When the military is on top XII

19 01 2018

It is some time since our last post with this title. There’s a general air in the press and on social media that the political tide may be turning.

For example, commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak says he can see “civil society noises, together with political parties, are now on rise and may build into a crescendo of opposition to the military government.” Others are pleased to see the detestable Abhisit Vejjaiva “damning” the military government with language that is advisory in tone on General Prawit Wongsuwan’s large collection of luxury watches. On social media, many have lauded the dropping of yet another lese majeste case against Sulak Sivaraksa.

While there is some cause for cheer, it might be noted that much of this criticism is coming from yellow shirts and anti-democrats, many of whom were strong supporters of the 2014 military coup. This suggests that that coalition of anti-democrats is unraveling as the junta seeks to embed its rule. The unanswered question is what they propose as an alternative to the junta. Do these critics propose using the junta’s rules and having a military-dominated administration post-“election” – a Thai-style democracy – but where that dominance is not as total as it is now. That is, a simple refusal to allow General Prayuth Chan-ocha to hang on as head of a selectorate regime? Nothing much that any of these “opponents” have proposed since 2005 has looked much like an open political system.

What we can also see, and this also deserves attention from those cheering these developments, is that the junta continues to crackdown on other opponents.  One case involves the National Anti-Corruption Commission, criticized on Prawit, but widely supported by anti-democrats in an action to “determine whether … 40 [elected and pro-Thaksin Shinawatra] politicians submitted the [amnesty] bill with ‘illegal’ intent” back in 2013. If found “guilty,” they would all be banned from the junta’s “election,” decimating the already weakened Puea Thai Party.

Even when criticizing Prawit’s horology obsession, some critics are tolerated and others not. For example, Abhisit and yellow-hued “activists” can criticize, but what about Akechai Hongkangwarn? He’s identified as an opponent, so when he was critical, “four police officers … turned up at [his]… home … to serve a summons.” The “charge” seems to be “posting obscene images online…”. An obscenely expensive watch perhaps?

Then there’s the warning to critics of the junta that there call for The Dictator’s use of Article 44 for to not be made into law. Maj Gen Piyapong Klinpan “who is also the commander of the 11th Military Circle, said the NCPO [junta] is monitoring the situation. He said the NCPO did not ban the gathering on Monday since it was held in an education institute where academics were present to share knowledge. The NCPO merely followed up the event and tried to make sure those present would not violate any laws.” In other words, watch out, you’re being watched. It’s a threat.

Amazingly, Maj Gen Piyapong then “explained” these political double standards:

Commenting about political activist Srisuwan Janya, who has criticised the regime, Maj Gen Piyapong said there is no need to invite the activist for talks as he still has done nothing wrong, but the junta will keep tabs on his movements. “Currently, there is still no movement which is a cause for concern,” Maj Gen Piyapong said.

And, finally, if you happen to be one of those unfortunates – a citizen in the way of military “progress” – you get threatened with guns. At the embattled Mahakan community, where a historical site is being demolished, Bangkok Metropolitan administrators called out the military to threaten the community. The deployment of troops was by the Internal Security Operations Command.





Prayuth pushes Thai-style democracy

15 01 2018

Children’s Day in Thailand seems to officially involve making children comfortable with weapons and with the gangsters who command the military. This year, in his speech for the event, The Dictator declared: “Our country cannot afford any more conflicts. We certainly must have democracy. But it is Thai-style democracy. We must not break the rules. I ask all Thais to consider this…”.

A conflict-free politics is a repressive politics. The trick of a democracy is in handling conflict, minimizing it and channeling it in ways that avoid violence. That’s not always successful, but its arguably far superior than having trigger-happy goons running the show.

The Bangkok Post reported that Puea Thai Party’s Chaturon Chaisang reckoned that The Dictator had “cultivated authoritarian values for children…”.

That’s true and it is also true that he’s been doing this since the coup in 2014. There can’t be any surprises in The Dictator’s musings.

When he declared that “children … do their duties to the best to be the pride of their family. The priorities are nation, religion and the monarchy — keep Thainess forever…” he’s repeating royalist and military ideology. In fact, they see all Thais as children.





Abhisit in the mirror

2 01 2018

PPT is not given to posting support for the military dictatorship, but in the case of criticism received from Democrat Party “leader” Abhisit Vejjajiva, we can’t help it.

2008: Newin and Abhisit as anti-democrat deal-makers, backed by the military

Abhisit is quoted in the Bangkok Post as telling the junta that it “should reflect on what it has promised to deliver to the people as this year is likely to be its last in running the country before a general election takes place…”. Abhisit says the military regime “promised to streamline national administration through reforms and return happiness to the people.” He went on to say that the junta “must conduct a self-evaluation to see if the reforms have made any headway or what it has done to convince people that the country under its rule is moving in the right direction.” He makes two more points: “If the NCPO fails to reflect on its performance, the military takeover will have gone to waste,” and “How the NCPO [junta] goes down in history depends on the NCPO itself…”.

There’s much to be said about this statement. For a start, it is appalling that Abhisit calls on the junta to reflect on its time in power when his own regime violently cracked down on civilian protesters on three occasions, in 2009 and twice in 2010, and he seems never to have truthfully reflected on his own role in a murderous regime. Sure, he’s concocted excuses and blamed others, but that’s self-delusion. This is a person who refuses to look at himself in the mirror.

Abhisit and Suthep as anti-democrats calling for a coup

Second, how the junta does down in history depends on who writes the history. If we look at Abhisit’s time as premier, he’s likely to be remembered as a weak and self-centered politician who could not win elections. Worse, he will be remembered for having boycotted elections and trashed parliament while he and his supporters boosted and cajoled thuggish protesters who brought down several elected governments (2006, 2008, 2013-14) through military and judicial coups. He gained the premiership only through the actions of anti-democratic protesters, politicized courts and the actions of the generals. He will be remembered as an enemy of electoral democracy in Thailand.

In this story it is the anti-democratic Abhisit calling on the military to finish the job it began in 2014 – getting rid of the political party that has been Abhisit’s nemesis. He seems to be projecting the possibility of a Democrat Party in coalition with a military-backed party is some distant “election” if the military can crush and destroy the Puea Thai Party.

At the same time, he reflects the views  – even plagiarizes them – of General Prem Tinsulanonda, another anti-democrat.

Our view is that Abhisit is deeply flawed has little future as a leader of a political party that seeks electoral support, even if he is prepared to lick military boot. He’s so tainted that even the military will have to think twice before washing him off.





Warping “law”

25 12 2017

Reader will have noticed that PPT has had to use inverted commas for rather a lot of words used in Thailand where the meaning is not as it seems, This includes such seemingly important words as election when that “election” is manipulated for a particular outcome and justice where “justice” is actually injustice.

We have also long been critical of various aspects of the “justice” system as being feudal, subject to double standards and political manipulation.

Of course, our longest criticisms have been of the lese majeste law, which has long been (mis)used. Since the 2006 military coup this misuse has become farcical. By this we mean that the use of the law has been as a tool for palace and military regime in ways that have been increasingly absurd, feudal and, in fact and in law, lawless.

One aspect of this lawless use of the lese majeste law has been in the application of the law to figures not covered by the law.

A recent article, “Who is an ‘Heir(-Apparent)?’: An old issue that is still new today” by Metta Wongwat examines how the law has been used to “protect” Princess Sirindhorn. As explained,

the scope of the royal persons protected by the law has a … problematic interpretation, despite the fact that the law clearly specifies only four positions, namely, the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent and the Regent.

The article includes some cases not previously known to PPT. The article examines the proceedings of these cases and the decisions made by the courts.

These cases are worth reading for the efforts judges make to consider Sirindhorn and “heir apparent.”

In one case, in 2004, while the prosecutor initially lodged a defamation case, an initial court decision elevated the case to lese majeste with a banal Royal Institute dictionary definition being used and further interpreted. At that time, the higher courts rejected this interpretation and dismissed the lese majeste charge.

In a second case, the court seems to consider any defamation against any royal to constitute lese majeste. While the Royal Household Bureau responded to a court request stating that, in 2010, only then Prince Vajiralongkorn was heir apparent, as the case included other royals covered by the law, lese majeste stuck.

A third case involves a man accused defaming Princess Sirindhorn while in  private conversation with a friend. The case was initially dropped, but following the 2014 coup, the case was tried in 2014. The Provincial Court of Thanyaburi and Appeals Court dismissed the charge because the offense did not constitute lese majeste. The public prosecutor is appealing the case.

The fourth case demonstrates the manipulation of the law that has been definitional of the military junta’s misuse of lese majeste. Four were accused of misusing Sirindhorn’s name for profit. Two of the defendants were pressured to plead guilty to lese majeste and they were promptly jailed.

The other two defendants remain imprisoned challenging the charge. The two who pleaded guilty have been released, being “rewarded” for not challenging the court and the misused charge.

The lawyers for the still detained men have repeatedly run into illegal brick walls. They sought documents and testimony from the case heard in the Thanyaburi Provincial Court. In a surreal decision, the court ruled that the royal letter didn’t appear to exist, despite the lawyers citing the correspondence number of the Royal Household Bureau. The testimony from the investigating officer to the Thanyaburi Court was also ruled out with the court saying it would “not cross the line…”. It is clear that “the line” is real investigation and proper justice.

When the lawyers then found that the Council of State’s website had a “publicly displayed … consultation letter from the Royal Police Department in 1989, that [stated] the Crown Prince is the only heir-apparent,” they asked the court to issue a summons for the document. Surprisingly, the court did seek the document from the Council of State.

The response of the Council of State was to remove the document from its website and made it secret, saying that the “document is classified state information and its release could cause damage.” This Council is one of Thailand’s most important legal institutions. but is prepared to break and bend the law to allow courts to make decisions that flout the law.

The lese majeste law is warped by such manipulation while warping the whole justice system.





Military hierarchy and the need for violence

24 11 2017

As readers will know, reports of the unusual deaths of recruits to the Thai military are common. Pictures of naked recruits being forced to engage in degrading activities and other pictures of recruits who have been beaten and bashed are all over social media.

We hadn’t posted on the most recent case, despite its grotesque details, as it was one case among many. However, this case has taken an unusual political turn as the dead recruit and his family had promoted their support of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the group that supported and encouraged the 2014 military coup. The dead recruit did not come from the draft, but was at the “prestigious” Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

Prachatai reported that Cadet Phakhaphong Tanyakan may have been beaten to death. At least his parents thought this and secreted away his body for an independent autopsy after the military stated he died of sudden cardiac arrest.

The independent autopsy revealed that several of the cadet’s internal organs were missing, including his brain. The media reported the parent’s shock but then seemed to confirm that returning a body sans organs is “normal” and “not illegal.”

His parents were criticized for wanting another autopsy and not accepting the military’s explanation of his death.

While the junta has now had the “chief of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School has been transferred to an inactive post,” the initial response of the senior-most military thugs was to support “military discipline.” But even in replacing the former commander, the junta showed its intention to cover up by appointing a loyalist: “Col Benjapol Dechartwong Na Ayutthaya, deputy commander of the 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen’s Guard.”

Another Prachatai story had Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “explaining” the death. He stated that “the freshman cadet … was … just too weak to withstand tough training.” Blaming the victim is the redoubt of fools and fascists.

He also supported the cadet school.

General Prawit also justified the “extreme discipline” at the school. He declared: “all soldiers have had to undergo such disciplinary measures, including himself.” He added: “I was once repaired more than I could take and I fainted too. I didn’t die.” That’s all okay then. Torturing your recruits is fine and dandy and if they die, it is their own weakness.

Prawit also indicated that “extreme discipline” would continue: “You don’t have to enrol. You don’t have to be a soldier. We want those who are willing.” Willing to be bashed, humiliated, and tortured. Those who survive can make coups and get unusually wealthy because they “learn” the hierarchy, accept it and move up, getting more loot and power at each level.

His view was supported by The Dictator, as reported in another Bangkok Post story. With the virtually moribund National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) actually making a statement that “harsh disciplining of cadets could constitute an act of torture…” under a law that is not in effect, Gen Prayuth said military bosses “would meet for talks the family of Pakapong … Tanyakan whose cadaver was later found to be missing organs including his brain.”

Prayuth mumbled that “military discipline for cadet training” was okay. He added: “Don’t worry. Nobody wants any losses or injuries…”. He used the same “logic” as Prawit: “he was disciplined when he studied at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.” He brainlessly added: “What’s wrong with it? I went through it all.”

That explains a considerable amount about Prayuth, Prawit and their dictatorship. Trained to accept torture as “discipline,” they are mentally crippled by their “education” to the extent that they think all Thais need “order” and “extreme discipline.”

On learning that the family were PDRC, Prayuth “apologised to the family and pledged to continue with the investigations to get to the bottom of the mystery.”

It isn’t a “mystery,” it is military discipline, establishing hierarchy and marking territory. The military does this with violence. This is also how they run the country: threats of violence and the use of violence. The deaths of citizens who get in the way is just collateral damage for the greater good and social order.





It’s getting darker I

22 11 2017

The lights are dimming everywhere and Thailand’s lights have been starved of wattage for the years since the 2014 military coup.

The Dictator is in charge of turning the lights off, and he looks like he’s going for candle power.

The Bangkok Post reports that the military dictatorship has demanded that the Computer Crimes Act “be rigorously enforced against online media that distort facts and disseminate ‘fake reports and hate speech’.”

Thanks Donald and the alt-right for that idea, a redoubt of fascists. It means that General Prayuth Chan-ocha feels free to claim that any news story he dislikes is now considered “fake.”

The Dictator demands order: “society needs to function in an orderly fashion. No matter who you are, if you twist the facts, write what is not true or incite hatred, you will face legal action…”.

That’s a lie (or perhaps fake). We know that the military, the junta and their spokesman twist facts, speak untruths and incite hatred of their opponents and most especially those they accuse of lese majeste. None of these liars will face legal action because they control and manipulate whatever law the junta decides to invent (like Article 44).

The Dictator especially pointed to “his political critics [saying they ]were not immune.” He seemed to have Voice TV in his sights.

He’s been especially ticked off by speculation over his cabinet reshuffle. That seems stalled, somewhere between the junta and the palace. There’s still some horsetrading being done.

Government spokesman and perpetual purveyor of fake news, Lt Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said “the intention is not to monitor media who play by the rules but to monitor online media and netizens whose identities are usually unknown and operate in the dark.”

This suggests that the military junta is keen to wipe out all critics. It also suggests that another lese majeste crackdown may on the cards.

Lt Gen Sansern revealed that The Dictator demanded that “every ministry and the Government Spokesman Bureau … compel agencies under their authority to be vigilant in monitoring social media and online news entities that publish information relating to the government’s work.”

The Nation adds that The Dictator is concerned about any news or commentary that criticizes the junta’s performance and mentioned the “online dissemination of information ‘deemed controversial to national security’.” That’s usually code for the monarchy.

In making these demands, The Dictator claimed to be relying on recommendations by the King Prajadhipok Institute, which once claimed to support “democracy,” but is a royalist and anti-democrat agency.

The proposed political loosening was fake news. What we are really getting is deep, deep darkness.





Updated: The local elections ploy

13 11 2017

The six questions ploy was used a couple of days ago. Described in the Bangkok Post as one question from General Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Is everybody all right with my staying around as leader indefinitely to keep politicians in their proper place, by which I mean under our boots?”, the questions caused angst among those who want elections.

To assuage that angst, junta member and anti-democrat legal sage to the military junta Wissanu Krea-ngam suddenly said that there might be local elections and that this might see the ban on political party activities lifted.

The junta got rid of local elections when it had its coup in 2014. Occasionally it has raised hopes that these might return, saying local elections should be held before a national “election.” Nothing came of this because, at base, the junta wants no elections it can’t be sure of controlling. Despite the militarization of local government, the junta still can’t be certain that it can ensure its people win local elections. So it hasn’t done anything about them.

So Wissanu’s sudden claim lasted less than 48 hours. Even he was only talking about elections in some places where the junta reckoned it has a constituency, like Bangkok.

Then Puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chair Phirasak Phochit threw his spanner in the works and explained that local elections required that “investigations” into “local officials who have been suspended over allegations of graft before planned local elections are held.”

The involves “a large number of officials” who, since the coup, officials, “working for provincial administration organisations (PAOs) and tambon administration organisations (TAOs), have been suspended or transferred to inactive posts after the government launched a serious crackdown on corruption in state agencies.”

They haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, but The Dictator used Article 44 to purge these administrations. Most of those purged were considered supportive of political opponents of the junta, red shirts or Thaksin Shinawatra fans.

Further scuttling the elections notion, puppet Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman Chartchai Na Chiang Mai had a spanner to throw too, and said a swathe of laws “relating to regional governing bodies need to be amended before local elections can take place…”.

He implied that “if early local polls are to be held, it is essential to amend the five laws to ensure compliance with the new constitution’s provisions covering local administration organisations,” which probably means that the laws for the national “election” would then be delayed (again), despite assurances to the contrary.

After the local election laws were amended, they would then go to the tiresomely slow NLA. Chartchai said the NLA “must race against time if the government wants to pave the way for local elections…”. The NLA members do not race on anything except to collect salaries and allowances.

Another glitch, not yet mentioned is the lack of an Election Commission.

We are not holding our breath on any “election” soon, at any level.

Update: The almost non-existent (anti) Election Commission has decided that it must “ask the Constitutional Court to rule if it is responsible for organising local elections.” What a sham this ridiculous institution is, even in “caretaker” mode. The EC doen’t know what is does. The “laws” under the junta have apparently confused it:

EC [caretaker] chairman Supachai Somcharoen said while the charter requires the EC to hold local elections, the organic law governing the agency says its role is to oversee and ensure the local polls are clean and fair.

It seems the EC hadn’t even thought of local elections until the junta murmured something about them.