Updated: Silencing critics

8 07 2019

The recent attacks on anti-junta and pro-democracy activists and the murder and enforced disappearance of anti-monarchy activists are meant to silence these critics by threatening (or murdering) them and sending a threatening message to anyone else who might be critical of monarchy or regime.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

And, it seems that it works. Anti-monarchists are now fearful and cowed. And those anti-junta and pro-democracy activists who have been repeatedly attacked and assaulted are forced to agree to periods of “quietness.”

Sirawith. Clipped from VOA News

The Nation reports that after his most recent assault by “anonymous” thugs – known to the authorities – left him hospitalized with severe injuries, Sirawith Seritiwat has sought police protection.

However, in a damning indictment of the state’s involvement with the cowardly attacks, he has been “told he would get none unless he gave up his activism.” For us, that’s as good as an admission that the thugs work for the police and regime!

That report states that “Sirawith has yet to decide whether he will agree to the deal.”

He’s not the only activist to be offered such a “deal” by the complicit state authorities. Khaosod reports that Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich received similar “offers.”

Such “offers” of “deals” to silence critics go right to the top of the military regime, with deputy junta chairman Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seeming to endorse such mafia-like protection rackets.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Of course, none of those in the gangs who attacked the three has been identified by the police or regime. Why would they be identified when they are doing the junta’s work?

It seems that Akechai has agreed to such a “deal,” saying he had no choice. He had been attacked seven times in a year. His “60-day agreement, which he signed a month ago, dictates that he can neither post political messages on social media nor join political rallies.” He hasn’t been attacked since, but he has also engaged in activities that are meant to be forbidden.

Anurak. Clipped from TAHR

Anurak states that “he declined the same offer…”, but “negotiated with local police to receive some protection.” At the same time, he said “he is toning down his public campaigns in order to be on the safe side.”

He rightly “questioned whether the military government is dangling personal safety as a reward for not resisting.” He added: “What the dictator wants is for us to stop political activism…”.

It seems all too clear that the junta continues to repress its political opponents and that the use of violence is a part of that “strategy.” That’s not surprising given that it is a regime of political thugs.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Sirawith has refused the mafia-like offer from the police of protection if he stopped his political activities and, it is revealed, the activist was also required to report to police his plans and whereabouts at all times…”. Sirawith explained that “he will not allow police to ensure his safety because he believes the government was behind the attacks.” Indeed, the offer by police is the equivalent of a confession of its involvement.





Deep harassment for the monarchy

13 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have released a report that must be read in full. “Silent Harassment: Monitoring and Intimidation of Citizens during the Coronation Month” is a brave and important account of how royalism is enforced.

Of course, there are many loyalists and royalists in Thailand, with the most fanatical ever eager to harass, attack and slander. But this is a report of how perceived “opponents” are identified and repressed.

Here, we simply quote some bits of this seminal piece of work on “violations of personal freedom through constant monitoring and intimidation by state authorities … [conducted] in secret throughout the course of the [coronation events” for King Vajiralongkorn.

Authorities involved in harassing included “police, military, and special branch police…”. They “identify” groups categorized as “target groups” or “monitor groups” and “track their movements and restrict their political activities…”.

TLHR reports at least 38 instances “of monitoring and intimidation…”. In addition, activists have also been harassed.

In fact, “the groups of people being monitored during this period were quite diverse, as they had not necessarily previously expressed anything about the monarchy.”

The harassment has included home visits by authorities who ask about travel plans, take photos and are seen by other family members and neighbors. They are:

warned by the authorities not to do anything during the coronation period. Some were threatened by the police and told that if they did not comply, they would be handed over to the military and that the military might “abduct” them. In some cases, if the wanted person was not home the authorities talked to his/her family member instead.

Monitored groups get more regular harassing visits and are tracked and followed. For some “special” individuals, the harassment is continuous and involves family and harassing phone calls often from an officer assigned to trail and monitor. Former Article 112 prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk found his residence monitored around the clock. On 5 May 2019, activist Akechai Hongkangwarn revealed that “police took him to the cinema in order to keep a close watch on him all day.”

All were warned not to do or say anything during the coronation period.

Vigilantes were also at work, on the internet, tracking “people who posted their opinions about the coronation online” and reporting them to the authorities.

Royalist Thailand in 2019 is a dark and fearful place.





Threats and assaults

28 05 2019

Two recent reports in Prachatai point to the continuing assaults and threats against two political activists.

These threats and repeated assaults against Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich are punishment for their anti-junta activism and are meant to be seen by other activists as a warning of what can happen to them if they are outspoken.

That the assaults have occurred multiple times, usually with the same modus operandi, and with impunity suggest that the attacks have approval at high levels.

In one Prachatai report, an assault on Anurak (aka Ford) by “6 men [who] rode 2 motorcycles…”. Red shirt activist Anurak required hospital treatment. He was required to stay in hospital for a couple of days.

The assault took place as “he was leaving his house to join a demonstration at the Telephone Organization of Thailand, the temporary venue for meetings of the House of Representatives.” That protest was “against the political system rigged in the junta’s favour.”

Anurak was reportedly “hit on the head with a metal pipe, leaving a wound 5-mm deep” and requiring stitching. He had other injuries to his head and limbs.

Meanwhile, Akechai is reported by Prachatai to have claimed that “Someone has ordered me dead.” This anonymous warning also told him to leave Thailand.

This might be considered alarmist if it were not for two facts. First, Akechai has been attacked and beaten seven times and, second, activists have been disappeared and killed in recent times.

Nothing has been done by the authorities about threats and attacks. One reason for this lack of attention to repeated assaults would be that the authorities themselves are involved in the crimes. Akechai was even assaulted at a court!

As the political climate becomes more unstable in future months, expect the junta/”new” regime to become increasingly repressive and combative.





Akechai bashed again

13 05 2019

While engaging in enforced disappearance and (probably) in political murder of those considered opponents of the regime and monarchy, the military junta also allows vicious assaults on opponents.

Regime critic Akechai Hongkangwarn has been viciously viciously assaulted for a seventh time.

This assault took place in broad daylight, in front of witnesses and in front of the Bangkok Criminal Court at about 8.30 am on Monday. As in some of his previous assaults, four men wearing motorcycle helmets attacked him for several minutes and then fled the scene.

As the report observes, “[w]ith the exception of a man convicted in 2018 of punching Ekachai, most of the attackers were never caught or prosecuted.” Our guess, and it is no more than that, is that the most of the helmeted attackers are in the pay of some military agency.

This is how the junta’s Thailand operates: nepotism and favoritism for supporters and assault and death for opponents.

 





Updated: Attacking the EC’s critics I

1 04 2019

Several groups of activists protesting the Election Commission’s mishandling of the junta’s “election” hit the streets and headlines over the weekend.

This cause (still) prime minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to support the EC and demand that protesters stand down. He said the EC had “already given explanations. It’s their job. Please listen to them…. Please don’t cause more disorder…”.

On the weekend, at one of the stands collecting signatures to impeach the EC, anti-coup activists, including Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich, found themselves surrounded by some 100 security personnel “deployed to maintain order.” While the activists claimed to have police permission, they “were … obstructed by police and their equipment was seized.”

As if on cue, after they left their small event, both Akechai and Anurak came under attack. Anurak was attacked and assaulted at this home in Samut Prakarn province after returning from the protest. He suffered cuts to his arm.

At Akechai’s house, his car was torched. Of course, Akechai has been attacked quite a number of times and once before attackers tried to burn his car. One of the most recent attacks was reported here. In that assault, police seemed uninterested. Indeed, no progress has ever been made in any of the assaults and criminal damage perpetrated against Akechai.

Many observers would guess that this means that the assailants are in the pay of state agencies. We would guess that both Akechai and Anurak are being targeted by state agents. It seems it is they who are responsible for the “disorder” mentioned by The Dictator.

Update: It should not be at all surprising that a hastily convened “civil society” group has appeared at the EC to mimic The Dictator and “support” the hapless election agency. This is almost standard anti-democrat, military and junta procedure.





Politicizing police

8 03 2019

Many readers will think that the police in Thailand have long been politicized. For example, the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime repeatedly claimed the police were pro-red shirt and pro-Thaksin Shinawatra. Indeed, many red shirts believed that many police were on their side.

Following the 2014 military coup, the junta determined that the senior ranks of the police had to be purged of anyone considered pro-Thaksin. It does appear that the purge has been successful, with the police leadership now aligned with the rightist, royalist junta.

This politicization may assist in explaining why it is that anti-junta activist  Akechai Hongkangwarn can be assaulted half a dozen times, mostly in broad daylight and, on 5 March, in the grounds of a hospital.

Akechai was attacked by two men, one who wielded a piece of wood, bashing him about the head and body.

He was attending a hearing with the Medical Council of Thailand against Dr. Rienthong Nan-nah, based on a complaint he made. An earlier debate between the two is available here.

The two assailants rode a bike without a registration plate when they attacked Akechai at Phra Nang Klao Hospital at about 4 pm.

Police seem uninterested. No progress has been made in any of the assault and criminal damage cases against Akechai. Many observers would guess that this means that the assailants are in the pay of state agencies.

That the police make politicized decisions about who “deserves” access to legal processes means that undoing the junta’s purges, if that ever becomes possible, is going to take many years.





Further updated: Media reprimands Gen Apirat

20 02 2019

Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has been hammered by the media today. For example, the Bangkok Post had an editorial, two op-eds and a story all highly critical of his attack on campaigning politicians as “scum.”

In the story, it was reported that “[p]oliticians demanded … the army chief remain neutral in the lead-up to the … election after he rebuked them for calling for defence budget cuts and revived an anti-communist song…”.

Actually, it is a song that belongs to extreme rightists and ultra-royalists, most recently used by the yellow-shirted royalists People’s Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee to attack pro-Thaksin Shinawatra groups and politicians.

In other words, Gen Apirat was reaffirming his ultra-royalism as an anti-democratic rightist. The notion that he will be “neutral” is farcical. The military is never politically neutral.

Commenting on this, Ploenpote Atthakor points out that one of the (false) justifications for the 2014 military coup was about eliminating political conflict. As she points out, Gen Apirat is promoting conflict. For PPT, it is clear that the military has been stirring conflict throughout recent decades. The military is the problem.

Even determined anti-Thaksinista, Veera Prateepchaikul points out:

Many people may love the song and call it patriotic. But for a person like me and many others who are old enough to have witnessed the horrors of the “October 6” massacre and heard it being blasted around the clock before that fateful day by the army-run Yankroh radio station alternating with the hateful phone-in comments against the students inside Thammasat University, this is unquestionably a far-right hate song for its association with this bloody history.

The Post’s editorial comes straight to the point:

The troubling response of the army commander to a rather benign political campaign promise has quickly escalated. Gen Apirat Kongsompong didn’t just try to refute the call to cut both the military budget and the number of general officers. He retaliated by reviving the most hateful song in Thai political history, and promised to flood military bases and the airwaves with it. It is a move with an ironclad guarantee of major political and national division.

It continues to condemn Gen Apirat, saying what was:

hugely disappointing and inappropriate was Gen Apirat’s instant and ill-formed leap into the political campaign. The decision of the highest ranking army officer to step into the election debate was questionable. What is indefensible is his order to revive and propagandise his soldiers with the noxious and odious 1970s song Nak Phandin.

Yet it is hardly out of the ordinary. Gen Apirat, like his predecessor Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha have made their careers by being palace loyalists, rightists, and murderous military bosses.

Perhaps the most interesting commentary, however, was at Thai Rath, which outlines Gen Apirat’s family story. His father, Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong, a diminutive rightist also known as “Big George,” was a corrupt leader of the 1991 coup. The paper points out that, following a dispute between Sunthorn’s wife and mistress in 2001, people were stunned to learn that the property under dispute was valued at over 3.9 billion baht.

Thai Rath goes through the whole story of this corrupt general, the father of the current military commander. Being a powerful military boss has been lucrative, but for the Kongsompong clan, the wealth siphoned was conspicuously huge. We have no evidence of who shared in that huge wealth.

Update 1: It is not just the media that has gone after Apirat. As Prachatai reportsAs Prachatai reports:

… student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, along with other members of the Student Union of Thailand, also went to the Army Headquarters to read an open letter to the Army Commander in Chief protesting Gen Apirat’s comment on ‘Nuk Paen Din.’

Following that:

… political activists Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Chokchai Paibulratchata held a demonstration at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in response to army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s order to broadcast the controversial Cold War anthem ‘Nuk Paen Din’ (‘Scum of the Earth’) on all army radio stations and over the intercom at military headquarters.

Update 2: As might be expected, the military and its rabid response to politicians has been defended by what the Bangkok Post describes as “Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn…”. Panitan is neither a “political scientist” nor an “academic” in the true senses of these words. Rather, he is a toady of the military and in its pay. He’s a propagandist for the military, lying that “army chief Gen Apirat spoke out in response to the proposed defence budget cuts because he intended to defend the interests of rank-and-file soldiers who would be affected by any spending cuts.” It is a ludicrous fabrication. Defending the murderous military is nit the work of serious academics.