Republicanism and those shirts III

13 09 2018

More details are becoming available about the alleged republican movement that the junta says is not a threat to the monarchical state but claims it has been watching it for years.

The Bangkok Post reported that police charged Wannapa, a woman taxi motorcyclist, “with illegal assembly and sedition for possession of T-shirts the government has linked to an anti-monarchist movement.”

This reporting is a bit hard to follow. We are not at all sure what “illegal assembly” means in this case, unless this is the ancient ang yee charge. The sedition fits with the regime’s efforts – as we see it – to reduce the international damage that comes each time it uses lese majeste charges. In fact, though, the sedition law is more draconian even than lese majeste.

Wannapa has denied all charges and it was her mother who was hawking the shirts.

The police sought to detain her further, but she made bail (see below).

It was the junta, the “National Council for Peace and Order [that] handed her over to the CSD on Tuesday evening.” It was the junta, “NCPO officers [who] arrested her in Samut Prakan province in possession of black T-shirts with a small chest emblem said to represent the so-called Thai Federation movement, which Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon referred to as an anti-monarchist movement.” Here, junta/NCPO means the military.

Wannapa’s lawyer Pawinee Chumsri of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “said her client denied the charges. She had never been a member of any political movement and did not know the meaning of the small rectangular logo on the shirts…”. She was “distribut[ing] the shirts on instructions from her mother, the lawyer said. Her mother paid her to transport the shirts. The military seized 400 of the T-shirts from her…”.

Her client used the internet only to watch cartoons and movies and listen to music, and did not visit any political websites, the lawyer said.

Another Bangkok Post report states that while initially reporting that Wannapa had been denied bail, the Criminal Court has granted bail on Wednesday. Her bail was set at 200,000 baht.

This report says she was “charged … for violating the constitution and sedition as well as an act of running an illegal organisation.”

Perhaps the constitution bit is Section 1, “Thailand is one and indivisible Kingdom.” But if there weren’t double standards in Thailand, this could hardly be a serious charge. After all, the current regime trashed a whole constitution in its coup in 2014.

Police now say that “Wannapa received the T-shirts from her mother Somphit Sombathom, who is a member of the movement and is still at large in Laos.” They say Wannapa had distributed about 60 shirts and had another 400 shirts that were confiscated.

Police also confirmed that “three other suspects, including a man named Kritsana Asasu, were earlier arrested by authorities for their alleged involvement in the movement.” It is not clear where they are or what charges they face.

Police alleged that the Organization for a Thai Federation “acts against the National Council for Peace and Order and has the objective of overthrowing the current political regime of the country to a federated republic.”

The junta is making some efforts to get political gain from these arrests, linking the “movement” to both the official red shirts and “people behind the movement … in Laos, some European countries and the United States.” It’s a big net, not unlike other plots the junta has “discovered,” it is the same characters they want to tar and feather.

It seems to us that the junta’s penchant for “revealing” plots is mainly to cause “fear” mainly on the part of its supporters and to “prove” that repression remains “necessary.” At the same time, the junta is promoting a more widespread awareness of republicanism.





Meechai as military lackey

12 09 2018

Meechai Ruchupan has loyally served several military and military-backed regimes.

Meechai has faithfully served royalist and military regimes, being a in various legal and political positions to prime ministers Sanya Dharmasakti, Kukrit Pramoj, Seni Pramoj, Thanin Kraivichien, General Kriangsak Chamanan, General Prem Tinsulanonda and Anand Panyarachun. His main task in all of these positions has been to embed Thai-style (non) democracy. rather than an electoral democracy where the people are sovereign.

He also worked for Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, but when Chatichai was ousted in a miltiary coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon and his National Peace-Keeping Council (NPKC) in 1991, Meechai was hoisted by his military allies into the acting premier’s position before Anand was given the top job by the military, probably on royal advice.

Later, the military had Meechai appointed the leader of a charter-drafting committee, leading to the 1991 Constitution, which eventually led to the May 1992 massacre. In drafting that constitution, Meechai simply plagiarized bits of a charter that had been used earlier by a military regime. The major “achievement of that constitution was in allowing an “outsider” prime minister. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s what he has recycled into the 2017 constitution.

Like many of the “good” people, he is arrogant, practices nepotism, lies for his bosses and political allies, slithers before the monarchy, he’s a “constitutional expert” who practices and supports double standards and the retrospective application of laws. You get the picture.

Thai PBS now reports that, against all evidence, Meechai has claimed to not be a military lackey. As the report begins:

Every coup-maker of the past two decades needed his service. Seizing power doesn’t end with just toppling the incumbent governments. Coup announcements and executive orders need to be issued. And more importantly, interim constitutions need to be drafted.

And his track records have proven that nobody could have done a better job with all these necessary paperworks than Meechai Ruchuphan.

It is well more than two decades, but let’s go on.

Maybe he’s been to a fortune teller who predicts that Meechai will burn in the fires of hell for an eternity or perhaps he’s writing a self-congratulatory book. But whatever the reason, Meechai improbably claims that “he was inadvertently dragged [sic.] into a few coups despite the fact that he hardly knew any of the generals involved.”

He reckons that the multiple coup leaders just needed his legal expertise. In other words, he claims he’s just a tool for the men who repeatedly act illegally in overthrowing legal governments and smashing constitutions.

A tool he might be, but a willing and blunt tool. Willingly plagiarizing and willingly taking positions and pay from dull dictators.

But none of that means, at least in Meechai’s fairy tale, “that he would follow every marching order from the military.”

That he’s piling up buffalo manure is illustrated in his ridiculous claims about the 2006 coup.

He says the first he was ever at the army headquarters was during the 2006, which he knew nothing of. Really? Seriously? More unbelievable is his statement that he “didn’t even know at the time who was leading the coup. There were three of them there and I knew only afterward … [who] they were…”.

He is imitating the Deputy Dictator making stupid and unbelievable stuff in the belief that the public are gullible morons. That Meechai thinks anyone would believe that he, a military servant for decades, didn’t know three of the most powerful generals is laughable.

Then he lies about the 2014 coup: “His service was enlisted once again by the people he didn’t know.” Yes, that’s right, didn’t know anyone. He lies:  “I didn’t know Gen Prayut and didn’t even know what he looked like…”.

We assume that when he was President of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly after the 2006 coup he kept his eyes closed the whole time so that he didn’t see NLA member Gen Prayuth.

He goes on and on with this stream of fermenting lies to claim “that even under military dictatorship … he was by no means an unquestioning subordinate of those in power.”

Meechai is unscrupulous and a military lackey. He doesn’t feel like a lackey because his ideas on anti-democracy fit the generals ever so perfectly.

The arrogance of the man is as stunning at Gen Prawit’s.





Re-education for attitude adjustment

10 09 2018

Being abducted, called in or brought in to a military facility or being “visited” at a workplace or at home has been rather common under the military dictatorship as it represses and suppresses. These “sessions” are considered “re-education” meant to result in “attitude adjustment” or at least to pressure the “trainee” to be silent. Usually, the “trainees” have been identifiable as opponents of the regime.

Only occasionally have persons normally considered coup supporting been re-educated. So it is worth highlighting the recent experience of a former Democrat Party MP.

Recently, Nakorn Machim was subjected to a so-called attitude adjustment by a team of army and police officers. His “crime”? He had criticized the military and supported the obvious: that the military and Democrat Party conspired to throw out the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

Yet he did get some preferred treatment, being “summoned to a coffee-shop in Nakhon Thai District of Phitsanuloke to meet with a group of army personnel from the Third Army Region, local government officials and policemen, led by Col Noppadol Watcharachitbovorn.”

The problem was “the former Democrat MP’s recent meeting with representatives of the European Union in Thailand and his allegation posted on Facebook” about the military, the Democrat Party and the 2014 coup.

Col Noppadol advised the former MP to button up. He also gave Nakorn a spray of junta propaganda about its role in making Thailand safe for anti-democrats (that’s PPT’s description).





When the military is on top XXVII

2 09 2018

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk has an op-ed and a story that deserve attention.

In the stroy, Pravit points out that the “head of a private anti-corruption organization has been silent on its decision to award full marks to junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in its annual assessment.” He refers to a press conference where Chairman Pramon Sutivong celebrated the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand’s 7th anniversary by declaring that his “organisation has helped save 25.1 billion baht of state funds that could have been lost to corruption over the past seven years.”

As it turns out, they don’t mean over seven years but since 2015, when ACT partnered with the military junta.

Pramon claimed lots of “outcomes” that can’t be verified, but correctly touted ACT’s “involvement in the development of their 2017 constitution which the organisation implemented as an ‘anti-corruption constitution’.”

At the media circus, Pramon stated: “I give Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister, full marks. But I admit that there are still a number of people around him that have been questioned by the public…”. He means Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, where ACT has made a comments, but didn’t get into nepotism and military procurement.

When Pramon was asked to “explain how its score was calculated to award the highest possible ranking to a regime that has been marred by corruption scandals, …[he] did not respond to multiple inquiries.”

One activist pointed out that Pramon and ACT gave The Dictator “full marks” when international rankings had Thailand wobbling and had a lower ranking now than in 2015.

A reporter’s questions were said to have included one on whether Pramon considered “staging a coup and monopolizing state funding through the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly as a form of corruption or not.” No response.

Pravit points out that a source at ACT “defended the announcement by saying Pramon, who was appointed by the junta leader to his National Reform Council following the coup, only gave full marks to Prayuth for his ‘sincerity’ to tackle corruption.” That ACT employee flattened out, saying: “He [Pramon] must have heard something that made him feels that His Excellency [The Dictator] Prayuth was sincere…. He may have had some experience from meeting [Prayuth].”

Of course, nothing much can be expected of ACT. It was a royalist response to the election of Yingluck Shinawatra and was populated by royalist “advisers” including Anand Punyarachun and Vasit Dejkunjorn, both activists in opposing elected governments. (By the way, ACT’s website still has Vasit listed as Chairman despite his death in June.)

Pravit’s op-ed is on China in Thailand. Chinese and Chinese money are everywhere, he says. Tourists, property buyers, investors are seen in everything from high durian prices to military authoritarianism.

It is the latter that Pravit concentrates on, citing academics who “publicly warn how the rise of China bodes ill for human rights and democracy in Thailand and Southeast Asia.” PPT commented on this seminar previously. One thing we said was that the emphasis on China, blaming it for the resilience of the military junta seemed a little overdone for us.

But Pravit is not so sure. He notes that China is unlikely to promote democracy, but that hardly needs saying. He does note that Japan and South Korea have “failed to put any pressure on the [2014] Thai coup-makers as well. To them, it’s business as usual.” As it is for China.

Pravit seems to be pointing to the West that was, for a time, critical of the 2014 coup. But, then, some in that  same West were pretty celebratory of the 2006 coup – think of US Ambassador Ralph Boyce and his commentary in Wikileaks.

But Pravit says that “the difference is that China has become much more influential in Thailand compared to Japan or South Korea.” Really? We have previously pointed out that it doesn’t take much work to look up some data to find out which country is the biggest investor in Thailand. But here’s a problem. Pravit cites a deeply flawed book, riddled with errors, that makes more than a few unfounded claims.

We might agree that “[d]emocracy, human rights, press freedom and free speech are at risk if we ape the Chinese model of politics and administration…”. But think, just for a few seconds about this statement. Thailand’s democracy, human rights, press freedom and free speech are not at risk from Chinese supporters but from Thailand’s military. Under the junta, they have been mangled.

Thailand’s generals don’t need Chinese tutors on how to undermine democracy, human rights, press freedom and free speech. They have done it for decades. It comes naturally, whether “relying” on the support of the US as many military leaders did or with China’s support.





Double standards on display

27 08 2018

Thailand’s political elite practice a form of politics that is underpinned by double standards.

Double standards are about the only standards observed by the politicized judiciary.

As the junta thinks about its people winning its rigged election, all parties are banned from political activities. That is, unless the party or proto-party happens to be pro-junta. The double standard also applies to the junta’s own campaigning.

Political parties are only one element of the political system, and the double standards extend far and wide and into what remains of a shattered civil society.

In seizing power in 2014, one of the main self-appointed tasks of the military junta was to destroy the red shirt movement. That involved the deep militarization of areas identified as red shirt supporting and the arrest and jailing of scores of red shirt leaders.

It has to be said that the military’s tactics have been quite successful in suppressing red shirts.

Today, the treatment of civil society is riddled with double standards. Groups and even protesters who are not considered a threat to the junta’s politics are tolerated whereas those considered red shirts are forbidden from any kind of activism.

These double standards have been on display in Chiang Mai over the last couple of days.

There the authorities “had promised not to block the protest based around Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai’s old city”targeting the judiciary’s housing cutting into a forest on Doi Suthep. The junta and military sees this protest, dominated by middle-class activists, as non-threatening.

But what happens when it learns that a solitary red shirt leader based locally had joined the rally?

The media reports that Third Army Region commander Lt Gen Wijak Siribansop became annoyed at “the presence of a local red shirt leader in a rally …[believing it] may spoil the protest movement…”.

That local red shirt leader was Phichit Tamul, with the Army saying his participation “could undermine the objective of the protests…”.

If one is identified as red shirt or anti-junta, then you are effectively banned from any political activism, even as a solitary figure, even when others are permitted to engage in activism.





Updated: On not being anti-royal

12 08 2018

The level of self-censorship in Thailand is at an all-time high. That’s an outcome of the military junta’s 2014 coup and its heavy-handed crackdown on anything considered anti-monarchy.

One of the reasons for the coup was to crush anti-royalism and republicanism. These rising sentiments threatened the social hierarchy and the ideology of conservative royalism that holds Thailand’s military-monarchy alliance and the whole exploitative class structure together.

The Dictator’s assigned task was to crush anti-royalism. This task was made all the more important as it was clear in 2014 that succession was not far off.

The use of lese majeste and sedition laws, together with a militarization of bureaucracy and an embedding of military personnel at all levels of Thai society in order to repress anti-royal sentiment has been successful. Indeed, in the past year or so, lese majeste cases have dwindled after a huge spike after the coup. A combination of repression and self-censorship, along with the jailing of several hundred has had a marked impact. So too have the huge sentences that were being handed out. These said to people: you are warned! Cross the line and you rot in a stinking prison!

This long background is a way of introducing a Bangkok Post editorial that raises questions regarding the opaque deal being done on the Dusit Zoo. This is a deal to return public space to the monarch. It is a part of the king’s unstated but all too obvious plan to recover land that he feels rightly belongs to the monarch. He’s rolling back the 1932 revolution one property at a time.

The best the Post can do is stress animal welfare and the royal heritage of the zoo. These might be well-made points, but the real issue is the opaque deals being done between the junta and the palace.

The Post simply can’t say anything direct on anything that may be construed as critical of the monarch or the monarchy.

Update: Displaying high royalism but hinting at the unease over the royal land grab, Thai PBS has not one but four pictures of the title deed and land that the king has swapped for his prized piece of real estate. It is about 50 kilometers from central Bangkok. This report says there are more than 1,600 animals that have to be moved elsewhere and also indicates the shock of the deal for some patrons.





Updated: Manipulating laws

1 08 2018

PPT has had numerous posts since the (illegal) 2014 coup on how the military junta abuses the law. These posts have included the political use of courts, using military courts, abuse of lese majeste, impunity,  corruption ignored, and more.

One of the defining characteristics of military dictatorship is the political use of law: what the dictatorship does is legal (or ignored) and what opponents do is illegal.

Two recent reports highlight these double standards.

In the first, with just 5 of the 7 new members of the Election Commission selected and approved, the mini-EC is to meet “to select a new chairman Tuesday, although some experts have warned such a move could be illegal.”

In the junta’s 2017 constitution, the EC is mentioned dozens of times as having particular roles to play in all things electoral. It is a necessary for the EC to be in place and operating for elections to take place.

With just five members approved by the puppet National Legislative Assembly but, “whose appointments have yet to be submitted for royal endorsement,” this non-EC  “will meet to discuss how to choose the EC chairman and then proceed with choosing someone — probably from among their own ranks.”

We say “non-EC” because Article 222. “The Election Commission consists of seven commissioners appointed by the King upon the advice of the Senate…”. (In the first instance, with no Senate, it is the NLA.)

That is, not just 5 as-yet-unapproved members.

Confirming the position is only held after appointment by the king, Article 223 states: “The Election Commissioners shall hold office for a term of seven years as from the date of appointment by the King…”.

In other words, any actions taken by cannot be considered legal (unless the junta deems it legal).

The “secretary-general of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), insisted the action would not contravene Section 12 of a law governing the poll agency, as some have suggested.” Perhaps he’s also thinking of Article 223 which also states:

During the period in which an Election Commissioner vacates office prior to the expiration of the term and an Election Commissioner has not yet been appointed to fill the vacancy, the remaining Election Commission may continue to perform duties. However, if there are fewer than four Election Commissioners remaining, the Election Commission may carry out only an act which is necessary and unavoidable….

Yet is is not clear that selecting a chairman is “necessary and unavoidable.” It is even less likely that this can be done by EC commissioners who have not been appointed by the king.

Law professor and constitution drafter Jade Donavanik has “warned that picking a chairman from among the EC members could be a breach of the law.” He claims the “law states that the first chairman to be named since it was enacted can only be chosen after all seven election commissioners have been installed.”

By choosing a chair before being officially appointed and without two commissioners is clearly dubious. The idea that two foundation commissioners are deprived of the right to participate in selecting a chairman or from being chairman is also dubious.

There are various ways of considering how this dubious process impacts the junta. If the EC awaits the two other commissioners being appointed and also awaits the royal endorsement, then presumably the “election” is delayed further. That might suit the junta. But, then, it might be that the EC and its selected chairman, if done by the 5 commissioners (whether royally appointed or not), can be challenged in the courts and the whole “election” process thrown out. That might suit the junta. But if the junta does think it is ready for its “election,” then it may want it to go ahead.

In the end, the junta will probably decide what it wants and make that legal.

The second story involves the junta itself filing a computer crimes charge against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward “Party” (still to be approved as a party by the EC).

The “accusation came after Mr Thanathorn and two others broadcast live on ‘The Future We Want’ and ‘Thanathorn Juangroongraungkit’ Facebook pages.”

What has caused the junta to get prickly? It seems the Facebook broadcast involved “commentators allegedly implicat[ing] the NCPO [junta] when they talked about the luring of former MPs by using the lawsuits against them as a bargaining chip.”

That point has been made by several others, including Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It is also suggested that the “commentators also asked their Facebook followers to sign up to ‘revamp the judicial system’.” That must be the junta’s judicial system.

On the first concoction-cum-complaint, as Thanathorn makes clear, ” it’s common knowledge. I have no intention to accuse or tarnish the NCPO but its action shows it had really done it and views us as an enemy.” He added that he also had “first-hand information on such offers from a number of ex-MPs who were approached.”

The junta, operating illegally through intermediaries who are recruiting for the junta’s Palang Pracharath, maintains the fiction that it is not doing this. Everyone can see it, it is widely reported, but the junta demures.

The junta’s minion Col Burin Thongprapai, who filed the complaint two weeks ago, states: “Mr Thanathorn mentioned the NCPO, which is a distortion of facts and an accusation against the NCPO. It’s also an attack on the judicial system.”

He said the junta had ordered-asked the police to take action.

The law can be whatever the junta wants t to be and it uses it freely and abusively to eliminate and hobble its political opponents. But that’s what you get when you have an arrogant and corrupt military dictatorship.

Update: The (non-)EC went ahead an “elected” a chairman. Now we await the ramifications. Maybe it will be like “investigating” the Deputy Dictator and will melt to nothingness? According to another report, junta minions explain the “need” for a chairman as urgent because of the “need” for an “election” sometime “soon.”

Meanwhile Thanathorn is defiant of the junta. He has rejected the charges against him, saying “he would continue making comments on political issues in his regular online broadcasts through his Facebook fan page.” He added, “It’s the right of everyone…”. Using the term “right” places him in conflict with the junta which prefers duties and obedience to rights. And, stating the obvious, Thanathorn said: “The NCPO used its power to suppress the public who have political views that differ from its own…”.