Banpot 6 nabbed for lese majeste

2 02 2015

The remarkable crackdown on lese majeste has expanded to include a further six persons.

Prachatai reports that “police arrested six people as part of a “criminal organization” for distributing online materials deemed defaming the monarchy.” Police announced the arrests at a press conference on 2 February 2015.

The accused are listed as Damrong S., Siwaporn P., Neongkoon U., Paisit J., Aunchan P., and Tara W. They are accused of having been involved with a so-called “Banpot” network, said to be a “network of people who allegedly distributed lese majeste contents online…”.

They accused of working with the quite well-known Banpot who produces radio programs distributed via the internet. Banpot’s programs are long talk shows that have been about politics and the monarchy. Many of the shows reproduce many of the rumors whirling around the royal family. It has long been thought that Banpot produces his podcasts outside Thailand.

The police and the Department Special Investigation (DSI) claimed “the group has been operated since 2011 and that the group’s activities are grave threats to national security and the revered Thai monarchy institution.”

The monarchy is less revered everyday, but the police and military are trying to snuff out any and all discussion of the monarchy that is not laudatory.

The authorities claim that “the suspects in this network operated systematically. They had been dividing works, holding secret meetings, and attempting to use distorted informations to propagate false information…”.

Not all of it was false of course.

Updated: Bombs for what?

2 02 2015

PPT read the breaking news on a couple of bombs at Siam Paragon Shopping Center/Siam Square Station from the first reports. We decided to stay mum until some further news filtered out. The reason for this is that Thailand’s politics has seen plenty of bombings and they are usually for unexplained reasons. It isn’t often that anyone takes responsibility.

A few years ago there were bombs in Bangkok blamed on Southern insurgents/separatists. No responsibility was claimed and no other bombings in Bangkok were attributed to this group. The red/yellow protests saw plenty of bombs. Some came from either side. Some came from police. More came from the military. On the latter, sometimes the military was using bombs directly and sometimes they were using proxies. Some of those proxies were agents provocateurs.

In other words, working out who is responsible for a bombing is pretty difficult.

But not for Thailand’s super sleuths under businessman/police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang. He is reportedly “confident” that arrest warrants will soon be issued. Somyos has a record of fast arrests. The problem is that several arrests look remarkably like frame-ups.

The Bangkok Post reports “[t]wo improvised time bombs” and others have reported “pipe bombs.” A police spokesman stated that the bombs “were not intended to kill.”

Interestingly, “[a]uthorities at first told the media the blasts were caused by the explosion of a power transformer of a Paragon billboard. They dropped that story and admitted the blasts were caused by bombs after several hours of investigation.” Were they initially flummoxed or were they thinking they had to cover for someone?

Yet The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha reckons the bombing was political:

Asked if the bombers hoped to create unrest and discredit the government, Gen Prayut said: “You already know this. Why even ask?” [Khaosod has a different translation: “Everyone knows the answer to that question. Otherwise they would have done it in a jungle. Why the hell are you asking this?”]

So did another member of the military dictatorship, General Anupong Paojinda, who said the “bombs were … intended to … cause unrest.”

In another report, Prayuth reportedly claimed that police were investigating people “opposed to the operations of the government.” He went further still:

We have to look at people who have spoken about using violence [recently]. We have to investigate whether there is any connection…. I have instructed police to investigate this matter also, the people who said something about violence or opposing the operations of the government.

Far be it from us to deny that royalists associated with the anti-democrats, with a long history of violence might have been involved. How much of a coincidence is there that a quite mad yellow shirt has accused the U.S. of attempting to stir discontent in Thailand in order to justify an invasion. Bizarre, yes. But it was far worse than this, and readers can read the rant at Khaosod.

Of course, Prayuth means red shirts. He identifies them as his enemies and as a threat to the military-royal nation.

Is there another possibility? We think there may be. One of the Post reports pointed out that the military junta had “denied reports the military regime was considering ending martial law.” The junta has been under considerable pressure from the U.S. in recent days, and its reaction has been strident and confused. In previous years, when under pressure, military regimes have attempted to create chaos and opportunities to crack down on opposition. Is that what’s happening?

Clearly, if nothing else, the bombs mean that martial law stays and the military is likely to be busy apprehending, warning, calling in and more.

Update: The military has denied it set off the bombs to maintain martial law and its junta’s iron-fisted rule. It would do that.

Dictatorship, lese majeste and “unconstitutionalism”

1 02 2015

Robert Amsterdam has an op-ed titled “Thailand: The Unconstitutional Monarchy” at the  Eurasia Review. He reiterates some well-known points and makes some useful observations about Thailand’s descent to military dictatorship.

He looks at the way the United Kingdom maintains a public separation “between the elected persons who make the laws and the head of state, the monarch, who acts as the functionary to sign them onto the statute book.” He points out that

This relatively simple arrangement is neatly summed up on the official website of the British monarchy in that – “The ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament, not with the Monarch.”



It’s a very clear premise. The ability to pass legislation in a functioning constitutional monarchy doesn’t reside with the army, royally appointed senators or a vast network of palace associates in unpopular political parties but with an elected Parliament.

A “functioning constitutional monarchy does not have to enforce itself via the terror of appallingly draconian censorship laws or hate campaigns….”.

You know who the comparison is with. Thailand’s horrendously anti-democratic military dictatorship and the constructed power of the monarchy that involves unconstitutional politics.

Amsterdam points out that the “most obvious factors that undermine ‘constitutionality’ are the roles of the Army – who exercise power beyond any constitutional or legal norm or framework, acting as a ‘deep state’ whose only sovereignty is gained from their ability to organise violence…”.

Turning to the “appalling lese majeste law,” he says many familiar things about the “draconian punishments attached to it and vague, irrational and cruel interpretations of it applied by the Thai courts, it has become the ‘legal’ terror weapon of choice…” for the junta.

He observes that “the coup regime of General Prayuth has sought to extend the terror of lese majeste further, with critics and academics being forced into exile and multiple arrests being made under the auspices of this law.” He points to the absurdity of  “the arrest and imprisonment of two young members of a theatrical troupe who were involved in the performance of a play … deemed to have uttered metaphors and allegories that were insulting to the monarchy.”

Amsterdam concludes that “Thailand is now a military dictatorship.” We knew that from the day of the coup! He says the “clearest indications that Thailand remains beyond internationally accepted norms of ‘constitutionality’ is the continuation of the lese majeste law and its application as a form of terror in the Thai body politic.”

Updated: Prayuth still whining about foreigners

1 02 2015

The Dictator, self-appointed premier, self-appointed television personality, self-promoted ideologue and more, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has become even angrier than usual.

At Khaosod it is reported that Prayuth’s weekly televised rant at the nation, he made a very kingly call for national unity. Prayuth’s unity is with “his mission to ‘reform’ the country…”.

He added that this unity was better than “complaining to foreign nations.” On this point, he went further:

They like to accuse this person, that person. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You like to whine about your problems to all the foreign nations. Stop doing that….

… I have never denied the fact of how this government came into power, but everyone must understand that we did it to take care of the country…. If we cannot take care of each other and solve our problems, should we let other nations do it for us? Thailand is an independent country. We were never colonized by anyone. Today, why are we letting some people air their problems to this person or that person to solve problems for us? It’s shameful.

He probably means the Americans, ignoring the fact that he is giving contracts to the Chinese for infrastructure like a drunken sailor buying drinks for strangers in bars.

We at PPT are not sure who Prayuth identifies as complaining to foreigners. A couple of people have pretty quietly applied for political asylum. Like us, some write blogs and use social media, but we see no organized effort to engage foreign governments.

In fact, the interest of governments like that of the U.S. are driven by self-interest and by the neanderthal actions of the military dictatorship itself. The opposition to the junta is a result of its blunt and politically-stupid repression.

A resort to anti-foreign xenophobia is a tactic used by fascist regimes, and it would be no surprise to see Prayuth using it more extensively.

Update: At the Bangkok Post, Chulalongkorn University political science professor Surachart Bumrungsuk is cited as saying “he was worried that the naivety of the current Thai leadership on diplomatic affairs would drag down our global clout, which has already been diminishing.” He added that “[t]hroughout history, elites in Thai society have realised we could not ignore Thai-US relations, as it has been the cornerstone of our foreign and security policies…”, yet the military dictatorship was being “pouting and childish” about the US representative’s comments. Strikingly, he noted that “[t]he post-coup attitude of leaning towards no-rebuke China … might be a bit off-side…. We should learn the lesson of our neighbour Myanmar that after years of walking in the Chinese shadow, they now have to walk back into the arms of the West.”

Not free

1 02 2015

At Khaosod it is reported that Freedom House’s designation of Thailand as “Not Free” has caused the military dictatorship some angst.

The dictatorship has reportedly “disputed an international watchdog’s decision to downgrade Thailand in an annual report on freedom around the globe…” released a couple of days ago.FHouse

Freedom House stated:

Thailand’s political rights rating declined from 4 to 6, its civil liberties rating declined from 4 to 5, and its status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the May military coup, whose leaders abolished the 2007 constitution and imposed severe restrictions on speech and assembly.

Pilaipan Sombatsiri, chairwoman of the junta-appointed Assembly Committee on Foreign Affairs, has reportedly disputed Freedom House’s reading of the situation in Thailand.

In a press conference, Pilaipan argued that it is impossible for Freedom House to rate “Thailand as unfree or undemocratic…”. Why is that? Considering the world populated by people with royalist and fascist brains the size of peas, she answers that Thailand is something other than unfree “because the people are happy. They can live their lives normally.”

Freedom House scoresTell that to the political prisoners. Ask the students and academics who have been banned from expressing political views. Ask the politicians and rank-and-file members who are harassed for any expression of political views. Tell the lese majeste prisoners. Ask anyone who is not a royalist and pro-junta acolyte if they are able to freely express their views, even in private emails and messages.

They’ll all laugh at Pilaipan’s ludicrous statement. They’ll also mourn the loss of freedom under the military dictatorship. That she sounds like a Nazi defending Hitler is revealing of her politics. In fact, she is simply ridiculous.

Pilaipan then adopted the redoubt of fascists in rightist nationalism: “Don’t let the outside world interfere with your thoughts too much.” Better to let the military dictatorship do that with its ridiculous ultra-royalism and The Dictator’s personality cult and fascist aphorisms.

Her rant came at the time that military officials canceled an event on media freedom organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung due to allegedly “sensitive content.” The military dolts were worried about discussions of coups, freedom and politics. That shows exactly how unfree Thailand is.

We recommend reading the Freedom House report (see link above) for an account of Thailand’s declining political rights and civil liberties.

Updated: Lese majeste cases updated

31 01 2015

Keeping up with the military dictatorship’s lese majeste cases, charges and jailings is challenging, and PPT has been trying to keep our ever-lengthening pages on cases and convictions up-to-date. We’ve made several changes to both pages in recent days.

A recent new case we added involves the arrest of Jamroen S., a 59 year-old civil servant accused of sending Facebook messages deemed lese majeste to another man, Pongsak S., also accused of lese majeste and computer crimes. The two are claimed to be a part of a “movement” aimed at bringing down the monarchy; there’s no evidence for this.

Police say Jamroen confessed. This is not unusual as the police force detainees to confess, telling them it means a lighter sentence, and suspects know that there is almost no chance of beating a lese majeste charge in the junta’s royalist Thailand.

Update: Two reports, one at Khaosod and another at the Bangkok Post, appear to refer to Jamroen’s case and use the name Chayo Anchaleewatchara, referring to an official who “allegedly used Facebook under the name UnchaUnyo to spread pictures and messages defaming the monarchy.” This is the name police allege Jamroen used (Uncha Unyo). If any reader can provide more information to PPT on the case, and clear up the confusion we’d be appreciative. Links to Thai-language media would assist too. Are there three cases (Pongsak, Jamnoen and Chayo) or just two?

Worrying foreigners

31 01 2015

As readers will know, the military dictatorship and its ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist allies have been particularly agitated by the Americans. The military’s former chief funding agency seems to have caused uproar with its rather mild suggestions and limited criticisms of the military junta.

Now that some of the U.S. Embassy staff have tripped off to the northeast and met some red shirts, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has directed his minions to keep tabs on the Americans. He appears to think that talking with anyone but those he approves of is interfering in Thailand’s domestic affairs.

Keeping an eye on what foreign diplomats do is not unusual. Indeed, it is not unusual for embassies advise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if any senior diplomat is traveling in-country. However, to announce that a government is watching what foreign diplomats do is creating an incident.

Trying to cool things down a little, another general, the minister for the Interior, Anupong Paojinda, has said that while he and the dictatorship “hopes they [the Americans] will not meddle in Thailand’s internal affairs,” he acknowledges that they are “free to meet Thai red-shirt leaders…”.

But we wondered if Anupong was pulling everyone’s collective leg when he stated:

Discussing relations with foreign countries, Gen Anupong that that those with different views should offer constructive comments. Thailand has no intention of intervening in the internal affairs of foreign countries, and they should behave similarly…

He must have been, for not has the military dictatorship been intervening in the affairs of New Zealand, but has been happy to denounce the UNHCR as well. Anupong is either joking with everyone or is himself a joke when it comes to foreign affairs.


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