Updated: Akechai jailed

14 05 2018

Activist Akechai Hongkangwarn is in jail.

The Nation reports that the Criminal Court yesterday has ordered that he “be detained for 12 days following charges over his alleged involvement with pro-democracy, anti-junta activism months ago.”

He is “the only one of 57 activists detained after having joined a March 24 assembly that marched to the Army headquarters and urged the military to stop supporting the ruling junta.”

He and nine others were “deemed key actors by the authorities” and targeted for prosecution. The other nine went to court, but the prosecutor’s detention requests were refused by the court.

They face various charges, including sedition.

Akechai refused to request bail and was immediately jailed. The report states that this is “in line with his approach that from the start has denied the legitimacy of the charges.” Nor did he report to police when he was charged. He’s not the first to deny the legitimacy of charges or to challenge the courts.

He stated: “A developed country will not recognise the junta’s order as law…”.

Akechai considers that he has been targeted with these charges because he has been probing the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watch and jewelry affair. A sedition charge to silence the activist is suggestive of a deep anxiety about the watch affair.

Update: A couple of days later, he was bailed.





NACC on watch

9 05 2018

It was only a couple of days ago that PPT mentioned how very quiet the National Anti-Corruption Commission had been since Gen Prawit Wongsuwan told them his luxury watch case was over. We assumed then that the NACC has done as it was ordered and there’s no case for the boss to answer.

Interestingly, a couple of activists have raised the watch case again. Akechai Hongkangwarn and Chokchai Phaiboonratchata have asked that “the NACC to summon Jiraphan and Jutiphon Suksriwong, daughters of Pattawat Suksriwong, for questioning over the luxury watch scandal.” Pattawat is the dead businessman Gen Prawit claims to have “borrowed” a score of expensive watches from.

The two activists, with considerable merit, “said that since Pattawat had died, his two daughters should clarify whether the watches in question belonged to their late father as claimed by Gen Prawit.” It seems the NACC has neglected these women, while hoping the case will just go quiet and go away.

We can’t wait to hear the NACC response.





Protecting itself

17 04 2018

The military dictatorship has been consistent in protecting itself and its bosses, almost as assiduously as it does the monarchy.

As “more than a hundred people have been charged in the past two months for exercising their right to freedom of expression by calling for an election to be held this year after almost four years of coup-installed rule,” and it proceeds to drag them before the courts, the Bangkok Post reports that “two political activists were detained briefly by the police Monday for announcing their intention to carry out a symbolic gesture of protest at the residence of Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon.”

Akechai Hongkangwarn and Chokchai Phaiboonratchata were briefly abducted “from a house on Soi Ramkhamhaeng 109 in Bang Kapi district at about 5.45am” after the former “posted earlier on Sunday on his Facebook account his intention to travel to Gen Prawit’s residence on Soi Lat Phrao 71 Monday, as a Thai New Year bathing rite was held.”

Akechai has repeatedly protested and lampooned Prawit’s luxury watch problem.





Rallying on ending the military dictatorship

10 02 2018

The pro-democracy rally near the Democracy Monument drew hundreds of activists on Saturday.

The authorities tried to prevent the rally in various ways, including a childish effort to cover open areas at the monument with potted plants, forcing hundreds of protesters onto footpaths.

In the end, the rally went ahead with speeches by several people including some of the MBK39.

As well as demanding an election that they said would mean the end the military dictatorship, speakers demanded that the Democracy Monument and what it stood for be given back to the people:

People seeking to cast ballots are blocked by police. A monument has been turned into a garden. No matter what this country has become, this monument still has meaning and significance. Let’s make today the beginning of an end to dictatorship….

Rangsiman Rome declared:

We meet today to demand an election and the end to the power succession. We show a three-finger salute today — first for the election, second for the end of dictatorship and third for democracy….

He also demanded that “politicians” get off their fat behinds and do something to support the pro-democracy activists.

The rally concluded with three of the the MBK39 co-leaders taken away to a police station. Rangsiman, Sirawich Serithiwat and Arnon Nampa were taken to the Saran Rat police station and then the Pathumwan police station. Earlier, Akechai Hongkangwarn, another co-leaader, had been whisked off by police before he could attend the rally.





Updated: Watching and waiting

10 02 2018

On one watch front, the luxury front – the news is… well, no news. The Nation reports that National Anti-Corruption Commission President Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit declared that the NACC’s “secretary-general has not yet updated the corruption-fighting body about whether Deputy PM [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan has submitted his third try at an explanation about his possession of luxury watches.” Is he getting coaching? Probably not. Neither The Dictator or the Deputy Dictator believe that laws apply to them.

The other thing to watch is is the so-called MBK39. The junta got a legal slap when the the courts unconditionally released them. Four of the activists, named below, did not front the police and courts. That said the charges of “violating the public assembly and internal security laws, as well as the junta’s order on political gatherings” remain in place and could see a penalty of 7 years in jail. The laws include a charge of assembling within 150 meters of a royal palace (Sirindhorn’s). In effect, this “law” bans public gatherings in several of the locations where anti-government protests have been ignited in the past and is one more piece in the return to pre-1932 jigsaw and the deification of royals and their spaces.

The thing to watch is a a pro-election assembly this afternoon Bangkok time. It is reported that “[a]ctivists Rangsiman Rome, Sirawit Serithiwat, Ekachai Hongkangwan and lawyer Anon Nampa … would be attending the event to be held near Democracy Monument at 4pm.”

The police have said “they would immediately arrest the four when they showed up at today’s event” using warrants from the previous case against them.

Akechai said: “Why not go? … The court’s rejection to detain [activists from the] January 27 assembly has already proved that this kind of assembly is rightful by law.”

Update: Akechai didn’t get a chance to go. Junta thugs arrested him early on Saturday morning, and took him to Lat Phrao police station and then to Pathumwan police station. He seemed unfazed by the arrest; it is kind of “normal” under the dictatorship.

How’s that “democracy” looking to you Gen Joseph F Dunford?





Repression and manufactured paranoia

30 01 2018

As expected, the junta has responded to the mounting criticism it is catching. And, as expected, it has not gone after the anti-democrats involved but anti-coup activists.

The repression is unsurprising but the borrowing of manufactured nationalist paranoia is a little more bewildering.

Khaosod reports that the military junta “has ordered seven of the most prominent pro-democracy activists [be] charged with crimes including sedition after they launched a protest campaign calling for general elections to be held in November.”

It might seem somewhat odd that sedition now includes demanding that the junta stick to its promises.

Acting for the military dictatorship, Col. Burin Thongprapai,  filed police complaints against seven activists. They are:

Sirawit Seritiwat, Nutta Mahattana, Democracy Restoration Group leader Rangsiman Rome, student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, former lese majeste convict turned political activist Ekachai Hongkangwan, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and newcomer student activist Sukrid Peansuwan.

The colonel chuckled that his people had “solid recorded evidence that the seven protest leaders have violated the junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than four and committed acts of incitement against the state.”

The junta’s Burin “said the seven were singled out because they are leaders and committed sedition.”

So the next time The Dictator talks about an election, presumably he’s committing sedition. The junta is now sinking into nonsensical survival mode. It is likely to become dangerous as these ridiculous repression fails.

As one of the accused observed, “[t]he fire has been lit…”, adding:

They want to snuff the fire at its source because everyone’s getting energized. The people have become lively again, and even the media reported it on the front page in a sympathetic manner…

Meanwhile, Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has sent an aide out to declare that the “pro-democracy campaign was orchestrated by foreign powers.” This was followed by a claim worthy of alt-right fruit loops claiming that anti-coup activism results from “trickery by foreign powers” providing the examples of “Iran and Hong Kong.” Several other right-wing leaders and regimes have made similar claims.

The idea of such accusations is to appeal to those anti-democrats who consume mad conspiracy theorists, themselves in the pay of foreign states.

Things are going to get nastier still.





Mad monarchists off the leash

25 01 2018

As has been the case in Thailand for several decades, whenever the political temperature rises, monarchists become politically aggressive. In fact, Thailand’s modern history could be rewritten on the theme of royalists versus the people. In almost every instance in the past 50 years or so, it has been the minority of monarchists who have eventually triumphed, often with the support of a royalist military more than willing to massacre opponents in the name of nation, religion, monarchy and the protection of the neo-feudal social order.

There’s no doubt that the political temperature is now rising. The focal point is General Prawit Wongsuwan’s watches. There’s also no doubt that military junta views this as a story it needs to silence. It has real trouble doing this with its anti-democrat “allies.” It has less problem threatening its “real” opponents, seen as red shirts and Thaksinites.

Khaosod reports that activist Akechai Hongkangwarn, threatened a few days ago, has been assaulted by a man identified as Rittikrai Chaiwannasan. While earlier taken away by police, he seems to have been quickly released and continued on his stalk of Akechai and physically assaulted him.

Akechai was “returning from holding a protest to denounce the deputy prime minister over a series of undeclared luxury watches” when assaulted. He says his attacker beat him, “repeatedly punched him in the face, causing him minor injuries.” He adds that the thug shouted, “You anti-monarchist” and “you are doing it for redhirts…”.

Akechai is convinced the junta and its allies are behind the attack, which he says was “well-planned and involved more than one person as the man knew the time and place he was getting off [the bus].” He asks: “I wonder why they have to resort to this level of violence…”.

In fact, it is standard practice and not dissimilar from earlier attacks on those thought to be “anti-monarchist.” In the past, many such attacks were planned in the military and specifically by its Internal Security Operations Command or ISOC.