WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.

Puea Thai Party and lese majeste

14 12 2014

At The Nation it is reported that some “[m]embers of the Pheu Thai Party agreed that amnesty should exclude those facing lese majeste charges…”. Yes, we understand that it is more or less compulsory to take this view in public. However, to think carefully about it and to make a public statement about it suggests that some members of the Puea Thai Party are daft royalists who seem blind that either the end is nigh, a dark era is about to get blacker or both.

The party’s so-called legal expert Bhokin Bhalakula, an unreformed royalist dolt, said stated that amnesty is critical for the new constitution. Thaksin Shinawatra would no doubt agree and is urging the military dictatorship to do it. It was Thaksin who foolishly and self-interestedly pushed the amnesty issue in 2013, and brought his own sister’s government down on it.

Bhokin, who represents Thaksin’s interests, states that “the 1974 charter stipulates that amnesty will not be granted to those who are against the monarchy…”. He wants the same in 2015.

Frankly, PPT doesn’t have much interest in his other proposals on the military junta’s constitution. No military constitution should ever have legitimacy. To then throw in nonsensical and self-serving statements of “loyalty” when there is a lese majeste reign of terror in place is ludicrous.

Following the junta’s orders

4 07 2014

Every person in Thailand knows that the military junta wanted to direct what the constitution would look like, when they decide that the time is right to use a charter.

Interestingly, the Bangkok Post has reported on some of the requirements the dictatorship will ensure are in place.The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is said to be “personally leading discussions on what should go into Thailand’s 18th constitution…”.

Junta boss Prayuth “chaired a meeting Thursday at army headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to examine details of the draft of the 45-section provisional charter…”. It was drawn up by a group of trusted royalist conservatives, including the detestable legal flunkey Wissanu Krea-ngam. He has reportedly “served seven different prime ministers and worked with ten different administrations throughout the course of his political career,” and that was only up to 2012. Now he serves another military dictatorship, doing its bidding on the charter. Here is an individual willing to do anything he is asked provided the fee is sufficient and the ego massaged sufficiently.

Wissanu Krua-ngarm (sometimes Krea-ngam), is a former deputy prime minister under Thaksin Shinawatra who jumped ship and went to the support of the royalists. Since then, he has accrued a remarkable number of company directorships, perhaps as his reward. He says these many corporate directorships and chairman positions for companies like Loxley Public Company Limited and Post Publishing Company Limited, are given to him because “those companies belong to my friends.” He was mentioned in a Wikileaks cable: “Prem [Tinsulanonda] had signaled his intentions and intimidated two cabinet members (Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam) into resigning in June. Pansak [Vinyaratn] claimed that Prem had sent a clear signal by asking their view on whether constitutional provisions allowing the King to take on a political role might be invoked in the event of Thaksin’s death.”

The Post reports that the “draft interim charter provides for the establishment of a 200-member national legislative assembly, a 250-member national reform council and a 35-member constitution drafting committee responsible for writing a permanent charter.” All of those positions will be carefully screened by the junta. Apparently Wissanu needed only ten minutes to “brief” the junta on its basic “law.”

The interim charter gives the junta “special powers over the interim government to deal with security issues, as well as to grant amnesty to members of the junta who seized power from the Yingluck administration on May 22.”

Yes, you read it right, AMNESTY! PPT does recall that there was considerable disdain for the last effort to grant an amnesty, leading to large demonstrations that resulted in the anti-democratic movement and the opportunity for them and then the military to overthrow yet another government. Where are the complaints now? Back then, public pressure forced the Yingluck Shinawatra government to immediately withdraw its poorly conceived amnesty bill. Now, when a military junta wants an amnesty, there is not a peep from Bangkok’s anti-democratic middle class. Their bleating about amnesty turns out to be just one more example of enormous double standards.

The hireling explained that it was “normal” for those who ran unlawful coups to get amnesty. It is also normal for them to hire mouthpieces to say this for them. It may be normal on both counts, but it remains reprehensible.

One of the junta’s main “prescriptions” for the constitution is said to be “a measure to regulate national budget spending and prevent misspending of state funds on populist policies that would jeopardise the financial system…”. We assume that the junta will exclude its own populism from the requirement.

Wissanu was able to confirm that the military dictatorship is happy with his consultant services, and “there should be no problem with the draft and when the final document is ready…”. Of course not, for he just follows Prayuth’s directives. In fact, Prayuth reportedly instructed the legal flunkies “to make changes to the draft as suggested by the junta.” We suggest that Prayuth’s “suggestions” are orders.

These directives require the “reform council” demanded by Suthep Thaugsuban’s anti-democrats, making it clear that Suthep’s claims about his dealing and planning with Prayuth clear.

Remembering the crackdown on red shirts

13 04 2014

PPT has been delayed in getting to this because of the rash of lese majeste action in the past few days. However, it has to be remembered that 10 April marked the first attempt by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime to smash the red shirt protests in 2010. The protesters were calling for an election. The crackdown was meant to silence that call. It was the result of orders that Suthep Thaugsuban claims he issued. Almost four years later it was Suthep at the head of the anti-democrats who prevented an election. As an editorial at Khaosod puts it, Abhisit and Suthep gave “coffins to those who were asking for ballot boxes.”

The Abhisit-Suthep-Army crackdown left “more than 20 people dead, mostly protesters, by the time the operation was called off. It was the bloodiest confrontation Thailand has seen in decades, but it was merely the beginning of a far more devastating outcome; the military later crushed the Redshirts in May 2010, resulting in a total body count of at least 90 people.”

The real figures are, as best PPT can determine, between 26-29 and 94-100, with the 10 April 2010 deaths shown in this Matichon graphic:

10 April 2010

The Khaosod editorial continues:

The damage from the crackdown extends beyond the loss of lives: Thai society has become far more polarised than ever before, some factions of the Redshirts turned to radicalisation, while dozens of political prisoners have languished in prison since the final days of the military operation in 2010.

Hopes were stirred among the Redshirts and human rights activists in Thailand when Yingluck Shinawatra surged to power via a landslide election victory in 2011, with a promise that her government would pursue legal prosecution against the perpetrators of the 2010 crackdown, and issue amnesty bills for ordinary citizens who had been jailed simply because they were caught up in the chaos of the protests.

Of course, the Yingluck government was forced and acquiesced all too easily to the threats from royalists, the palace and the military. Red shirts remain in prison and lese majeste remains a tool for royalists to repress and coerce. But giving in to the royalist elite was, as PPT posted many times, a failed strategy, and the hopeless amnesty bill showed a lack of understanding of the forces arranged against Thaksin, Yingluck, Puea THai and the red shirts; the royalists could never be “won over.” Khaosod comments:

Now the administration of Ms. Yingluck seems doomed, along with any hope of amnesty plan for the political prisoners who are still imprisoned.

Because of its misguided pursuit of the “Blanket Amnesty”, Pheu Thai Party ended up sabotaging the hopes that these prisoners could be freed from their captivity, back into the embrace of their families and friends.

Furthermore, it is also incredible that the Pheu Thai-led administration has not bothered to at least sign the order, via the legitimate channel of the Ministry of Justice, to grant these imprisoned citizens a temporary release throughout the previous years as a government.

At least Abhisit and Suthep have found themselves charged with murder and related charges, but as Khaosod observes:

it is unclear whether any justice will be administered if (or, some would say, when) the new power clique replaces Ms. Yingluck’s government. Most likely, the new government, hostile to Pheu Thai Party, will order all court procedures to a halt once they take power.

The Pheu Thai Party has unwittingly unleashed the force of anti-democracy by handing them the Blanket Amnesty Bill as a rallying point. In doing so, that force of anti-democracy is now allowed to threaten any chance of achieving the first legal prosecution and punishment of Thai state officials for their crimes against their own citizens.

It adds:

There is no question that the widespread violence 4 years ago was tragic, but what is even more tragic is the missed opportunities by Pheu Thai Party to at least ease the suffering of those affected by the crackdown in the years that followed.

In another Khaosod report, it is reported that red shirts “marked the anniversary of the military crackdown on their protests 4 years ago, while anti-government protesters held a separate vigil for the soldiers who died in the operation.” For the anti-democrats, the red shirts mowed down by the Army count for nothing.

From the Telegraph.

From the Telegraph

Khaosod’s brief report of the events of that night is, however, deeply flawed, and PPT recommends that readers unfamiliar with the events go back to our posts of those days.

It is reported that:

Redshirts chose to mark the anniversary with simple exhibition detailing the incident on 10 April 2010 at Imperial World Lat Phrao shopping mall in eastern Bangkok, and a Buddhist ceremony in the morning in memory of Redshirts demonstrators who lost their lives 4 years ago.

The exhibition also featured a musical performance and speeches by core leaders of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) in the evening.

The low-profile event contrasts with mass rallies called by the UDD to commemorate the 10 April crackdown in previous years. Mr. Jatupon Prompan, chairman of the UDD, explained that the idea of holding a rally around Democracy Monument was abandoned due to the presence of anti-government protesters who are encamped near the monument.

“We don’t want to provoke any violence, it may affect our brothers and sisters,” Mr. Jatupon said.

The extremes to which the royalist elite are prepared to go to protect political and economic privilege should not be forgotten: using deadly violence, the power of the state and ditching elections and trashing the economy are all strategies they have used in recent years.

Strange decisions I

16 11 2013

A reader alerted us in the middle of the night that this week’s edition of The Economist has been withdrawn from distribution in Thailand. confirms this with a screenshot:

ScreenShot001-2As we usually do, if it is banned, we reproduce it. This is from the Banyan page at the newspaper, with PPT highlighting what might possibly be the offending words, and providing links where they may assist readers. But we are guessing. Lese majeste has become such a bizarre law in Thailand that guessing what might offend some dopey royalist official or the aged lot around the palace requires considerable warping of logic and rationality:

Blowing the whistle

Thailand’s former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, loses a battle but is winning the war

Nov 16th 2013 |From the print edition

THE truce in the street warfare into which Thai politics descended in 2006-10 is over. To the shrill peeps of ubiquitous whistles, protesters have yet again crowded Bangkok, the capital, brandishing portraits of Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s long-serving king, revered but frail. What has so far been a peaceful movement earlier this month seemed to threaten the survival of the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister. Her tactical retreat has probably saved it. But the political divide looks as unbridgeable as ever, and as dangerous to Thailand’s stability.

The cause of the schism is simple. Thailand’s voters, dominated by the rural poor, keep electing governments loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister in 2001-06. Many of the powers-that-be—in the Bangkok elite, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the army and the royal family and court—find this intolerable. They turfed Mr Thaksin out in a coup in 2006. Facing a jail term for corruption if he returns, he runs the country by videoconference from Dubai. In 2007 the electorate stubbornly voted in a government led by his proxies. The opposition managed to find a legal way of getting rid of it and installing a government led by the establishment Democrat Party. Then in 2011 the voters went and did it again, electing Mr Thaksin’s sister, Ms Yingluck.

The truce that followed showed restraint on both sides. The elite seemed at last to grasp that it would have to deal with Mr Thaksin. And Ms Yingluck trod carefully, making friends with the army and doing nothing to threaten entrenched interests—even enforcing Thailand’s scandalously strict lèse-majesté laws as fiercely as ever.

Then, perhaps too confident that they had won the trust of the establishment, the Shinawatras overreached themselves. They pushed a sweeping amnesty bill through the lower house of parliament. It would have scotched thousands of corruption cases, as well as the one at which it was aimed: Mr Thaksin’s conviction. It would also have let off Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former Democrat prime minister, and Suthep Thaugsuban, once his deputy, from the murder charges they face for the use of lethal force against pro-Thaksin “red-shirt” protesters in Bangkok in 2010, when more than 90 died. The army, too, would have been excused for its involvement.

Outrage at the bill brought the establishment onto the streets, some in the yellow shirts they wore in earlier protests (yellow is the royal colour). But, in a remarkable blunder, the bill handed the Democrats the moral high ground and seemed to open up a split between the red shirts and Ms Yingluck’s party, Pheu Thai. In the words of Pavin Chachavalpongpun of Kyoto University, Mr Thaksin appeared to be climbing over dead bodies to come home. Optimists among the Democrats must have glimpsed the end of the long Thaksin ascendancy and their return to the positions of power some see as their birthright.

 And they won their point. Ms Yingluck promised not to push the bill through if it was defeated in the Senate, nearly half of whose members are appointed rather than popularly elected. Sure enough, on November 11th all 141 senators present rejected the bill. A ruling the same day by the International Court of Justice in a territorial dispute with Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple near the border also helped Ms Yingluck. The opposition tried to use this, too, to criticise the government, but the ruling was even-handed and hard to portray as a humiliation.

The Democrats kept the protests going, on the pretext that the amnesty bill is not formally dead—Ms Yingluck has 180 days in which to break her promise and table it again in the lower house. Mr Suthep and eight of his colleagues resigned from parliament to lead the movement. They called a three-day South Asian-style national strike from November 13th, largely unheeded. By then, however, their aims seemed no longer limited to the amnesty. The protest leaders want to bring down the government.

 Yet Ms Yingluck’s opponents must know that she would probably win another election. Red shirts may be disgruntled with her government for its failure to amend the constitution or lèse-majesté law, for example, or to bring those responsible for the 2010 killings to justice. But they have nowhere else to go. Mr Thaksin, an ethnic-Chinese billionaire, is an odd leader for a group dominated by non-Chinese Thais from the north-east. But they like the populist economic policies, such as a rice-price support scheme attacked this week by the IMF, which he and his sister have pursued.

Self-fulfilling prophecies of doom

If Mr Thaksin cannot be defeated at the ballot box, nor is the army likely to try another coup. It would need the tacit endorsement of King Bhumibol. Part of the air of desperation in elite ranks reflects the calendar. December 5th will be the king’s 86th birthday. It is an occasion when royal pardons are issued, and one that the king used to mark with a speech. This year, again, he is unlikely to be well enough, reminding his anxious people of his mortality. His probable successor, the crown prince, unlike his father, is feared and reviled, in a legally imposed silence. Yet Mr Thaksin, in the words of a cable in 2005 from the American ambassador to Thailand revealed by WikiLeaks, “long ago invested in crown-prince futures”.

So long have Thais told each other that the king’s death would jeopardise the nation’s stability that they may even have made it likely. Mr Thaksin’s opponents have always portrayed him as a threat to the monarchy, and they have long enjoyed the tacit backing of the palace despite its being supposedly above politics. In fact, like all Thai politicians, Mr Thaksin seems to crave the king’s approval. Nothing would suit him better than a royal pardon. What really alarms his enemies is not that he is a closet republican. It is that he may be close to an accommodation with the palace that would see his clan’s rule entrenched for years.

 No points for guessing what the post on ‘Strange decisions II” will be about.

Opposition floundering

13 11 2013

The anti-Thaksin Shinawatra opposition is floundering despite having been given its first major opening in the past two years. Over this period it has put support to manufactured protests led by the usual old royalists.

It was Thaksin’s botched amnesty effort that provided a real opportunity for mobilization. With PAD reactivated and the old farts joining in, the opposition finally received some broader support.

Now that the Puea Thai Party-led government has dumped the politically dopey amnesty bill, the red shirt alliance partially repaired, and the World Court decision seemingly manageable, the opposition’s cause is looking far less compelling.

While the crowd that showed up last night at the Democrat Party-led rally was reasonable, PPT’s impression was that they were rather unimpressed by the bland and repetitive show and the tired rhetoric. There seemed little real enthusiasm for the (changing) cause.

Red shirt demonstrations in March 2010 in the same area displayed considerable commitment to a clear cause. The community fair-like atmosphere of the red shirt rally was completely absent at the Democrat Party event.

The mainstream media are reflecting this lack of enthusiasm, with The Nation referring to Suthep Thaugsuban’s call for a national strike falling flat. The report stated that Suthep’s manufactured call may have “even backfired,” pointing to the “much smaller number of demonstrators than most of the protests of late.”Empty seats

Worse for the Democrat Party, while the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep’s call for the harassment of government ministers had seen the first action, stating that “[s]everal protesters yesterday blew whistles loudly at Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang in a gesture of anti-government defiance,” other media like Khaosod reported that the “protesters” were current and former Democrat Party  MPs.

In other words, a major problem for the opposition is the Democrat Party and its boss Suthep. It may be too early to make the call, but Suthep and his party seem no more skilled at activist tasks like street protest than they are at winning elections.

As reported at The Nation, it seems the Democrat Party is already changing its strategy and “would now target the removal of the Shinawatras from Thai politics.” That may strike a chord with hardline yellowists, but it seems unlikely to gain the support of business, military or palace political strategists.

In addition, as in so much else – ideas, policy, strategy, rallying – it is clear that the Democrat Party’s “strategy” remains reactive and dependent on Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

If these two make no more bizarre decisions and get their economic policies under control, they should win the next election.

With 3 updates: Rejectionism

11 11 2013

Whatever the result of the amnesty bill [in the Senate], the “anti-amnesty” protesters will bring down the government.

Whatever the result of the World Court decision on Preah Vihear, the protesters will reject it.

Rejectionism is now the modus operandi for the protesters who hope to bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

The Bangkok Post reports that “three protest groups – the Anti-Thaksin Coalition comprising civic groups in all 77 provinces, The People’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism and the Dhamma Army – are now marching to the Defence Ministry.” They do this to “demonstrate their intention to reject the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling on the Preah Vihear dispute, no matter what it may be.”

They do it, led by a retired general, to seek the support of the military for their plan to overthrow another elected government. It is the political equivalent of “going home.”

Chamlong Srimuang and the Dhamma Army – so central to all PAD rallies in 2005 and 2008 – is now fully in support of the protesters and he is now taking a leadership role that sees him move from the shadows into the light. Sondhi Limthongkul’s media are at Chamlong’s disposal.

Chamlong is keen to oust the government, a position he has taken repeatedly over a very long period back to 1976.

Update 1: We guess that former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban is take seriously by his frothing yellow-shirted supporters. We also guess that they must be the only ones who can’t see the cruel irony in Suthep’s sick claim that “he is the target of a government sniper…”. Of course, it is known that Suthep is one of those who ordered snipers to murder red shirt supporters in April and May 2010. Suthep’s crass statement is on a par with his previous claim that protesters got killed because they ran in front of Army bullets. He is a disgrace and a thug or is slug the word we are looking for?

Update 2: The Senate rejected the amnesty bill that after 10 hours of debate. Can anyone suggest why 10 hours was required to get a more-or-less unanimous vote against an already dead bill? Our guess is that the royalist-yellow-shirted lot amongst the unelected senators simply wanted to grandstand in the hope of stirring further anti-government street action.

While the lower house can resubmit the bill, that house has already withdrawn all amnesty bills.

This hasn’t stopped Suthep continuing his “anti-amnesty” rally, saying: “This amnesty bill is still not dead, even though the Senate is voting to block the bill,” and calling for a “general strike by workers Nov. 13-15, and urged people to join rallies to oust the government, which won a majority in elections in 2011.”

Update 3: At The Nation, Suthep is reported to have made further calls for “a civil disobedience action against the government” that involved strikes, go-slows, “schools, colleges and universities throughout the country to cancel all classes … and display banners with messages against the amnesty bill.” He also urged  “businesses to delay their corporate tax payments…”. Finally, he “told people to show their opposition to the government-backed amnesty bill by raising the national flag at home, carrying it with them, or displaying one on their car.” Many Thais display the flag anyway, so Suthep is simply being politically too clever by half on this.

In line with this kind of cynical maneuver, Suthep suggested that people harass government ministers and MPs in public places.

Suthep also announced “that he and eight other Democrat MPs had decided to resign their seats to fight alongside the people against ‘the evil government’.”

Calling for a coup

9 11 2013

Last week we joked about a coup in Thailand. This week, sadly, it seems that, sadly, it seems that some students at, sadly, Thammasat University are calling for a military coup.

At CNN there is an iReport that states:Calling for a coup

About 30 students from Thammasat University went to the streets of Bangkok yesterday to express their unhappiness with the Government of Thailand. Some students held banners demanding the military to interfere, while others vented on the immediate need for an army coup.

Thammasat University is Thailand’s second oldest institute of higher learning. The students joined the anti-democracy protests in the city, which started with the parliamentary endorsement of the high-debated Amnesty Bill.

Ironically, the students of today have taken their rights for granted under the present administration’s work towards greater democracy.

While the photo is not verified by CNN, the source is usually reliable.

It is not “ironic” that Thammasat students should call for a coup. Rather, it is a trampling on the history of a great institution which today is largely controlled by royalist flunkies and largely populated by students who are from the elite and sadly unaware of the meaning of the university’s foundation and of its pivotal role in the fight against authoritarianism.

Will they go home?

8 11 2013

Has the Puea Thai Party hierarchy’s foolish attempt to promote a Thaksin Shinawatra-focused amnesty bill unleashed a political fire storm that will be impossible to contain?

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra may have withdrawn all the bills, but the once-struggling opposition has risen and the PAD-like types have taken control of the movement that the Democrat Party thought it was leading, with protests in several key areas of Bangkok.

With the Preah Vihear decision coming up, the opposition will be unlikely to want to let the crowds disperse in the hope that the outcome of the World Court case will be construed as negative for Thailand. Such a decision would be seen as cause for a nationalist rising that would sound the death knell for the Yingluck government.

Red shirts will be unlikely to allow yet another elected government to be given the chop.

Interesting times ahead. Watch this space.


AHRC on amnesty

6 11 2013

From the Asian Human Rights Commission, and reproduced in full:

THAILAND: No amnesty for state-sponsored murder

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to express grave concern about the current state of the draft amnesty bill in Thailand. The draft amnesty bill (in full, the Draft Amnesty for Those Who Committed Offences as a Result of the Political Protests and Political Expression of the People B.E…..) is broad, vague, and appears to be motivated by political expediency at the expense of human rights, justice, and the rule of law. If passed in its current form, the bill will allow murderers to walk free without even a slap on the wrist. The amnesty will constitute the erasure of the suffering and losses of those who died or were injured as a result of violence perpetrated by state actors. In particular, if passed in its current form, the amnesty will allow those who were responsible for the deaths of 92 persons and the injuries of over 2000 during the clashes between state forces and Red Shirt protestors in April-May 2010 to evade accountability.

The core of the draft amnesty bill is in Article 3, the measure which describes which actors, what actions, and what period of time are to be covered by the law. In the initial draft, prepared by Mr. Worachai Hema, a Pheu Thai MP and his colleagues, Article 3 stipulated the following: “All actions of persons that were related to political demonstrations or political expression, or individuals who did not participate in political demonstrations but the motivation of the actions was related or connected to political conflict. By calling through speeches or broadcasting through whatever means to call for or create opposition to the state, self-defense, resistance to the operations of state officials, or rallies, demonstrations, or expressions using any means that could impact life, body, hygiene, property, or any rights of other individuals that were incidents related to political demonstrations or political expression from 19 September 2006 until 10 May 2011, are no longer offences, and the actors are absolved from wrongdoing and all responsibility. The actions in the first paragraph do not include the actions of those who had decision-making authority or decisive authority or directed political movements in the period specified above.”

In sum, the draft approved during the first reading exempted from responsibility all those involved in political demonstrations on all sides, including state actors but excluding those in positions of authority inside and outside the state, during the period of political conflict which began with the 19 September 2006 coup and ended with the dissolution of Parliament and announcement of elections on 10 May 2011. Parliament voted to accept this in principle during the first reading of the bill in August 2013. In a written submission to the UN Human Rights Council during the September 2013 session, the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), the AHRC’s sister organization, echoed the concerns of the Office of the UN High Commission on Human Rights that the draft bill might allow those involved in the violation of human rights to be exempt from punishment, and further noted that the categories of those to be amnestied were unclear.

Subsequent to the first reading, an ad hoc committee of MPs was appointed to examine the draft amnesty bill. In late October 2013, they returned the draft to the full assembly for the second and third readings. The ad hoc committee made significant changes to Article 3. In the current draft version, Article 3 stipulates that: “All actions of persons or people that are related to political demonstrations, political expression, political conflicts or those accused of being wrongdoers by a group of individuals or an entity established after the coup of 19 September 2006, including organizations or agencies who proceeded in relation to the aforementioned matters that occurred between 2004 and 8 August 2013, whether the person undertaking actions did so as a principal, supporter, someone who ordered [others] to take action, or some who used [by others], if those actions were illegal, the actors are absolved from wrongdoing and all responsibility.”

In sum, the draft returned by the ad hoc committee and approved during the second and third readings exempts all involved persons from responsibility, including state officials who gave orders and protest leaders who directed demonstrations. This draft also expands the period of time covered by the amnesty to begin in 2004 (although when precisely in 2004 is not specified) and to extend until August 2013. As human rights activists have raised, this then seems to be an attempt to extend the amnesty, which already will provide impunity to those state actors who perpetrated violence during the April-May 2010 crackdown on Red Shirt protestors, to cover the incidents of the Krue Se and Tak Bai massacres, the disappearance of human rights defender (HRD) and lawyer Somchai Neelaphaichit, and the murders of other HRDs which took place during the years in which Thaksin Shinawatra was prime minister before being extraconstitutionally ousted in the 19 September 2006 coup. This draft version of the bill was passed by Parliament in the second and third readings on 31 October and 1 November 2013, and has now been forwarded to the Senate for examination.

If an amnesty bill which contains this version of Article 3 becomes law, the long history of impunity in the country will be further consolidated by the passage of this amnesty bill. The AHRC would like to remind responsible actors of the state responsibilities to end impunity and to urge concerted effort to act in the service of human rights. In the updated set of principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity (E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1), the United Nations Commission on Human Rights described the obligation of states to end impunity and secure accountability in the aftermath of state violence as follows: “Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.”

What makes this draft amnesty a signal of a particular crisis of impunity in Thailand is that in contrast to earlier instances of mass state violence, namely 14 October 1973, 6 October 1976, and May 1992, there has been extensive investigation of the violence of April-May 2010, and the beginnings of judicial processes to hold state perpetrators to account. A series of investigations have been carried out by different kinds of actors, including a state agency, two state-appointed independent bodies, and a citizen group. The citizen group, the People’s Information Center (PIC), released their report in late August 2012; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT), the first of the independent bodies, released a short report in September 2012 and their full report in July 2013; and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the second of the independent bodies, released their report in August 2013. The report of the state agency, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), has not been made public. In comparison to the reports of both the TRCT and the NHRC, the report of the PIC represents a rigorous accounting of the events of March-May 2010. The ALRC views the report of the PIC as an important action by citizens in the service of protecting human rights and ending impunity. Although the AHRC wishes to note concerns about the lacunae in the TRCT and NHRC reports, and dismay at the continued refusal of the DSI to release their report to the public, this marks the first time in Thai history that there has been a sustained, public attempt at gathering information about state violence carried out by state, or state-appointed, agencies.

Further, in addition to gathering information, judicial proceedings have begun in many instances with post-mortem inquests into the deaths of April-May 2010. To examine but one example, on the final day of the crackdown, 19 May 2010, 6 civilians were killed inside a Buddhist temple, Wat Pathum Wanaram, which was close to the center of the protests. On 6 August 2013, the Bangkok Southern court ruled in the postmortem inquest in Black Case No. C5/2555 that these 6 civilians were killed by soldiers. The court noted that, “The deaths were caused by being shot with .223 or 5.56 mm bullets and the direction of fire was from where the competent officials were stationed to perform their duties to maintain order on the BTS’s rail tracks in front of Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn and around Rama I Road. At the instructions of the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES), the officials took control over the area of the Ratchaprasong Intersection. And as a result of that, the first deceased died of gunshot wounds on his lungs and heart causing hemorrhage, the second deceased died of gunshot wound that destroyed his lungs, the third deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed his lungs, heart and liver, the fourth deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed his lungs and liver, the fifth deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed her brain and the sixth deceased died of gunshot wounds that went through his oral cavity, whilst no particular perpetrators can be identified” (unofficial translation provided by Prachatai). Given the conclusion by the court, the AHRC is concerned that if the amnesty is passed in its current form, it means that the case will end with the inquest, rather than further action being taken so that the officials responsible for carrying out the violence and the officials responsible for ordering the violence are held to account.

The dangers posed by the draft amnesty bill in its current form are not only specific to the instances of state violence and violation of human rights which have taken place since 2004, but extend into the future as well. In a recent statement criticizing the draft amnesty proposed by the Parliamentary ad hoc committee, the Khana Nitirat, a group of law lecturers at Thammasat University warned that in addition to being in direct conflict with the Thai state’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the amnesty will “further habituate[s] state officials, especially soldiers, to take such actions against the people without concern that they will have to accept legal responsibility in the future.”

At this important juncture in Thai history, the Asian Human Rights Commission calls on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Members of Parliament, Senators, and all other responsible actors in Thailand to act in the service of ending impunity and fostering human rights. The AHRC is cognizant that it may not be possible to halt the amnesty process and recommends that if this is the case, that the Senate send the draft bill back to the Parliament for reconsideration and redrafting so as to bring any potential amnesty bill in line with the principle and rationale decided upon by the Parliament during the first reading.

However, rather than an amnesty bill being passed, the AHRC urges full and equal prosecution under existing criminal law for acts of violence committed during the protests and subsequent crackdown. The AHRC is concerned that if a blanket amnesty such as the current draft bill is passed, it will allow state officials who murdered citizens to evade being held to account. Given that the state prosecutor has already filed charges against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban for their roles in ordering the killings, any amnesty that halts this process will amount to the direct obstruction of truth and justice. In addition to continuing with prosecutions against involved state officials, who have not been prosecuted to date, the AHRC urges review of the cases of Red Shirt activists who were prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms related to their actions in the protests. In many cases, the accusations and prosecutions were highly politicized, and the AHRC is concerned that the judiciary may not have acted independently. Individuals who were prosecuted on the basis of their ideas, including those prosecuted under Article 112, the law which criminalizes alleged lese majeste, should be immediately released. The unprecedented documentation of information about the events of April-May 2010, including the ongoing inquest process, means that in comparison to prior instances of mass state violence in Thailand, there is an unprecedented opportunity to act in the service of justice and human rights, rather than the further entrenchment of impunity. This is an opportunity that must not be wasted.

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