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.





Junta thugs threaten pro-election activists

22 01 2019

While Prachatai reported that pro-election activists avoided a clash with the newly-reformed anti-democrats and X-men who oppose pressuring the king to endorse the election decree, one pro-election activist was attacked.

Akechai Hongkangwarn was attacked and bashed by three men and another issuing orders to the attackers. He was “assaulted … after leaving a rally demanding timely elections…”.

An ardent junta critic and former lese majeste prisoner, Akechai said “three men wearing motorcycle helmets attacked him at about 7pm after he left the campus to eat dinner. He sustained wounds to his head, face and arm.”

He added that “the assailants only fled after a group of Asian tourists rushed to his aid.”

Junta thugs have been tailing and attacking Akechai for some time. They are likely to acting on the orders of military supporters of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.





Nonsensical charges

2 11 2018

The military junta claims that there will be an election. It is letting it be known that the best chance of that election will be for 24 February.

Back on 27 January this year, a group of political activists demonstrated to demand an election.

But as the Bangkok Post reports, the activists “have been indicted in court for illegal assembly…”.

Those indicted by prosecutors are:

Rangsiman Rome, a Thammasat University law student; Sirawith Seritiwat, a political science graduate from Thammasat; Arnon Nampa, a lawyer; Ekachai Hongkangwan, a regime critic; Sukrit Piansuwan, a former Thammasat economics student; Netiwit Chotepatpaisal, a Chulalongkorn University political science student; Nuttaa Mahattana, an activist and moderator; and Sombat Boonngam-anong, an activist for an anti-coup group called Wan Arthit Si Daeng (Red Sunday).

The Post thinks it important to report that way back then, these protesters were “about 150 metres from Sra Pathum Palace.” The Post doesn’t explain why this is significant to anything associated with the action.

The Post does not say anything about the nonsensical charging of persons demanding an election that the junta seems keen to grant at roughly about the time that the protesters wanted it.

The court “promptly accepted the case for hearing. All of the accused denied the charges and applied for bail.”





Treasonous military

24 10 2018

The military junta has charged countless persons with treason or sedition over the more than four years since it illegally seized power by way of the 2014 military coup.

But when two pro-democracy and anti-junta activists filed a police complaint against new army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong for his statement in support of military coups and the planning for one after the junta’s “election,” if required, it is they who now face charges.

Akechai Hongkangwarn and Chokechai Paiboonratchata quite correctly accused Gen Apirat of treason as defined by the junta’s own constitution. Section 49 states: “No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.” Indeed, Section 50 adds that Thais have a duty to to protect and uphold various things including “the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

In fact, Akechai and Chokechai filed a “complaint on grounds that Apirat violated Article 113 of the penal code, which criminalizes treason.”

But that military junta ignores the law and its constitution has a ton of sections that the junta simply ignores.

So, in this case, Akechai and Chokechai are to be charges “for allegedly filing a false police complaint…”.





Thugs protecting thugs

23 08 2018

As readers know, repeated questions have been raised since December 2018 regarding Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches. Readers will also know that the National Anti-Corruption Commission has tried to stall, obfuscate and cover-up for the boss. And readers probably realize that Gen Prawit is pretty pissed that anyone can question him. After all, he’s a big boss and the little people should steer clear of him and the idea that they criticize him is just unheard of.

In this context and the glacial move towards holding the junta’s rigged election, it seems like Gen Prawit is so pissed that it has caused some to use trusted and tried measures that use threats and actual violence to silence critics.

Former lese majeste prisoner and political activist Akechai Hongkangwarn has been maintaining pressure on the need to properly investigate the general’s watch collection. In many places, that would be a reasonable thing to call for. In authoritarian states it has negative consequences for those calling the the legal system to operate as it is meant to. In a military dictatorship, the dinosaurs at the top will resort to the most base of measures, not unlike Mafia tactics.

And so it is that Akechai, after having been “visited” by police, detained, arrested and charged is showing that he has not learned the Deputy Dictator’s lessons. What happens next is the resort to base and blunt threats and intimidation; these are tactics learned in military service in dealing with underlings and little people who cause trouble.

A couple of weeks ago, Akechai was attacked by “unidentified assailants [who] threw fermented fish at him while he was walking to conduct a one-man protest [on Prawit and his watches] outside the Government House.” Fermented fish has been used in other politically-motivated attacks in Thailand, and as well as being very smelly can cause damage to eyes.

Akechai filed a complaint with the police after “two attackers wearing motorcycle helmets threw a bucket of foul-smelling pla ra on him at a bus stop before speeding away on a motorbike.” Men on motorcycles is a well-rehearsed modus operandi. The activist guessed that the assailants acted “on behalf of deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan, who Ekachai believes wants to silence his near-daily protest.” He added: “I’m not saying Khun Prawit is behind this. It was probably his underlings…. They were probably angry at me for messing with their boss.”

So angry it seems that they have gone a step further, leaving Akechai bloodied after “a group of men … attacked him with a sharpened wooden plank.” He said “three men on motorcycles ambushed him in front of his home at about noon as he was returning from protesting deputy junta leader Prawit Wongsuwan. He said he was struck four times, and many witnesses saw the attack.”

Akechai gets the message and understands the danger, but should thugs acting in the interests of the Deputy Dictator have impunity to attack solitary protesters in this way? Under the military dictatorship they clearly do have impunity. Thugs protect thugs.