Dog styling

24 12 2015

PPT was looking through a few social media sites and was staggered to find a bunch of photos about another royal dog.

Not Fu Fu and not Thong Daeng, but Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana‘s mini-mutt.

Siri and the doggiesWe went to her Facebook page, where the vainglorious princess has lots of photos of herself posted, many of them of her shopping at really expensive places and others with dogs and horses. Yet we couldn’t find many of the photos that we re-post below. The first photo is from Facebook and introduces the little princesses.

There are several surprising things about the photos that follow. One is that the young and allegedly polymath princess seems to have few qualms about displaying wealth. In the first photo below, she positions her dog next to bags of shopping from expensive designer labels.Hermes dog

In a second photo, the dog seems to be enjoying a 500 Euro note as a plaything or “gift.” That’s about 19,700 baht. One of the lucky workers in Thailand who gets the 300 baht a day minimum wage, if they worked every day of a 30-day month, would get 9,000 baht. In other words, the royal pup’s money is more than double a month’s work for an average worker.

Rich dog

Not enough flaunting? How about if the pooch gets to yap and jump about in the First Class Cabin of a Thai Airways intercontinental flight? Here you go:

1st class

A lack of consideration of others is a royal trait – think of all the road closures as they swan around Bangkok and the provinces – and one element of this that caught attention was the pampering of the late Air Chief Marshal Fu Fu, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s pooch. Then Ambassador Ralph Boyce describes dinner with the pet in November 2007, when the ambassador “paid a farewell call” on prince:

Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in formal evening attire complete with paw mitts, and at one point during the band’s second number, he jumped up on to the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own…. The Air Chief Marshal’s antics drew the full attention of the 600-plus audience members….

It seems normal for royal dogs to be at the table, napkin and silverware at the ready:

dog's dinner

And when it comes to Fu Fu, who can ever forget the video of the birthday party and the recently removed Princess Srirasmi’s nakedness. All this royal puppy ridiculousness and extravagance seems to have had no impact on the princess who has had lavish parties for the pooch, with officials doing the crawling this time:

Another doggie birthday

As would be expected, the dog has to have friends along for the celebration, each of the live ones handled by an official:

Birthday 2

And after a birthday celebration, of course the dog can have a marriage ceremony:

Doggie marriage

In the end, you see that the behavior of the prince, seen by outsiders as offensive and weird, is actually a model for his daughter. There seems an incapacity for learning and a detachment from (political) reality. This is Thailand’s monarchy.

The Sirindhorn 4 lese majeste case

24 12 2015

red candleOn 20 August 2015, the Kamphaeng Phet provincial court issued arrest warrants for Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, on lese majeste accusations. Later, a fourth name was added, Noppharit (surname not known), 28. Some were arrested on 21 August 2015. Their case has now come to court.

They were accused of having made false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household. In fact, they are accused of using Princess Sirindhorn’s name and so we call them the Sirindhorn 4.

As readers will know, there have been a myriad of cases over the past year about similar alleged activities. All, however, have related to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, and have seen several deaths in custody and dozens jailed. This is the first we know of that is about claims allegedly made in Sirindhorn’s name. For those who follow the successionist debate, this case raises a niggling question regarding the alleged rift between Sirindhorn and her brother.

Siblings: Vajiralongkorn and Sirindhorn

Siblings: Vajiralongkorn and Sirindhorn

Two of the suspects are said to have cooperated with two others to claim that they belonged to the aristocracy and were related to the royal family with the rank of Mom Luang. They allegedly said they were working for the Royal Household Bureau. Kittiphop and Wiset are alleged to have made these claims to the head of the Pa Sai Ngam monastery in Kamphaeng Phet and also that they could invite members of the royal family to participate in religious events at the temple. In return they asked for 100,000 baht in “expenses.” All of this is related to claims about Princess Sirindhorn.

It is stated that all have denied lese majeste charges when they appeared in court on 21 December 2015.

Other police allegations against them are that “the gang” committed fraud by claiming that they were collecting funds to build a monastery and that this was used to “trick” high-ranking officials and others into donating money. The suspects reportedly collected about a million baht.

Noppharit, the fourth suspect, told the court that he does not know why he has been arrested and charged. He states that he does not know the other three suspects and is not involved in the alleged crimes. He was arrested on 21 August 2015. His family requested bail. As usual, the court denied it because the case involves the monarchy and there was a flight risk. All of this is the standard and cruel court practice in lese majeste cases.

Lawyers for Noppharit made an obvious submission, asking the court to consider whether the case falls under Article 112 since that law does not apply to Princess Sirindhorn:

Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

She is none of those.

As has often been the case in the use of the lese majeste, the court chose to ignore the actual law and dismissed the request, saying “under the current procedure, it is not yet necessary to consider the request from the fourth suspect.”

The next hearing in the case will be on 5 February 2016.

Lese majeste feud

23 12 2015

red candleLese majeste has mostly been used as a political tool to lock up opponents of authoritarian or military-backed regimes. However, there have been some cases reported where lese majeste has been used in personalized disputes.

Prachatai reports another case that seems to fall into the latter category.

On 23 December 2015, Chiang Mai Police arrested Wichai Thepphong (วิชัย เทพวงศ์) for allegedly “creating a copycat facebook profile under his [former] friend’s name and posted lese majeste messages on it to avenge his [former] friend.”

The 33-year-old was charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code “after the Military Court issued an arrest warrant against him on 15 December 2015.”

Wichai was “arrested after the police received a complaint from an unidentified facebooker that an individual created a copycat facebook profile under his name and posted messages defamatory to the … monarchy on it.”

The police concluded that Wichai, “who was a best friend turned foe of the facebooker who submitted a complaint,” had created the fake Facebook profile.

A couple of points come to mind. First, because the lese majeste law is both draconian and allows anyone to make a complaint, it is subject to abuse by anyone, including the authorities. Second, it is remarkable and a sad testament to authoritarianism, that this case has been the responsibility of a military court.

Chiranuch loses appeal

23 12 2015

red candleThis post is essentially one of record. Chiranuch Premchaiporn was was first arrested when the offices of Prachatai were raided by the Crime Suppression police on 6 March 2009, on accusations of allowing webboard comments with lese majeste content. The content on the website said to be problematic was from 15 October to 3 November 2008. Chiranuch ran the webboard.Chiranuch computer

On 30 May 2012, Chiranuch was found guilty under the Computer Crimes Act and slapped with an 8-month suspended sentence, reduced from 12 months, and US$630 fine. In early October 2012, Chiranuch decided to appeal her conviction. Her appeal was rejected on 8 November 2013. She then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Prachatai now reports that the Supreme Court on 23 December 2015 confirmed the verdicts from the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. The Supreme Court also criticized Chiranuch for not deleting the offending posts quickly enough, noting a delay from a Saturday to Monday. Chiranuch denies this.

It also criticized her for not doing enough to facilitate police investigations on lese majeste and computer crimes. While this is a strange claim, given that Chiranuch was being charged and investigated, it is also denied, pointing to failures on the part of the police investigators.

Repressive populism I

23 12 2015

red candleOne indication that the junta is looking at longevity is is vicious crackdown on activists, many of whom (but not all) are from the middle class. Yet another indicator is the regime’s populism for the middle class to shore up wavering political support in this core constituency for authoritarian regimes.

Yes, we know, the middle class is theoretically considered to bolster democracy, but at least in the Thai case, this has long been a nonsense.

In recent days, the military dictatorship has come up with at least two populist gifts for the middle class. The first is a reduction in fines for traffic offenses. Khaosod reports that, as a new year “gift”:

88 police stations in Bangkok will reduce traffic tickets to 100 baht starting today until next month….

The exemption will be effective for ‘non-serious’ crimes for which the fine is less than 1,000 baht, such as not having a driving license or not wearing a helmet or seat belt.

Given the horrendous road toll in Thailand, promoting reduced fines seems like another daft idea.

The second is for middle-class consumers. The Bangkok Post reports that the junta:

… will allow shoppers a tax deduction of up to 15,000 baht on receipted goods and services purchased during the festive season, from Dec 25-31, as a New Year gift to the people.

The Finance Ministry proposed the measure to the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with an official announcement expected on Friday.

Shoppers will have buy from businesses registered for value added tax (VAT) and will need to get a full receipt with the seller’s tax registration included.

The allowable deductions will not include liquor, beer, wine, tobacco, cigarettes, vehicle fuel, automobiles, motorcycles and boats.

But think of iPADs, iPhones, big-screen TVs, smartphones, and the myriad other consumer items that may bolster Sino-Thai tycoons’ bottom lines for a while as consumerism increases, but will not add much to GDP growth.

Imagine the hullabaloo if an elected government did this. Recall the howls of protest when the Yingluck Shinawatra government established a floor price for rice that potentially moved funds to the poorest Thais. Obviously, in the land of The Dictator, the middle class is the constituency that matters.

Fascist, repressive, authoritarian, thuggish, stupid

23 12 2015

red candleThere have been some debates (and considerable nonsense) about how to identify and what to call this military dictatorship. We at PPT have used lots of descriptors – fascist, royalist, repressive, authoritarian, dictatorial, thuggish and more – and all may be applied to a regime that looks like sticking around for a considerable time.

Whatever one calls it, today’s Bangkok Post headline takes the cake, and reinforces another descriptor we have tried: this regime is dumb, dumber, doltish, dull and to get away from useful alliteration, just stupid.

Clearly, a doltish regime is also able to rule when it controls the guns and is doggedly repressive.99 percent support

The associated story states that: “The government claimed Tuesday that 99.3% of people in a poll were satisfied with its performance.” It is added that the poll was “conducted by the National Statistical Office.” Clearly, this once quite good assembler of data has also been undermined and politicized by the military junta. How else could such a Stalinist or North Koreanesque ridiculousness even see the light of day?

Thailand is run by ridiculous buffoons who can claim no skills other than the capacity for self-congratulations, royal posterior licking and adherence to hierarchy. This is not to deny that they are a dangerous bunch of ridiculous buffoons. It is their “training” in hierarchy and loyalty that makes them about as sharp as a bowling ball.

It is The Dictator at the head of this cabinet of clowns who creates the need for North Korean-style slavishness: “Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] said he has attached a great deal of importance to the presentation of the government’s one-year performance review and that he wanted to build a proper understanding of what happened before the coup in May last year and what followed afterwards.” By “proper” he means his interpretation. There can be no dissent.Buffoonery

The Post article includes many other “statistics,” all equally unbelievable.

The scary part for normal persons is that Thailand is, under The Dictator’s plans, to be stuck with him and his followers and legacy for more than 20 years.

Prayuth plans to outline”a 20-year national strategy blueprint to shore up reforms.” By “reforms” he means the repression of electoral politics, of all opposition and the embedding of military-royalist rule:

The 20-year strategy, based on the government’s reform policies and reform proposals from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] and the now-defunct National Reform Council (NRC), will cover security, the economy, social issues and legal and foreign affairs.

Royalists want more of this. Thailand appears doomed to decades more of this buffoonery and its associated nasty repression for a considerable period.

Junta pushes online fear

23 12 2015

red candleAs would be expected with all of the recent sedition and lese majeste charges under the military dictatorship, as has it, “netizens of Thailand are living in a climate of fear with no rule of law and self-censorship everywhere…”.

It quotes Assistant Professor Dr Pirongrong Ramasoot from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Journalism who uses a line PPT has also used, saying: “the military government was engaging in rule by law, not rule of law.” In other words, the junta is using the computer crimes and sedition law “to crack down on all dissent and free speech online.”

Pirongrong states that since the 2014 coup, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission “has issued orders to its licensees to block certain sites.”

She adds that: “Since 2008 [following the 2006 coup], CAT has had an internet filtering system.” MICT have told her that “they are not worried about data in the country, but they are concerned with information flowing into the country…”.

Pirongrong also notes “a marked rise in vigilante groups such as the so-called garbage collection and cyber scouts that scour the internet for dissidents to turn over for persecution.”internet-monitoring

The article also indicates the increased use of law suits by the junta to eliminate “negative” stories. Chuwat Rerksirisuk, editor-in-chief of the Prachatai explains that “instead of simply blocking news pages that they did not agree with as the previous Democrat [Party] government kept doing, the junta is bombarding him with criminal defamation lawsuits.”

Sasinan Thammditinan of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said that “since the [2014] coup … [sedition and lese majeste] cases are tried in military courts without any appeal and the courts refuse to take into account the defence that the chain of custody in computer forensics has been broken.

Sasinan states that those arrested “are regularly forced for their Facebook and LINE passwords and their phones and notebooks taken.” The report continues:

Sasinan also pointed a finger of blame squarely at Microsoft Thailand for divulging users’ private or identifying information in many of her cases. “The prosecutors love Microsoft as they give them all the information they ask for,” she said.

Facebook was also a problem, not officially, but there were enough Thais working inside Facebook for a steady stream of information about dissidents to make their way to the military prosecutors, she asserted.

Arnon Chalawan from iLaw said that “17 people had been prosecuted for article 112 of the criminal code for their Facebook activity.” In many cases this means that pressing “like” rather than any re-sharing of an offending post. He states that “Facebook sometimes promotes liked tweets to third parties and therein lies the problem.” Arnon adds:

Criminal culpability requires intent and Facebook is the one promoting those posts in order to sell more online advertising, not the user who simply clicked like usually to just bookmark that post for future reference. However, that line of defence does not work in the military courts….

Thailand is in a deep and dark place where the military dictatorship is determined to expunge all opposition to itself as the self-proclaimed protectors of country and monarchy. Because the junta is intolerant and fearful for “its” monarchical regime, it will get worse.


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