ISOC’s political role

18 06 2019

The Internal Security Operations Command is the military’s most important political agency. For years it has engaged in political destabilization, surveillance, repression and murder for various military regimes and for the military itself.

PPT mentioned ISOC’s likely political role in the post-junta regime being put together by the junta. And, we have previously warned about this political agency. For a couple of important reads on ISOC, see here and here.

A Bangkok Post op-ed by Alan Dawson in 2017 referred to ISOC, in working for the junta, as being “extremely non-traditional, always unpredictable and occasionally highly strung…”.

[What did happen to Alan Dawson at the Post?]

It is now reported that ISOC is being rearranged, again. This reorganization has to do with the matters mentioned in yesterday’s post but also the fact that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan will likely not be its political jockey going forward.

The ISOC restructure is “increasing the number of agencies under its supervision…” from 12 to 18, although that counting may be underestimating ISOC’s current scope. Very oddly, the report states that the restructure is somehow “in line with Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-o-cha’s intention to remove its military-dominated image.”

Yes, give this “political arm of the Thai military” more power while making its bosses, all “retired” generals, less of a military image. That, it seems, involves making ISOC more “modern” and by having it “made up of civil servants, police and soldiers, not purely military…”.

The junta appears to have appreciated the interventions by ISOC during the “election” campaign and now wants that influence and threat posture to continue post-“new” government.

The report states that this idea of making ISOC look less like a “tool of the army” seems like buffalo manure, not least when it reveals that there are “up to 770 military personnel work in the agency, leaving only 200 positions to police and civil servants.”

We find the report really very hard to believe, when Wikipedia reports that “ISOC’s FY2017 budget is 10,410.4 million baht,” and that “ISOC has about 5,000-6,000 staff nationwide, excluding those working in the south, and there are 500,000-600,000 internal security volunteers, as well as tens of thousands of people in its information network.” It can be also noted that ISOC already has police assigned to it.

The real story is that ISOC is being mobilized to provide the intelligence, repressive and political support Gen Prayuth, his proxy party and its regime require in order to stay in power.





The cave, the search, the hope

1 07 2018

As days have passed, the desperate efforts to find the missing young footballers and their coach in the partially-flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province, hopes have remained high. Like everyone else, PPT has been watching and hoping.

A couple of reports deserve mentioning. The first we note is an AP report on the difficulties involved for those seeking to find the boys and the coach. That should be read with some of the footage provided by the BBC.

Most Thailand-based media have almost hourly updates.

Governor Narongsak

Social media has begun to be critical of the “authorities” who have taken charge of the mission. In English, a critical voice is provided in the Bangkok Post by Alan Dawson who makes some useful points about “phu yai” culture and what some have seen as political grandstanding.

He mentions Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn, who seems concerned with appearing appropriately “loyal.” We believe that’s a Snoopy cap, but we might be wrong, but perhaps he needed something blue to go with the yellow.

The comments by Dawson on The Dictator’s “visit” are worth reading.

We hope that those who are actually toiling and risking their lives to find those in the cave are successful.





Stealing an “election” I

16 04 2018

PPT has been posting on the military dictatorship’s efforts to manufacture an “election” victory since the junta and its lackeys in various councils, assemblies and committees began carrying out instructions on how to write the constitution for the military’s benefit and to the broader satisfaction of the royalists and other anti-democrats who supported the 2014 coup. These efforts at rigging the “election” – indeed, the whole political system – are becoming clearer by the day.

The Bangkok Post’s Alan Dawson write on how to steal an election. He writes of the rigging from last week alone:

Fabulous week for election thievery, last week was….

The stealth takeover of 80% of TV broadcasters took our breath away.

Not only does the government come away looking like the altruistic, fair-minded friend of both big business and the 70 million TV watchers but it got public applause for taking billions in taxpayer funds and handing it to digital TV owners claiming poverty. In return, digital TV newsrooms will broadcast what the regime wants, when the regime wants.

Remember when the broadcasters rebelled a few months ago at the “suggestions” by the Minister of Truth on how they should cover an up-country cabinet barnstorming. That won’t happen again.

There are those who don’t, won’t or can’t see the forces at work here, so let’s reduce the project scale.

Then there’s the fixing of supporters in various positions:

… giving the politician and sedition suspect Sakoltee (aka Sakol) Phattiyakul a job at the Bangkok City Hall. A truly hard-core supporter of Suthep Thaugsuban, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the coup regime, son of a leading 2006 coup general, Mr Sakoltee showed up two weeks ago to confirm his membership in the Democrat Party. That surprised a lot of people.

A lot more, though, were surprised at his metamorphosis from somewhat aimless anti-red politician to deputy governor of Bangkok. The Section 44-appointed governor, Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang, tossed four assistants under the bus to make way for Mr Sakoltee.

But insiders said the real force behind the lightning transfer was Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, accused of being Kingmaker Apparent of the 2019 election. He has been lining up politicians, political parties and now controls the single most powerful urban office in the country behind the outsider prime minister-to-be.

From inside City Hall, Mr Sakoltee has a unique look at political organising in Bangkok. Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intharasombat calls this direct, government interference in running the BMA.

But to calm things down, the Bangkok Post reports that, despite these frantic efforts, the army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart has lied stated that there’s no rigging going on involving his troops. He lied insisted “that the military is not using its resources and personnel to help the government score political points.”

Of course, the Army boss “also serves as secretary-general of the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta]…”, which means he’s obviously a liar a clear and obvious role for the military in the government. He lied declared “there was nothing political about the army’s campaign to publicise the government’s work in the provinces.”

He lied denied “that the army was mobilising to help Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gain the upper hand over political rivals as reports once again emerged of a pro-regime political party being formed to back Gen Prayut to return as prime minister in the next election expected [sic.] to be held in February next year.”

Gen Chalermchai babbled that “the army’s campaign is not aimed specifically at publicising the government’s Thai Niyom Yangyuen development programme, but for promoting projects aimed at restoring national unity as well as advertising the army’s activities such as military conscription.”

The army chief disembled: “It is a long-term strategy which I have conceived and I want it to continue over a span of five to 10 years. It is not merely for the sake of the Thai Niyom programme…”. He means the military is working to fully militarize the administration of the country, which is also the junta’s main objective. We know this because, among many other signals, the bellicose general stated that he is dispatching “teams of army personnel responsible for handling civilian affairs …[being] sent to meet local people, listen to their problems, explain what the government [military dictatorship] has done and find ways to improve [sic.] their livelihoods…”.

As we have previously posted, the general states that the military and junta are using the “Internal Security Operations Command …[working] with the army’s 35 military circles nationwide to finalise details regarding budget allocations and action plans that will suit the different natures of the problems facing each particular province…”.

It is all about rigging the “election.”





Weekend reads

1 04 2018

We are still kind of catching up from our downtime a weeks or so ago, and want to recommend some interesting material for our readers. Hopefully our military censors/blockers will also learn something from these stories.

At the Bangkok Post: The Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group story is belatedly addressed for Thailand – we commented about 10 days ago – but adds little to the story, although there seems an attempt to diminish the possible role of the Democrat Party even though the only Thai cited is Chuan Leekpai. If there were links between the Democrat Party and/or its government and SCL, look to the party’s Anglophiles for the connecting points.

On the extrajudicial killings at Prachatai: Yiamyut Sutthichaya writes that  “March 17th marked the first anniversary of the death of the young Lahu activist, Chaiyaphum ‘Cha-ou’ Pasae. He was shot dead by a soldier…”. As far as we can tell, nothing sensible has happened on this case since day 1. It has been a cover-up. Read the account, weep for Chaiyapoom and weep for Thailand under the junta’s boot. This is a case of official corruption far more egregious than the Deputy Dictator’s watch saga. The latter interests the middle class who seem to care little for rural kids murdered by military thugs.

“No conspiracy”: The Dictator says he’s stuck to the “roadmap” and there’s no conspiracy to further delay the junta’s promised election. Everyone knows this is a mountain of buffalo manure, but The Dictator keeps saying it. No one believes him – no one – and Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post calls him out. While at the Post, go and read the stir caused for the junta when Thaksin suggests that Puea Thai will do well when an election comes along. That’s also what the polls say, including the junta’s own polling. That’s also why the junta is splashing taxpayer funds about, seeking to buy supporters.

Insidious Internal Security Act: In talking with political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Kritsada Subpawanthanakun reminds us that the the Internal Security Act has now been around for 10 years. A tool wielded mainly through ISOC, it is used to undermine political opponents of Thailand’s establishment. This is highlighted by the fact that the current law was implemented by Gen Surayud Chulanont’s government, put in place by a military junta and borrowing Surayud from the Privy Council. The links between ISOC and the palace are long, deep and nasty.

For more on ISOC: Nutcha Tantivitayapitak writes of “ISOC’s cultural mission” in “the ideological promotion process of ‘nation-religion-monarchy’ by the security agencies…, especially after the enforcement of the 2008 Internal Security Act. Security agencies such as ISOC, which has power over civilian agencies, moved forward in ideological indoctrination through cultural tools.”





Questioning elections and the corrupted charter

4 03 2018

In an important modulation of tune, some in the media are beginning to question what the call for a junta “election” means.

Prachatai has an editorial – not common for them – which reminds readers of the twin calls made by the activists calling themselves the Democracy Restoration Group:

… The DRG has proposed two main ideas — firstly, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must hold an election in 2018, and, secondly, it must cease its efforts to hang on to power after the election.

“When we have elections, when we have an [elected] cabinet, the NCPO has to step down by default; this is the first step of building our democracy,” DRG leader Anon Nampa said during a speech at the protest on 24 February at Thammasat University. “Second step, … all NCPO orders and announcements that limit our rights must be amended by a parliament that we elect. This is the importance of elections.”

It says the second step is being largely ignored in the media and by the broader public and advises: “Pro-democracy activists should remind the public more that the election will not lead the country to a brighter future if the military still retains power in Thai politics.”

In the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson writes of advance election rigging, using all the state’s means and resources and a dirty tricks campaign. All designed to keep The Dictator and his junta mates in power after the junta’s “election.”

These warnings need to be taken seriously. But more attention should also be given to the 2017 constitution and its long-term rigging of the political system for the benefit of the ruling classes and their cronies. It should not be forgotten that the “referendum” for the junta’s constitution was neither free nor fair and that the constitution results from a series of mutinous and illegal actions by the military dictatorship.

Part of the “fix” that the constitution puts in place is the near impossibility for any elected government to alter the junta’s basic law. Yet any “elected” government that is not the devil spawn of the junta must do away with this corrupted charter.





Updated: Military propagandists to the world

9 09 2017

The Thailand National News Bureau has reported that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has held a ceremony to send off – the report uses the military term, “deploy” – a batch of 27 “military diplomats” to the rest of the world.

These propagandists for the military dictatorship seem to be an additional “diplomatic” resource, supplementing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its ambassadors and military attaches. (We note that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is deeply yellow and has worked hard to “justify” Thailand’s descent into military authoritarianism.)

Gen Prawit, who is also Minister for Defense and responsible for Shinawatra hunting, declared that the “military diplomats” will “foster a clearer understanding among foreigners of the current situation in Thailand.”

The Deputy Dictator “told the diplomats to inform their host governments of the role of Thailand’s reform plan, roadmap to democracy, and the monarchy.” As we said, these are propagandists for the dictatorship. (At the same time, it is a reward for military posterior polishers and enhances loyalty in the senior ranks.)

Update: Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post also picks up on the military propagandist plan:

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who knows more about staging successful coups d’etat and clutching power than almost anyone in the world, has just done an Orwellianism.

He has dispatched messengers around the world — 27 military attaches and deputy attaches — with instructions to change the story.

The May 22, 2014 putsch was not to reform government laws. It wasn’t to bring about reconciliation. That old story is invalid, air-brushed as surely as a North Korean propaganda photo. It was merely an act of benevolence by the green shirts to stop red shirts and yellow shirts from mayhem and murder.

As he points out, the real story of the 2014 coup. It was:

to take the country back to a simpler time, and events now taking place are the main part of it. The slogans and policies are in place. “Democracy isn’t for everyone” and “Freedom of speech is a good idea but …” and “Elections will eventually occur after it is clear peace can be assured”.

Dawson observes that this reactionary path means:

What is factual is a lack of true reform that would bring freedoms and rights, along with a mass of new laws so great that no one alive can list them, let alone provide details.

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha positively bragged in July: “The government has already issued 401 new laws.” Not enough, though. “More than a thousand more need reform.”

Junta law and justice under the junta and into the future means rule by “law,” injustice and double standards.





Kings and lese majeste

20 08 2017

In another interesting op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson comments on lese majeste. This is always a difficult topic in royalist Thailand.

On Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Dawson considers, as we do, that his case is a “fit-up.” He says that:

Clearly, as the 3,000 people who weren’t charged [for sharing the BBC Thai story that got Pai charged] show, there’s more than a little bit of Beria in all this — the dreadful Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s secret police hatchetman who bragged: “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

He continues with “[a]nother example of that unique aroma of extra-careful selection” on lese majeste:

Patnaree Chankij, a 41-year-old domestic worker, wrote “ja” (yeah) in response to a Facebook post that kicked off a social media discussion about the monarchy. After police refused to charge her, the military prosecutor lovingly culled Ms Patnaree from among dozens of posters on that thread to face lese majeste charges.

There are those so blind that they actually deny that the motherly Ms Patnaree was selected from all the other candidates because she is literally the mother of Sirawit “Ja New” Serithiwat. Ja New, referred to by Bangkok junta supporters as a “pain in the extreme lower back area”, is an unrepentant coup opponent.

The fit-up:

Two events occurred. Ja New refused to take military advice to stop protesting against the coup. Ms Patnaree, his mother, was chosen for arrest, detention and prosecution on lese majeste charges for “yeah”.

Dawson concludes this comparison saying: “You can claim publicly these two acts are unrelated, so long as you enjoy people pointing at you and laughing uproariously.”

We get the point. Yet lese majeste is hardly a laughing matter even if the gyrations of its exponents are comical and extreme.

Like others who write on lese majeste and express some criticism of the law, Dawson also quotes the late king on lese majeste. He argues that the dead king “spoke several times in public against the lese majeste law.”

We are not convinced. The quotes that Dawson uses, like all the others who use it, are from the almost unintelligible and rambling 2005 birthday speech.

Yes, the king appeared to say that lese majeste was a bother, and also claimed that “the king” had never used it. But read the whole thing and read it in context and it is clear that the dead king was not advocating an end to the law or even its revision. He was criticizing Thaksin Shinawatra and complaining about the “trouble” caused for the king most especially when foreigners are charged with lese majeste.

(Recall that Thaksin’s government had caused an international kerfuffle when the Far Eastern Economic Review reported on alleged financial and business dealings between then Prince Vajiralongkorn and Thaksin, and used lese majeste.)

At the same time, we also know that that king’s offices have engaged in lese majeste cases, appealing sentences considered too light and even making complaints. So the dead king was embellishing the truth.

Then Dawson gets to the current king:

… the King has shown his feelings about Section 112 and about the government’s obsession with it. In the very first set of details given before last December’s royal pardons, His Majesty’s announcement stated specifically that prisoners imprisoned for lese majeste would be eligible. It was a slap against the junta’s fixation.

The general prime minister says His Majesty has clearly stated that he wants no one, ever, to be punished for lese majeste. That wasn’t the shock. The shock was the junta leader’s reaction. Which was to state that Section 112 exists to protect the monarchy.

The monarch does not want protection to extend, ever, to punishment. The military regime will continue to push for maximum punishment anyway.

This is buffalo manure.

The use of lese majeste against the king’s former wife Srirasmi, her family and associates is well known. So has been the use of lese majeste charges against unfortunates who have fallen out with the new king.





Updated: All about the law II

2 04 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey gives some credit to the judiciary – the Central Administrative Court – for having ruled that “the military junta’s moves to take away the three passports held by the former Education Minister, Chaturon Chaisang, was a ‘serious violation’ of …[Chaturon’s] fundamental rights…”.

But he goes way, way too far when he states that the “judiciary is making great strides in bringing about fairness in society…”.

Thailand’s judiciary and its legal processes are somewhere between a joke and feudal. PPT has spent a considerable amount of space highlighting repeated failures and while we don’t expect Pandey to be a regular reader, surely he reads his own newspaper.

On the same day when he is full of praise for the judiciary and its “strides in bringing about fairness,” his colleague Alan Dawson lambasts elements of the judicial system and its double standards.

You might say that the judges are not the whole system, and that’s true, with Pandey slamming elements of it. However, there are now hundreds of cases that have gone to court in recent years that have seen judges fail all reasonable tests of fairness. Think of the scores of lese majeste cases, several cases we mentioned in a previous post, cases against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, cases making coups legitimate, a judicial coup, cases against red shirts (and not against yellow shirts), allowing torturers to go free and many, many more.

Being honest, we think the judicial system is now broken beyond repair. We have royalists, the military, the palace and the judges themselves to blame for this sad state of affairs.

Update: A reader puts us onto another Bangkok Post story, where the headline is, NCPO urges Thaksin to stop ‘distorting the truth’. The junta says:

“Mr Thaksin [Shinawatra] should stop harming the country, show restraint and stop distorting information. If Mr Thaksin calls for justice from society, Mr Thaksin should give justice to society, too,” the NCPO spokesman said.

The junta demands that Thaksin stop harming Thailand. Yet it is the junta that distorts truth. It has done so for years now. And, if the junta demands the legal system for Thaksin, how about themselves? Why is it that Section 113 of the Criminal Code doesn’t apply to this bunch of thugs?

Section 113: Whoever, commits an act of violence or threatens to commit an act of violence in order to:

  1. Overthrow or change the Constitution;
  2. Overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power of the Constitution, or nullify such power; or
  3. Separate the Kingdom or seize the power of administration in any part of the Kingdom, is said to commit insurrection, and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.




Controlling everyone’s net

29 05 2016

Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post has an important article on the military junta’s continuing determination to control the internet. He begins:

First, a brief summary before last week. The official slogan of the military regime is Thailand 4.0, which no one can explain but looks better than Digital Thailand. The unofficial slogan is Control the Internet. The official policy is Arrest Internet Troublemakers. The internet police roundel now sports the motto, We Know What You Did Last Night on Facebook. The regime Plan That Must Never Be Named is “One Gateway to Rule Them All”. Finally, there is no change to the military order of the day which is — No Change.

He refers to files found by activists that indicate the reasons behind changes to the already draconian computer laws.

The reason for the Computer Crime Act (CSA) amendments that Internet Censorship of Thailand (ICT) Minister Uttama Savanayana is trying to rush through is a stipulation that state security can legally intercept any internet traffic, at any time. All officers need do is walk into an internet providers office and order them to allow “wiretaps” on net traffic of all kinds, no limits – specifically not big-business or financial sessions.

The revised law will “allow decrypting https traffic to get at anti-royalty Facebook criminals.” He adds: “they’re already doing this, otherwise the Facebook 8 would not have been arrested.”

The amendment is already with the puppet National Legislative Assembly. The single gateway is an imminent reality.

Dawson then moves to an important development: “the rather sudden appearance of Huawei Technologies…”. Huawei poses as a “normal” company, but is state-owned enterprise-like company. Dawson speculates:

 

Huawei has a dual reputation as a fabulously talented tech firm, selling equipment that could, shall we say, help government efforts to crack the net. It also has the ability to inform and help and sell equipment and software to consumers to protect themselves from over-zealous surveillance efforts and password interception.





Human rights a horror story

25 07 2010

Reading just the Bangkok Post as a bit of relaxation turned into a horror story for PPT on Sunday. There are just too many articles that call into question human rights in Thailand, in the past but especially under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Earlier today we posted on one of the these stories, but as PPT ploughed through more of the paper, jaw dropping, we found it all a bit much. For interested readers, here are the articles we refer to, in no particular order:

1) In its report on the Constituency 6 by-election, the Post manages to not mention that Puea Thai Party candidate Korkaew Pikulthong is in jail, has been prevented from campaigning and even from making a recorded message available to potential voters. The latter restriction imposed by the supposedly independent Election Commission. Preventing voters from gaining electoral information is a crime in many places. In Thailand, where censorship reigns it seems normal.

2) We can’t find it on the Post site to link to it, but the inside front cover has a series of stories by Alan Dawson who correctly points out that: censorship has run wild under the current government; the premier’s image as a human rights man is in need of revision, that the DSI is failing and that the military is riddled with corruption. Okay, he doesn’t use those words, but the meaning is clear.

3) Vitit Muntarbhorn is a professor of law at Chulalongkorn University has an opinion piece on the national human rights plan. Yes, there was one, and a new one was recently launched. It was launched by none other than Prime Minister Abhisit. To cut the whole sorry tale short, nothing much was achieved on the first plan and the prospects for the second appear even more dismal.

4) In the entertainment gossip column called “Mae Moo,” there is a story reflective of the ongoing political struggle, the political use of lese majeste and distasteful yellow-shirted antics. The story is of personal attacks, lies and human rights abuses. It is a sorry tale.

Actor Kowit Wattanakul and his actress daughter Mintita “Mint” Wattanakul have had to speak out to defend themselves against accusations that they are disloyal to the king. Accusing someone of such a “crime” is an abuse of human rights because it almost guarantees police investigation and can cripple a career, as has been seen in another recent case. Kowit says he and his daughter “have been through a media maelstrom since the inaugural Nataraja (performing arts) awards in May, when reports accused the pair of refusing to partake in the royalist grandeur of the occasion.” Recall that yellow shirt supporter Pongpat Wachirabanjong was accused of lese majeste for a speech at the same awards.

Kowit stands accused of having “walked out of a nationalistic speech by yellow shirt director Pongpat … while Mint [is accused of having] refused to sing her part of a song commissioned by Her Majesty the Queen.” When monarchy-loving yellow shirts made these (false) accusations, the reaction was immediate. “Mint was dropped from a soap opera in which she had been acting for months. She was also yanked from another production due to start filming the next day.” They were attacked on “webboards, with Thais [PPT: not sure why the collective noun is used here] accusing them of supporting the red shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship – painted by their yellow shirt rivals as being against the monarchy.”

Both were essentially forced to come out and declare their loyalty and explain what had happened. The Post seems to be at least a little supportive, “explaining” the events. It’s a pity that no one, anywhere in government, including the human rights plan launcher (see above), has the guts to denounce such scurrilous and gutless behaviour. PPT surmises that, secretly, Abhisit and his buddies really do enjoy seeing the “other side” squirm, even when they aren’t in chains. Every forced claim of loyalty is imagined to be a victory for the past-its-use-by-date institution and its conservative and right-wing supporters.

5) Sort of related, the comedy – or smart-arse – column (or whatever it is) by a lad named Andrew Biggs, who gets his celebrity from speaking Thai reasonably well gets one thing right when he comments on the penalties for speaking out against those higher up the social scale (think nai-phrai perhaps?). Commenting on the Withawat Thaokhamlue Academy Fantasia television talent show case, he says: “the higher you are, the more your opinion and status is revered and thus those below you are rude and unacceptable if they complain about you. Even our esteemed prime minister, drilled about freedom of expression during his extensive UK schooling, is still Thai enough to understand this. When asked about Mark’s right to free speech, he replied, as if he were riding a fun park carousel, that Mark has the right to say what he feels but then again he is young, and he should be careful of his words, and as a young person he shouldn’t really be slamming older people, and he is a celebrity, and thus a role model for youth, and … and … Okay we get the picture. Shut up Mark, and respect your elders.” And “betters!”

But where Biggs gets totally balls-up is when he makes ludicrous comments about freedoms. He acknowledges Thailand’s lack of freedoms, but then says: “Young Mark has committed an offence in Thailand; he exercised free speech. I announce this fact not to vent my outrage _ I’m more outraged True Visions considers 12 vocally-challenged Thai teenagers entertainment _ but rather to tell you, dear reader, that the Mark incident serves as a reminder that we don’t have freedom of speech in Thailand. But we still get along just fine.

There it is. Biggs becomes Thai and says “we” are “fine.” But what of the implications of this? Of human rights? Well, Biggs goes on to observe: “Despite frequent claims of Thailand’s democracy and freedoms, it’s not quite the way it is portrayed. Again I must stop here and say this doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. I’m only saying traditionally in Thai society there’s hasn’t been freedom of speech per se. Rather, you have the freedom to say what you like as long as the person on the social strata directly above you isn’t offended by it.” Yeah, right. If you are at the bottom of the heap, you can’t say a thing.

At least Biggs gets back on track when he admits: “The big rumour is that Mark wrote something disparaging about the monarchy on his Facebook page as well, something he vehemently denies. Thais will tell you that’s the real reason he got the boot.” We’ll stop there, without adding Biggs’s final silly remark.

6) And a sad corrective to conclude on. A while ago PPT decided to have a stab at how many political prisoners were being held in Thailand. Ancient lawyer Thongbai Thongpao, who once had a great human rights record, but is now sullied by his support for all kinds of military and government nonsense points out our error. In his article, he points out that there are 500 held in the South under emergency rule there.

PPT stands corrected. Add those in, and we estimate that Thailand now has 1,500 political prisoners. Hopefully foreign and international organizations join with progressive Thai human rights groups in demanding that political prisoners be released immediately and in condemning the Abhisit regime’s failure to uphold basic human rights.

So much for the long and pleasant Sundays of leisurely reading the paper…. Now it’s a horror story.