Post either made up the whole story (unlikely) or that the comments were made “off the record” by the patrician Anand (more likely) or that Anand thought again about his outburst and asked the Post to protect him (also likely). We think the Post took egg for Anand.

Finally, at The Nation it is reported that Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “defended the monarchy against what he called unfair criticism, and lambasted rumour-mongers calling for a coup to end the ongoing political instability.” This refers to some reporting that linked the flight of the king and queen to Hua Hin to preparations for either a coup of political violence. Prayuth said:

He said Their Majesties’ current stay outside Bangkok did not signify anything about a looming political confrontation, and that comment and speculation on reasons for their trip, on social media, was not fair towards the monarchy.

The general also criticised people who spread rumours of a military coup and tell others to hoard food supplies ahead of political “turmoil” that could turn violent.

Prayuth said he was personally happy with the King’s improving health and many senior foreign military officers congratulated him upon what he described as a national delight.

Military

In uniform for the monarchy and “People’s Army”

We are not sure what a “national delight” is, but probably is a treacly royalism.

Then Prayuth said: “But I don’t know what’s with some Thai people who do not like the monarch,” and he is said not to have elaborated. He was also ticked off that the “rally held by an anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement that referred to the monarchy. He maintained that the monarchy played no part in Thai politics and stayed neutral, and beyond political conflicts, all along.” He added:

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with some people, who not only fight against compatriots but also hurt the monarchy and attack the military, or these people want the country to no longer exist, through internal conflicts, or they are not Thai people,” he said, in an emotional way.

Prayuth seems frustrated that the monarchy is now (visibly) central to political struggles. Given the military’s huge budget for promoting and protecting the monarchy, he is probably reflecting on his organization’s inability to get beyond Cold War-style “protection” and “promotion” of the declining monarchy.








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