Updated: Release Somyos now

23 02 2017

PPT has written an large number of posts about lese majeste prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Somyos was arrested at 12 noon on Saturday, 30 April 2011.He was accused of lese majeste and eventually convicted, not for anything he wrote, but as the editor of Voice of Taksin, which was said to have published material deemed to constitute lese majeste. somyos

Essentially, the royalists wanted a “message” sent to opponents by persecuting Somyos.

Unlike almost all other lese majeste prisoners, Somyos bravely stood up to the threats, unconstitutional pressure and dragged out court procedures and dragged him around the country in a form of torture. He refused to plead guilty and the royalist courts and prosecutors persecuted him.

He was repeatedly refused bail.

Today, the long-time labor activist was sentenced to six years in jail by the Supreme Court for lese majeste and another year for defaming a military general, the latter, Saprang Kalayanamitr, being a royalist tool involved in planning the 2006 coup.

That seems to be his last legal avenue to prove his innocence. Given the time spent in jail, the junta should release him now.

Update: Prachatai reposts this statement is originally published by UN Human Rights – Asia Facebook page:

We repeat our call for the immediate release of prominent Thai labour activist and magazine editor Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who is serving a jail sentence for violating the lese-majeste law. The Supreme Court of Thailand ruled today to reduce his jail sentence from 10 to 6 years.

“While the decision is a step towards Somyot’s early release, we remain concerned by the extremely harsh sentence” said Laurent Meillan, Acting Regional Representative of the South East Asia Regional Office.

The Supreme Court reduced Somyot’s prison sentence on the grounds of old age and the fact that he has been in jail since 2011.

In 2013, the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concern about the extremely harsh sentencing of Somyot and stated that the conviction sent a wrong signal about freedom of expression in Thailand. The UN Human Rights Mechanisms have repeatedly urged the Thai Government to stop using lese-majeste provisions as a political tool to stifle critical speech and have repeatedly stated that that harsh criminal sanctions under the law are neither necessary nor proportionate.

In August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Somyot’s detention was arbitrary and requested the Government of Thailand to take all necessary steps to “release Somyot and accord him an enforceable right to compensation” in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We urge the Thai Government to implement the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Somyot’s case.





Still getting the monarchy wrong

17 02 2017

Ralph Jennings, a Contributor at Forbes says he “cover[s] under-reported stories from Taiwan and Asia” but seems to specialize on China and Taiwan. Thus, venturing into things royal and Thailand is thus a stretch and a test of knowledge.

He’s right to observe that the monarchy in Thailand has “massive influence.”

But the picture he paints of the last king is pure palace propaganda when he states:

He had stopped coups, spearheaded rural infrastructure projects and met commoners in rough or squalid conditions. His actions helped strengthen people’s confidence in their country with an otherwise wobbly government.

Let’s correct a bit. He also initiated coups, as in 1957, and he supported coups, as in 2006, when it suited him. And that’s just two examples. He also supported right-wing extremists and acted as a prompt to massive blood-letting, as in 1976. The palace hand was always meddling in politics. The “infrastructure projects” are presumably the royal projects, many of them grand failures and, since the General Prem Tinsulanonda era, at great taxpayer expense.

And, “wobbly government” hardly seems to fit much of the reign, when the monarchy collaborated with ruthless military regimes, just as it does now.

The author is correct to observe that King Vajiralongkorn “is not expected to advocate changes in Thailand that reflect mass concerns or even go around meeting people.”

Recall that the dead king also essentially gave up “going to the people” for most of the last two decades of his reign. For one thing, he was too ill. For another, the “going to meet the people” was a political strategy for winning hearts and minds in his campaign to remake the monarchy. By the 1990s, this was largely achieved.

That King Vajiralongkorn is claimed to have “signaled little interest so far in shifting Thailand from quasi-military rule toward more democracy after a junta took power in 2014” seems an odd observation. And, in this quite natural political position for a monarchy such as Thailand’s, the new king follows the dead one.

That the new king wants more power for the throne is clear to all. That’s why the military’s “constitution” has been changed. But to say that the new version – we still don’t know the exact nature of the changes – allows the king “more freedom to travel overseas, where he has spent much of his life, and can appoint a regent to rule when he’s not around” is a misunderstanding of what The Dictator has let be known. The point of the changes was to allow him to not have a regent during his jaunts.

And, Mr Jennings must be the only one who thinks “[e]lections are due this year.”

He is right, however, to add that “[o]bservers believe that with King Vajiralongkorn, Thailand will continue to retain its strict lese-majeste laws, which ban any criticism of the monarchy.” That is a requirement of continued domination by a royalist elite.





Concocting constitutionalism

13 01 2017

The Bangkok Post describes The Dictator as “furious” about reporting on the relationship between the king and the junta’s government.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha seems to be in a lather over perceptions that the king has stepped beyond the bounds of his constitutional position. Prayuth reckons the reason for this is that the media hasn’t reported on the king’s demands of the government carefully enough.

It is very hard to believe that the media in Thailand would not be exceptionally careful about how they report anything about the monarchy. After all, they have to be very wary of the draconian lese majeste law, wielded like a child’s bat at a piñata by this military regime.

The Dictator insisted that “the [k]ing did not ask the government to amend the new constitution as reported by the media.” In full tantrum mode, Prayuth said he was “angered” by the alleged misreporting.He diagnosed the “problem” as the “local media … feeding off foreign media reports, saying this had caused damage, without elaborating.”

We can only guess that the “damage” is either to Prayuth or to (fake) notions of constitutionalism. Perhaps Prayuth has received a literal or verbal boot to his posterior from the palace. More likely, he’s reflecting a position that the junta learned from the 2006 coup and that is to distance the palace from the military thugs who have hijacked power.

We recall the efforts that Prayuth and his band of constitutional criminals went to after the 2014 coup to declare the palace’s distance from the junta. Smashing the constitution in 2006 was seen by pretty much everyone as the work of General Prem Tinsulanonda and a bunch of palace insiders as co-conspirators, with the king and the queen welcoming the coup leaders just hours after the illegal event. That was an eye-opening event for many in Thailand and took royal stocks to lows not seen since the mid-1970s.

This is why Prayuth and his junta wanted to makes sure that the palace was seen as somewhat distant from their illegal acts.

So Prayuth is worried that the new king’s actions in telling the government to changes aspects of the constitution he’s miffed about is being seen as constitutional meddling. It is exactly that, but that’s not the message Prayuth or the palace wants out there, even if the media’s reporting has been accurate.

In other words, Prayuth is constitutional fence mending after the the fact of meddling.

He declared that “he had never said the [k]ing had asked the government to amend the new charter awaiting royal endorsement.” He attacked the press: “How could you report that the [k]ing had asked the government to amend the charter? It’s not true…”.

It is true, but not the preferred story. As the Post story says,

Reporters responded by saying that the prime minister had said on Tuesday that the [k]ing had advised that there were three to four provisions that need to be amended to fit in with the monarch’s power.

Prayuth retorted:

I said His Majesty had spoken to the Privy Council, not directly to the government…”. He went on to weave the story: “The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary sent a letter about the [k]ing’s observations to the government and the government agreed to make changes to the constitution of its own accord….

That story might be true or it might not, but it hardly matters for the facts of what’s happening. For Prayuth it matters because the junta wants to wipe the king’s fingerprints from constitutional meddling. We feel sure that the notion that the junta “agreed to make changes to the constitution of its own accord” is clearly a concoction.

So contorted and so legally dubious is this process of constitutional meddling that the junta has had to make several retrospective changes to the interim constitution.

The National Legislative Assembly has rushed the changes through to “allow the government to ask for the new constitution back from the [k]ing so revisions can be made.”

Once those retrospective changes are made, then the draft constitution, “approved” by a “referendum,” can then be changed to suit the king.

The Dictator may feel that concocting constitutionalism is like a magician’s card trick and no one will notice, but it’s too late, everyone saw the king.





Amnesty on the junta’s agenda

9 01 2017

There have now been several reports that the military junta is considering a political amnesty. A report at Prachatai states that the the junta is “currently reviewing the recommendations of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand before it forms its official policies on promoting reconciliation.”

After that review, the National Reform Steering Assembly will “recommend to the junta that future political amnesties be inapplicable to those suspected or guilty of violating the country’s anti-corruption laws, as well as Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code — the lèse majesté law.” Political leaders will also be outside any amnesty and compensation will be available.

The exclusion of those accused of lese majeste and corruption continues a legal path where murderers and those involved in violence are considered less reprehensible than the “corrupt” and those who are anti-monarchists.

The NRSA is also likely to “recommend the establishment of a special committee tasked with deciding the merits of political amnesty on a case-by-case basis.” It will suggest that the amnesty be available for the period since 2004.

Amnesty has been a cause of political conflict, with an earlier amnesty bill – quickly withdrawn – under the Yingluck Shinawatra government sparking events that led to the 2014 military coup.

This version of amnesty is targeted to exclude the junta’s political opponents. Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra are excluded because of corruption charges. With lese majeste excluded, many of those politically charged and considered anti-junta activists will be outside “reconciliation.”

The exclusion of political leaders has no impact on Abhisit  Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban as the murder charges against them have all been dropped. Likewise, military criminals who have murdered and maimed continue to enjoy impunity. As for those leading the illegal coups of 2006 and 2014, they have already granted themselves amnesty.





Regression and the consolidation of military power

5 01 2017

Generals are saying there will be an “election” in 2017, contradicting all the flunkies they’ve hired to get all the laws in place to allow and “election.” It matters little, for as the military junta has planned, an “election” won’t change anything. The military’s Thai-style democracy is not democratic in any way and leaves real decision-making to the royalist elite.

A story at Scoop Media, based in New Zealand tells some of the story, mixed with a little royalist nonsense. We quote some of the insightful bits and ignore the royalist tripe.

[General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s post-coup policies are also defending Thailand’s “old money” elite against social climbing “nouveau riche” rivals.

Those quashed rivals are led by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who Prayuth helped topple in a 2006 coup, and by Thaksin’s sister former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra who was ousted by Prayuth’s 2014 coup….

During the past two years, his regime moved supporters into top positions within the military, police, bureaucracy, judiciary and legislature, to ensure the military’s leverage over future policies and governments….

Prayuth … continues to strengthen his forces against his two biggest enemies, the Shinawatra siblings.

Former Prime Minister Yingluck is being prosecuted for her alleged “negligence” while administering rice subsidies during 2012-14.

She must pay $1 billion in compensation to the government for financial “losses”….

The royalists, the “old money” elite, Sino-Thai tycoons and the frightened middle class in Bangkok are backing Prayuth. They are backing King Vajiralongkorn, even if they did have had doubts about him. They have little choice. They know their wealth and privilege requires a continuation of the conservative military-monarchy coalition.





Brotherly love

30 12 2016

The 2014 military coup was intended to make up for the failures of of the 2006 putsch. In many ways, that 2006 intervention was General Prem Tinsulanonda’s coup. He was deeply involved in planning it, ensured military “backbone” for the royalist coup and arranged for his Privy Council colleague, General Surayud Chulanont, to become prime minister in a royalist and military backed government.

Yet the 2006 coup was a failure because the coup masters misunderstood the nature of the electoral support for Thaksin Shinawatra. The old men who claimed Thailand as their realm and who opposed popular sovereignty mistakenly believed Thaksin was reviled throughout the land and not just in their royalist cabals and yellow shirted strongholds in Bangkok and parts of the south.

The lessons taken from the failure of Prem’s coup was that, in 2014, a far deeper and more extensive military repression was required in order to, as the yellow-shirted ideologues put it, uproot the Thaksin regime. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, General Pravit Wongsuwan and their junta-cum-government of military brass has been the ruthless military dictatorship that Prem and other palace-related monarchists wanted and needed.

This is why the grand old political meddler is so enthralled and enamored of General Prayuth. He sees a true “son” at work for the military brotherhood and for the palace. When the junta comes calling at Prem’s taxpaper-funded mansion, he’s so very happy.

As the Bangkok Post reports the most recent mutual posterior polish, General Prem was effusive in his praise.

prem-entralled

Prem told the well-wishers who came to pay their respects to the palace’s chief political player that “he was aware of the government’s hard work.” He praised the dictatorship: “The government [he means junta] is exhausted and the prime minister, even more so.” Prem expressed his full support for the junta.

General Prem showered praise on General Prayuth, saying the “more exhausted” Prayuth is, “the greater success there is because the prime minister is committed to bringing happiness back to the nation…”. Prem expressed his full support for The Dictator, declaring: “I’m glad the prime minister and everyone here is dedicated to the country’s cause. We may be tired but we are not despondent…”.

He seems to view his palace and the junta as a team, running the country as only they can, with vigor and determination translated as repression and political regression.

He also “urged Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and the armed forces leaders to do their best to help Gen Prayut,” and drew on palace propaganda for support, mythologizing the dead king: “If one feels on the verge of losing steam, he only needs to look up at the picture of the late King who had endured hard work for 70 years. That is far more than what any of us has gone through…”. Nonsense for sure, but it is the linking of monarchy and military that’s critical for the new reign and for wiping out the vestiges of popular electoralism.

Naturally enough, General Prayuth took to polishing Prem’s aged butt, praising Prem’s “experience, ability and loyalty to the royal institution [he means monarchy]…”. So happy are the two together that Prem took Prayuth off for a “private meeting … that lasted about 15 minutes.”

Later, Prayuth explained that the old general “inquired about his work plans for the next year.” We assume his plans for political regression, deepening surveillance and a sham election were all ticked off by the palace’s man.





Maintaining the fairy tale

11 12 2016

Along with the whitewashing of the new king’s notorious past, the fawning over the dead king continues.

Much of this treacly nonsense is a simple repetition of decades of palace propaganda. Some of it is a deliberate set of manufactured stories that beggar belief for anyone who thinks.

We guess some of it is constructed under threat. By this we mean that when normally sensible people come up with errant nonsense, we assume that they say what they do for fear of sanction.

There’s an example of this at The Nation, where law professor Parinya Thaewanarumitkul is reported to have recycled a history that suits royalists and palace propaganda: that the late king was some kind of paragon as a constitutional monarch.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a public lecture on the late king and democracy, Prinya declares that the late king “remained a constitutional monarch despite doubts about his role in the appointment of ‘royally appointed’ prime ministers…”. At least it is admitted that the appointments of Sanya Dharmasakti and Anand Panyarachun were “controversial.”

They were also loyal royalists close to the palace.

Prinya does not mention – at least not in the reporting at The Nation – the rightist Thanin Kraivixien or the dozen or so military coups that the palace generally supported. The king was always keen to support his military friends and “protectors.” He doesn’t mention the trampling to dust of constitutions that the king was happy to go along with.King and junta

In line with the usual propaganda, “Parinya said that the late monarch had played a crucial role in bringing the country together and getting it through times of crisis.”

He is referring to 1973 and 1992. In both cases, the king can be seen as intervening when the military was in trouble and to prevent any serious reform.

Prinya also mentions the “recent crisis that followed the coup in 2006, for instance, resulted in people appealing to the King, asking for a royally appointed prime minister as a means to end the turmoil…”.

We assume he means before the 2006 coup for he goes on to “explain” that the king was properly constitutional in his response.

Not quite right. He told a gaggle of judges to “fix” things for him. The coup soon followed.

His claim that the king “could not just appoint anyone by his preference. He only endorsed as he was asked to”  is simply a manipulation of the facts.

His claim that the late king “never exercised it [his power] undemocratically” is untrue.

No serious academic researcher could draw such conclusions. Only a blind royalist or one under threat. There’s better stuff here.