Seeing red

21 03 2017

As the junta approaches the anniversary of its third year of military dictatorship, it is going through another phase of red shirt repression. The regime is again seeing reds under its beds and it doesn’t like it.

There are frantic junta imaginations of fantastical red shirt assassination plots, reds infiltrating Wat Dhammakaya, separatist rebellion and more.

This reaction appears to derive from two closely related perceptions: first, a view that any opposition is an immediate threat to the junta’s stability; and second, a desire for regime longevity, where “regime” is the broader elite military-monarchy-business alliance.

At least an element of this perception derives from yellow-shirted and anti-democratic grumbling about the junta having lost its zeal for “reform” – defined as rooting out the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. That grumbling has also been associated with some southern protests over ports and cola-fired power stations. It seems the junta felt its right wing was weakening in its support.

The result has been an intensification of both anti-Thaksinism and anti-red shirt repression.

The targeting of Thaksin has involved an effort to levy Thaksin for past taxes due (although we had somehow thought that the assets stripping case was part of the “tax’) and going after loyalists in a series of legal cases.

The anti-red shirt effort has been frenzied of late, with the Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee weapons and assassination stories and the earlier (and probably related in the minds of the junta) plots said to be originating in Laos.

At the same time, the courts have been at work, dealing with red shirt cases. The most recent of those sees the Appeals Court upholding a “lower court’s sentence of a four-year jail term each, without suspension, for singer Arisman Pongruangrong and 12 other red-shirts for leading protesters who forced their way into the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel in Pattaya, where the 2009 Asean Summit was being held.”

(What has happened with the yellow shirt occupation of airports in 2008?)

They were prosecuted “for defying an order prohibiting a rally of more than 10 people and causing unrest.”

(What has happened to all the yellow shirts who broke similar laws?)

In early 2015, they were sentenced to four years each in jail, without suspension, and a fine of 200 baht. Those sentenced were:

Arisman Pongruangrong, Nisit Sinthuprai, Payap Panket, Worachai Hema, Wanchana Kerddee, Pichet Sukjindathong, Sakda Noppasit, Pol Lt Col Waipot Aparat, Nopporn Namchiangtai, Samrerng Prachamrua, Somyot Promma, Wallop Yangtrong and Singthong Buachum.

The Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, which sentences the 13 to four years each in jail without suspension. Bail may follow, but the threat is clear.

This is a pattern seen previously, although the junta does appear more frantic in its efforts at present.





Arisman sentenced

3 12 2012

In an earlier post we called attention to the failure of Pitak Siam and the ramping up of judicial activism. A coincidence, perhaps, but the judicialization of politics and the politicization of the judiciary has been a royalist elite strategy for some years now.

Escaping the royalists

Escaping the royalists

Thus the decision, reported at the Bangkok Post, that red shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong has been “sentenced to one year imprisonment by a the Criminal Court judge on Monday, with no suspension, in a judgement on a defamation case brought against him by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.” This is a part of a larger process that is in place that is meant to punish those who challenge the monarchical-royalist status quo. Arisman claimed that Abhisit ordered the killing of red shirt protesters in 2009. The regime has always denied that any red shirts were killed in the 2009 events, and the events of that period remain very murky indeed, and haven’t received the same attention as the events of 2010, when it seems clear that the Army was given orders to shoot and kill. In 2009, only two bodies were located and yet the Army used live ammunition to fire at protesters.

Arisman’s lawyer has filed an application for bail.

Abhisit has yet to see a court room for his actions when premier.





Abhisit’s vengefulness

10 12 2011

At The Nation, and also at the Bangkok Post with pretty much the same account, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is shown to be seeking revenge against red shirts. We imagine his desire for revenge stems from the fact that red shirts dared to challenge his government and his elitist notion of being destined to rule. It may also be for voting against his inaptly named Democrat Party in the last election.

Abhisit has “disagreed with a move to transfer red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong, other red shirts and prisoners charged with political-related issues, to the Lak Si holding centre – which has been specially prepared for political detainees – saying terrorism, physical assault and the use of firearms are criminal charges.”

Abhisit claimed “he was checking whose idea it really was. It has been claimed to have been proposed by the committee following up on the work and proposals of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT).” Abhisit seems oddly uninformed regarding the TRCT, which his own government established. Or perhaps he is ignoring it in seeking revenge against his political opponents.

Abhisit demanded: “The TRCT must come out and confirm if it was its idea. If the government goes on with its plan [to transfer the red-shirt detainees to a special prison], not only would it not bring about reconciliation, but it would also bring the country to chaos. One would do anything to get what one wants politically, without caring for the laws, and then claim it was a political charge. I agree with political expression but it must be within the law…”.

Here’s what the TRCT’s most recent report recommends, in some detail (the full report – a PDF – is here):

TRCT sees the prosecution of criminal cases according to the Royal Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005), the offence of unlawful assembly of ten or more persons under Section 215 of Criminal Code, and other relevant cases relating to incidents of political violence before and after the 19 September 2006 coup including cases of lèse majesté under Section 112 of Penal Code and Computer Related Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007) as all being related to political conflict. The government should thus proceed with the prosecution of such offences as follows:

5.3.1 Clarify whether the accusation and the prosecution against accused persons or defendants are consistent with the circumstances and consider whether the accusation is unduly harsh or the evidence too weak to prove guilt.

5.3.2 Proceed in earnest with the temporary release of detainees as this is a fundamental right of accused persons and defendants. Temporary release will enable accused persons and defendants to prepare their defense and reduce the effects of restriction of freedom on themselves and their families….

5.3.3 Accused persons and defendants are not villains or criminals as in regular criminal cases but are accused of committing an offence in order to achieve political goals. Therefore, if accused persons and defendants are not granted temporary release, the government should arrange for their detention in an appropriate place, not in a common prison as has been the case in the past.

5.3.4 These cases are related to the ongoing political conflict over the past few years. The perpetrators have political motivations and the ongoing conflict is rooted in the transition of Thai society. Therefore, the principle of criminal justice which uses criminal prosecution measures and punishment is not appropriate for the current situation in our country.

Of course, the TRCT chair, appointed by Abhisit immediately contradicted the vengeful one:

“Kanit na Nakhon said that those who violated the laws during the political turmoil did that as a political violation. Although they are not political prisoners, they should be treated better than ordinary criminals so that the conflicting parties have good feelings towards each other.” We doubt Abhisit understands this. Kanit noted that the TRCT’s position on this was first explained in September.

At about the same time, in an intimately related report, Abhisit defended his government’s handling of the red shirt protests in the first half of 2010 when meeting with police investigating 16 of the 92 deaths. The Bangkok Post says Abhisit claimed his government’s interventions were “based on tolerance and complied with international standards…”.

Abhisit talks a lot about law when it suits his interests, so it is no surprise that he “said operations were undertaken following a court ruling that the protests were unlawful.” As the Post points out, this refers solely to the “Civil Court’s order that cleared the way for the government to take measures to move protesters from the Ratchaprasong area.”

Abhisit set up the TRCT mouthing platitudes about reconciliation. That seems to have been replaced by a quest for revenge against red shirts.





Arisman on politics

28 09 2011

PPT was interested in reported comments by red shirt Arisman Pongruangrong, who fled “terrorism” charges laid by the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration in 2010. The Bangkok Post reports that Arisman attended a red shirt event in Phnom Penh.

Arisman spoke to reporters and complained about “accusations that he was not loyal to the royal institution.” He claimed that red shirts were not “seeking to topple the monarchy…”.

Arisman said he “only wanted democracy, justice, fair elections and public participation in the judiciary.” His comment that “Thais had been deceived for decades and had not had power at all,” made sense for PPT.

Where we were confused was when he added: “We should not involve the higher institution in politics.” That sounds like an attempt to smooth a path back from exile, even if he says he has no plans to return.

On the day he fled Thailand, he claims he left the Rajaprasong site with soldiers running past him but not recognizing him. “He said he saw a dozen Humvees, some 100,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of snipers on buildings and heard endless gunfire and shouts.”

Arisman said he had “made occasionally fleeting visits to Thailand and some soldiers and policemen had recognised him but none arrested him.”

PPT thinks that he is pretty much ready to return.





A DSI accounting

18 07 2011

Prachatai has an important post, reproduced in full below, on the Department of Special Investigation’s political cases under investigation and completed:

The Department of Special Investigation has been investigating 258 cases involving protest rallies of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and 29 cases of offences against the monarchy.

The 258 cases include 147 cases of terrorism and sabotage, 22 cases of threats made against the government, 69 cases of attacks against the public and authorities, and 20 cases of abuse of state weaponry.

One terrorist case, for example, involves 25 suspects including Thaksin Shinawatra, Arisman Pongruengrong, Karun Hosakul, Jatuporn Phrompan, Veera Musigapong, Weng Tojirakan, Natthawut Saikua, Kwanchai Sarakham, Phayab Pankate, and Nisit Sinthuprai. All except the first two have been arrested or have turned themselves in. The case was brought to court by the public prosecutor on 11 August 2010. The case against Maj Gen Khattiya Swasdiphol has been dismissed as he died.

Another terrorist case involves 8 suspects who have been arrested or have turned themselves in and 5 more who are still at large. The court has merged this with the previous case at the request of the public prosecutor.

Among these 258 cases, suspects have been arrested in 58 cases, are still at large in 21 cases, and are unknown in 179 cases. So far the DSI has completed investigations into 91 cases.

Among 62 cases of arson — 49 in Bangkok and 13 in other provinces — the DSI has arrested suspects and completed investigations in 14 cases, all of which have been brought to court by the public prosecutor.

64 cases of terrorism/sabotage — 53 in Bangkok and 11 in other provinces — involve 642 suspects; 274 have been arrested, 366 are still at large and two have died including Gen Khattiya and Samai Wongsuwan, who was killed in a bomb explosion in an apartment in Bang Bua Thong, Nontaburi in October 2010. Among those still at large, 74 have been identified while 292 are sought based on photographs.

In its investigation into 89 deaths, the DSI has concluded that 13 were caused by the authorities who claimed to be acting in the line of duty, 12 by the UDD and 64 unknown.

The 29 cases of offences against the monarchy include, for example, a case in which the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation lodged a complaint against Thaksin and 39 others for disseminating materials offensive to the monarchy either directly to the public or through the internet between 19 September 2006 and 3 May 2010 within and outside Thailand.

In this case, the DSI is now investigating the connections among individuals and groups of individuals based on evidence acquired through investigation process.

The DSI has been seeking international cooperation under the International Cooperation in Criminal Cases Act on cases involving Giles Ungphakorn for his article posted on the internet on 29 October 2009, Jakrapob Penkair for his public speech made in the US on 10 November 2007, and Thaksin Shinawatra for his statement in English distributed to international press (no specific date reported).

The department has contacted the AFP news agency for information and interrogation in the latter case.

Thaksin also faces another case involving his video-link address to a red-shirt rally at a Chiang Mai sports stadium on 22 March 2009.

Kokaew Pikulthong, a UDD leader, is involved in a case for his speech at the same event.

Surachai Danwatthananusorn, or Sae Dan, who has been arrested and detained without bail since 22 Feb this year for lèse majesté for a public speech during a red-shirt activity on 18 Dec 2010, faces another two cases involving speeches at Doi Saked, Chiang Mai, on 11 September 2010 and in Udon Thani on 29 October 2010.

Veera Musigapong’s case involves his speech at a UDD rally in Sanam Luang on 6 May 2008.

Jatuporn Phrompan, now on remand on terrorist charges, also faces another case for his remarks during a UDD rally at the Democracy Monument on 10 April this year.





Red shirt protesters shot

21 04 2011

The attacks on red shirts appear to have (again) gone beyond the verbal and judicial. Pattaya One News reports that two red shirts “were shot and injured following an incident at the well-known Red Shirt protest site in Jomtien” on the morning of 21 April.

The attack occurred “as a team of red shirts were preparing the site for a rally which is taking place there on Saturday.” The injured were named as “Bajuab aged 49, a close friend of core red shirt leaders, was shot in his leg” and “Somshai aged 45 [who] was shot in his stomach and left leg and is currently fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit at the Pattaya Memorial Hospital.”

Witnesses said two young men “arrived on a motorbike with no license plate and opened fire, expelling 5 shots in the direction of the men. Both suspects were wearing black jackets and did not say anything prior to the shooting.”

It has been speculated that one of the shot men was an assistant to Arisman Pongruangrong.





Updated: DSI’s Tharit makes more headlines

20 01 2011

Tharit

Kind of like a second-rate celebrity, the Department of Special Investigation’s boss Tharit Pengdit seems to crave the headlines. The Bangkok Post alone has three stories that include him today.

The first story that PPT noted had to do with his wife. In July 2010, Tharit’s wife Wassamon was accused by red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan “receiving 150,000 baht from a businessman an in return her husband, Mr Tharit, would to use his authority to help him out in a case involving 1.7 million baht in back taxes.” The businessman produced records of bank transactions and more to prove the allegations.

Wassamon filed the defamation lawsuit on July 28. Her lawyer now says she has “agreed to withdraw the case against Mr Jatuporn during arbitration mediated by court officials. Details and conditions of the settlement could not be disclosed, the lawyer said.”

Now what did happen to the investigation of those accusations? And why hasn’t the media looked at the allegation in more detail?

The second story relates to yet another DSI attempt to have Jatuporn jailed. And that has failed. Tharit has pushed the request to have Jatuporn’s bail rescinded (and Jatuporn jailed) several times. “The DSI said Mr Jatuporn had breached the court’s conditions set on Dec 28 prohibiting him from taking part in a gathering of five or more people or other political activities or disseminate information to the public, except in parliament, in a way that may obstruct investigation or court precedures in the terrorism case against him. The court ruled that Mr Jatuporn had not breached the conditions. However, the court warned Mr Jatuporn against criticising the justice process as a whole.” Heavan forbid that anyone should be allowed to criticize the justice system for what it is: a corrupt and politicized tool of the royalists.

The third story relates to Tharit’s explanation that the DSI “can still not clearly establish responsibility for the deaths” that occurred during military operations to clear United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters from the streets in April and May 2010.

Tharit explained that after the UDD protest on 19 May 2010, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) set up an investigation into 89 deaths. The oddity of this should be noted: CRES was responsible for the suppression of the demonstration and, hence, bears responsibility for the state’s portion of the violence, and they are the organization that ordered investigations. But CRES no longer exists, having been disbanded after the lifting of the emergency decree.

It is reported that the “Metropolitan Police Bureau subsequently handed over the 30 cases involving the 89 deaths to the DSI.” That is, the police investigations were halted as they were handed over to DSI, which was a part of CRES.

The DSI claims to have “cooperation from prosecutors and scientific crime investigation police, gathered evidence from eyewitnesses and government authorities who performed their duties in connection with the protest, and obtained still and motion pictures from members of the mass media and the general public…”, but can’t seem to get any further.

The report is a little unclear on what DSI currently claims – perhaps that is reflective of the nature of the investigation as a politicized event. DSI says there are “12 people whose deaths were believed to have been caused by the UDD. They include Col Romklao Thuwatham, other soldiers, police and those who died in the CentralWorld fire.” It isn’t clear if this is the outcome of investigation or of allegations. There are another “13 people whose deaths might have been caused by government authorities. The eight cases covering these deaths had been forwarded to local police to take action under Section 150 of the Criminal Procedures Code.” That bit seems clear. It seems DSI is sure that the “three people who died at Wat Pathumwanaram, the man who died in the Dusit Zoo, army Pvt Narongrit Sala who died near the National Memorial, and Japanese photo-journalist Hiroyuki Muramoto, killed in the cross fire at Khok Wua intersection on April 10” were a result of state action.

The remaining “64 deaths … cannot yet be concluded…. The dead include Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, alias Seh Daeng, Kamolket Akhahad who died at Wat Pathumwanaram, and Italian reporter Fabio Polenghi…. However, the investigators have gathered much information on places, dates, conditions of injuries and directions from which gunshots were fired in these 18 cases.”

Tharit says that the “incidents took place amid rioting, confusion and burning of important places both in Bangkok and other provinces. Therefore, the investigators encountered many limitations, which made it difficult for them to complete their inquiries.” Well, yes, but is something else going on. Think of this: “Mr Tharit asked for justice for government authorities, particularly soldiers, who had to perform their duty in critical situations in which loss of lives and property damage were inevitable.” This sounds remarkably close to the usual call for impunity when the state murders citizens. More so when Tharit adds: “Police and soldiers involved in peace-keeping operations in these situations were protected by the law, and the courts would make the final decision in each case, he said. It was not fair for the UDD to accuse these people of thoughtlessly killing people.”

PPT believes that the UDD and many others are not claiming that authorities “thoughtlessly” killed people. Rather, we’d suggest premeditated and planned murder.

Making the political nature of DSI even clearer, this story also includes details on a DSI arrest of “a man who was a security guard of the UDD during the rally last year. Manop Chanchangthong, alias Ped, was arrested on Wednesday. The DSI chief said Mr Manop took part in the seizure of a large number of weapons from soldiers during the clash at Khok Wua intersection on April 10 last year. The weapons were later shown on the UDD stage and then distributed to UDD guards for use against soldiers.”

Correct us if we are wrong, but PPT’s understanding is that the soldiers dumped their weapons and fled, with red shirts collecting them up.

Manop is also accused of taking “pistols from police who tried to arrest red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong at the SC Park Hotel on April 16…”. That refers to an apparent attempt to arrest and/or assassinate Arisman. Manop is to be charged with “terrorism.” We doubt that the state will ever subject itself to serious investigation of state terrorism that breaks out repeatedly in Thailand, whenever populist mobilization challenges the existing socio-economic power structures.

Update: The Bangkok Post has updated and filled out the story cited above on the investigation of deaths in the events of April and May, which the DSI insists on fallaciously labeling “riots.” The Post now says the DSI has explained and attributed some deaths. We think that is incorrect and some of these results will be challenged, including the death of Romklao.





Arisman Pt. II

13 12 2010

Siam Voices has a second part of an interview with red shirt-in-exile Arisman Pongruangrong. The first part of the interview is here.

Some choice bits: “Firstly, Abhisit is not a gentleman and you cannot trust his word.” PPT has been saying the latter since we began almost 2 years ago.

Asked “Does CRES have ultimate power over the Abhisit government?” Arisman answers: “No. There is someone above CRES…. The Democrats are just a tool of the amart. They are used in an attempt to convince the world that Thailand is ‘democratic’.” The latter is Another point we have made.

Any guesses on the “someone above”? Arisman provides his answer: “The amart, which consists of Surayud Chulanont and the Privy Council. They plan things and make decisions and then General Prem Tinsulanonda tells the government what to do.” There’s quite a lot more.





Arisman interviewed

8 12 2010

If readers haven’t seen it yet, Siam Voices has an interview with exiled red shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong.

There’s quite a few interesting items, personal and political.





Updated: The Cambodians and red shirts

11 10 2010

The highly politicized Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has decided to push ahead on the very unlikely story related to the 11 men arrested/detained/protected or something else in Chiang Mai, who were at one time accused of undergoing weapons training (but weren’t) at a resort in the north. PPT posted on this “case” of alleged red shirt “freedom fighters” or “terrorists-in-training” earlier. Our skepticism (and that of others) was expressed there.

DSI now claims that an “investigation” had discovered that “39 Thai men” – we presume DSI checked their passports and IDs – “have been trained for arms use in Cambodia for a mission to assassinate this country’s key public figures including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.”DSI claims this was a second round of alleged training in Cambodia.

Given that DSI is very much a flunky agency for the Abhisit regime, continually making political cases and rapid-fire allegations, all this is a bit hard to believe, but the report is carried by MCOT, so is going to get attention.

Pol-Lt Col Payao Thongsen, chief of DSI investigators probing the terrorism charge-related activities, told a news conference that the 11 (arrested/detained/protected or something else) men were “suspected of involvement in a movement to destabilise national security and plan to kill the country’s very important persons as well as overthrow the monarchy…”. This mirrors statements made by Chiang Mai police a few days ago. He claims that “police … have … solid evidence such as phone call details between these people and Red Shirt DJs group in Cambodia…”.

Apparently the men were “well-trained in using firearms” after a full one week of training (see below). Interestingly, trained assassins sent to kill king and prime minister, are now “under witness protection scheme in exchange for useful information which could lead to an arrest of other accomplices.” The colonel also said that these nasties had “confessed to being members of the anti-government movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and … were recruited and taken by Red Shirt leaders to Cambodia for arms training.” After that shock announcement, the DSI “investigator” linked this group to “men-in-black.” As he mentions the April and May events, we might assume that these men-in-black are not the one’s who took over an airport car park recently, apparently supporting a “business arrangement” for government-aligned politicians. In any case, these men had not undergone the alleged training until after 19 May.

Payao claimed that it was “Red Shirt leaders in northern region, mainly Red Shirt disc jockeys at community radio stations” who organised the training in Cambodia. Red shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong is also said to have been involved. The colonel says one “group convened in Bangkok, leaving Thailand by way of the Chong Jom border crossing in Surin province, the second group gathered at Nakhon Ratchasima and left Thailand via Chong Jom, and the last group met at Sa Kaeo and crossed to Cambodia…”. Linking this story to the Privy Council-linked alarmist claims released over the weekend, Payao said the 39 were “in a Cambodian army camp and they were trained by Cambodian soldiers.”

Payao claims that the first week of the alleged training “focused on political education but inciting anger and hatred on the monarchy while the second week was how to use military weapons and the third week was field operations training…”. He says that DSI found a “map of routes leading to [the] home of former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban who oversees national security had been used for the training of how to carry out the assassination plot and how to deal with his security guards…”. The targets for assassination also included Abhisit, Newin Chidchob and acting Police Inspector-General Pol Lt-Gen Somkid Boonthanom.

Colonel Payao said the “35 armed men arrived Thailand August 16 and then went separate ways before reuniting again in Phufa Resort in Chiang Mai in September to be standby for the operation as asked by UDD leaders in the northern region.” There is no indication where the other 24 associated with this alleged plot are now located, although the DSI G-men are on their trail, including in Cambodia.

PPT awaits the evidence that will no doubt be made available in the (presumably open) court cases. We are also keen to hear the Cambodian response.

Update: The Nation now has a brief story on this Payao press conference. Meanwhile, the Cambodian government has denied the claims. Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan stated: “It’s made up. Our constitution does not allow anyone to do that sort of thing [on Cambodian soil]…. Nobody is allowed to do any such stupid thing in Cambodia.” As might be expected, he also referred to “recent meetings between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Abhisit in the United States and Brussels were evidence of Cambodia’s good intentions to improve relations.” Phay added: “So I think this accusation is a made-up story to blame Cambodia, and is also [part of the] campaign against the red shirts, using Cambodia as a springboard for Thai local politics…”.