Reporting successful internet censorship

12 05 2017

Khaosod reports that the “Royal Thai Army’s cyber unit claimed success Thursday in defending the monarchy online, saying it has gone after 820 offensive items since October.”

The report gets a little odd on the numbers, but essentially states that the “Army Cyber Center announced the figures at army headquarters in Bangkok, saying it was proof of progress in the crackdown against alleged online defamation of the royal family.”

We are guessing that almost all the references are to King Vajiralongkorn in the period since October, although we suppose some might have been critical of the dead king.

Assistant Army Chief Gen. Somsak Nilbanjerdkul was happy and “presented a plaque of recognition to those who performed [what he said were] excellent duties.”

Fascists like such symbols and recognition from big bosses.

The Director of the cyber snooping operation is Maj. Gen. Rittee Intravudh. He stated that “the center placed importance on cyber threats against the monarchy through social media.” The figures he provided were that “the 820 items targeted since October included 365 things posted to Facebook, 450 YouTube videos and five tweets.” He added that just “seven of the content creators were based outside Thailand..”.

The Major General did not reveal “how many led to actual blocking or removal.” Confusingly, the report then states: “435 sites defaming the monarchy have been shut down.” (That’s where the numbers get a bit screwy. Is it 435 or 820?)

Despite the huge crackdown and a whole-of-dictatorship effort at censorship, Rittee “said the center has discovered 274 new items, among them 120 made just last month.” Yet he reckons the trend is “that there will be less dissemination of content [defaming] the monarchy…”.

We are guessing, but perhaps the king’s fashions and the royal-inspired theft of the 1932 plaque are the things that the junta most wants to block and which it has been ordered to block.

He would he say if the snooping led to prosecutions. However, if they are getting awards for their work, we might assume prosecutions.

Rittee also revealed “some success in getting Facebook to block some posts from users in Thailand but acknowledged that some have learned how to circumvent such blocking.”

He said a “court has also recently ordered the blocking of 6,000 websites deemed critical of Thailand’s monarchy.”





Parallel domination

9 05 2017

The king might be causing the military rulers angst as his erratic behavior and demands make problems for the junta, but that’s not stopping the regime preparing for its ongoing political domination.

In an earlier post we noted moves by the military to dominate the civilian administration in one province and involving on regional army commander.

The military is now establishing a parallel administration. The Bangkok Post reports that the “Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) has forged ahead with major changes in its personnel in what is seen as a move to ensure military power in the provinces ahead of a general election.”

ISOC is the 1960s-era anti-communist agency that became addicted to political murder, intrigue, plots, election rigging and other political manipulation. It has played a considerable role in maintaining the military’s political dominance and in bringing down elected governments.

Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisat, who is deputy to The Dictator in ISOC, has signed an order for “a full-scale reshuffle of provincial Isoc military officials that will take effect in October.” This is one of the largest rearrangements in ISOC for decades, described as “unprecedented.”

ISOC is being made even more significant for the military’s meddling. ISOC is upgrading its position by making more provincial commanders generals rather than colonels.

In effect, ISOC provincial bosses will be “military governors” in a parallel administration. Their job going forward is “to keep track of provincial governors while critics and opponents of the regime are active during the transition period.”

Critics rightly observe that the “77 provincial Isoc military officers will help drive the regime’s policy on all fronts and give the provincial governors a little push to ensure policy implementation.”

The provincial Isoc military officer is “to coordinate between the army, Isoc and the regime.”

The emphasis is on provinces “known to be strongholds of the anti-regime United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.”

Provincial ISOC officers work directly with provincial governors but report to regional ISOC commands, each headed by the regional army commander.

Thailand is a militarized state and will remain so following any “election” the dictatorship feels like managing.





Unreal “reconciliation”

28 04 2017

We are slow to this post as a series of posts jumped ahead of it. Yet it remains significant.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that a “military-led panel on national unity … wrapped up two months of work gathering public opinion, paving the way for the drafting of a unity agreement which will be publicised in June.”

Now this is all a bit of a word puzzle. In fact, the panel is military-dominated, not military-led, the notion of national unity is the military junta’s idea of what “unity” looks like, and there was no gathering of public opinion. It was groups the military considered worth consulting and telling them what they should do.

To emphasize this, when the dictatorship’s minions held a the wrap-up meeting, it “was the first time participants” in the military’s “unity building process had met face to face since the opinion gathering process started on Feb 14.”

The anti-democrats let the meeting go by probably because they know that Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisat will draft the “unity agreement” and that this will fundamentally be anti-democratic, just like the “constitution.”

Interestingly, after the meeting, official red shirt advocate Nattawut Saikua “proposed a new constitution be drafted following a general election and be put up for a national referendum.” What a fine idea. Get rid of the anti-democratic charter.

(We continue to think that the notion of a referendum is daft, and note that it is only anti-democratic military and military-backed regimes that have used this idea.)

He also suggested “that a committee be set up to review and scrap the coup’s orders and announcements, saying laws should be be passed by parliament if any of those orders are necessary.”

Another good idea.

We are betting that neither of these make it into the Army and junta’s “agreement” (that is only subject to their “agreement.”





My heartfelt tribute to Mainueng, a great poet

25 04 2017

In Memoriam – a tribute to Mainueng

–  Narisara Viwatchara

วันที่ 23 เมษายนเป็นวันครบรอบสามปีที่ นักกวีเอก ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที นักต่อสู้เพื่อประชาธิปไตย ที่ถูกสังหารชีวิตอย่างป่าเถื่อนเลือดเย็นโดยการบงการจากเผด็จการกลุ่มใดกลุ่มหนึ่งที่ครองอำนาจอันป่าเถื่อนในประเทศไทยมาเป็นเวลาช้านาน ดิฉันแน่ใจว่าบาปนี้จะต้องมีการชำระสักวันหนึ่งค่ะ และจนถึงบัดนี้ตำรวจก็ยังจับผู้กระทำผิดไม่ได้

ในโอกาสนี้ดิฉันจึงเขียนบทความเป็นภาษาอังกฤษสดุดีและไว้อาลัยด้วยความคารวะอย่างสุดซึ้งต่อการจากไปของนักต่อสู้ ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที มาณโอกาสนี้ค่ะ

My Heartfelt Tribute to Mainueng, A Great Poet

On April 23, 2017, it’s the third anniversary of the untimely death of  Kamol Duangphasuk, widely known among Thailand’s Red Shirt activists as “Mainueng Kor Kunthee.” (ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที)

He was assassinated by an unidentified gunman who approached his car and shot at him five times at close range in a restaurant parking lot in northern Bangkok.

The assassin escaped on a motorcycle. Mainueng, whose pen name (ไม้หนึ่ง) means “Wood One” –to be passed on — was hit twice in the chest and died later in a hospital.  His death came one month before the military coup that locked down Thai society,  abolished parliamentary democracy and took away from the rural poor a voice in society. In doing so, the coup leaders, headed by Prayuth Chan-ocha, have restored the elites to their accustomed but hardly justified place in Thai Society.

Mainueng strongly opposed the 2006 military coup and the subsequent crackdown on critics of the monarchy. He took part in many rallies of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). He was also very active in the campaign against Article 112 of the Penal Code, the  lèse majesté law, which has been widely used to criminalize free expression and imprison writers, journalists, academics and publishers. His murder is one of a string of violent attacks on activists.

His poems were published in a number of magazines including the prestigious Matichon Weekly in the 1990s. His poetry had a hard political edge, enough to make him a target of a pseudo-vigilante group known as the Rubbish Collection Organization that threatened publicly to hunt down opponents of the monarchy, describing them as trash.

Mainueng was not just a democracy activist, he was bright and visionary. He had been at the forefront of the Red Shirt and civil rights movements. He risked his life on many occasions by speaking of injustices in Thai society in which the elite enjoy privileges they believe to be granted from heaven while the poor have always been at rock bottom. He had received prior requests and warnings from the Royal Thai Army to stop his activities in pursuit of democracy and free speech.

His poetry depicted the causes and effects of the political situation and the plight of the poor under the watchful eyes of Thai dictators. He was popular for his direct poetic style and for articulating strong political messages. His poems call for social justice, the rights of the rural poor and for challenging the forces of oppression.

His style of poetry writing was unique and outstanding, not always conforming to the rules of Thailand’s traditional upper-class poetry. Rather he used his own mind and the free flow of thought in telling of the everyday life story in a simple way. Some of his poems were terse and on target, equivalent to that of Japanese Haiku, which seeks to pack the maximum amount of meaning into the fewest possible words.

Because of Mainueng’s outspoken public speaking and poetry, Thai authorities, particularly from the Rubbish Collection Organization headed by a mean-spirited doctor and army general, Riengthong Nannah, put a price on his head.  Although it has never been confirmed, democracy advocates believe this organization declared open war on them at its launch in 2013 and was responsible for Maineung’s brutal death.

The rubbish collection organization, which, reportedly, has received funding from the military and/or the untouchable, has offered rewards to urge people to inform them of any anti-monarchy or anti-lese majeste activities. Those who are not staunch supporters of the royal family and the monarchy are targets. Many of us have gone into exile rather than face prison.

Mainueng came from an ordinary Thai family. He put himself through college like many students from the impoverished Northeast. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts while working part time doing odd jobs. Throughout his college years, he witnessed dictatorial behavior of many of his employers and thus he stated to himself in his various writings that he had to do something about change for a better society. He saw the democracy movement and politics as one of the ways for such a change.

With the third anniversary of his assassination, I wish to translate one of his most heartfelt political poems:

“Worship the free spirit and the courageous Red Shirts
Worship ordinary folks who dare to challenge the dictator
Worship the enlightened who escaped from the cult
Never ever worship those who tell you to live like the dust under the feet.*”

———————————-
*Dust under the feet (ฝุ่นใต้ตีน)” is a reference to ordinary people with no royal  lineage.





What happened to that?

9 04 2017

It is useful to recall the things that have quickly gone off the political boil and ask, what happened? We have no answers, for Thailand is a military dictatorship. Still, worth asking:

What happened to allow hundreds of unusually wealthy serve the junta as puppets? Have any of them been investigated? Have any of them paid tax for their wealth that far outstrips their official salaries?

What happened to the 50,000 baht a month that was claimed and then unclaimed as income by metropolitan police chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn? Will it ever investigated?

What has happened to Jumpol Manmai? After his conviction, is he really being held in a jail on a piece of the king’s property?

What has happened in the investigation of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae? Big news for a while but now quiet. Whenever the police and military go quiet, you have to think they are “fixing” something in their own interests. Readers should follow two recent stories, in the Bangkok Post and at Prachatai.

What happened to the investigation of the death in custody of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam? Why is it that only underlings are being accused in this case? Why aren’t officers being held responsible?

Why is it that the state keeps murdering citizens with impunity? As a reminder of the extent of this killing, see this report (downloads a PDF that is probably illegal in Thailand).

What happened to the junta case against of ultra-nationalist and anti-democrat Veera Somkwamkid? The Nation had reported that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera … after he published an opinion survey’s result … saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.” Since then, he’s been a regular in the news, giving media conferences. What happened there?

What happened to rich tycoon and Red Bull heir and cop killer Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya? Oh, sorry, we know. He’s living the high life in London and no-one in the Thai (in)justice system gives a hoot. Is it possible they are all paid off?

That’s just the past few weeks of unresolved questions, all of which translate into failures of the justice system.





Tens, thousands, millions and billions

5 04 2017

How many extrajudicial killings have there been? No one seems to know precisely, although Prachatai has a story about some of them. One issue with the story is that the author repeats inaccurate figures on Thaksin Shinawatra’s War on Drugs, almost doubling the number killed in that grisly campaign. We would think the more accurate figure of about 1,300 was brutal enough and demonstrated the capacity of the police and military for extreme violence.

How many conscripts are slaves? With the recent attention to conscripts being treated to “strict discipline” involving inhumane beatings, torture and murder, and with the unusually wealthy Army boss doling out chump change of 100,000 baht to the family of the latest murdered conscript, the feudal system of conscription has come under scrutiny.

One interesting observation is at Prachatai, reporting a former Democrat Party MP, who states that “more than half of Thailand’s military conscripts end up as servants for high ranking military officers.” Compared with the men who die from “strict discipline,” these 40,000-80,000 guys are lucky. That said, they face the degradation of having to grovel before military thugs and their families. Anyone who lives near an officer knows that he or she will have 3 to 6 servants provided to them.

How much can they spend on military kit? Thinking about the commissions, there’s the 36 billion baht about to be forked out on Chinese submarines and then there’s the two billion baht spent on 10 extra VT-4 tanks from China to replace the decades-old M41 tanks from the USA. The earlier purchase of 24 tanks at about 5 billion baht. Expect more as the top brass cash in before an “election.”

How many read the BBC on the king? Readers will know that student activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa has been singled out for a lese majeste charge and rots in a junta cell awaiting his further framing. He was charged after sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, (some) warts and all. The BBC now says that its story “broke records as the site’s most popular story, accumulating millions of views despite the article’s eventual censorship.” It says it has “received over 3 million views and counting…”. Tell us again why the military dictatorship singled out Jatuphat? It can’t have much to do with this story! Watch a documentary on Jatuphat here.





Sounding familiar II

4 04 2017

With the top general in the Army claiming that “strict discipline” – inhumane beatings, torture and murder – are just “old habits” and that he wants the old habits gone, you have to wonder if he’s suggesting he can change a routinized and standard practice that exists to maintain hierarchy and is done with impunity.

Meanwhile, sounding all too familiar and also like standard practice protected by impunity, Prachatai reports that “[s]oldiers and paramilitary officers in Rueso District of Narathiwat on 29 March 2017 summarily killed Isma-ae Hama, 28, and Aseng Useng, 30.”

The police have again come out to protect soldiers. They say:

Region 4 Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), the two resisted arrest and exchanged gunfire with officers, adding that they were allegedly involved in the shooting on 2 March 2017, which killed four people, including an eight-year-old student.

Civil society groups say this is buffalo manure and “have urged an end to the culture of impunity…”.

There’s only one civilian witness, a 13 year-old sister of Isma-ae, who has stated that “the two were unarmed when they were shot. She said the car her brother was driving was halted by officers who shot them shortly after they stepped out of the car.”

No drugs, grenades or knives this time. At least the “authorities” have not made this claim as yet.