Democrat Party defends junta

24 04 2016

The hatred of Thaksin Shinawatra runs so deep in the Democrat Party that it leads them to lead campaigns to overthrow elected governments, trash parliament, demand a military coup and, now, to support the military dictatorship. Of course, there are other reasons for these actions apart from personalized hatreds – protecting their class and privileges, disdain for the electorate, political laziness and a penchant for authoritarianism.

The hatred for Thaksin has been seen in the most recent example of the Democrat Party’s support for the military junta in its most recent spat with Thaksin.

A few days ago we posted on the junta’s claims that Thaksin was behind the recent very mild opposition expressed in some quarters to the military’s draft constitution. In an agitated response to reporters, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator, stated: “… Who’s doing this? Who’s supporting them? Who’s plotting all this? Firstly, it’s foreign lobbyists. Who? Thaksin!” Later, the “evidence” for this was claimed to be a story in The Guardian from December 2013, where Thaksin is mentioned in a list of clients with UK PR firm Bell Pottinger. Yet, as the Bangkok Post points out, it is not clear how much lobbying this firm does. One UK website lists just one meeting between the firm and government, in 2011. It does not appear to lobby at the EU.

There are three elements to this accusation. First, foreign lobbyists, second, Thaksin, and third, the weak “evidence.” In the deep and conspiratorial social media and emailed claims by yellow shirts these elements are one in the same. They have long claimed that it is Thaksin who hires the lobbyists who then give royalist Thailand a bad run in the foreign media and turn Western governments, the UN and EU against royalist Thailand. Some of these claims originate in the writings of extreme US libertarian rightists.

Many Democrat Party members are hitched to such conspiracy theories, not least because a good conspiracy theory means less real research on particular topics and offer the Democrat Party “explanations” for their electoral failures that mean the party doesn’t need to examine itself. So when the junta announces a conspiracy, it is easy and natural for the Democrat Party to jump on board.

The lack of “evidence” from the junta suggests that it is listening to the conspiracy theorists. In fact, the evidence for Thaksin’s employ of Washington-based lobbyists is well-known, admitted and available in public documents. Thaksin had business arrangements with several firms including  Amsterdam & Peroff LLP and Baker Botts LLP, among others.

To the recent Prayuth claim, Thaksin responded, saying: “the post-coup government’s image over its two years in power was poor in the eyes of the international community simply because of its severe violation of human rights and international laws.” He went on: “Instead of admitting to his fault and correcting the problem, the leader blamed me and accused me of hiring lobbyists to campaign for boycotts of Thailand…. No lobbyists in the world could destroy you as effectively as you are destroying yourself…”. He added: “I don’t need to waste money to hire anyone to condemn the Thai prime minister and thus damage the country…”.

Two things come to mind. First, Thaksin does not explicitly deny using lobbyists, and second, he’s right about the damage the junta does to Thailand.

This response itself got a response from former Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong, who has defended the military regime by pointing to “clear evidence” that “former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has hired lobbyists, indicating he was behind international criticisms against the junta.”

The first part of the claim is clear, as noted above. The rest is an accusation, the veracity of which may be tested. The claim was made with reference to the Lobbying Disclosure website of the US House of Representatives, which the Democrat Party member declared “clearly indicated Thaksin had regularly hired foreign companies from 2006-15 to lobby US officials to react unfavourably to Thailand throughout the years.”

Watchara went on: “How could he deny it? Whom should the people believe — the US House of Representatives or Thaksin? … How can we believe what he says?”

Interestingly, the Bangkok Post did not simply buy Watchara’s claims and did some research. It says:

A search of records on file in Washington appears to indicate that lobbying firms have done no work on Thaksin’s behalf in the two years since the military coup that overthrew Yingluck’s government.

It adds:

Considering that Thaksin is a billionaire investor with interests all over the world, including mining in African countries, some of his lobbying arrangements might not necessarily involve politics but could be linked to US regulatory and trade issues.

To its credit, the Post did consult the individual reports of the lobbying firms lists as having Shinawatra dealings.

According to the data on the Lobbying Disclosure website, Thaksin was listed as a client in 49 quarterly filings by lobbying firms between 2006 and the first quarter of this year. Most of them were for fees of less than $5,000.

Since the third quarter of last year, Thaksin has had BGR Government Affairs on retainer but for each quarter the firm has checked the box “No Lobbying Activity” and the fee paid has been “less than $5,000” (175,400 baht). The small amount of compensation suggests it might be just a retainer fee.

… Since the 2014 coup, there have been no records of substantial fees paid by him to lobbyists, according to the data.

In all of the lodged documentation for the period since the coup, this is the standard look of them:

Lobby 1

The two points to note are: payments are “Less than$5,000” and “No Lobbying Issue Activity.” This is reported in every single disclosure from second quarter 2014 and into 2016.

So when Watchara asks: “Whom should the people believe — the US House of Representatives or Thaksin?” the answer seems to be believe both. As far as this data show, and this is the evidence source claimed by Watchara, while Thaksin retains lobbyists in Washington DC, but these lobbyists have not been doing any work for him.

These may not be the only facts available, but they are the stated source of Watchara’s claims. Again, they seem based on lazy research and the deep resentment and hatred of Thaksin rather than being a factual account.





Weng keeps pressure on Army

11 09 2012

The Nation has a short report about red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party parliamentarian questioning the truthfulness of the Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Weng claims to have “checked” and found that the “military did not have rubber bullets during the time of the riots [military crackdowns].” Hence, he “dismissed” the Army chief’s “statement that the military used rubber bullets during the red-shirt riots [sic.] in 2010.”

PPT is not sure if Weng has been accurately quoted or the exact context of his statement, but there are plenty of reports at the time that suggest rubber ammunition was available and used, along with plenty of “live ammunition” (see here, here, here and here). In fact, the initial report by Amsterdam & Peroff (see p. 14), states that such projectiles were fired from shotguns on 10 April 2010. Perhaps Weng is referring to the claim that snipers used rubber bullets with M16s, and questioning that.

Weng is also reported to have given the “Department of Special Investigation a list of 39 sharp-shooters appointed by the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation. He asked the agency to reveal details about the appointment of the sharpshooters, their operation, and sites they were stationed at.”

At the time, it was widely reported that the Abhisit government’s CRES deployed snipers:

An army spokesman said security forces would surround the anti-government protest site in the heart of Bangkok with armoured vehicles from 6pm local time (11am GMT) to prevent more demonstrators entering the area. “No one would be allowed in,” the spokesman, Col Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, told AFP. “Snipers will be deployed in the operation.”

Weng also asked:

“DSI to probe the death of Sergeant First Class Pongchalit Pittayanontakan on May 17, 2010 near Silom, to try to find out if he was killed by a militia force or security officials. The MP said he also wanted the report on Pongchalit’s autopsy and those on Col Romklao Thuwatham and Private Narongrit Sala. He also submitted a picture of a sharpshooter that he wanted the DSI to summon for investigation.

Weng and the red shirts are keeping the pressure on the Army and the Yingluck Shinawatra government for an accounting of the deaths and injuries in 2010. The pressure may well intensify as the anniversary of the 2006 military coup approaches.

As a footnote to this report, PPT draws attention to The Nation’s use of “riots” twice in the article to describe the events of 2010. A riot is usually considered to be civil disorder that is characterized by disorganized acts by unorganized groups acting in a sudden and often very intense violence directed against state, property or people. Riots are often generated by civil unrest but are typically chaotic. The events of 2010 do not, for PPT, generally fit this description, and The Nation uses “riot” to diminish the significance of the uprising and to justify the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government’s use of brutal force against red shirts.





Updated: Amsterdam no longer a Thaksin lobbyist in the U.S.

1 08 2012

The Legal Times reports that “Amsterdam & Partners on Monday submitted a lobbying termination report that says the firm’s government advocacy work for Thaksin [Shinawatra] ended on June 30, two years after it began.”

Amsterdam

The relationship between Amsterdam & Peroff and Thaksin and the red shirts has been extensive and, PPT would suggest, highly successful. Amsterdam has been a remarkably visible and effective advocate, with considerable political and media skills.

The report does not make it clear whether the relationship will continue outside the limited lobbying conducted in the U.S.

Update: As PPT suggested, the above commentary refers to lobbying in the U.S. A reader tells us that Amsterdam has this on Twitter:

1. Rumors I no longer work for the Red Shirts are completely false. I remain as committed as ever to making sure my clients receive justice. I should also confirm I remain retained by Dr Thaksin with my main efforts focused on bringing the 2010 Thai regime to account at the ICC.

2. ผมขอยืนยันตรงนี้ว่าผมไม่มีวันเลิกทำงานให้คนเสื้อแดง เพราะผมเป็นคนเสื้อแดงครับ – reaffirming his commitment to the red shirts.

 





Updated: Amsterdam at the ICC

27 02 2012

A reader just sent PPT a link to Robert Amsterdam’s blog, where there is an update on the submission to the International Criminal Court on behalf of the red shirts. It is introduced:

As a matter of necessity, it has not been possible for us to keep everyone as informed as we would like on the process of the ICC petition. Nevertheless, everyone can rest assured that every effort is being undertaken to present the evidence, testimonies, and details of the case to the relevant officials at the ICC. Below you can read a copy of an addendum to the original ICC petition which we filed this past July. We continue to collect information and locate new witnesses both within and outside of the military who are increasingly willing to talk, so that hopefully one day we can bring accountability back to Thailand.

Following this, the 31-page addendum is available for download.

Update: The Thai/ไทย version is here.





Amsterdam and Peroff on the run-up to elections

22 04 2011

Amsterdam & Peroff, lawyers for both Thaksin Shinawatra and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, have issued via Robert Amsterdam’s website, what it says is “the first installment in a new series of reports to be released to ahead of the 2011 General Elections in Thailand.”  A full PDF version of the report (17 pages) is available. It is also at this site. PPT hasn’t read it all yet, but the section from the preface and introduction at Amsterdam’s site is interesting.

The report’s title is “Puppetmasters: Elections As Instruments of Military Rule” and it begins with an observation that “the competitiveness and fairness of the [electoral] process are being undermined in many … ways.” The report points out that any election will “take place in a context of intimidation and repression, coupled with the continuing efforts by most of the institutions of the Thai state to secure a victory for the Democrat Party.”

These are points PPT has made in several posts. Amsterdam & Peroff promise that its new series of reports will detail “the attempts by Thailand’s Establishment to fix the results of the upcoming general elections. This report — the first in the series — focuses on the Royal Thai Army’s effort to protect its dominant position in Thailand’s political life by manufacturing a victory at the ballot box for the Democrat Party. As usual, fraud and intimidation are the generals’ stock-in-trade.”





Democrat MP jumps on the lese majeste bandwagon

19 04 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that Democrat Party member of parliament Watchara Petthong has “filed a lese majeste complaint against Puea Thai MP Manit Jitjanklab with the Crime Suppression Division.” His claim is that Manit made remarks Watchara considered “offensive to the monarchy” during the Truth Today political talk show broadcast on 13 April 2010. He provided a video a]of the show as evidence.

Watchara was last mentioned at PPT when he got twisted out of shape over the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, and called for charges against those involved with the report Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.”

Watchara is another self-appointed “protector” of the monarchy who emerges at exactly when lese majeste is being used to thrash political opponents.





Updated: The missing headline: Lese majeste

22 02 2011

There is currently a storm of lese majeste activity in Thailand but very little of it is in the English-language media (except for the ever reliable Prachatai). Self-censorship would be the usual explanation, but the Thai press reports such cases, so we think it is a case of cleaning the headlines for international consumption.

The Manager keeps reporting these lese majeste cases as victories for the forces of good against evil while failing to notice that lese majeste repression is easily turned on anyone deemed an opponent of the amart’s regime.

PPT has posted on several lese majeste cases and issues in recent days: Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s court case, Surachai Sae Dan‘s most recent arrest, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul‘s court case, and the threat to track down lese majeste internationally. To this incomplete list we can add the lese majeste accusations raised against Thaksin Shinawatra, Robert Amsterdam and editor of the Fa Diew Kan/Same Sky magazine Thanapol Eawsakul. The accusations are made by a Democrat Party member of parliament.

Back in November, the MP, Watchara Petthong, called for charges against those involved with the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, which Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.” At the time, the Thai version of the book did not name of the author, but listed Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  Its first edition ran to 5,000 copies and each sold for 100 baht. It became a best seller.

Watchara has reportedly lodged the complaints calling for charges with the Crime Suppression Division late last week. He did this because he says that his calls last November were ignored. He filed the charges himself and gave police copies of the book as “evidence.”

It remains unclear why Thanapol is included as he is not listed as the publisher of the book. Both Thaksin and Thanapol have faced earlier charges related to lese majeste.

Robert Amsterdam, who now joins the ever-lengthening list of those facing lese majeste charges at PPT’s page on Pending Cases, has responded at his blog. Amsterdam makes the point that this is “not the first time accusations of this sort are leveled against us {he and Thaksin] by Democrat Party politicians. In the wake of the White Paper’s release in July, Democrat Party spokesperson Dr. Buranat Samutrak made similar charges.”

Amsterdam states: “the White Paper does not contain any instance of lese majeste.”He says that Watchara raises objections to two points:

First, Mr. Watchara resents that the White Paper pointed out that His Majesty the King did not publicly intervene in the wake of the 1976 and 2010 demonstrations, as he did in 1973 and 1992. That, of course, is factually true; besides, the White Paper does not make any value judgment about this historical fact. Second, Mr. Watchara suggests that simply pointing out that many people are being arrested and jailed for lese majeste constitutes an insult to the monarchy. Again, it is an empirically verifiable fact that an unprecedented number of people have been thrown in jail for lese majeste since the Democrats cheated and bribed their way into power (a 1500% increase of cases in 2009). Condemning the arrests certainly does not constitute an insult to the King, but rather an attack on those, like Mr. Watchara and his party, who constantly invoke the King’s name for their own political gain.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Amsterdam suggests that:

… [t]he odd timing of his attack betrays a transparent attempt to stifle free speech, as international awareness of the unlawful conduct of the Democrat Party during the Bangkok massacres increases day by day. The White Paper, in both English and Thai versions, online and print, have reached a circulation surpassing approximately 50,000 copies and downloads at this point, which may explain why the junta saw fit to invent an LM claim out of thin air. It already seems apparent that Mr. Watchara’s main goal is stop the sales of the book in Thai bookstores.

It seems that Watchara is prompted to this act of lese majeste repression by the fact that Amsterdam & Peroff have a new and updated version of the White Paper available for download. He is attempting to limit the impact of the second report, but the horse has already bolted. More insidious, though, it is likely that the current wave of lese majeste repression is both an attempt to secure political advantage for the current government and to repress while the world’s attention has shifted to the Middle East.

Update: Amsterdam has more at his blog.








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