Never trust an Army boss II

7 07 2019

Back in February we observed that no one should ever trust the commander of the Royal Thai Army. At that time, Gen Apirat “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. That was a fabrication and a lie.

He’s at it again.

Army watcher and occasional propagator of its propaganda, the Bangkok Post’s Wassana Nanuam conveys a message from Gen Apirat that is another lie. The basic point of the first report (of two that seem essentially the same), is that Gen Apirat “will wash his hands of politics after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] is dissolved once the new cabinet is sworn in.” He states: “From then on, I won’t make political comments nor will I get involved with politics in any way. I’ll perform my duty strictly as a professional soldier…”.

But, that is just silly and deceitful. For one thing, the junta – of which he is secretary-general – has constitutionally created a senate spot for the Army boss. That is, for Gen Apirat. In other words, he is a part of the political process as structured and rigged by his junta.

He’s also deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command, which is scheduled to take over many of the junta’s roles when the junta dissolves. ISOC has been embedded in politics from the national to the local levels [clicking opens a PDF].

As an aside, but interestingly, he provided the clearest signal yet that the Army is to remain US-aligned. With the Army now more cashed-up than it has been in decades – thanks to the military junta doubling its budget – and with an authoritarian-friendly regime in the US, look for this relationship to strengthen further.

Perhaps the biggest issue in Thailand’s politics is the one seldom discussed in the media is the relationship between the Army and the monarch. This is one aspect of politics where the Army has played – and will continue to play – a major role. The junta used ISOC and the Army to squash the anti-monarchism that sent shivers through the palace and the royal-aligned ruling class. That fundamental aspect of politics is also the Army’s most fundamental task.

So never trust an Army boss and don’t believe Gen Apirat’s claims.





Impunity continues

31 03 2019

To leave “election” news for a while, PPT noticed a report in the Bangkok Post that gave an account of a recent court ruling from the south.

The Pattani provincial court ruled the deaths of four men, initially claimed to be “insurgents” and shot dead by police and military were legal.

The court proclaimed that “state authorities are not required to compensate the families of four men shot…”.As the report states,

A fact-finding committee, set up to look into the case, concluded in April 2015 that the four were not linked with the deep South insurgency. These findings prompted Lt Gen Prakarn Cholayuth, then 4th army region commander, to apologise for the incident.

Despite this, “the court ruled that the police and army officers who gunned down the four had acted lawfully and that their organisations would not be liable for the incident.”

The families can appeal, but this court’s decision again grants police and military with impunity when they murder citizens.





Army stuck in it past II

7 03 2019

Readers may vaguely remember Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s outrageous lie when he bizarrely “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. This untruth belched from the mouth of a man who is secretary-general for the junta and whose men are charged with harassing all political parties that are not pro-junta.

He was far more truthful when he recently “vowed to only support a government loyal to the monarchy.” The report gives the context:

Clipped from Khaosod

Kneeling before the statue of King Rama V – revered by the military as its founding father – Gen. Apirat and hundreds of his officers pledged to uphold the late king’s legacy and defend a government committed to protecting the royal family.

Designated a “special appointment” in the military’s daily bulletin, the first-of-its-kind ritual struck observers as an all-out offensive against junta opponents.

His creepy supplication before a memorial to a dead king was conducted with some 700 other senior officers.

The pledge by Gen Apirat and the other 700 officers pledged:

I shall uphold the royal majesty of the monarch, and the pride and dignity of the armed forces. I, as officials of the state, shall support a government committed to a democratic regime under His Majesty the King as head of state….

At the event, reporters were given Army pamphlets “campaigning against pledges by Seri Ruam Thai [Party] and other anti-junta parties [Future Forward and Puea Thai] to slash the size of the armed forces and abolish conscription.”

In other words, Gen Apirat is campaigning for the pro-junta parties, making it clear that if any party he dislikes forms a government, it can expect a coup to get rid of it.





Army generals and their servants

28 02 2019

Not unexpectedly, The Dictator-junta leader-former Army boss-self-appointed prime minister-prime ministerial candidate-Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his Army commanders are on the same page when it comes to protecting the military.

The Nation reports that Gen Prayuth, maybe speaking as prime minister, maybe as junta boss or maybe as Candidate Prayuth, has declared that like an industrial free trade estate, “investing in soldiers is important and expenditure on military affairs cannot be seen as a financial gain or loss.”

He’s responding to campaign speeches by several political parties stating that the military’s budget could be trimmed and military conscription ended.

The Dictator views the suggestions, coming from “Pheu Thai, Future Forward and Seri Ruamthai parties” as an attack on the military and part of an anti-military political push.

Not explaining how conscripts are trained and how mission-ready they are, Gen Prayuth declared: “The country can call troops out any time of the day for a mission. If you downsize the armed forces, who will help out in times of disaster?”

The general was campaigning/visiting “with several Cabinet members to the Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science and Technology and the Kamnoetvidya Science Academy in Rayong province to follow up on education progress during his government’s tenure.”

He wondered how Thailand’s borders could be “watched/protected” by a slimmed military.

Predictably, The Dictator was vigorously supported by the Defense Ministry which “leapt to the defence of military conscription, insisting there would be a shortfall of troops if only voluntary recruitment is adopted.”

Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Khongcheep Tantravanich said:

400,000-500,000 males are selected for conscription each year but just 100,000 are drafted. He said only 46% of eligible young men volunteer for service. Moreover, just under a third of all drafted men request to have their military service postponed, leaving 70,000 in service….

It isn’t entirely clear what contribution involuntary conscripts have on the size of the military. Adding together Wikipedia data, we find the total size of the military establishment is 326,000, although a Bangkok Post graphic suggests that there are just 127,000 in the Army, whereas the estimate at Wikipedia is 210,000. Another Wikipedia page has an estimate of 360,000 active personnel, 245,000 reservists and 94,000 paramilitaries for a total of almost 700,000.

What is even more opaque is the number of generals. Most estimates put this at around 1,700. Guess that those generals, when not golfing or gulping from the public trough, need the services of conscripts.

Even Lt Gen Kongcheep had to admit that the “conscripts end up running personal errands for generals…”. An senior Navy officer living close to one of the PPT lot regularly has 5-8 uniformed “sailors” running errands, cooking for his family at their apartment, washing their cars, cleaning the apartment, and so on. They are servants and slaves.

We doubt this pattern prepares conscripts for “going to war.”

Also important for the broader interests of the ruling class, Lt Gen Kongcheep states that the usually lower class “conscripts acquired discipline and good ideology during their time in service … so they will be quality citizens after they are discharged”. He means they are indoctrinated with notions of royalism and hierarchy sufficient for them to “go to war” with protesting citizens.

The vast majority of serving and retired generals and few in the ruling class want a professional military. They prefer a politicized military.

Ruling class ideologues and professional military posterior polishers like “Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, [who] said conscription is a patriotic Thai tradition.” That so-called tradition only goes back to the mid-1950s.





Never trust an Army boss I

25 02 2019

About three days ago, Tan Hui Yee at The Straits Times published a recent interview with Thai army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

Speaking of the junta’s election, Gen Apirat “warned against stirring resentment against the men in green.” At the same time he “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”.

PPT choked on Gen Apirat’s blatant lie. The most basic fact is that Gen Apirat is the secretary-general to the junta. With Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha making himself the prime ministerial candidate for the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, Gen Apirat simply cannot be “neutral” and as commander of the Army it is beyond anyone’s imagination that the military coup leaders and the Army can ever be “neutral.” It is a complete fabrication.

Gen Apirat was “neutral” for one sentence, roaring:

the opposition, especially the politicians, believe that if they can make the Thai people dislike or distrust the army, then the army may collapse. As a result, our country will be weakened and then what will happen to the monarchy, which lies at the heart of Thai society?”

If the junta does not “win” its election, “politicians” will have to deal with a commander who already sees them as “opponents.”

Like Gen Prayuth in 2011, Apirat wants people to “select the right people and the right party.”

Gen Apirat also made the usual declaration: “The Thai army is “the most able pillar that supports the country and also the monarchy…”. The Army has long fostered the alliance with the monarchy. The alliance is built on several massacres of Thai citizens.

Describing Gen Apirat as a “fiercely royalist general,”  the story makes it clear that Apirat believes that “politicians” are nit sufficiently royalist and loyalist: “… people are attacking the army without understanding our position and duties to the country and our monarch.”

Reflecting on his recent call for an extremist anthem, Gen Apirat declared: The song is about people who try to manipulate the situation and cause confusion and conflict in our nation.”

He does not mean the murderous and scheming Army.

One element of military scheming for decades has been to define Thai-style democracy. Gen Apirat has been born, bred and now “protects” this non-democracy: “Each country has its own style of democracy, and so does Thailand, which has its own deep-rooted culture and a monarchy…”.

Never trust an Army commander involved in Thailand’s politics. They lie, murder and oppress in the name of the monarchy.





Updated: Nothing seems to change

19 02 2019

The reporting over the last few days seems to suggest little has changed in over a decade of military coups, elected governments illegally thrown out, scores of deaths and mass street demonstrations.

In observing this, we are leaving aside the continuing speculation regarding Thaksin Shinawatra’s failed bid to make a (semi-) royal fruitcake a prime minister. Those guesses range on a spectrum from the events were out of the box to ordinary, that they weakened the king or made him stronger, that the king knew what was going on or he didn’t, and even resurrect some perspectives from the 1950s to try to explain various scenarios. And there’s still the misleading view that Thailand is somewhere on a road to democracy. And that’s all from the same source in several articles.

But back to the nothing-much-changes idea.

First, we see The Dictator showing himself for his Palang Pracharath Party and the party using his picture on campaign posters while he remains deeply engaged in all kinds of state activities, spending and so on.

Meanwhile, his former boss, brother-in-arms and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has “defended his [now] boss … by insisting that junta leader-cum-Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha should not step down before the royal coronation takes place in two months.”

Here the point being made to the electorate is that only The Dictator and the military can be “trusted” as loyalists. It was the anti-democrats of the People’s Alliance fro Democracy that proclaimed loyalty as a political issue of the era by donning royal yellow.

Second, to make the point about loyalty, none other than anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban is quoted as declaring that only a vote for his party (and pro-junta parties) “can prevent Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to power through its proxy parties…”. That’s a refrain widely heard from the anti-democrats for over a decade. And, Suthep appears to be admitting the electoral strength of the pro-Thaksin parties, something seen in every election from 2000 to 2011, when elections were free and fair.

Suthep’s claims that the anti-democrats could keep Thaksin’s “proxies” out saw him drawing on the experience of the repressive actions of the junta in forcing through its 2016 constitution draft in a “referendum.” Perhaps he expects/hopes for similar cheating in the junta’s “election.”

And third, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who himself wielded war weapons against red shirt protesters in 2010, and who refuses to rule out another coup, has again declared that he will not be controlled by “evil” politicians.

After the military budget increasing 24% under the junta, the notion that it might be cut by an elected government prompted the evil but loyal Gen Apirat to order the “ultra-rightist song ‘Nak Phaendin’ [Scum of the land] to be aired every day on 160 Army radio stations across the country…”. This anti-communist song from the 1970s – another period when the military murdered hundreds in the name of the monarchy – was to be played twice a day. It was also to be played at the Ministry of Defense and and in all Army barracks:

The Army chief reasoned [PPT thinks that word is incorrect] earlier that the anthem broadcast was aimed at encouraging everyone to be aware of their duties and responsibilities towards the country.

The “duties” he means are to protect the monarchy and murder opponents of the military-monarchy alliance.

He was supported by Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who supported the notion that politicians are “eveil” and deserve death at the hands of murderous loyalists. He said: “Listen to the song that the Army chief mentioned. Listen to it.”

Apirat partially revoked the order later, with the song continuing to be broadcast inside the Army Command at noon. As former Thammasat rector and historian Charnvit Kasetsiri expressed it,

Other than calling for a return to absolute monarchy, they’re now rehearsing ‘Scum of the Earth,’ too? History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. And where will that path take us? Better or worse?

It leaves Thailand in its ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist time warp.

Clearly, the Army commander and the Defense Minister are campaigning against pro-Thaksin parties and for The Dictator and the party of the rightists, Palang Pracharat.

That’s not new. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, then head of the Army, demanded that voters reject Thaksin parties in 2011. However, this time, the threat is louder, nastier and very, very threatening.

Nothing much changes.

Update: PPT noticed that the Election Commission has issued a warning that “posting text, sharing or commenting on messages that defame political candidates violates the Computer Crime Act.” So how will the EC respond to Gen Apirat’s condemnation of Puea Thai and other pro-Thaksin parties as “scum” and actively campaigning against them? As a puppet agency our guess is that it will do nothing.





Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.