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.





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.





Does Prawit have 365 watches? I

11 01 2018

The almost daily revelations of the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watch collection makes us wonder if General Prawit Wongsuwan may have an expensive watch for every day of the year. The current count is 18, but that might have increased over the last 24 hours.

The Bangkok Post reports that the latest luxury watch at the CSI LA Facebook page is a Patek Philippe 5135R Calendario Annual Calendar said to be worth about 1.5 million baht.

The photo used in identifying the watch was from 2016.

Meanwhile, political activist and former lese majeste prisoner Akechai Hongkangwarn continues to prod and poke the regime bosses. He is reported to have gone to the junta’s “complaint centre” wanting to present Prawit with a cheap, 10-year-old Seiko watch as a “gift.” Lampooning Prawit’s now almost forgotten claim that he borrowed the luxury watches, Akechai reckons the general should have his own watch.

Several flunkies offered to take the watch for Prawit, but Akechai refused, wanting to personally present it to the Deputy Dictator.

The activist declared: “The National Council for Peace and Order’s time is up…”.





Watches, watches and more watches

28 12 2017

As a new year gift, the blocking of “opposition” media by the junta seems to have deepened. At least PPT is seeing very heavy attention. This sometimes happens when the regime and its members are getting a lot of (negative) attention.

While the junta has sought to bury the luxury watch bling stories regarding General Prawit Wongsuwan, this is proving especially challenging, not least because the Deputy Dictator’s love of very expensive watches has proven a feast for investigating journalists who have found photos of one less than a dozen watches. Just over a week ago there were nine luxury watches and several diamond rings.

Iconoclast and former lese majeste victim Akechai Hongkangwarn is one of the first to taunt the corrupt general in public.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that the Facebook page CSI LA has been adding luxury watches in Prawit’s large collection.

The Post states that Prawit’s 11 watches, according to CSI LA are:

1. Richard Mille RM 029 with prices starting from 2.5 million baht

2. Richard Mille RM 30 priced at least 2.8 million baht

3. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ice Blue Dial Platinum worth about 1.8 million baht

4. Patek Philippe 5960/1A worth some 1.5 million baht

5. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph Automatic Blue Dial estimated at 800,000 baht

6. Rolex 116655BKSRS worth about 700,000 baht

7. Patek Phillippe 3970 with prices starting at 2.5 million baht

8. Patek Phillippe 5960P worth at least 1.9 million baht

9. Rolex Pro Hunter Deepsea Green worth about 800,000 baht

10. Richard Mille RM010 priced from 2.4 million baht

11. Rolex Rolex Cosmograph Daytona worth about 554,000 baht

For a career military leader who has held a few cabinet positions, having watches worth more than 18 million baht is certainly unusual. To have failed to declare them is criminal.