Updated: Fear and repression I

24 07 2017

Talk of “reconciliation” seems pointless in the junta’s dictatorship. The task of the junta has been to repress those it identifies as “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.” As it was largely through the efforts of the anti-democrats, led by the (anti-)Democrat Party, that paved the way for the 2014 military coup, it should be no surprise at all that the coalition of military and anti-democrats coalesces to continue the fight against those “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.”

As everyone knows, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and associates. After more than three years of heavy duty repression designed to decapitate these groups, there is limited evidence that they retain much capacity for mobilization. Yet the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise against them.

As reported in The Nation, the pending verdict against Yingluck Shinawatra, due on 25 August, is causing considerable angst among the ruling regime and its anti-democrat allies.

This deep anxiety was inflamed by the sight of “[h]undreds of Yingluck’s supporters [who] gathered at the high court last Friday during the last hearing of the case against her.”

The Democrat Party, never very popular anywhere except in the previous palace hierarchy and among the royalist military, immediately went back to their rhetoric of anti-Thaksinism that has been a feature of their efforts to bring down each elected government since 2001. They claimed that “many of the supporters travelled together in an arranged trip from the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.” In other words, they reflexively denigrated their opponents as unthinking and unintelligent people/buffaloes, led around by money and bosses.

At the same time, Somchai Sawaengkarn, reported as “a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” but in fact a former unelected senator, dedicated anti-democrat, anti-Thaksin campaigner for more than a decade, hard core royalist and prone to accuse opponents of lese majeste, claimed “that he has learned of a plot to incite riots in a bid to overthrow the government and the NCPO [he means his buddies in the junta].”

Somchai has concocted plots in order to denigrate political opponents in the past and we assume he’s at it again. “Good” people like him are skilled liars but usually claim they do it for the greater “good.” This usually means ousting an elected government, supporting the crown or lapping the military boot or, as in this case, encouraging it in political activism. This is why he invents a plot: “They will try to bring down the government and the NCPO [junta] through riots. Hard-core groups that are their allies have clearly said that they want to wage a ‘people’s war’…”. He predicts a “mobilization” of 10,000 people.

While we might hope he is right, based on previous “inventiveness” by Somchai, we can be reasonably sure that, tongue on military boot, he’s making this up to encourage his junta allies in further political repression.

Indeed, the military thugs are already at work.

The Nation reports a source in the ruling junta as revealing that the military and its bureaucratic handmaidens are “closely following movements by certain groups of people ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the case against former prime minister Yingluck…”.

That source adds that “Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, in his capacity as secretary to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed the local peacekeeping forces to monitor the movements of ‘all groups involved’ over the next month…”.

The Army’s regional commanders have been ordered “to make sure any suspicious movements are under their microscope…. If the local peacekeeping forces, which were formed after the military coup in 2014, discovered any plan to mobilise large groups of people into Bangkok, they would need to persuade their leaders to cancel such a trip…”. That will mean detentions, threats and other forms of repression. Indeed, the leaking of these orders are a part of that repression.

Military officers have already “been dispatched to different areas of the country in an attempt to persuade Yingluck’s supporters not to come to Bangkok … [and t]hey are going to meet with local community leaders and administrators and ask them to ‘create a better understanding’ among the local residents.” The order is that there “should be no mobilisation of the masses…”. In other words, the military presence at all levels is being heightened and the threats made real.

Update: Part of the fear of Yingluck’s supporters seems reflected in the estimates of the number who showed up last week. The Bangkok Post reports almost 1,000. The official red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have warned The Dictator that his threats inflamed the situation and brought out even more supporters. More threats and intimidation could would damage the junta.





Repression and the nature of dictatorship

23 07 2017

About a week ago we posted on the statement by 176 of the 500 or so academics who attended the International Conference on Thai Studies. Later, we posted on how the military junta’s thugs could not ignore the “challenge” posed by the academics and their mild call for the return of freedom of expression.

According to a Bangkok Post editorial, the testy dictatorial regime can’t help itself in “responding”with negatives. It is its nature as a dictatorship.

That Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart has dismissed the academic call “comes as no surprise.” As the Post states: “His response perfectly reflects the military regime’s unreasonable fear and outrageous blockade of ‘different’ opinions.”

We have occasionally agreed that the junta is fearful of losing its power but we think the political repression is the nature of the dictatorship.

The “[m]any people [who] have been harassed, threatened, arrested and detained…” is the way a dictatorship deals with anyone considered “oppositional.”

The academics “asked” the junta to “give people back the freedom to express their opinions without fear of punishment or reprisal.”

It also asked they be granted full and free access to information and facts, and that prisoners of conscience — those jailed for their religious, political or other views — be released from jail or detention, among other issues.

None of this is going to happen under a military dictatorship.

Indeed, “at the Chiang Mai conference,” the junta had “[p]lainclothes officers record… who was in attendance and what they discussed.”

From Ugly Thailand

There can be no academic freedom and no freedom of speech. Indeed, the Post says, “Thai society has fallen under strict military control.”

We’d say it didn’t “fall” under military control. In fact, it was a planned military coup, planned by the current junta and coordinated with its tycoon, royalist and anti-democrat allies. Those groups don’t want a “democratic” politics that they are not sure that they can control.

Where the Post goes seriously wrong is in thinking that “democracy looms after the promised elections next year.” What looms is years of elite, royalist and military control of politics camouflaged as an electoral “democracy.”

After all, that was the very point of the coup in 2014.





“Election” readiness II

22 07 2017

In an earlier post PPT, commented that preparations for the military junta’s election were moving along and that the signals for this were getting stronger. They included the anti-Election Commission that the junta could arrange its election sometime from August 2018. Another signal were the efforts to neuter the Shinawatra clan and Puea Thai Party, with the cases against Yingluck Shinawatra is drawing to a close next month.

The Bangkok Post reports that other cases at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions are scheduled for rulings with “three major cases involving politicians from the Pheu Thai Party” also scheduled for next month.

One is Yingluck’s case. A second case “involves a group of 28 people including former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and former deputy commerce minister Poom Sarapol. It deals with their involvement in government-to-government rice sales to China.” All are from the Yingluck government that was thrown out by the 2014 military coup.

The third case, set to be ruled on 2 August, involves a set of senior figures associated with the pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party government from 2007-08. Included are former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who was deputy prime minister in charge of security under then premier Somchai and two senior policemen of that period.

They are on trial for their roles in the crackdown on the People’s Alliance for Democracy which had had its protesters lay siege to Government House from 20 June 2008, seeking to force the pro-Thaksin elected government out of office. Despite a court order for the eviction of protesters, the siege continued. To bring further pressure on the government, PAD laid siege to parliament, to prevent Somchai from making a legally required policy speech in the assembly. On 7 July 2008, police announced that they would use tear gas and clear protesters. Clashes continued for several hours, with two deaths and 471 people injured. One of the deaths was a PAD supporter who accidentally blew himself up.

Students of Thailand’s double standards will recall that former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and General Anupong Paojinda were charged with malfeasance and murder for their crackdowns on red shirt protesters in April and May 2010 resulting in a 100 deaths and thousands of injuries. Several courts denied that they had jurisdiction, the National Anti-Corruption Commission ruled they had acted lawfully and the case did not go to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.





Fighting for political space

20 07 2017

According to a report at Prachatai, a court in Bangkok “has commenced a trial against initiated by democracy activists against the junta leader, the [Royal Thai] Army and the Royal Thai Police (RTP).”

These activists have accused these thugs “of violating their rights during a crackdown on a gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.” We consider “commemorate” a misnomer as it was actually an attempt to mourn the illegal acts of the military junta.

Most of the activists were members of the New Democracy Movement when junta thugs prevented the event.

They accuse the “authorities of malfeasance and abuse of human rights in arresting and abusing NDM activists and other demonstrators who on 22 May 2015 participated in a peaceful gathering…”.

It may be a case doomed to failure, but the demand for “16.5 million baht in compensation from the three public agencies” is a fabulous way of drawing attention to the thuggish acts of the military dictatorship.

Back in 2015, all the activists did was “stand… for 15 minutes in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.” Afterwards, they were “arrested and in many cases physically assaulted by security officers both in uniform and in plainclothes.”

We can’t wait for the court to call The Dictator and other senior thugs to testify.





Rejecting dictatorship

18 07 2017

Much that passes for popular culture has been politically bland since the 2014 military coup.

Global Voices reports on Tattoo Colour’s new song and video Dictator Girl (เผด็จเกิร์ล), which is critical of the military dictatorship:





Disrupting civil society

15 07 2017

In a report at Prachatai, it is said that in “the three years since the 2014 coup d’état, the regime has disrupted 157 public events…” It adds that these events have mostly being considered “politically sensitive.” That term is rather lame. In fact, the junta has mostly shut down events it considers threatening to its authoritarian rule.

We also think that the iLaw count is an underestimate. We think this because the real figure would include events, particularly in  the provinces, that have been “nipped in the bud” by the junta, the police and military who act as the political censors and thugs for the junta.

The events the junta has ground under the heel of the military boot are those the “authorities” decide threaten their business or political interests or those of their buddies.

The iLaw count says that the majority of events it counted are those “public forums or gatherings with titles containing words like ‘dictatorship’ and ‘treason’.”

Then there are events organized locally that are local people being pushed off land, forced to accept pollution from miners, and more. Many of these events have been disrupted, usually by implied or real threat from the military thugs.

All of this activity by the authoritarian regime is to undermine politicized civil society that the military dictatorship considers threatening. The exception is action is by anti-democrat allies, although even there the junta seems sometimes anxious.





Three years to get a correct decision

6 07 2017

It isn’t often that a military court gets anything right. In legal terms, a military court is simply an arm of the junta, doing its bidding. However, a report at Prachatai suggests that it got one decision legally right.

When the military dictatorship was established following the coup in May 2014, it issued orders for dozens of people to “surrender” themselves to the regime.

Most did go to a military jail for a short time. Some were jailed for years. A few went on the run and were hunted down. Others went into exile and some were not able to report, being overseas or in hospital and the like.

Jitra Kotchadej, a trade unionist and well-known activist, was one of those who could not report to the military thugs. She was in Sweden at the time.

When she returned to Thailand, she “was arrested … on 13 June 2014 by  the Thai Immigration officers. The police later requested the military court to remand her in custody, but Jittra was released on bail on the same day.” She was accused of failing to abide by the military junta’s orders.

She was acquitted by the court on 6 July because she had “submitted a letter to the Royal Thai Embassy and the NCPO [the junta], explaining that she would report to the junta on her return to Thailand.”

That acquittal is good news but it took almost three years to get to it. In most normal political systems, she would not have been charged or dragged to the courts, let alone a military court. But Thailand is anything but normal.