Further updated: Bombs and politics

13 08 2016

As usual, when there have been significant bombings in Thailand, the authorities immediately discount international terror and southern separatists.

This denial is almost a Pavlovian response by the elite and rulers to maintain the environment they feel encourages foreign investment and tourism, which have been the lifeblood of their wealth for decades.

Now, some time after the bombings and fires, more information on the military dictatorship’s response is available. Much of the early journalism, including by “academics,” was speculative.

To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the incidents. CNN and BBC are on a loop, referring to the explanations of Thai officials focusing on local politics.

At the Bangkok Post, it is made clear that, as with the Erawan bombing a year ago, the first likely culprits on the junta’s list are political opponents:

Authorities are giving weight to the theory that anti-regime elements were behind the deadly coordinated bombings and arson attacks that rocked the South and the resort city of Hua Hin from Thursday to Friday.

Apparently a meeting of security officials chaired by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, guessed that “political issues topped the possible cause of the attacks.” As the post reports an anonymous source,

This could be the work of opponents of the regime or those who wanted to discredit the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which seems to have gained more popularity based on last Sunday’s referendum on the military-backed draft charter, in which most people voted in favour of the constitution….

As others have also claimed, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said that domestic politics was the source of the attacks because “the attacks took place in the provinces where the majority voted in favour of the draft charter and … those attacks were aimed at damaging the government’s handling of politics, tourism and the economy.”

He claimed that “the investigation” suggested to him that “the incidents were linked to people who have different political views and may be connected to the violence in the deep South due to the similar use of improvised explosive devices…”.

There’s been little evidence of such links in the past.

General Prawit “ruled out a spread of violence from the far South as a cause of the attacks…”. He confidently stated: “This motive can be discarded. I confirm this is not the case.”

It is this kind of declaration without investigation that suggests that the military itself may be involved. (Our view is that the junta’s loyal forces are probably wasn’t involved, based on its previous actions. However, disgruntled groups in the military, with extensive links in the south cannot be ruled out.)

Some in the junta’s administration apparently thought that if its not local political opponents then international terrorism is “the second possible cause, … noting there are reports of Islamic State (IS) activities in Malaysia…”. Indeed, the Post states that a “source at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry said the SIM cards in the mobile phones used to detonate the bombs were from Malaysia.”

General Prawit was aggressive, declaring that he would “bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. He then lied: “I will have the perpetrators arrested. We succeeded in making arrests every time, and will also do so [this time].”

Of course, if it is “local politics,” the military has seldom arrested anyone at all.

The Post says Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha “refused to pinpoint the motive behind the attack, saying the investigation is still under way.” That sounds good, except that it is not true, as the Post makes clear:

I want you to think what happened before and after the referendum. Why did the incidents take place when the country is getting better and moving towards improving its economy and tourism. I must ask, who are the ones who do not want these things to happen? Who are they? Find them for me….

In the same statement, officially released, Prayuth pointed a finger at domestic political opponents.

Junta pimp , Panitan Wattanayagorn “said both domestic and foreign intelligence warned of possible violence before the referendum…. Thai authorities deployed officials to keep tabs on suspects and nothing bad had happened, except some violence in the far South.”

Is he saying there was a failure of security officials?

Meanwhile, the Post reports a cause for wider concerns:

A source in the 4th Region army said the attacks were the work of political groups connected to a political base in the South. An order was made to carry out attacks in the popular tourist destinations as well as key business zones in the South and in Bangkok.

As usual, it sounds like the “official” response is confused, confusing and potentially scary.

Update 1: The Guardian has an interesting editorial on the bombs in Thailand and domestic politics.

Update 2: New Mandala has a useful post on bombs and the south. Well worth reading. It also has an earlier post speculating on who might be involved.





The gang’s dirty work

29 07 2016

We have long referred to Thailand’s military as a thuggish gang. One recent story we simply didn’t get to was of Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat, who was arrested for “defaming the army through her Facebook writings. She accused the military of protecting ‘certain peoples’ in the army who were responsible for the violent murder of her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, who died in the army camp in June 2011.”

The torture and violence used against its own mark the military out as a Mafia gang, enforcing loyalty, hierarchy and paternalism.

Fortunately, at The Diplomat, Pavin Chachavalpongpun has written about Naritsarawan’s case and the way the military uses outdated laws and a compliant judiciary to repress negative commentary.

Read the article and weep for a Thailand that is in the hands of a ferocious and rapacious gang of thugs.





Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

26 07 2016

Torture, intimidation, repression and oppression are the stock-in-trade of the military in Thailand, under all regime types. As we often do, we reproduce an urgent appeal from the Cross Cultural Foundation, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-FUA-006-2016

25 July 2016

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Human rights defenders; Military; Rule of law; Threats and intimidation; Torture

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) regarding the three human rights defenders who are to meet with an inquiry official at the Muang Pattani Police Station on July 26 in the defamation case filed against them by the ISOC Region 4 Forward as a result of their launching a torture report about the Deep South.

For more information, please contact:
1. Mr. Abdulawae Puteh +66 81 898 7408 Attorney of the three alleged offenders
2. Mr. Preeda Nakphew +66 89 622 2474 CrCF’s attorney
3. Ms. Nutthasiri Bergman +66 85 12 08077 CrCF’s attorney

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
—————————— —————————— ———–
THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

On 17 May 2016, the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4) has reported a case with the inquiry official at the Muang Pattani Police Station alleging that Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina, three human rights defenders, had committed criminal defamation and a violation of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

The three rights defenders were accused of publishing and distributing a report on the torture and ill, degrading and inhumane treatment in the Deep South between 2014 and 2015 and for bringing into the computer system false information via the website https://voicefromthais. wordpress.com/. The summons were issued for them since 8 June 2016, and they were supposed to turn themselves in on 26 June 2016, though they had asked to postpone it to 26 July 2016.

On 26 July 2016, the three defenders will meet Pol Lt Col Winyou Thiamrat, inquiry official of the Muang Pattani Police Station to hear the charges against them and carry with their defence later on.

The report “Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015” was an attempt to echo the situation in the local area and by doing so, the three HRDs hope it will help to solve the problem of torture in the Deep South. Since the start of unrest, a range of special laws have been enforced including Martial Law and the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency B.E. 2548 (2005) to bestow on the authorities extra power to carry out the arrest and detention of people. Even though it aims to quell insurgency, but undeniably, it has also led to the situation in which some officials have executed their power arbitrarily giving rise to the acts of torture and/or violations of rights and liberties in various forms. The facts are attested to be incidences of tortures committed by state officials as reported now and then including some suspects in security related cases have been found dead while in military custody or other official custody. If the problem fails to be tackled, it will simply ramp up more violence in the Deep South.

This case has attracted extensive attention from national and international rights organizations since the three activists have been playing important roles in the protection of human rights in the Deep South for a long time. Still, they are being taken to court by the authorities. It will also be another test of the Thai judicial system as to how much understanding they have toward the roles of HRDs and the issue of torture in Thailand.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)





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.








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