Tumbling down the hill

27 12 2014

PPT has sometimes commented on the slippery slope to authoritarianism. Thailand since the coup has seen the slide become a free fall. The military dictatorship has almost total control yet The Dictator and his military junta remain prickly and desire that the their control to be absolute.

This is one reason why, reported at Khaosod, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha blubbered about having:Prayuth gunning for democracy

endured it [mild media criticism] for a long time now. They [the media] criticise me on every issue, every page of the newspapers. What the hell is wrong with them? Are they crazy?… I get angry [every time] I read these newspapers. They made me lose my manner and have ruined my leader image.”

We can well imagine that Prayuth is ticked off for he is surrounded by rump-buffing sycophants and is unused to criticism.

Having been socialized in a corrupt, elite-serving and fascist organization like the Army, his response to this is entirely predictable: “I will shut them down…. I cannot allow them to continue their disrespect. Otherwise, what’s the point of me being [Prime Minister]? What’s the point of having martial law?”

Prayuth is supported by another military man used to getting his own way. General Prawit Wongsuwan blathers about the junta’s mission of “national reconciliation” as the junta locks increasing numbers of opponents in its jails. Like children in tantrum mood, Prayuth and Prawit complain that some media agencies “… like to ask about things that cause disputes. They really like doing it. They never ask constructive questions. They like to pick up fights. I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”Prawit and gold chain

What’s wrong is the incapacity of military dictators to understand a normal society where political disputation is normal and positive. Dictators believe that only they know what’s best for the nation.

Part of the reason for wanting total control and for only The Dictator’s voice to be hears is that the “reform” of politics is getting to the point where the military’s preferred anti-democratic proposals for the new constitution are being promoted. Related, the military dictatorship needs to manage the succession of an unpopular king.

A series of reports make it clear that the junta is still seeking to have a reform that is nothing more than an embedding of undemocratic politics.

At The Nation, it is reported that the preference for an appointed senate is again being heavily promoted. In Thailand’s troubled parliamentary politics, the military has always dominated appointed senates, preventing elected politicians from ruling.

Constitution drafters want a “super power” and fully appointed senate, giving the appointed military puppets “the power to scrutinise ministerial candidates…”. This is in addition to the powers this unelected swill had under the military’s 2007 Constitution “to impeach the prime minister, ministers and top officials.”

The junta’s puppet Constitution Drafting Committee has “decided that there would be a maximum of 200 senators appointed from five social groups.”

The royalists, fascists and military will falsely assert that this will make the unelected senate “more inclusive.” In the best tradition of Orwellian doublespeak, the military and its minions will use fine sounding terms to describe their attempt to maintain power and control.

Also at The Nation, it is reported that the quite ludicrous Election Commission will “no longer have the role of organising elections…” not because the EC is hopelessly partisan, but simply to put the elections back in the hands of the dependable election riggers at the Ministry of Interior and other centrally-controlled agencies.

The EC will only be charged with rubber-stamping the election result and banning candidates who “commit unlawful acts,” such as becoming too popular.

EC commissioners will be “selected” by a committee made up of trusty judges and other establishment types.

Meanwhile, serial constitution drafter and military-royalist boot licker Borwornsak Uwanno has “defended the decision to allow a non-elected MP to be chosen as prime minister.”

This option has always been the preferred one for the military dictatorship and its anti-democrat supporters. As PPT has long pointed out, a non-elected premier is the Prem-era option that promises military control of politics for years to come.King-Queen-Prem

Bowornsak knows that the military and royalist fossils reckons political crises can be avoided if there is a non-elected premier: “We all know that the May 22 coup was caused by a deadlock, as the previous constitution did not allow a candidate outside Parliament to resolve the political impasse…”.

If the fossils actually looked at the period, they’d know that when Prem was premier, with the total support of the palace, he still faced considerable opposition.

Borwornsak also pointed out the critical position of the monarchy in this anti-democratic movement when he stated that “the CDC promised not to expose the country’s main institutions – nationhood, religion and the monarchy – to any risk like the proposal for direct election of the PM. A directly elected PM and cabinet would make the government too strong and vulnerable to become authoritarian…”.

No elected politician can be allowed to become “too popular,” especially with an unpopular monarch about to take the throne.

Of course, any political observer with an ounce of sense knows that these proposals are meant to perpetuate the authoritarian power of hierarchical institutions. Dopes like former unelected swill senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, also cited in a story at The Nation, lies when he claims “the drafters were not writing the charter to perpetuate the continuance in power of junta chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha after the next election.”

It may not be The Dictator, but if not, it will be someone very much like him. This is a blatant military grab for power, not unlike 1991.





Cry, scream, laugh

27 12 2014

Each time we read about a new lese majeste case, propaganda about monarchy and royalism or hear about official action on lese majeste, we are never sure whether to cry, scream or laugh.

Under the military dictatorship, royalist propaganda is reaching such levels that it feels like the whole country is in a monarchical straightjacket.

A few days ago, minor prince and Panadda Diskul, who was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office by the military dictatorship, lectured 72 participants in the 8th Junior Spokesman project on “The Importance of Monarchy in Thailand.”

The minister demanded “that all the youth should place importance on the monarch system in order to understand the history of Thailand, history of the nation, as well as creating social unity.” This propaganda has been constant under the military junta.

Sounding like a 20th century throwback, the princely Panadda blathered that the monarchy represented unity rather than nasty politicians: “Thai people should love the nation, and not allow any political factors to divide the population into separate groups.” His royalism is a moralism: “Thai people should be united, uphold good morals and do good things…”.

He added the required obsequiousness before The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, when he “urged the youth acknowledge the importance of the 12 core values and inherit the good mind of ‘Thainess’.”

This all seems pretty much par for the course under the military dictatorship. Boring but predictable. Yet it links with a far nastier royalism that is repressive and suffocating.

In a series of reports, including one at the National News Bureau trumpeting that the “lese majeste law will undergo an overhaul to make it easier for authorities to proceed with legal action.”

PPT hadn’t noticed that the “authorities” were having trouble taking action on lese majeste. Indeed, under the military dictatorship, there has been a massive explosion in the number of cases, all of which involve the repression of political opponents.

Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya reports that agencies have “studied the procedures and content of the lese majeste law … to have it improved.”

We guess that “improved” simply means that the military dictatorship wants to throw even more people in jail. After all, the order for this study came from The Dictator himself.

The agencies want to bring individuals charged with lese majeste back to Thailand and promote “a correct understanding of the law in the global community, to show that the law does not serve political purposes.”

Paiboon might have more success if he didn’t demand blatant lies from his officials. Obviously, no one believes lies about the purpose of lese majeste.

At The Nation, this story is further explained. The action on the lese majeste issue “was reached after Paiboon met with representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry and the Department of Special Investigation.” The Dictator has demanded that lese majeste “be dealt with systematically in an integrated manner.”

This heralds a dark period for Thailand.

The notion of extraditing opponents from overseas, Paiboon explains that “many foreign states did not recognise lese majeste acts as a crime and would not extradite the accused.” But never fear dear royalists, for Paiboon says that “the Thai government would try to convince them that defaming the monarchy affected the Thai spirit that revered the institution.”

Yes, the world is to be told that spirit or soul of Thailand’s people is monarchist and that throwing political opponents in jail is simply about protecting the essence of the nation.

What does anyone with half a brain do with such nonsensical babbling? How will the people of Thailand be protected from monarchical madmen?

General Paiboon, like fascists of the past, manages to turn lese majeste on its head when he claims that his dictatorship’s political opponents have “used” lese majeste charges “as a tool to seek asylum abroad.” In other words, the draconian lese majeste has been used for some kind of advantage by its victims!

Cry, scream, laugh?

The committee General Paiboon is establishing is even going back to the discredited “anti-monarchist mind map” that was previously used to concoct a republican conspiracy.

The Nation’s story also explains that other ministers beat the monarchy drum. The junta’s Interior Minister, General Anupong Paojinda said “it was the government’s duty to honour the monarchy and protect it from violation.”

In fact, it is the actions of ultra-royalists and mad monarchists who are doing the work of republicans. Lese majeste repression by a military dictatorship that is self-serving and simply bizarre is doing more to destroy the monarchy than any republican could hope to achieve.

At the risk of sounding as bizarre as these ministers, maybe republicans should be cheering them on? Cry, scream, laugh? All three?





The China model

26 12 2014

Thailand’s military dictatorship has been seen as moving closer to China. Obviously there are several motivations for this including changing patterns in regional power, trade and investment. However, of great significance for the junta’s leadership is the model of political authoritarianism.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has expressed considerable admiration for China’s political authoritarianism, seeing it as a model for Thailand.

Like many of Thailand’s Sino-Thai tycoons, Prayuth looks at China’s economic success and sees this as resulting from “orderly politics.” The tycoons have repeatedly given up on electoral politics and repeatedly throw their money and support behind military dictatorships and royalist anti-democrats.

It is noticeable that this admiration for authoritarianism gets little criticism in Thailand’s media. Naturally, some of this has to do with The Dictator’s control of the media. Yet it also has to do with the ownership and control of the media by state organizations, tycoons and anti-democrats.

When then premier Thaksin Shinawatra expressed admiration for elected authoritarians in Malaysia and Singapore, he was roundly criticized by these media. That criticism now appears as little more than a bit of political opportunism.

When The Dictator rejects electoral politics, represses, censors and embraces China, the media is, at best, silent and at worst, supportive.





Updated: Judicial bias favors lese majeste madness

26 12 2014

PPT’s readers should never be surprised by the political bias and gross double standards of the judiciary. At present, its the task assigned to it by the military dictatorship is to clean up a bunch of legal cases that hang over various royalists and to ensure that the political bias of the military dictatorship is institutionalized.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “criminal court has dismissed a libel case in which former foreign affairs minister Kasit Piromya was accused of slandering ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.”

KangarooCourtKasit’s work with the People’s Alliance for Democracy was highly valued by the royalist elite that anti-democratic in 2008, and he was rewarded with the Foreign Ministry in the military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva government in late 2008.

Kasit spoke on the PAD stage several times, and on one occasion, in November 2008, Kasit “said Thaksin was trying every way to seize the country and make it his personal asset.” He also claimed that “Thaksin had issued orders to kill Thai Muslims in the South and for extra judicial killings of drug suspects and that Thaksin wanted to become the president and topple the monarchy.”

The claims were published in several media and “Thaksin filed a suit against … Kasit as the first defendant and Thaiday.com Co Ltd and ASTV (Thailand) Co Ltd as the second and third defendants respectively for publishing the speech.”

Kasit’s first claim is political rhetoric. The second, on the South, is certainly disputed, and no evidence of an order to kill has been produced. The third – on the war on drugs – carries some weight but no anti-Thaksin government has brought a case against him or anyone else involved, and we can only wonder if this is because the king and privy councilors also promoted the war on drugs and were satisfied by the murders.

The fourth claim is serious in that it amounts to lese majeste and, at the time, an unconstitutional plot. Nonsense though they are, lese majeste is a convenient political tool for royalist cowards like Kasit.

What is most interesting in the court dismissing the case, is the reasons for the decision. A first point made is that “since Thaksin was a public figure, he could be criticised.” That might well be true, but seems not to apply to the lese majeste accusation. On this, the court actually made a judgement: “Kasit intended to protect the country’s interests and an important institution. The court was therefore convinced he was expressing his opinions honestly.”

That is an invitation for every lese majeste imbecile in the royalist camp to attack all its political opponents with similar claims. The avalanche of lese majeste accusations and cases is set to increase still further.

While on this topic, we note a new paper by Duncan McCargo at Leeds University. Published by Contemporary Southeast Asia and titled “Competing Notions of Judicialization in Thailand,” the abstract states:

From Ji Ungpakorn's blog

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

This article examines the politics of judicialization in Thailand between 2006 and 2014, looking at the ways in which the judiciary became regularly embroiled in politics during this extremely contentious period. It takes as its starting point important royal speeches of 2006, and the interpretation of those speeches offered by the prominent academic and social critic Thirayudh Boonmee. Several key judicial decisions which had lasting political consequences are closely examined, including the 2006 election annulment, the 2007 banning of Thai Rak Thai, the removal of pro-Thaksin Shinawatra prime ministers Samak Sundaravej and Yingluck Shinawatra in 2008 and 2014, Thaksin’s conviction on corruption-related charges in 2008 and the judicial seizure of his assets in 2010. Some of the questions posed in this paper are as follows: Does judicialization inevitably mean conservative attempts to curtail the power of politicians and undermine electoral politics? Are judges working on behalf of Thai society, or in alignment with certain vested interests? Could greater judicial activism serve progressive social and political causes in the Thai context? The paper argues that Thailand’s “judicialization” is a complex phenomenon: judgements made by different courts, in different cases and at different times need to be scrutinized on their individual merits.

We can’t read the paper as it is behind a pay wall, so can’t assess the claims in full, but our view is that arguing that “judgements made by different courts, in different cases and at different times need to be scrutinized on their individual merits,” is like looking at individual trees and not seeing the forest. Academics do like to be careful but even the bark of trees can hide disease. In the case of the judiciary in Thailand, judicialization may not be the issue when the most significant courts are deeply politicized.

Update: A reader suggests to us that we should also note that a defamation action brought by the detestable Abhisit against Jatuporn Promphan has also been rejected. Jatuporn had accused Abhisit of being a “tyrant” whose “hands are tainted with blood.” The reader says this proves. McCargo’s point. Quite the contrary, this case is relatively unimportant. Abhisit has had several cases against Jatuporn. And, since 2009, Jatuporn has been jailed several times and has been found guilty in other courts, thrown out of parliament and has been repeatedly attacked by royalists. The failure of one of Abhisit’s cases has no impact on the weight of decisions by the politicized judiciary.





Observers needed for lese majeste case

26 12 2014

The Asian Human Rights Commission has issued an important call for observers to attend the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok on the morning of 29 December. Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong, both accused of lese majeste offenses, will be before the court.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-214-2014
December 26, 2014

THAILAND: Call for observers in freedom of expression case

On Monday, 29 December 2014, at 9 am in the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong will appear before the court for the first time since being formally charged on 25 October 2014. They have been charged with violating Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code in relation to the performance of a theatre play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) in October 2013. This case is one of many involving the constriction of freedom of expression since the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

Case details:

Patiwat Saraiyaem, age 23, a fifth year student and an activist in the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, was arrested on 14 August 2014 in Khon Kaen province and is being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison. Pornthip Munkhong, age 25, a graduate of the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University and an activist, was arrested on 15 August 2014 at the Hat Yai Airport, and is being held in the Central Women’s Prison. They have been held without bail, despite numerous requests, since their arrests and since being formally charged on 25 October with one count of violation of Article 112.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The use of Article 112 is highly politicized and has frequently been used as a method of silencing dissenting voices, particularly in moments of regime crisis. Although this measure has been part of the Criminal Code since its last revision in 1957, there has been an exponential increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; this increase has been further multiplied following the 22 May 2014 coup.

The case against Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong complaint is in relation to their participation in the performance of a play, ‘The Wolf Bride’ (Jao Sao Ma Pa) at Thammasat University in October 2013 on the fortieth anniversary of the 14 October 1973 people’s uprising. At the time of their arrests, the AHRC noted that their arrests for exercising their freedom of expression in a theatre performance was an indication of the ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (AHRC-STM-157-2014; AHRC-STM-159-2014). Their continued detention is a daily reminder of the deepening human rights crisis put in motion by the coup (AHRC-STM-177-2014). In this case, as well as other freedom of expression cases since the coup, the manner in which the two activists were charged more than a year after the alleged crime suggests that the past has become an open catalogue of acts and speech which can be criminalized in retrospect.

The Asian Human Rights commission would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thailand is obligated to protect and uphold Article 19, which notes that, “1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms possible and wishes to condemn the denial of freedom of expression and the expanding witch hunt of those who express, or have expressed in the past, critical or dissenting views. To think differently than the junta is not a crime.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also remains gravely concerned about the continued denial of bail in this and other freedom of expression cases. Although extended periods of both pre-charge and pre-trial detention have become common in cases of alleged violation of Article 112, as a state party to the ICCPR, the Thai authorities are also obligated to respect the right to temporary release. In particular, the AHRC would like to remind the junta and the Criminal Court that Article 9(3) of the ICCPR stipulates that, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong were denied temporary release for over two months before being charged, and then this denial continued after they were formally charged. Similar to other Article 112 cases, the Criminal Court has made this denial on the basis that if convicted, they would be subject to a heavy punishment and so are therefore likely to flee.

Seven months have passed since the 22 May 2014 coup and there is no clear timeline for an end to martial law or a return to a democratic government and the protection of human rights. Within this context, the presence of observers within the courtroom is a visible reminder to the junta and the judges that the violation of human rights is not passing unnoticed.





Of fools and other officials II

26 12 2014

When it comes to unreflective dolts and sycophants, almost nothing tops the cretins responsible for hunting down lese majeste.

Yes, we know that these functionaries are wary of their own positions when lese mejeste is on the agenda, but most of them are zealous servants of leaders who use lese majeste in order to repress. In a remarkable demonstration of this, at Khaosod, it is reported that a Thammasat University “has been summoned by police for organising an academic forum that allegedly insulted two dead Thai kings.”

Police summoned Pipat Krachaechan, “to testify on the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) charge that has been filed against a panelist [Sulak Sivaraksa] who spoke at his forum on 5 October 2014.” Sulak is accused of defaming a monarch who has been dead for about 400 years and another who has been dead for almost 150 years.

By “raising doubts about a historic elephant battle between an ancient Thai King and a Burmese general 400 years ago. He is also accused of insulting Rama IV in his speech at the 5 October forum.”

Of course, the lese majeste law has no jurisdiction over dead monarchs. It refers only to the king, the queen, the crown prince and regent. But the cretinous but zealous functionaries care not about the letter of the law, for they are protecting social, economic and political privilege and power.

Their illegal use of lese majeste (yes, we know this is a weird construction) is “explained”:

“Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa has referred to Somdej Phra Naresuen the Great and Somdej Phra Chomklao Chaoyookhua (Rama IV) in a way that insults, defames, or threatens His Majesty the King,” said a statement released by police today.

The charge against Sulak was filed by retired military officers on 17 October 2014.

The madness of royalists might be dismissed were it not known that “insulting” dead kings has led to jail for a defendant who made mention of the reign of King Mongkut involving people in slavery, a clear historical and undisputed fact.





Another Facebook lese majeste case

25 12 2014

Police and military have cooperated to arrest and charge “a businessman for posting lese majeste messages on Facebook account.”

Prachatai reports that, allegedly using two Facebook accounts under the name “Yai Daengduad” (ใหญ่ แดงเดือด), the “man, whose name begins with T and surname begins with S,” was “accused of  posting three messages deemed defaming the King…”. A businessman and university graduate, TS is said to be 58, and lives in Bangkok.

In the posts deemed to be his, one on “25 July, mainly criticized the King’s sufficiency economy. It also compares Bhutan monarchy to Thailand’s.” A second post is said to have provided a behind-the-scenes account of the 2014 coup, posted on 13 September. A third post in early November is alleged to have been about the “fate of ‘Uncle Somchai’…”. Uncle Somchai is a fictional character who police now say is the king. The report quotes them:  “The use of Uncle Somchai is widely known among Internet users and red shirts that it means His Majesty the King.” Therefore, the police and other royalists consider that defaming Uncle Somchai is an act of lese majeste.

The military arrested the man and his wife on 18 December and detained TS and interrogated him at a Bangkok military base for five days before handing him over to police. His wife was detained for one night. The military states that, under interrogation, “the man confessed and was forced to provide passwords to email and social network accounts.”

On 25 December, the police “submitted the custody petition to the military court. The family of the suspect also submitted 400,000 baht bail request.” Prachatai reports: “as expected, [the military court] denied the bail request, saying that the charges carry high penalty and that the suspect might flee.”








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