With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





Rising anger

12 06 2020

Two of the regime’s toady parties are in disarray and the Puea Thai opposition party is also having problems. This reflects the fact that political tensions are rising. Not only that, there seems to be rising anger against the military-backed regime and its symbiotic relationship with an erratic and absent king.

Some of this anger reflects disgust over the apparent enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit. As Thai PBS points out, he’s “not the first activist living in exile in a neighbouring country to mysteriously disappear since the 2014 military coup, and he may not be the last. It says that there are “at least 104 Thai political dissidents have sought refuge in other countries for coup-related reasons since the May 2014 military takeover.”

But Wanchalearm is the first of these activists who is not tagged as anti-monarchy, although the regime and its deep yellow supporters are trying to alter that. Wanchalearm is anti-regime. The reason he fled Thailand is because “after the 2014 coup, … he was summoned by the military. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) regime lodged a complaint when he failed to respond.” The regime then “issued an arrest warrant for Wanchalerm in June 2018 for allegedly violating the Computer Crimes Act…”.

 

Since the coup, the regime as junta and now as a post-junta military-backed regime, it has been repeatedly stated that the authorities are actively tracking down these exiles. Bigwigs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has often stated that his regime has been asking Lao and Cambodian officials to deport/extradite anti-monarchists and anti-regime critics.

 

Ii is probably no coincidence that, soon after the lese majeste law was put on hold by King Vajiralongkorn, “at least nine Thai activists who sought refuge in Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, including Wanchalerm, have disappeared for unknown reasons and some were later found dead…”. (The report lists them. Note that the Thai Enquirer report below says 13 have disappeared.)

 

None of these cases has been resolved and the regime goes full Sgt Schultz – they know nothing. Worse, it does nothing. It allows the fear to fester and that fear is also associated with the king, who is widely believed to be a beneficiary of these disappearances and deaths.

 

But, as noted above, Wanchalearm’s case allows for a broader response within Thailand, with the dead weight of lese majeste missing. The report notes that:

 

Pressure from his family, local and international rights advocates, academics, student activists, politicians and several celebrities is mounting on both Thai and Cambodian governments, demanding that they investigate Wanchalerm’s abduction. On Tuesday, the Cambodian government … agreed to launch an investigation into the case.

 

Meanwhile, Gen Prawit “said that he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to look into the case…”. They won’t do anything.

 

Outside the regime, “Wanchalerm’s abduction has caught the attention of Thai citizens and netizens, with the hashtag #SaveWanchalerm trending on Twitter with more than 400,000 retweets last Friday.” Many have raised their voices. For example:

 

Former human-rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit has called on both the Thai and Cambodian governments to join forces in uncovering the facts of what has happened to Wanchalerm and making them public.

 

“Though he is in self-exile in Cambodia and holds opinions that are different from the government’s, as a Thai citizen, he should not be ignored otherwise the government may be suspected as an accomplice [in his disappearance],” she posted on Facebook.

 

Students, activists and ordinary citizens have gathered demanding information.

 

Even some who have opposed anti-monarchists are having second thoughts. The Thai Enquirer’s Cod Satrusayang, a monarchist in 2013, has decried the regime’s efforts to stigmatize Wanchalearm as involved in marijuana (so is the regime). He adds: “the fact is, the establishment will not stop trying to assassinate his character until there is enough reasonable doubt to dissipate the kidnapping rumours.”

Cod also says what everyone thinks: the disappearance of activists “who were critical of the establishment and the military … is too much of a coincidence to be random.” He adds: “It is likely that Thai security forces had some role in his disappearance.”

He laments that royalist, regime-loving hacks have celebrated Wanchalearm’s disappearance and created rumors to discredit him.

Is it a coincidence that this disappearance and the lese majeste-like charges against a young Twitter user come when the king is furious that he is being targeted in Germany? We are sure he blames exiles for his serenity in Bavaria being compromised.





Updated: Enforced disappearances and political repression

7 06 2020

The government continues to deny any knowledge of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance. It also avers that it can’t do anything to investigate. It is the “We know nothing” response.

But this ruse is weakened when former security officials blabber on. In this case we have regime supporter and former deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency, Nantiwat Samart sowing seeds of doubt by urging “the public not to jump to conclusions.” He claims Wanchalearm may not have been abducted or killed.

He lies that Thailand’s military doesn’t have capacity for such operations – despite the fact that they have been conducting cross-border operations for decades and having several special forces units including some recently trained units capable of such operations. In addition, it is known that, less than a month ago, police visited Wanchalearm’s mother demanding information on his location.

Contradicting himself he then claims that Thia units would not have abducted the activist as he is just not important enough for such an operation.

Meanwhile, human rights defender Angkhana Neelapaijit – who knows a lot about enforced disappearances – advises the regime to act:

“The government would be cast in a bad light — as an accessory [to the disappearance] — if it is not active in solving this case,” Ms Angkhana said. “Despite Mr Wanchalearm being critical against the government, he is a Thai citizen.”

Thai authorities must work with the Cambodian government to solve this case, the former human rights commissioner added.

Ms Angkhana believes the Cambodian government would take an active role in solving Mr Wanchalearm’s disappearance as the country ratified the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2013.

The Mirror Foundation has announced that Wanchalearm is considered a missing person and that the Foundation will “raise awareness about his abduction.” It said that its “members are making a missing person report assuming that it was a case of forced disappearance.”

The Nation reports that others have expressed their concern. Police used the now common virus emergency decree excuse to restrict a protest on Friday that drew attention to the abduction. The report states that a “group of protesters gathered on the Bangkok Skywalk in Pathumwan district…”.

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that considers the abduction and the others over the past couple of years “speak volumes of how the country’s democracy is phoney.”

We never thought the junta’s “democracy” was anything of the sort, but thought that the Post could have observed that these abductions have been used since the king decided that lese majeste should be toned down.

The Post calls for speech to be freed and for the computer crimes law and other “unjust laws” to be revised. We can’t see the military-backed regime doing anything, either on the enforced disappearances or reducing repression.

Update: AFP reports that Wanchalearm’s family have “pleaded Sunday for his release…”. They said: “Please release Wanchalearm. We will look forward to this with hope…. We hope this enforced disappearance will be the last time.”





Updated: ISOC’s political campaigns

29 02 2020

The regime seems in a pickle regarding “fake news.” Last week, Khaosod reported that the regime’s Anti-Fake News Center at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society declared one of its stories as “fake news” for citing a Facebook post by the Thai Embassy in London.

Later, red-faced officials babbled a bit and finally blamed “procedural errors,” that meant an incorrect rating of the Khaosod story as false. But there was no online correction when the Center’s false fake news post was removed.

Khaosod notes that “critics [have] raised concerns that the center could be weaponized against legitimate news coverage deemed unfavorable by the government.”

This bit of state incompetence or over-zealous policing came as the regime’s broader efforts to manipulate a political advantage from fake news and paid trolls came to light.

Using documents from a parliamentary budget committee, Thai PBS reported that MP Viroj Lakkana-adisorn of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party identified a “network of social media that have been waging a cyber war against critics of the government and the military by spreading fake news and damaging materials against them.”

It was revealed that:

[a]mong human rights activists often targeted by the [network] … are Angkhana Neelapaijit, a former human rights commissioner, and academics critical of the government’s handling of the situation in the region.

This network “includes websites and social media platforms targeting leaders and supporters of the political party and human rights activists in the violence-hit south.” It is taxpayer funded via the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

ISOC stands accused of hiring dozens of IO operatives:

toiling day and night to sow hatred only to reap 100 baht a day. Pity those soldiers proud of serving their country only to be reduced to the task of trolling, mudslinging, and spreading dark propaganda against their own countrymen….

The trolls are paid – allegedly as little as 100 baht a day, which is a separate labour crime in itself – and are also eligible for a monthly outstanding performance award of 3,000 baht, according to the dossier.

ISOC is claimed to be a “civilian” organization, but this is fake as it is born of and controlled by the military. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is its director  and Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong is deputy director. Its “mission it to suppress threats to national security, defend the monarchy, promote unity, and protect the public from harm…”.

Apparently this now includes lies, fake news, inciting violence and more. In the case cited by Viroj, it also included insinuations that activists “were either sympathetic or associated with the insurgents responsible for unrest … in the south.” He accused ISOC of seeking to “denigrate these people. To sow seeds of hatred…”.

While Viroj’s revelations were about ISOC actions in the south, there can be little doubt that this kind of “Information Operation” (IOs) has been used against all the political opponents of the military junta and its bastard child regime, both led by Gen Prayuth.

The Bangkok Post reported that Gen. Prayuth’s response was to deny “having a policy to use social media against his critics.” He then accused Future Forward of social media attacks upon himself and his regime/s. He vowed to find those responsible for the attacks on himself and his regime/s. And, for good measure, he turned the attack on Viroj for revelations that were a “witch-hunt was causing rifts within society,” and had damaged ISOC’s reputation.

ISOC’s boss

While it is difficult to “damage” ISOC’s reputation as a bunch of political thugs, but we suspect Gen Prayuth has been taking lessons from heroin smuggler and minister Thammanat Prompao on how to divert attention from facts with lies and by attacking messengers.

Gen Prayuth promised an “investigation” that would demonstrate which “political parties are involved…”. Action would be taken against them. Sounds like Thammanat’s threats to sue all and sundry.

ISOC’s response was predictably nonsensical. Yes, the parliamentary documents were correct and, yes, ISOC does conduct IOs. But, ISOC spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng “also dismissed claims the command was given a budget by the government to fund information operations (IOs) in the restive region.”

Yes, “the command did spend some of its budget on IOs — albeit not for waging a ‘cyber war’, but on IOs aimed at countering the spread of fake news.”

Maj Gen Thanathip “said the money cited in the expenditure reports was used to fund public relations activities to correct public misunderstandings about security operations in the southern border areas.” He then went full-on bonkers, claiming it was ISOC that was “ensuring justice and promoting human rights with the ultimate goal of restoring peace in the deep South…”. ISOC and the military it supports is usually associated with murder, torture and enforced disappearances in the south.

The response lacks any logic, but we know that making sense and truth counts for nothing among members of this regime.

Vila Krungkao writing at Thai Enquirer observes:

When IO is funded by the state budget – as documents revealed at the censure debate on Tuesday night showed – it means a serious disabuse of taxpayer’s money and trust. It’s a betrayal of your own citizens. To paint them as enemies of the state for merely having different views, to systematically fire up hostility by pitting one group of Thais against another, is to destroy the last semblance of democracy the government still has left. Simply it’s just one of the worst things they could do to their own people….

Troll army

The government (or the Army, we can’t make a distinction) is throwing fuel into the fire when they resort to black propaganda against their own people and amplifying the conflict with malicious intent. Losing the war on legitimacy, they try to win the virtual war on (fake) approval.

Update: The Bangkok Post has an editorial expressing shock about Viroj’s revelations. It concludes:

Isoc and the army should never be involved in information operations as such campaigns necessitate the kind of political affiliation from which they must remain free. State-sponsored operations that aim to spread hate speech against certain groups of people must not be tolerated.

We are not sure why the Post is shocked or thinks that the military or its evil spawn, ISOC, are apolitical. They should be, but they never have been, and ISOC was created to do damage to opponents of the military and its authoritarianism. And, the hiring of cyber spies and trolls being paid by the state has been announced several times in the period since the 2006 coup.

No one should be surprised that “military officers have been mobilised to post abusive comments using fake social media accounts from 2017-2019 as a means to discredit the government’s opponents.”  That as “many as 1,000 officers stationed in about 40 army units across the country” have been used will not surprise those on the receiving end of Army trolling and threats.





Updated: On the most recent cowardly attack

4 07 2019

Prachatai has produced an eye witness account of the cowardly attack on activist Sirawith Seritiwat.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activists have taken part in a ‘’Mourning the Thai justice system for not protecting people with different views” rally, pointing out the obvious: that the authorities are doing nothing much at all about the attacks. This is probably because the authorities are complicit. They petitioned the police, demanding “that those responsible for the assaults be brought quickly to justice.”

Bravely, they also asked for justice on the cases of the murdered and the disappeared.

Clipped from VOA News

Their call for justice was joined by Amnesty International which:

submitted open letters to Thailand’s defence minister and its police commissioner asking them to bring to justice attackers against three vocal pro-democracy activists who have faced physical abuse on multiple occasions since the military seized power in a coup in 2014.

AI states that these attacks against activists:

appear to fit a pattern of systemic violence timed to coincide with their efforts to draw attention to perceived election irregularities and problems relating to the formation of a new government.

The junta’s own National Human Rights Commission, which has been notably silent, has “spoken,” but only via the one serious commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit’s Facebook page:

Intimidating activists by physical abuse appears to be becoming increasingly aggressive and involving a rising number of victims…. These incidents usually occur during the day in public places but authorities have never been able to apprehend the perpetrators, which leads to continued intimidation against political opponents without consideration for the law.

Recognizing that the attack on Sirawith has caused widespread public concern, The Dictator has finally spoken, merely claiming that he has “ordered” all agencies to speed up investigations. Usually such urgings amount to zilch. When he states that he is not Sirawith’s “enemy,” his words fly in the face of years of military and police action against the activist, following him, threatening him, arresting him and kidnapping him. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is lying.

Clipped from Straits Times

Update: We highly recommend the New York Times story “Who’s Attacking Thailand’s Democracy Activists? The Authorities Aren’t Saying.”





NHRC as farce

6 05 2019

In all of the palaver about the coronation, PPT neglected a related and far more important story that suggests human rights, long in decline are now at rock bottom under the military and the coronated would-be tyrant.

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement condemning Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission for its “groundless inquiry of an outspoken commissioner” Angkhana Neelapaijit.

Angkhana is about the only commissioner who has considered her role has something to do with protecting human rights. The rest of them are toadies and slitherers appointed by the military dictatorship. They do nothing, which amounts to supporting the military junta and its abuses.

The NHRC has been a travesty under the junta, barely recognized by serious international agencies.

According to HRW, “[o]n April 30, 2019, the rights commission began a disciplinary inquiry of Angkhana, accusing her of political partiality.”

Why? Because junta puppet Tuang Attachai and junta posterior polisher Surawat Sangkharuek complained that Angkhana had observed legal proceedings and documented rights violations against opposition politicians – Future Forward – and critics of the junta.

Yes, she was doing her job and that act has marked her for the wrath of the junta and their puppets.

HRW observes:

Thailand’s rights commission is sinking to a new low by seeking to punish Angkhana for doing her job by exposing rights abuses and demanding accountability…. The commission’s leadership has repeatedly failed to hold the military government to its human rights obligations, but it appears now to be doing the junta’s dirty work.

Of course it is. That’s why the junta appointed its men to the NHRC. (In any case, the agency has been neutered for years and has been useless on human rights while supporting massacres, torture and other abuses since it was headed by the hopeless Amara Pongsapich.

HRW adds that the “2017 NHRCT Act stripped away the agency’s independence and transformed it into a de facto government mouthpiece, contrary to the UN Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (the Paris Principles).”

It concludes: “The commission should drop its inquiry of Angkhana and ensure she can work in a secure environment without fear of reprisals.”

We at PPT fear that this move is just another warning for the future. A dark Thailand is going to get far worse for anyone who favors human dignity and rights.





Updated: On stealing the election IX

18 04 2019

Our series on stealing the election began with a post on Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the military junta’s rabid attack, concocting a sedition charge.

Our ninth post in the series is about the other rabid effort to alter the election outcome. That is, charging Future Forward’s Piyabutr Saengkanokkul with computer crimes and contempt of court, the latter meaning the puppet Constitutional Court.

The charges relate to “a video clip of him reading a party statement on the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart Party in March.”

His appearance was observed by Angkana Neelapaiji of the National Human Rights Commission and two representatives of the UN Human Rights Office.

Piyabutr has rejected the charges and has been given until 25 April to submit a written statement.

Interestingly, both Piyabutr and Thanathorn have expressed confidence in the legal system.

This may seem to be asking for trouble, but it throws the charges back at the prosecutors and courts. Pushing false charges will do huge damage to the junta, its election and the prosecutors and courts.

Update: There’s more on Piyabutr’s appearance at Prachatai.





Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.





Watching and repressing for profit

30 07 2017

The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.

That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.

The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.

We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.

The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”

There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.

The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.

It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.

The report continues:

He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.

He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.

There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.

Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”

NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.

Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”

The military junta is defined by such acts.





Military rule continuing

21 05 2017

A story reproduced in a Malaysian newspaper begins this way:

Thailand enters its fourth year under military rule Monday with the junta firmly entrenched in power and prospects for the return of democracy bleak despite promised elections at the end of next year, rights activists say.

Briefly, the article notes that the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly “swiftly passed an array of laws aimed at gagging dissent, in a country that already had strict Lese-Majeste laws forbidding insults to the royal family.” The junta also ruled by decree.

The story is of repression: “Since the coup three years ago, the junta has detained 597 people, including politicians, activists and journalists, according to iLaw…”. It adds:

Among them, 82 were held for violating Lese-Majeste laws, under which offenders can get as many as 15 years in jail for sharing a story on Facebook, while 64 were hauled up for sedition, iLaw figures show.

As we have stated before, we think these figures are underestimates.

The story quotes national human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit: “The issue of concern is the snuffing out of freedom — [freedom] of speech, to hold demonstrations, peaceful public gatherings…. Human rights defenders are intimidated or prosecuted…”.

The Financial Times points to a critical transition:

A more unpredictable dimension for the junta is the arrival of the new king and the next phase in the military-monarchy alliance that has long underpinned the power of both. The generals clashed with Facebook this week as they stepped up efforts to scrub the Thai internet of commentary and images that were potentially embarrassing to the monarch. But the king has also been flexing his muscles independently, bringing various royally-linked institutions under his direct control and securing late changes to the constitution that increase his authority.

The junta is probably hoping for another royal death so that they can seek to further manage this relationship and maintain authoritarianism.

 








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