Updated: Monarchy vs. 1932

4 07 2017

For the royalist junta, 1932 is very scary. Perhaps because they are royalist or because the king is poking them. Perhaps both.

Khaosod reports twice on Akechai Hongkangwarn. The last we heard of him was on 24 June, when he’d been apprehended by the royalist patrol dogs as he tried to install a mock-up of the missing historical plaque at the so-called Royal Plaza. Then, police apparently did not charge him.

Khaosod’s earliest report states that officials from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Bang Kapi District Office “visited a [Akechai’s]… Lat Phrao district office to discourage him from petitioning the prime minister to reinstate June 24 as Thai National Day.”

June 24 is the day of the 1932 revolution. The report states that “June 24 was National Day from 1940 to 1960 before then-dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat pushed a cabinet resolution changing it to Dec. 5, the birthday of King Rama IX.”

The BMA officials visited Akechai’s workplace “and asked that he submit a petition intended for Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to them instead.” He refused, saying he intended “to submit a petition with 200 online signatures Tuesday at Government House…. He said it would be registered, so he could follow up on it.”

Akechai said “the man who spoke to him was polite, but the activist didn’t let the five – including a man with a short military-style haircut – inside his office, fearing they would arrest him.” He added: “I locked the door…”. The group then went off and found Akechai’s mother as a means to pressure him.

Akechai made a prediction: “Since they came to visit me today, I think they will apprehend me tomorrow…”.

The second report is on that prediction being proven correct. Thug-soldiers took him away earlier today, taking him “a local district office in a bid to prevent him from submitting a petition letter to the prime minister urging he reinstate June 24 as the country’s national day…”.

A district official stated that he was “just invited since this morning. I don’t know further details…”. The official was petrified:

“Please don’t name me or I will be damned. What they did was to borrow our equipments and all those were soldiers,” he said, adding however that a district official accompanied the soldiers. “The NCPO has the power and I must follow their orders.”

The official added that some 30 soldiers “use the district office as their workplace” but do “not report to the district chief.” This seems to be the situation at every district office as part of the junta’s militarization of the country by the fascist, authoritarian, royalist and erratic regime.

Update: Khaosod reports that Akechai was permitted to go home after “being taken away by four policemen and pressured by a soldier for nine hours.” He said he was “arrested by four police officers at about 5am on Tuesday and dragged away as he was leaving his residence in Lad Phrao for the Government House.” After that, Army Captain Cholapat Pheungphai, “a junta officer in charge of anti-junta activities in the district” who “pleaded to me [Akechai] to concede otherwise he would have had nothing to show his commander.”

In the end, the captain “succeeded in convincing him not to proceed to the Government House to submit a petition letter asking for the reinstatement of June 24 as national day.” Akechai “agreed” to submit the letter at the District Office.

Any guesses why The Dictator is so fearful of a letter about 1932? Akechai says he “tried to explain [to the soldier] that [the junta] should not be foolish…”. May as well talk to a large rock; it would be as bright and as responsive as The Dictator.

Appointed premier? Don’t ask

4 07 2017

Yesterday there was a bit of a media fuss about The Dictator needing to resign from the premiership he gave himself, with royal approval, if he was to stand in an election.

This fuss was confusing because there’s no need for General Prayuth Chan-ocha to stand for election in order to be prime minister after any “election” that the junta decided to hold.

The Nation reports that The Dictator is “fed up” with the “media asking whether he would contest the next general election.” He says that the question trespasses on his “personal business” and the “media should not ask him again about it.”

The Dictator, who has “managed” a constitution and other rules that allow him, the junta and the military to control politics into the future and for up to 20 years, can’t understand why the media is interested in his political plans.

Okay, so he’s not that stupid. He’s just a little more ticked off than usual that the media dares ask him and are neglecting who’s boss: “It’s my business…. And don’t ask me again…”.

The junta leader has been under mounting pressure to make it clear whether he planned to contest the next election or solicit parliamentary support to become a non-elected prime minister.

His bile rose when he considered criticism of his military dictatorship. He “attacked Thai academics living overseas for criticising his post-coup government.” How dare they! Prayuth ranted that his military regime “had done many things for the country,” but these overseas-based academics were still critical.

The report says The Dictator was apparently “referring to academics who lived overseas in political asylum and had organised public forums criticising the junta-backed government for eroding democracy and violating human rights.”

How are all those overseas academics feeling about attending the International Conference on Thai Studies when colleagues cannot attend because they are currently jailed or forced into exile? How do they plan to say anything critical of the military dictatorship?

They probably don’t care and, like The Dictator, are “fed up” with the question.

Repression into the future

4 07 2017

PPT marvels at the capacity of the military junta’s puppet National Reform Steering Assembly for rubber-stamping. Voting 144-1, the NRSA has decided to spend oodles more taxpayer money “protecting” the monarchy.

As part of the junta’s 20-year national strategy, the NRSA has “decided” that exceptional measures, likely to be very costly, are necessary to “protect” the monarchy from social media.

The measures accepted include a requirement that “social media users to identify themselves” and the establishment a “central social media watch centre.”

The NRSA “cited growing problems such as a lack of media literacy, abuse and the ‘irresponsible exercise’ of rights and freedom, which had had social, political and economic impacts as well as affected the nation’s ‘main institution’…”.

Forget the guff about social and economic impacts, this is about the monarchy and repressing regime political opponents.

Registration of mobile phones and linking to social media accounts will be required because it will “have a psychological effect on users and could prevent them from exhibiting undesirable behaviours online…”.

The “central social media watch centre” would operate to monitor, delete, suppress and arrest those guilty of “inappropriate” use of social media. It seems the existing “Cyber Security Coordination Centre” is insufficient as “its more than 300 officers had not been able to work effectively because they lacked the proper technology.” So more “advanced technology” is needed to “trace and examine photographs, video, audio and text on YouTube and Facebook, allowing the identification of users posting the content.”

Updated: Anti-112 activist abducted by junta

3 07 2017

Prachatai reports that Charoenchai Saetang, 60, known to have “campaigned against the lèse majesté law,” was abducted by soldier-thugs claiming the right to take him away under Article 44.

It is not know why he has been taken to an army base in Bangkok. However, the thugs “confiscated the mobile phones of the two brothers and Charoenchai’s laptop.” His brother is Kimpiew.

Update: Khaosod adds to the above report. First, Charoenchai’s “family … detained by soldiers two days ago have yet to find out where he’s being held…”.

Second, the “local police station, … was told soldiers had taken Charoenchai to file a report on suspicion the 60-year-old may have committed an offense under Section 112 of the Thai Penal Code, which outlaws insults to the monarchy.”

Third, the way the “legal system” works in these cases of abduction is shown to be even more bizarre than we imagined: “Although Charoenchai’s family said soldiers told them they were taking him to the 11th Army Circle base, the commander of that installation denied any knowledge.” Lt. Gen. Sanitchanok Sangkhachan declared that “security forces” – who is this if not military? – “never informed him when they brought someone to be jailed at his base.”

Military and police corruption

2 07 2017

Think of all those corruption cases that have been processed by the military dictatorship and those that have simply disappeared into silence and nothingness.

On the one hand there are all those cases against members of the former government. On the other there is empty space.

Unusual wealth is simply not an issue. Rajabhakti Park? Nothing there. General Preecha Chan-ocha’s nepotism? Gone. Rolls Royce and other related corruption cases? Silence. Money for nothing at the NLA? That’s fixed. Weapons trafficking? Empty space. Being paid by tycoons for favors? That’s normal. The use of recruits as slaves? Normal and expected. No bid contracts? They seem the norm. That’s just over the past few months.

We could go on and on. And we haven’t gone beyond the corruption that is money-making. What about Jumpol Manmai? After his conviction, is he being held in an essentially private jail on a piece of the king’s property? What has happened in the investigation of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae? What happened to the investigation of the death in custody of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam? Why aren’t officers being held responsible? Silence.

The whistleblower anti-democrats clearly weren’t interested in corruption when they brought the military to the gate and opened it.

Two recent reports point to the scale of corruption and how the junta assists it and even promotes it.

The Nation has an all-too-brief report on police corruption. It seems the “national police chief has ordered police nationwide not to take bribes from illegal workers and their employers or risk stiff penalties.” This is a biased report, but not against the police. Most migrant workers know that police will have their collective hand in the migrants’ pocket whenever they like.

The story of how the junta changed the law on migrants and is now critical of it and The Dictator is thinking of using Article 44 to postpone the law because of the chaos created by it is weird. Yet think of the money-making opportunities it creates! Everyone associated with migrants can be squeezed by the police, again and again, simply because of the legal chaos the junta has created. Police are as happy as pigs in mud.

Then there’s the story of the Army colonel and all the trucks, buses and cars. Foolishly portrayed as a kind of isolated case, and referred to as “Mr” not “Colonel,” Phopkrit Phanyos, a deputy director of the Army Transport Department, has illegally registered some 1,136 vehicles. And that’s just based on a few documents. Buses, truck and cars are included.

No one else in the Army Transport Department seemed to notice. Right….

None of these vehicles were said to be Army vehicles. In that case, the Army Transport Department is simply a criminal gang, laundering vehicles for the local market and pocketing loot that gets channeled up the hierarchy to the leaders of the military.

In these cases, the reader is taken back to how it is that all those military and police bosses get so wealthy. It is because their system is a corruption conveyor belt, sending the loot to the bosses from the bottom of the system.

The military and the police are not about defense or law and order. They ignore both.

More on the king’s personal prison

2 07 2017

Not that long ago we posted on Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s article in the Japan Times where he wrote of  a small prison established in King Vajiralongkorn’s Dhaveevatthana Palace. He said it was used to “lock up those betraying the trust of the new … king…”. He had some details.

We also noted the response by Thailand’s ambassador in Japan, saying little more than “we object.”

Interestingly, there is now a response to the ambassador’s letter,headlined, “Thai prison is real, should be shut down.” We reproduce it in full with the hyperlinks:

In his letter to The Japan Times in the June 11 edition, Thai Ambassador Bansarn Bunnag accused Pavin Chachavalpongpun of making unsubstantiated claims when he reported that there is a temporary prison on the grounds of the Daveevattana (Thavi Wattana) Palace of Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn, a prison that inmates describe as “hell on Earth.” The prison is real, and our organization has already translated the public documents authorizing this prison into English and paired it with a Google Earth map, so both Thai- and English-speaking people can know the shocking facts. You can see the evidence at tahr-global.org/?p=32209. [PPT guesses that following the link or reposting it might constitute lese majeste.]

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has been concerned about this prison since we learned of its existence at the beginning of March, when Jumpol Manmai, who had been a close aid to the king, first disappeared, then reappeared, and was taken from court back to this prison.

So the prison exists. The only remaining mystery is what all goes on there. Having a secret prison that cannot be visited by the public, at the home of a king who is above the law, is a recipe for rampant human rights abuses, including enforced disappearance, torture and even murder. Indeed, Chachavalpongpun lists the names of three men who died there under suspicious circumstances.

If the rumors of rampant human rights abuses are false, the king can put them to rest by inviting an international human rights organization such as Amnesty International to visit the temporary prison. If they are true, the Thai government should close this shadowy prison and take away Vajiralongkorn’s power to persecute people on a whim.

The Thai ambassador also claimed that Thailand respects freedom of opinion and expression, when in fact Thailand’s barbaric lese majeste law prescribes three to 15 years in jail for anyone saying anything negative about this king, and Chachavalpongpun has been exiled simply for doing his job as a political scientist. If only Thailand did have free speech, ongoing human rights abuses could be brought to light and future abuses prevented.

Ann Norman, Executive Director, Thai Alliance for Human Rights, Pittsburgh

Release Pai XV

1 07 2017

Prachatai reports that Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa’s 10th application for bail on a trumped-up lese majeste charge has been rejected by a vindictive royalist court in Khon Kaen.

The Khon Kaen Provincial Court “confirmed an earlier ruling of the Appeal Court, reasoning that the activist mocked the authority of the state without fearing the law sufficiently.”

That’s why the court is vindictive. It is punishing Pai in a manner that is essentially lawless.

As a unit in the military junta’s injustice system, the Khon Kaen court “dismissed arguments from Jatuphat’s family that as a law graduate he is required to sit a training course taught by the Lawyers’ Council …, and that if released he could prepare for his defence more effectively.”

On the latter, this court, like all others working on lese majeste convictions, obviously has no interest in defendants preparing a defense; they are only interested in guilty pleas and convictions.

Jatuphat is being punished for having “mocked the authority of the state without fearing the law sufficiently,” as well as lese majeste against King Vajiralongkorn by reposting a BBC Thai story on the king’s accession to the throne. Vajiralongkorn prefers demeaning and jailing those he views as opponents.

The case is due back in court on 3 August.