“Law” and repression I

8 10 2019

The current discussion of a biased and politicized judiciary should not be separated from the use of “law” for political repression. In fact, the military junta of 2014-19, under the direction of the evil, rightist lawyer-for-military-hire Wissanu Krea-ngam and the military’s ideologues, worked harder on establishing rule by law – quite different from rule by law – than most previous rightists regimes. The military junta recognized that its laws could be used for ongoing political repression once the regime it self transmogrified into a corrupt civilian front organization now sometimes erroneously referred to as an elected government.

Rule by law has been an increasingly favored means of political repression adopted by rightist regimes worldwide and is also infecting electoral democracies as well.

Human rights lawyer Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen recently observed that “the authorities’ main method of suppression has evolved into the use of laws and state orders to enable them to cling on to power.”

In essence, the law is used to repress the regime’s opponents, whether they be journalists who step outside the bounds of self-censorship, elected opposition politicians or democracy activists.

Anurak. Clipped from TAHR

Recent cases involve a Belgian freelance journalist Kris Janssens,taken into police custody “for inquiries because our intel suggested that he might have been a threat to national security…”. In fact, he was detained because he planned to interview an anti-government activist Anurak Jeantawanich. He was warned not to and advised to leave Thailand. The Immigration Police claimed this was “normal procedure” and cited immigration law. But they could not specify how the journalist was a threat to this vague but useful notion of national security.

A second example of the authorities using the law to repress opponents is the case of the 12 speakers – academics and opposition politicians – at a public discussion of constitutional reform who have all been slapped with sedition complaints by the shadowy Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

Behind a “national security” law, ISOC lies that “it is persecuting opposition political parties in laying a sedition complaint over their public forum in the far South…”. Unbelievably, “Isoc spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng said … no one ordered that legal action be taken.” We do know the action was taken, so this being the military, someone ordered it. We also know that the nasty watchman Gen Prawit Wongsuwan approved the action.

Maj Gen Thanathip continued his charade by insisting “Isoc was not abusing its power to persecute the opposition parties.” In a warped sense, he’s probably right on this because the military junta allocated ISOC powers to repress its opponents before it metastasized.

He then babbled in a manner that explains how authoritarian regimes use the law for repression: “Isoc does not see the people as an enemy, but it does abide by the law. Words spoken at the constitution amendment forum in Pattani caused concerns…”. He doesn’t say for who. Obviously the person who did not order the legal action.

Obviously and unreservedly, the military and other authorities supporting the present regime are using the law for repression. We can expect much more of this abuse of the law. Meanwhile, thugs, forgers, liars and criminals serve as ministers.





Further updated: Sameness

5 10 2019

Many years ago, The Who sang about not getting fooled again. They observed: “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss. In Thailand, that’s true, and while we are sure the public isn’t fooled, the old fools are at it again and again.

The new “elected” regime is the same as the old one, the military junta. But we all knew that, right? It had to be. That’s what fiver years of rigging things was about. And then there was the stealing of the “election.” Now the sameness is being demonstrated.

According to Khaosod, Col Burin Thongprapai, formerly the Judge Advocate General (legal) officer for the junta, has “filed criminal complaints against 12 opposition leaders and academics who spoke in favor of amending the military-backed constitution last month.” These are said to include Political scientist Chalita Bundhuwong and news show host Sirote Klampaiboon along with “Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat, Future Forward Party chairman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Songkram Kitlertphairote of Puea Chart Party” who  spoke at a public meeting in Pattani about amending the junta’s constitution.

It was also Col Burin who filed sedition charges against Thanathorn back in May.

The Bangkok Post suggests that Col Burin is working for the Internal Security Operations Command and lists him as a Major General and says he “took the legal action on behalf of the chief of the 4th Army Region, which supervises the South.” Chalita has been critical of ISOC.

ISOC and the 4th Army are a bunch of loony nationalists in uniform, better known for their use of enforced disappearance, torture and political murder, reckons that discussing changes to the charter endangered “national security” and its work seeking “solutions to problems in the southern border provinces.” That’s just fantasy land. Or, as those accused described it, “delusional.”

The Post says that the action was approved by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

In that editorial the Post says “Isoc’s move is a disgraceful act of intimidation as much as it is an assault on democracy.” It is certainly disgraceful, but it is not an assault on democracy for that does not exist. Indeed, the positioning of ISOC to carry on the junta’s work following the junta’s “election” was intended to maintain the non-democracy.

The editorial concludes: “Isoc’s move, along with Gen Prawit’s apparent approval will likely make many worry that the climate of fear and blatant intimidation, prevalent during the NCPO’s time, are here to stay.” That was always the plan. Who said you wouldn’t get fooled again?

Update 1: And just to add to the sameness of political repression, there’s the case of the foreign journalist (illegally) “detained while he was preparing to interview with a prominent Redshirt activist [Anurak Jeantawanich]…”. The regime’s sameness is exactly what the junta intended. Fooled again.

Update 2: In a truly remarkable story – even for Thailand in its current political funk – the Bangkok Post reports that:

Future Forward Party (FFP) secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul [who chairs the House standing committee on laws, justice and human rights] is facing criticism for his plan to call Maj Gen Burin Thongpraphai, legal officer for Isoc’s Region 4 forward command, to testify to a House committee over the legal action filed against 12 people, including key opposition figures, over discussions on changes to the charter.

It is remarkable that rightists are claiming that the military thug, acting for military thug nationalists, cannot be called to a parliamentary committee because Burin was “only doing his job and did not break the law or violate human rights or justice…”. Seriously? Apparently, yes. But there’s no consideration of the rights of those who are hit with Army claims of sedition. That intimidation violates their rights.





Updated: Silencing critics

8 07 2019

The recent attacks on anti-junta and pro-democracy activists and the murder and enforced disappearance of anti-monarchy activists are meant to silence these critics by threatening (or murdering) them and sending a threatening message to anyone else who might be critical of monarchy or regime.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

And, it seems that it works. Anti-monarchists are now fearful and cowed. And those anti-junta and pro-democracy activists who have been repeatedly attacked and assaulted are forced to agree to periods of “quietness.”

Sirawith. Clipped from VOA News

The Nation reports that after his most recent assault by “anonymous” thugs – known to the authorities – left him hospitalized with severe injuries, Sirawith Seritiwat has sought police protection.

However, in a damning indictment of the state’s involvement with the cowardly attacks, he has been “told he would get none unless he gave up his activism.” For us, that’s as good as an admission that the thugs work for the police and regime!

That report states that “Sirawith has yet to decide whether he will agree to the deal.”

He’s not the only activist to be offered such a “deal” by the complicit state authorities. Khaosod reports that Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich received similar “offers.”

Such “offers” of “deals” to silence critics go right to the top of the military regime, with deputy junta chairman Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seeming to endorse such mafia-like protection rackets.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Of course, none of those in the gangs who attacked the three has been identified by the police or regime. Why would they be identified when they are doing the junta’s work?

It seems that Akechai has agreed to such a “deal,” saying he had no choice. He had been attacked seven times in a year. His “60-day agreement, which he signed a month ago, dictates that he can neither post political messages on social media nor join political rallies.” He hasn’t been attacked since, but he has also engaged in activities that are meant to be forbidden.

Anurak. Clipped from TAHR

Anurak states that “he declined the same offer…”, but “negotiated with local police to receive some protection.” At the same time, he said “he is toning down his public campaigns in order to be on the safe side.”

He rightly “questioned whether the military government is dangling personal safety as a reward for not resisting.” He added: “What the dictator wants is for us to stop political activism…”.

It seems all too clear that the junta continues to repress its political opponents and that the use of violence is a part of that “strategy.” That’s not surprising given that it is a regime of political thugs.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Sirawith has refused the mafia-like offer from the police of protection if he stopped his political activities and, it is revealed, the activist was also required to report to police his plans and whereabouts at all times…”. Sirawith explained that “he will not allow police to ensure his safety because he believes the government was behind the attacks.” Indeed, the offer by police is the equivalent of a confession of its involvement.





Threats and assaults

28 05 2019

Two recent reports in Prachatai point to the continuing assaults and threats against two political activists.

These threats and repeated assaults against Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich are punishment for their anti-junta activism and are meant to be seen by other activists as a warning of what can happen to them if they are outspoken.

That the assaults have occurred multiple times, usually with the same modus operandi, and with impunity suggest that the attacks have approval at high levels.

In one Prachatai report, an assault on Anurak (aka Ford) by “6 men [who] rode 2 motorcycles…”. Red shirt activist Anurak required hospital treatment. He was required to stay in hospital for a couple of days.

The assault took place as “he was leaving his house to join a demonstration at the Telephone Organization of Thailand, the temporary venue for meetings of the House of Representatives.” That protest was “against the political system rigged in the junta’s favour.”

Anurak was reportedly “hit on the head with a metal pipe, leaving a wound 5-mm deep” and requiring stitching. He had other injuries to his head and limbs.

Meanwhile, Akechai is reported by Prachatai to have claimed that “Someone has ordered me dead.” This anonymous warning also told him to leave Thailand.

This might be considered alarmist if it were not for two facts. First, Akechai has been attacked and beaten seven times and, second, activists have been disappeared and killed in recent times.

Nothing has been done by the authorities about threats and attacks. One reason for this lack of attention to repeated assaults would be that the authorities themselves are involved in the crimes. Akechai was even assaulted at a court!

As the political climate becomes more unstable in future months, expect the junta/”new” regime to become increasingly repressive and combative.





Anurak and Ubolratana

27 04 2019

PPT have already posted on the harassment of and assault on activist Anurak Jeantawanich (Ford Redpath). Here’s some more background.

Soon after this, Anurak was charged with computer crimes.

He went in to hear the charge at the appointed day, and went alone, and he says there were men in SWAT gear standing by while he heard the charges. He felt he would be arrested at any moment. He was allowed to keep only the last page of the charge sheet as a photocopy including the supposed law-breaking post. Anurak has posted a copy of the Facebook post in question to show people what happened and had it translated to English.

Here it is, as shared with reporters.





Updated: Attacking the EC’s critics I

1 04 2019

Several groups of activists protesting the Election Commission’s mishandling of the junta’s “election” hit the streets and headlines over the weekend.

This cause (still) prime minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to support the EC and demand that protesters stand down. He said the EC had “already given explanations. It’s their job. Please listen to them…. Please don’t cause more disorder…”.

On the weekend, at one of the stands collecting signatures to impeach the EC, anti-coup activists, including Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich, found themselves surrounded by some 100 security personnel “deployed to maintain order.” While the activists claimed to have police permission, they “were … obstructed by police and their equipment was seized.”

As if on cue, after they left their small event, both Akechai and Anurak came under attack. Anurak was attacked and assaulted at this home in Samut Prakarn province after returning from the protest. He suffered cuts to his arm.

At Akechai’s house, his car was torched. Of course, Akechai has been attacked quite a number of times and once before attackers tried to burn his car. One of the most recent attacks was reported here. In that assault, police seemed uninterested. Indeed, no progress has ever been made in any of the assaults and criminal damage perpetrated against Akechai.

Many observers would guess that this means that the assailants are in the pay of state agencies. We would guess that both Akechai and Anurak are being targeted by state agents. It seems it is they who are responsible for the “disorder” mentioned by The Dictator.

Update: It should not be at all surprising that a hastily convened “civil society” group has appeared at the EC to mimic The Dictator and “support” the hapless election agency. This is almost standard anti-democrat, military and junta procedure.





Assassinations of red shirts who fled

19 02 2019

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has produced a compilation of articles on the assassinations and the plight of the Thai refugees in Laos. We thought it useful and worth getting to a wider audience, so reproduce it as it is at their website:

The first set were written by the Thai Alliance as a whole or by individual members of the Thai Alliance during a period of high alert for the dissidents in exile. We were in fear that the dissidents, especially Ma Noi (Ko Tee), were being hunted. These references are here to illustrate that we at the Thai Alliance believed that the dissidents were being hunted and were in grave danger about 4 months BEFORE the disappearance of Ma Noi.

“TAHR Statement on the 9 Suspects Held in Relation to Weapons that Exiled Broadcaster Ko Tee Says Were Planted at His House,” by Thai Alliance for Human Rights, March 21, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?p=32252

“In Defense of Ma Noy and the Core Leaders of the Organization for Thai Federation,” [in Thai and English] by a member of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, March 24, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32265

“Last Voice of Democracy,” by Red Eagle, posted at Thai Alliance for Human Rights, March 31, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?m=201703

“Meet My Friends in Exile: เราคือเพื่อนกัน” by Ann Norman at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, April, 2, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?p=32293

Here is the one reference in English I can find about the disappearance of Ittipol Sukapan (DJ Zunho), whose disappearance/assassination did not get much coverage in English:

“Recollections of Itthipol Sukpan (DJ Zunho) Who Was Disappeared; Almost One Year Later Still no News” by Red Eagle, posted by admin on Thai Alliance Facebook group page, May 24, 2017: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thaiahr/permalink/1329416870506696/

Here are references in English on the disappearance/assassination of Ma Noi or Ko Tee (real name Wutthipong Kochathammakum)

“Further Updated: Ko Tee disappeared?” Political Prisoners in Thailand, July 31, 2017, https://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/ko-tee-disappeared/

“Thai Monarchy Critic in Exile Reportedly ‘Disappeared,’ Junta Denies Knowledge,” by Pravit Rojanaphruk, KaoSod English, July 31, 2017. http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/crimecourtscalamity/crime-crime/2017/07/31/thai-monarchy-critic-exile-reportedly-disappeared-junta-denies-knowledge/

“Statement on the Abduction and Possible Assassination of Ko Tee or Ma Noi,” Thai Alliance for Human Rights, August 1, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32547

“Laos/Thailand: Investigate Abduction of Exiled Red Shirt Activist: Armed Men Kidnap Wuthipong Kachamakul in Vientiane,” by Human Rights Watch, August 1, 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/01/laos/thailand-investigate-abduction-exiled-red-shirt-activist

“More on Thai dissident Ma Noi or Ko Tee, who was disappeared on July 29, 2017,” by Ann Norman, at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, August 2, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32557

“English Translation of Evidence in the Case of Ma Noi (Ko Tee): He Predicted His Death,” August 29, 2017. August 29, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32605

Kidnapping in Thailand of the wife and son of dissident in exile Sanam Luang (Sanam Luang at one time worked with Surachai). In retrospect, we realized this kidnapping overlapped in time with the disappearance of Surachai, Gasalong, and Puchana, and is thus relevant:

“ALERT: Wife and Son of International Dissident “Sanam Luang” Kidnapped in Thailand,” by the Thai Alliance for Human Rights published as a “Note” at the Facebook page, December 12, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/notes/thai-alliance-for-human-rights-tahr/alert-wife-and-son-of-international-dissident-sanam-luang-kidnapped-in-thailand/512446922569423/

References relating to the assassinations of Surachai, Gasalong, and Puchana, memorials to the five assassinated dissidents, and the plight of the remaining Thai refugees in Laos.

“Translated letter from wife of Kidnapped dissident Surachai Saedan” December 25, Letter by Ba Noi translated by Ann Norman, at Thai Alliance for Human rights website, December 25, 2018. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32809

“Surachai and Refugee Friends Disappear from Home, wife begs those with power to spare their lives” Prachatai, December 27, 2018. https://prachatai.com/english/node/7854

“Opinion: Fear and Foreboding in Laos” by Pravit Rojanaphruk of KaoSod English, December 29, 2018, http://www.khaosodenglish.com/opinion/2018/12/29/opinion-fear-and-foreboding-in-laos/

“DNA confirms one of the Mekhong bodies as disappeared activist,” Prachatai, January 21, 2019. https://prachatai.com/english/node/7885

“Thai police says bodies from river were missing activists,” Associated Press, January 22, 2019. http://www.startribune.com/thai-police-says-bodies-from-river-were-missing-activists/504688152/

“Photos Suggest Third Mekong Corpse Was Found, Then Lost,” Pravit Rojanaphruk, KaoSod English, January 22, 2019. http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/crimecourtscalamity/calamity/2019/01/22/photos-suggest-third-mekong-corpse-was-found-then-lost/?

“Laos: Investigate Disappearance of 3 Thai Dissidents: Battered Corpses in Mekong River Identified as Missing Activitsts,” Human Rights Watch, January 22, 2019 https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/22/laos-investigate-disappearance-3-thai-dissidents

Video clip posted on Facebook by Jom Petchpradab in which Surachai’s wife explains why she has given up hope. Janurary 25, 2019, It is entirely in Thai, but could be translated: https://www.facebook.com/jom.petchpradab/videos/pcb.10156866118368965/10156866114138965/?type=3&theater

Picture of the body believed to be Surachai Saedan, posted on Facebook (but not taken by) Jom Petchpradab, January 25: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156866113548965&set=pcb.10156866118368965&type=3&theater

“What do Thailand and Saudi Arabia have in common: Answer: the brutal killing of dissidents in exile,” by Ann Norman, Washington Post, January 30, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/01/30/what-do-thailand-saudi-arabia-have-common/

“It’s time we listened to the plight of Thai dissidents abroad: The gruesome deaths of two anti-royalist Thai activists should be a wake up call for the international community,” by Claudio Sopranzetti, Al Jazeera, January 31, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/time-listened-plight-thai-dissidents-190130124839715.html

Video clip of one group of activists lead by Siriwit Seritiwat (Ja New) singing “Duan Pen” in Thailand at a memorial for the 5 assassinated dissidents, Facebook Live on the page of Anon Nampa, February 2 [in Thai, could easily be translated]: https://www.facebook.com/100000942179021/videos/2493720380669343/

“Demonstration at Ratchaprasong in memory of the disappeared dissidents,” Prachatai, February 3, 2019. https://prachatai.com/english/category/surachai-saedan

“แถลงการณ์ หยุดทำร้ายนักกิจกรรม Statement: Stop Harming the Activists!” statement in Thai by Anurak Jeantawanich (signing as Ford Sentangseedaeng) with English translation (by Ann Norman), at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, February 3, 2019. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32820

“Why we can NOT go to a third country,” by Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul, Prachatai, February 5, 2019. https://prachatai.com/english/node/7914

“Thaïlande : le crime de lèse-majesté pourchassé jusqu’au Laos,” by Pierre Touré, in Liberation, [In FRENCH]. February 14, 2019 https://www.liberation.fr/planete/2019/02/14/thailande-le-crime-de-lese-majeste-pourchasse-jusqu-au-laos_1709434?fbclid=IwAR01yaAZ29zQ0d1kjYWsBYjUJPw3rPQVkogOou_kXvVopT14nUjWDkLAlKM
English translation of Liberation article available at: https://www.facebook.com/zenjournalist/posts/10156629021066154?__tn__=K-R

For more information contact Ann Norman of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights at ann.norman@tahr-global.org





Corruption, nepotism and dictatorship

20 09 2016

Dictatorships invariably descend into a mire of corruption. They come to power through illegal means, operate on the “principle” of “might is right,” and usually decide that what they want is theirs.

Thailand’s dictatorship demonstrates the arrogance of unfettered power. Nepotism runs deep as does self aggrandizement.

Blood is thicker than water inside mafia-like military families. Back in April, Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha was defending his brother General Preecha Chan-ocha against allegations of nepotism after a leaked memo revealed that the permanent secretary for defence had secured a military post for his son Patipat.

Earlier posts, here and here, provide the background.

Now a son of General Preecha is getting military contracts. The contracts are worth nearly 27 million baht and are “from the army region his father once commanded…”. The contracts awarded to a firm owned by Pathompol Chan-ocha.

Of course, General Preecha denies there is anything “wrong” in this. The facts are that “Preecha formerly commanded the Third Region Army, which awarded the contracts to his son…. At the time they were awarded, he had moved up in the ranks to deputy army chief and later permanent secretary of defense.”

Meanwhile, Preecha’s wife is accused of behaving pompously. It is reported that there have been complaints that the “reverence and honor” demanded and received “is reserved for members of the Royal Family, and that Pongpan Chan-ocha is being treated as one by the military – a serious allegation in Thailand.”

Red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich reportedly observed: “She’s just a peasant, but she’s behaving like a noblewoman, Her Royal Highness Pongpan Chan-ocha. She deserves to be charged with 112…”.

No one deserves that, but we get the point.

General Preecha declared his wife had done nothing wrong. He didn’t comment on his family’s nepotism.