Yes to Yes

26 06 2016

We now know that opposing the military’s draft charter is going to be made against some law or other. So too is campaigning for a No vote.

Who can support the junta’s constitution?

Anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban created a small problem for the military junta he supports when he spoke for 10 minutes in total support of the military’s draft charter. The Nation reports that there was a statement made that the junta would check that he hadn’t violated the referendum law. The Election Commission seems to have already decided he didn’t offend.

The military itself is able to campaign. Armed forces Supreme Commander General Sommai Kaotira is arranging for banners to “be hung at different military units calling on voters to cast their ballots on the referendum day.” The banners declare: “If you love democracy, you must vote in the referendum on August 7.”

Naturally, Sommai proclaimed that “the Armed Forces fully supported the referendum but would not attempt to influence the result.”

Sommai apparently thinks most Thais a gullible fools.





Going back to find a future

25 06 2016

A reader drew our attention to a small story in the Bangkok Post that our correspondent says is indicative of the backwardness of the military regime as it “reinvents” a past as the nation’s future.

This story is of “[p]eople … being taught how to make their own large concreted jars to store rainwater for home use during the dry season under a training project launched by the army.”

Our reader directs us to a document at our own pages (opens a PDF that would be illegal in Thailand), from 1987, that refers to royal celebrations that saw the “Department of Local Administration made sure that, want them or not, millions of suitably inscribed, large water storage jars would be distributed in rural areas.” These are the very same jars the military is now making (again).

Soldiers are being trained “to make the giant jars, which are a traditional method of storage.” In fact, they aren’t “traditional” at all, but as noted above, developed in the 1980s. Earlier jars were made of clay and were much smaller. The big jars have been adopted in other countries, as seen in this UN manual, and have even made it to the US.

Maj Gen Supoj Buranajaree, reported to be the commander of the 36th Military Circle, said the “intention is for the soldiers to complete training and then be deployed through the 12 districts of Phichit to teach people how to make the jars.” He added that the “army project is in line with the government’s policy to promote occupational training and self-reliance.” He says “[s]imilar programmes are in place in other provinces throughout the country.”

Going back 30 years may be natural for the military, as it places them in the era of the unelected regime of royal restorationist General Prem Tinsulanonda. Yet it seems they only learn some things from the past and forget others.

The UN reported on the jars, and notes that they were a part of a program that began in 1981. It says this of the program when it was run the way the army is doing it now:

There was also some corruption involving the Government funds provided for village jar construction, which resulted in the production of some substandard jars. Leakage and breakage were common in such cases. However, shifting of manufacture of the jars from Government programmes to the private sector eliminated this corruption.

The UN report adds:

According to a 1992 review by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the numbers of 2 m3 jars in use in Thailand increased from virtually none in 1985 to nearly 8 million in 1992. This increase was partially due to the Government’s National Jar Programme, but mostly due to the willing adoption of the technology by the public and to the widespread promotion of the technology by the commercial sector. Government intervention is no longer necessary.

The military really is hopelessly embedded in the past and somehow considers this a reinvented future.





AI launches urgent campaign for human rights activists

21 06 2016

Amnesty International has launched a an urgent action appeal for three human rights activists who face up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 baht for their documentation of the use of  torture by state authorities in Thailand.

The three activists, Somchai Homlaor, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Anchana Heemmina “face charges of criminal defamation and for committing computer crimes for their documentation, and online publication, of reports of torture by the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces.”

AI has a PDF that can be downloaded with background information and the details of how to join the campaign.





Army vs. red shirts

28 05 2016

Prachatai reports on two related cases in the Provincial Court of Udon Thani.

On Wednesday, the court issued an arrest warrant for Kwanchai Sarakham, a red shirt leader, who did not appear to hear a court decision in a case that goes back to 2008 where “Kwanchai and other red shirts were indicted for assaulting members of the pro-establishment yellow-shirts and attempting to demolish their stage in Udon Thani…”.

There’s a series of stories here on the events. Note that the claims of one death were later withdrawn (“PAD gives petition to UN rights agency,” Bangkok Post, 29 July 2008). PAD had been invading red shirt sites at various northeastern provincial capitals prior to this clash.

Meanwhile, the same court “dismissed charges against five soldiers and a member of the Territorial Defence Volunteer Corps (TDVC) accused of shooting of a local redshirt leader [Kwanchai]…. The six were indicted for allegedly shooting Kwanchai in front of his house in Udon Thani on 22 January 2014. He was severely injured from the shooting, but survived.”

Kwanchai was shot soon after warning the army that he would mobilize red shirts against a coup.

No proof the court said. Of course not, no evidence against the military can be countenanced when the military junta is in place and when the potential assassins worked in the military’s interests.





More suppliers means more “commissions”

18 05 2016

The Nation reports that Army boss General Theerachai Nakawanich has “defended the decision to purchase main battle tanks [MBTs] from China, saying Chinese hardware is of high quality and performance.” He “explained” that he knew this “since I personally went to see them…”.

Hmm. Theerachai has:

been Director of TMB Bank Public Company Limited since November 2,2015. General Nakwanich serves as Commander in Chief of Royal Thai Army at Metropolitan Electricity Authority. He serves as Secretary of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Member of the National Legislative Assembly. He received Bachelor of Science, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, and Diploma of RTA Command and General Staff College. He also completed the programme of National Defence College.

Tanks aren’t listed. But Thailand has hundreds of tanks, of six types, some quite old, so we might assume he’s seen one and sat in it.

The Army has reportedly signed a contract with China’s Norinco for the MBT 3000 main battle tanks, also known as VT4. The tanks would be delivered from 2017. Thailand is the first and, so far, only buyer. The tank is a relatively new version, with a review of it here. One assessment is that “this tank is no match for modern Western MBTs.”

The Army has been having trouble with new tanks because the Ukrainian T-84 Oplot deliveries are way behind schedule.

In 2011, the Army ordered 49 Oplot tanks and only about 10 have arrived. The general says the Oplots will arrive.

If one looks at the Army’s arms purchases, it is noticeable how much kit is acquired and from many suppliers. Often relatively untried equipment is purchased. The reason for this pattern has to do with “commissions” and spreading these out. Each new commander simply loves the idea of new kit. And the boss changes regularly, allowing them to be rewarded and to reward themselves.





More and more repression

4 05 2016

PPT is playing catch-up on our posting. The military dictatorship has become so aggressively repressive that we simply can’t keep up with all of its machinations. Here are a couple of stories we think were important over the last couple of days, and we’ll try to post a little more to report on the repression.

The Bangkok Post reports that the military brass is planning even “[t]ougher steps … to deal with anti-coup elements,” to support is bosses in the junta. Army chief General Theerachai Nakawanich says he and the regime are intent on arresting red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan and independent red shirt Sombat Boonngamanong. Also on their list is Thaksin Shinawatra’s son, Panthongtae.

The general makes the claim that “coup critics are bent on causing public unrest,” states that Jatuporn and Sombat are behind the eight Facebook users arrested last week accused of lese general, lese majeste, poking fun at the military junta, sedition and computer crimes.

The conspiratorial military dictatorship has even come up with another of its pathetic diagrams of plots and plotters. The general claimed that the “anti-coup chart was based on the suspects’ statements given to police,” but is yet another junta concoction.

The difference this time is that the “conspirators” are political opponents who have been ridiculing the regime and gingerly opposing the coup. None of them have attempted to hide their activities, so even the dopiest of police and military knuckle draggers could “identify” them. Some of the claims made about the Facebookers goes back before the coup, when ridiculing military thugs was legal.

The general promised no more “attitude adjustment” because “it’s hard to talk to them now.” More repression is the promise.

The regime has stated that it is also chasing down Panthongtae Shinawatra, claiming he is also “linked to the eight suspects.” The police, however, that they need to concoct more evidence.

In another Bangkok Post story, a “nationalist group with unknown backers” – that usually means the military itself – “petitioned the Crime Suppression Division to investigate whether someone is providing financial support for student anti-coup activists rallying under the New Democracy Movement banner.”

This is just the military’s claim that Thaksin is funding every critic, warmed over by yet another fascist group.

As far as we can tell, the Neo-Democracy group’s most expensive actions have involved train tickets to Hua Hin and Post-it notes. But such claims are just another aspect of the repression of political opponents. Given the history of the military’s creation and use of right-wing groups this new group adds to the fear and intimidation.





Defining nepotism

20 04 2016

Blood is thicker than water inside mafia-like military families. Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “defended his brother [General Preecha Chan-ocha] against allegations of nepotism after a leaked memo revealed that the permanent secretary for defence had secured a post in the military for his son.”

Earlier posts, here and here, provide the background.

Most sources describe nepotism as favoritism, particularly in appointments to jobs and official positions, based on kinship. Preecha’s first statement on the matter – it’s normal in Thailand’s Army to appoint sons – fits the definition perfectly. He did try to backtrack and cover-up on this.

Yet it seems that The Dictator doesn’t get it. Blood may indeed be thicker than water, but nothing is thicker than a military dictator. We say this because, seemingly believing he can do and say anything, no matter how stupid and incriminating.

Prayuth insisted the nepotism of his brother was “a minor matter” and “simply an ordinary appointment.”

Clearly, nepotism is rampant in today’s military. The top brass can’t even conceive of nepotism being consider wrong or unethical. For them, appointing family member is no big deal and normal.

Prayuth went on to explain this feudal situation: “Today the offspring of military families are appointed (to positions) because they gain trust from what their parents have done for the country…”.

From this it is easy to see how the military has become personalistic fiefdoms that defend hierarchy and the royalist elite.

And, oh yes, Prayuth added: “Everything was legal and correct, that’s it…”.

We doubt that it was all “legal and correct,” but guess that the paper trail is being cleaned as we write. We also doubt that this is the end of the story. Nor should it be.








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