Further updated: Reporting Yingluck’s disappearance

27 08 2017

The military dictatorship states that it did “not allow former premier Yingluck Shinawatra to flee the country…”. It makes this statement due to the widespread view that her no-show at court and her reported flight could have only been possible with junta support. Hence, a deal was done.

Newspapers have been widely reporting that Yingluck is in Dubai. The Bangkok Post quotes an anonymous source from the Puea Thai Party: “We heard that she went to Cambodia and then Singapore from where she flew to Dubai. She has arrived safely and is there now…”.

As far as we can tell from the newspapers, this has yet to be confirmed and Yingluck has not been seen on Facebook or in the media since last Wednesday or Thursday.

The specific threat to the regime over Yingluck’s disappearance comes from the yellowists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (usually said to be “former” but still meeting and demanding).

PAD “is demanding that the government investigate the escape of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and severely punish any state officials who helped her flee the country.” It declared that “Yingluck’s escape reflected a failure on the part of security authorities, leading to speculation that the failure was allowed to happen.”

Like others, PAD:

… pointed out that Ms Yingluck for months had been closely shadowed by soldiers, to the point where she complained on social media about privacy violations. They noted that Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan] on Feb 29 last year had said soldiers were needed to provide protection for Ms Yingluck and to help maintain peace and order in a politically tense time.

One of the junta’s deputy spokesmen, said “the Foreign Ministry was taking steps to revoke the ex-premier’s passport.”

Significantly, he also “said there was no official confirmation of Yingluck’s whereabouts…” or, it has to be said, that she has actually left Thailand. That said, her relatives have expressed no alarm, but have not said where she is. That lack of alarm suggests she has not gone the way of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee, who seems to have been disappeared.

Then there are the assessments of what it all means. Hong Kong’s The Standard expresses it this way:

Yingluck Shinawatra’s escape from Thailand ahead of a court verdict that was expected to land her in jail for up to 10 years will tilt the country’s politics back in favor of the Bangkok establishment….

They mean the winners are the “military, technocrats, old power cliques, and the well-connected in business.”

That newspaper refers to Yingluck’s “escape,” using the inverted commas. It argues about motives:

Instead of letting the woman become a heroine of the masses that her family had dominated for so long, Yingluck can now be portrayed as a coward betrayer of her supporters, and her Pheu Thai party can be reduced to political insignificance.

It is added that The Dictator is “probably grinning from ear to ear” at her “escape.”

While The Standard editorial thinks Yingluck took “flight to Dubai via Singapore aboard a private jet to join her brother [Thaksin Shinawatra],” its observes that the junta seemed to deliberately muddy the waters:

Comments made by the junta after Yingluck’s flight … were extraordinary. For [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] ordered border security be stepped up. Number 2 [General] Prawit Wongsuwan said Yingluck had gone to Cambodia, while a naval source asserted she had escaped by sea…. All seemed to have been said to increase confusion to protect those involved.

Now the junta will have the opportunity to discredit Yingluck as a “fugitive,” just like her brother.

Update 1: Al Jazeera has a useful discussion of the current political condition. In this report, Peua Thai’s Sean Boonpracong “confirms” she has left Thailand, as have several other party sources.

Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya is adamant that there was “collusion between Yingluck and the military authorities…”. It was, he says, a “political decision.” It is “political expediency” and “convenient to both sides, adding its “convenient to everyone.”

Update 2: The junta has now “Thaksinified” Yingluck, seeking to revoke her Thai passports, with The Dictator declaring her “a fugitive after fleeing judgement in her rice scheme trial…”. General Prayuth continued to “explain” that an “investigation … into how she could have left the country.” The Dictator “blamed previous criticism that security authorities were crowding Ms Yingluck. Concerns over human rights had led to the present problem…”.

We were not aware that “human rights” were ever a concern for the regime.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit claimed “that authorities had followed Ms Yingluck closely. She was able to disappear because she had many vehicles.” That seems a lame “excuse” that his critics will find unconvincing.

Lese majeste at Al Jazeera

10 01 2015

We know we are late posting this link and that many readers will have already seen it.

The Stream is sometimes a bit difficult to keep up with when it interviews people on dodgy Skype connections and trying to link with reader tweets while presenting complex situations to a very general audience.

In the case of lese majeste in Thailand (not Qatar), the show interviewed lese majeste expert David Streckfuss, Saksith Saiyasombut of Siam Voices, ultra-royalist Tul Sitthisomwong and a “Thai citizen who supports lese majeste law,” Kuson Sintusingha.Kuson

PPT doesn’t believe we had never heard of Kuson previously, and compared with the other three, is the most interesting of the commentators simply because so many of his comments are indicative of a madness that affects so many of the anti-democrats. He’s a fully-enrolled member of this lot, as can be seen in his Facebook profile (right) which The Nation allowed him to use when providing “comments” on stories there.

The comments at that story at The Nation are indicative of his commentary on lese majeste. His claim is that lese majeste is most appropriately used against red shirts who are spreading lies about the king, probably at the behest of the hated Thaksin Shinawatra. His politics is clearly narrow and fascist, but he is not alone in these views in Thailand. The palace and military dictatorship know that monarchy fanatics are important political allies for they are easily mobilized and made aggressive and nasty vigilantes.


The search for the anti-monarchist conspiracy

23 07 2014

Claudio Sopranzetti is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University All Souls College has a story at Al Jazeera on the military dictatorship’s renewed search for an anti-monarchy cabal and plot. The military junta has been on the hunt for mythical beast since the May 2014 coup.

The previous royalist regime under the puerile Abhisit Vejjajiva produced a “diagram” of a plot. It might have been drawn by elementary school children but was probably military-inspired and drawn.

Sopranzetti  begins:

Two months after the military coup, the Thai junta continues to interrogate, detain, and persecute activists, journalists, and academics. The period of “attitude adjustment”, as the military dictatorship calls these arbitrary detentions, may vary from a few hours to seven days, depending on how far removed the victims are from the fairy tale of peace, unity, and happiness that the junta wants them to repeat.

While these “conversations” have been quite effective in silencing opposition, they also reveal the army’s paranoid belief in the existence of an organised plot to bring down the Thai monarchy. Many among the summoned reported that the interrogators attempted to identify and expose such an organisation. Pitch Pongsawat was among them. A professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University and the host of the popular satellite TV programme “Wake Up Thailand”, Pitch wrote of being called up to meet with the army and hearing about an alleged plot to take down the monarchy put together by a structured organisation.

The military dictatorship believes that there is an “organisation revolving around former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, republican intellectuals, and fringes of the Red Shirts” that is seeking to bring down the monarchy.Prayuth planking

We wish there was….

In fact, though, whether the military dolts believe their own nonsense or not, their conspiracy theory is “providing both legitimacy and urgency for unprecedented repressive measures by the Thai military, which has historically presented the protection of the monarchy as their top priority.”

“Historically” is not entirely accurate as the “mission” can only be dated to 1957-8, when General Sarit Thanarat ran his coups and made the monarchy his legitimizing force. The current lot seem to have a 1957-8 model in mind. As the article notes,

The revival of the idea of “enemies of the state” to describe anybody who voices criticism, an important tool for violent military repression of progressive forces during the Cold War, is a sign of Thailand’s slow descent into a new dark era. Once the monarchy and the nation are perceived to be under attack, any form of dissent can be deemed by the military as a real challenge to Thai identity and repressed with any means possible.

Discussing lese majeste, Sopranzetti notes that:

Since the coup on May 22, the junta led by General Prayut Chan-ocha has elevated this strategy to an unprecedented degree and set out to crush the imagined plot against the monarchy. Only in the last  few months, 13 lese majeste cases were filled [filed]. In the military paranoia, enemies of the state are everywhere, from students protesting the coup to media commentators, from vocal taxi drivers to academics advocating for a reform of the law.

Sopranzetti observes that “human history is dotted with similar authoritarian regimes and the disastrous consequences of their quixotic fights against imagined conspiracies.” They may be imagined, but the results for those harrassed, tortured, arrested and killed are real enough.

The author states that it “is undeniable that the Thai monarchy has lost popularity since the palace has been seen as taking sides in the present political crisis, and often voiced to be the mind behind it. However, this discontent is a dispersed murmur rather than an actual conspiracy.”

Things look dark indeed.


Thongchai: Thailand needs an election

18 05 2014

Professor Thongchai Winichakul writes for Al Jazeera on Thailand’s ongoing crisis and the crying need for an election as the path out and forward:

On May 7, the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and a number of her Cabinet ministers from office. This judicial coup was followed by a decision from the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which indicted Yingluck for dereliction of duty in handling a controversial rice-subsidy program. Despite their judicial semblance, both rulings were carried out without any due process of law. They call into question the credibility and impartiality of Thailand’s judicial system in the eyes of the majority of the Thai public.

… The royalists’ relentless scheme to usurp power by undermining the rule of law now threatens to degenerate into civil war.

… Thailand’s onetime budding electoral democracy is now increasingly besieged. A would-be royalist government might attempt to overrule the dissenting public using a combination of force, fear and coercion.

… The royalist conservatives, who are behind the anti-democracy protests, have lost every election since 2000. They are declining in popularity and political legitimacy. However, they continue to dominate the judiciary, the military, the state bureaucracy and universities.

The Senate … is a bastion of the royalist elite. Half of its members are unelected but selected by the judiciary and appointed by the king….

A free, fair and democratic election is the only way out of the current turmoil.

[T]he PDRC and Election Commission continue to obstruct the process in order to delay the vote. Meanwhile, as tensions between the two sides mount, the situation threatens to spiral out of control.

The royalists’ reliance on the military or fear of the draconian lese majesty law … will likely backfire…. Resentment with the royalists and the monarchy has evidently increased on social media, and the number of charges under the lese majesty law spiked in the past few years. The royalists hope the appointment of an unelected prime minister by the king would quell possible unrest. But doing so would validate a widespread belief that the palace was in fact behind the ongoing scheme all along. This puts the future of the monarchy in jeopardy. Since the late 1970s, the king’s charisma has been the linchpin of stability in Thailand. But overreach by the royalists has brought the monarchy’s legitimacy into question. Not long ago, it was unimaginable to even ponder the demise of Thailand’s monarchy. If it comes to an end, the royalist conservatives will only have themselves to blame.

A free, fair and democratic election is the only way out of the current turmoil.

Hard-hitting but full of truths that the royalists fear, ignore and obscure.

Kasit on the monarchy and succession

18 02 2013

Kasit Piromya, who was a loudmouthed Foreign Minister in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government initially got his job as a Thaksin Shinawatra critic and for his several appearances on the People’s Alliance for Democracy stage. He’d been an ambassador before this.

Al Jazeera has recently interviewed him for Talk to Al Jazeera. Bizarrely, they claim the now nearly invisible Kasit is “key player in Thai politics.” While a written story was posted a couple of days ago, PPT decided to wait until the video was available before posting. We are pleased we waited as Kasit’s comments on the monarchy and politics are interesting and likely to be controversial amongst royalists in Thailand.

The video report begins rather provocatively, yet accurately,  stating that at the core of “[p]olitical tension in Thailand” are “differing opinions about the country’s existing power structure.” The report then juxtaposes yellow shirts and red shirts:

On one side is an alliance between the military and its political supporters – who on the street are known as the Yellow Shirts. They see themselves as the guardian of political continuity…. The most potent symbol of this is the king, and the Yellow Shirts guard his position with fervor. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving current head of state, is 85, and the question of succession is now lingering over the country.Kasit

On the other side are the so-called Red Shirts. Their most powerful leader has been Thaksin Shinawatra, who rose to power with particular strong support from people living in the countryside.

Also rather provocatively, the interviewer begins with a question about political conflict, asking: “… is there always a link to the monarchy?” Kasit responds with a denial and the usual royalist responses, mixing them all up in a kind of royalist nonsense broth: constitutional monarchy, just like other places, “the U.K. in particular,” [it clearly isn’t] the king is under the constitution and the law [he is, but as royalists usually say, “he has special privileges”], he’s a figurehead [he is, but so much more politically involved than this].

The interviewer then mistakenly states that “Kasit has spoken out against the monarchy.” He responds, appropriately startled. We assume this refers to Kasit’s comments in 2010 where he was quoted as saying:

… I think we should be brave enough to go through all of this and to talk about even the taboo subject of the institution of the monarchy…. I think we have to talk about the institution of the monarchy, how it would have to reform itself to the modern globalised world…. Everything is now becoming in the open…. Let’s have a discussion. What type of democratic society would we like to be?

He now speaks of the monarchy using palace treacle and tripe about the monarchy being responsible for almost everything good that has ever happened in Thailand “for the past 700 to 800 years.” He contradicts his 2010 statements by saying that the monarchy can change and adapt to the modern world, nay, it can:

lead Thailand … spiritually, intellectually and … the king has come out with a philosophy … called economic sufficiency that … advises the Thai people on how to face the challenges of globalization.

Kasit “praises” the monarchy. The interviewer asks about political challenges, most notably succession, and mentions the uneasiness within the elite regarding the crown prince taking over. Kasit looks a little worried and says that the rules of succession are clear and “we have no problem” with the rules. On “the personality of the prince, Kasit stumbles along:vajiralonkgkor_srirasami

A lot of people do not know him and there are a lot of rumors and so on…. [the interviewer interjects regarding these] and so we are not in a position to answer on his behalf…. He can reach out…. [the interviewer interjects that the prince is close to Thaksin]…. I don’t know about that one…. another rumor…. Does he fail in his [royal] functions? I don’t think so.

The interviewer asks if the prince has the support of the Thai people? Kasit’s response is likely to get negative reaction when he says: “It remains to be seen.” Remarkably, he links this to “undercurrents about republicanism.”He seems to say that the problems of lack of public support for the prince relate to these:

A lot of rumors, a lot of websites, a lot of Facebook and so on have all been directed at undermining the institution of the monarchy. And a lot of bad words and so on. It’s a campaign, and one cannot divorce oneself on the rumors and the fact that the rumors are being created in order to undermine and bring down the institution of the monarchy.

Kasit essentially says that all the rumors are to be put aside if one believes in the monarchy.

The interviewer then turns to lese majeste as a draconian impediment to free speech. Kasit responds with the standard line: the monarchy can’t defend itself, so the government must do this on its behalf. But people also abuse the law. The law is fine, but its enforcement is a problem. Suffering selective amnesia, Kasit says the police (he seems to claim they use the charge to “make money”) or politicians must not use the law for political purposes, when he was a member of the government that “enforced” lese majeste more than any other since the 1970s. He says that the law should not be used for political purposes when almost every case of lese majeste under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government was for suppressing political opponents.

The interview then moves to the 2008 airport closures by Kasit and his yellow-shirted comrades and the Abhisit regime’s clearing of red shirt protesters in 2010. He says: “every government has the legitimacy to use force when the protesters did use arms, any legitimate government would have done that.” He states that “the red shirts were armed.” He adds that Thaksin was “the main instigator of the street protests and the use of violence.”

The interviewer then asks of the relationships between Thaksin, the monarchy and the coup. Kasit says the coup was because of fears of a reshuffle amongst the top brass and a fear of street violence, of “civil war.” In essence, for Kasit, all of Thailand’s problems lie with Thaksin. Nothing changes much  for Kasit but the interview is worth watching, even if Kasit is yesterday’s man.

Huge media reaction to lese majeste verdict on Somyos

23 01 2013

Al Jazeera has a video story worth viewing:

Below are some of the articles we found that have come out since the sentencing. Some will be agency reports that are pretty much the same. However, the breadth of interest in the sentencing is remarkable:

New York Times, Thai Court Gives 10-Year Sentence for Insult to King

Bloomberg, Thai Editor Sentenced to 10 Years for Articles Insulting King

CNN, Thai court sentences activist to 10 years in prison for insulting king

AFP, Thai activist jailed for 11 years for ‘royal slurs’

NBCNews.com, Journalist gets 10-year prison sentence for insulting Thai king

Voice of America, Thai Activist Given 10 Years in Jail for Insulting King

Wall Street Journal, Editor Gets 10 Years in Jail for Thai Royal Insult

Radar Online, Seriously?!? Journalist Jailed For Ten Years For Insulting Thai King

The Epoch Times, Thai Journalist Jailed for Insulting King

Telegraph.co.uk, Thai activist jailed for 10 years for insulting monarchy

Sky News, Thai Journalist Jailed For Royal Family Insults

Washington Post, Thai court sentences magazine editor to 10 years in prison for articles defaming …

Radio Australia, 11 years in jail for prominent Thai activist

Radio Australia, Court deals another blow to media freedom in Thailand

The Independent, Thai magazine editor jailed for 11 years for insulting king

Voice of America, Thai Court Issues 10-Year Prison Term to Editor

Businessweek, Thai Editor Sentenced to 10 Years for Stories Insulting King

ABC Online, Magazine editor jailed for defaming Thai king

Fox News, Thai court sentences magazine editor to 10-year jail term

The Times, Editor jailed for ten years for ‘insulting Thai King’

BBC News, Thai court jails magazine editor

RTT News, Thailand Jails Magazine Editor For Insulting Monarchy

United Press International, Asia, Insulting king results in prison sentence

Hong Kong Standard, Stiff 11-year term for Red Shirt royal critic

TODAYonline, Thai magazine editor jailed 10 years for insulting King

eNews Park Forest, Thailand: Editor Convicted for Insulting Monarchy

The Inquisitr, Thai Magazine Editor Sentenced To 10 Years In Jail For Insulting King

RTT News, UN Rights Chief Says Conviction Of Editor In Thailand “setback For Human Rights”

Newser, Author Insults Thai King, Editor Gets 10-Year Sentence

Amnesty International UK, Thailand: Magazine editor sentenced to ten years for insulting the royal family

Evening Standard, Free speech fear as editor is jailed for ‘insulting’ Thai king

The Voice of Russia, Thailand: activist jailed for 11 years over royal insult

OMCT World Organisation Against Torture, Thailand: Thai human rights defender and editor convicted and sentenced to 11 …

New Europe, Thai magazine editor sentenced to decade in prison

Worldcrunch, Thai Magazine Editor Gets 11 Years In Jail For Defaming King

FIDH, Thailand: Thai human rights defender and editor convicted

Panorama, Thai court jailed magazine editor for 10 years

The Economist (blog), A right royal mess

The Independent, Thai magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk jailed for 10 years

Eagle Radio, Thai Journalist Jailed For Royal Family Insults

Myjoyonline.com, Thai court sentences activist to 10 years in prison for insulting king

Watertown Public Opinion, Thailand sentences editor to jail for royal insult

BeritaSatu, Hina Raja, Jurnalis Thailand Dihukum 10 Tahun

Detikcom, Hina Keluarga Kerajaan Thailand, Aktivis Dibui 10 Tahun

Paris Match, Lèse-majesté, un crime de Thaï

VOA Tiếng Việt, Chủ biên một tạp chí ở Thái Lan bị kết án 10 năm tù tội phỉ báng

Aljazeera on lese majeste

16 12 2012

Aljazeera has a video story on lese majeste. Watch for the dullard ultra-royalist Tul Sitthisomwong defending a law that is draconian, keeps people locked up for decades and limits democratic development:

Updated: Al Jazeera on lese majeste

15 06 2012

PPT hasn’t watched the whole story yet. However, we felt that readers would want to see this Al Jazeera documentary. It is about 25 minutes and interviews a few persons of considerable interest, not least interviews with lese majeste ideologues like the remarkably dopey Tul Sitthisomwong and academic toady for the military and royalists, Panitan Wattanayagorn. The blurb states:

The case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, 61, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sending 4 text messages deemed offensive to the Thai royal family has reignited debate over the country’s strict lese majeste law. On May 8, Ampon died of liver cancer in prison, still claiming he was innocent of all charges. 101 East explores Thailand’s lese majeste law and asks just who it really protects.

Update: Some readers tell us they are unable to view the embedded video. This is the link to it.

PAD rally violence

20 09 2009

Some longer and more detailed reports of the PAD violence on the Srisaket border are now available.

Interesting vision at Al Jazeera and their report here, including comments on the red shirt rally in Bangkok. Associated Press has a report and pictures here. The MCOT’s report is here and CCTV’s here, with vision. Grant Peck has a report at Gaea Times.

The basic points seem to be that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is “saddened” by the clashes and claims that his “government is not sitting idly over the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area and that negotiations continue with the Cambodian government which will lead to an eventual troop withdrawal from the area” (MCOT). Even though Abhisit states that no Thai sovereignty has been lost, statements like this  give an impression that Abhisit is accepting the legitimacy of PAD claims. Because of its embedded support for PAD, the government is compromised.

Another telling indicator of the government’s compromised position is that it has decided to maintain troops and the ISA in Bangkok, where there was no clash.

Update: Bangkok Pundit has a series of videos of the violence.

Al Jazeera interviews Thaksin after the Songkhran uprising/Thaksin’s open letter

14 04 2009

Thailand Jumped the Shark has posted an Al Jazeera interview with Thaksin Shinawatra following the events in Bangkok. When asked about the king, Thaksin says that the country needs him to intervene when there is violence and then makes the claim that the king is above politics. An odd juxtaposition.

There are rumours that Thaksin and/or the UDD appealed to the king for protection at Government House from an expected military onslaught. PPT would be interested to hear more on this from readers.

Update: Thaksin has now issued an open letter on events, at Prachatai (16 April 2009: “Thaksin’s open Letter”).

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