Good lads and bad lads

26 03 2017

Remember those nice lads from the south who came to Bangkok and organized protests against the military junta’s coal-fired power station plans? Yes, the lads who have a leader who is a royal and who called for a counter-coup if they didn’t get their way?

Those lads seem to be good lads because they had the junta changing its mind on the power plant process and also forgiving the lads so that none of them have become subjects of harassment and jailing. This is because they are pro-coup.

It seems good lads can even threaten the junta without having to worry too much. Of course, the junta may change its political judgement about these lads, but at the moment they seem “protected.”

Then there are bad lads, defined as activists and drug dealers and troublemakers. Chaiyapoom Pasae, killed with a single shot by the Army, is said in the Bangkok Post to be an activist and artist. That article describes two stories of Chaiyapoom’s death, and its pretty easy to see that the military and police story is struggling to paint him as a bad lad.

One of the very interesting parts of the story is the attached picture, a screen grab from TNN, showing a blurred out image of “the body of Chaiyapoom just after he was shot, as the police, military and their photographers begin to coordinate the stories they will tell the public.” We assume it is accurate in its description and have clipped it and reproduced it below.

We find it interesting because we recall that at first “soldiers claimed that they found certain amount of amphetamine in the car Chaiyaphum was sitting in and that he was resisting the authorities to arrest him by pulling out a knife before running into a bush.” First the knife went missing from the story and now, looking at the picture, the bush is gone too.

Then there’s other pictures:

Earlier there were pictures, leaked by a Facebook page opposing the Single Gateway Internet control idea, that showed Chaiyapoom cooperating with the soldiers’ search. The pictures seem to contradict the claim that the Lahu teenager resisted the soldiers.

The problem with Chaiyapoom’s sad case is that the disbelief expressed by many is causing the authorities to have to embellish and refine their story. In other words to make it more believable by making him appear as bad as possible. But there’s the troubling problem of witnesses who are not in uniform. The driver of the car involved has been held by military and police since the event. There may be others, and if this is a cover-up, then the authorities need to control them.

If previous cover-ups are a model, then this involves intimidation and violence. One measure of the moves being made is a statement by Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree who:

yesterday dismissed reports of a witness to the killing being threatened as untrue, saying officers have been taking care of the witness who had been co-operative and provided useful information.

He went on to threaten the media: “…[he] warned that anything revealed to the media could be libellous.”

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit:

took a man who was Chaiyapoom’s mentor to Na Wai police station to file a report about receiving a threat. The mentor (whose name has been withheld) told the NHRC he found a bullet in front of his house on Wednesday night, after he spoke out in defence of the young activist. He said two men, who did not identify themselves, had showed up earlier at his house to tell him to stop talking about Chaiyapoom.

They will have been military thugs.

The NHRC stated that “[o]ther witnesses were too scared to even talk to members of the rights body team yesterday.”

No soldier who manned the checkpoint at the time of the extrajudicial murder had been transferred or suspended. They were all continuing to work as normal.

Perhaps that’s why the witness who has been threatened is being assisted by the NHRC and will likely “go into a witness protection programme.”

Expect more efforts to paint Chaiyapoom as a bad boy, to intimidate his family and friends and to intimidate witnesses.





Stupidity, crime and impunity

24 03 2017

Wasant Techawongtham is former News Editor at the Bangkok Post. He has an interesting op-ed in that newspaper on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae.

He states that the young lad:

… must have been really stupid. He was a local Lahu boy. He knew where the military had set up their semi-permanent checkpoint. He had with him 2,800 tablets of ya ba, a knife and a hand grenade — all stuff that could put him in jail.

Yet he allowed himself to be driven through the checkpoint and expected to get away with it.

Not many op-eds in the military dictatorship’s Orwellian kingdom use irony like this. He continues: “Or maybe he wasn’t so stupid but was just unlucky to run into a group of overly aggressive soldiers.”

Then there’s this:

Another extra-judicial killing in the same vicinity as Chaiyapoom was killed has gone unnoticed and unreported until now.

Just a month earlier, a 33-year-old Lahu man, suspected of drug dealing, was gunned down by soldiers from the same unit involved in Chaiyapoom’s death. At the scene of his death, he was photographed holding a hand grenade of a similar type that was found by Chaiyapoom’s side.

Fancy that! What a surprise! Well, no, it isn’t.

It is the military and police who are trained in glorious stupidity. They are trained in violence, propaganda, crime (their crime) and lying. They are trained to come up with ludicrous “stories” to cover their crimes. They are trained to expect impunity for murders and torture committed for authoritarian regimes and in the name of protecting the monarchy. That “loyalty” allows them to enrich themselves and expect impunity for all their crimes, for the state and personal crimes.

And the military story just gets more and more stunning. These dolts have been gradually overlaying a story that gets darker and darker. Having earlier stated that they “knew” Chaiyapoom was involved with drugs, the “army has revealed the Lahu activist who was fatally shot by a soldier last Friday in Chiang Mai was involved in the drug trade for more than a year.”

They now claim a different story at the scene of the killing:

Based on the footage of a CCTV camera at the scene, soldiers who checked the vehicle were not armed, Lt Gen Vijak said, adding they simply questioned the men inside the car and checked their identification cards.

As the suspects were acting suspiciously, the soldiers asked them to get out of the vehicle, he said, adding that one of them fled and tried to fight, prompting another armed security team to respond.

No mention of CCTV was made previously, no one else has seen it, and the nature of the stop is now changed too. And the “knife” seems to have “disappeared” from the story.

When asked how he believed the activist [Chaiyapoom] managed to procure the grenade, Lt Gen Vijak said similar Chinese-made devices can be found along the Thai border.

Or maybe it was recycled by  the military.

But here’s the thing. Even if the kid was the “stupid” and brazen “drug dealer” that the military asserts, this does not justify his killing. But this is the (in)justice system at its worst.





There is no justice

18 03 2017

Back in January, referring to a Prachatai story, we felt that the “fact” that public prosecutors had dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat suggested that someone in the regime was displaying something approaching good commonsense.

Naritsarawan had campaigned for justice over the torture of her uncle who was tortured and killed by the military, while he was enlisted as a conscript.

According to an Army investigation, in 2011, her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, was tortured by other soldiers and officers. They accused of running away from military training. The Army report said Wichian was stripped down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before being repeatedly kicked and beaten for several hours. The tormentors then applied salt to his wounds to increase his pain, wrapped him in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in further beatings. He later died.

Police arrested Naritsarawan on 26 July 2016 for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle. Major Phuri Phueksophon of the 4th Army Region, the unit responsible for the torture of her uncle — accused Naritsarawan of violating the Computer Crime Act and defaming him by exposing the torture.

The prosecution is now back on as police have overridden the prosecutor’s decision.

Naritsarawan has received a letter after Pol Maj Gen Ronnasin Phusara, Interim Commander of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center, stating “that she should be charged under the Computer Crime Act and Criminal Defamation for for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle.”

It seems there’s no justice.





Fudged to save well-paid relatives and buddies

24 02 2017

In an earlier post, we commented on the “clearing” of the seven puppet lawmakers who were “investigated” on allegations that they had failed to fulfill their required duties with the National Legislative Assembly. A report was said to be forthcoming that cleared the well-paid and senior friends of the junta.

PPT concluded by stating: We can’t wait for the report to see how this is fudged.

The Bangkok Post has now reported on this. It is another one of the junta’s concoctions to preserve nepotism, corruption and impunity.

NLA secretary general Vararat Atiphaet “told reporters on Friday that from Jan 1-Dec 31, 2016, NLA members voted 1,264 times in total.” She went on to confirm that “each member had to cast in at least one-third of the votes, or 421, to maintain their status.”

Helpfully, the Post constructed the table below:

From the Bangkok Post

For the table, a year of attendances is presented by the NLA and only “missed votes without prior leave-of-absence requests shall be counted as missed votes.”

As the Post points out, there’s hocus pocus going on: “the timeframe the NLA used in the calculation was 365 days even though its own regulation says the one-third rule applies to a 90-day period.” This sleight of hand went unexplained.

So the data is a pile of buffalo manure. Even so, the absences are remarkable! The next question is when those in the table (and others) are skiving off are they still “paid a position allowance of 71,230 baht and an extra allowance of 42,330 a month, totalling 113,560 baht.” And that doesn’t include “committee allowances.”

The answer seems to be that “If a member fails to attend half of the meetings scheduled each month, he will not receive the extra allowance for that month unless he is on a parliamentary trip approved by the NLA president.” So, the money for nothing seems to be 71,000 baht++.

Recall also, as the Post points out, these lazy thugs get an “allowance” so they can continue to collect other salaries:

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said two years ago that a state official may not receive salaries from more than one source but may accept unlimited position allowances and other compensation so long as the payments are not called a salary.

The trough is filled with loot and is warm and inviting. These guys are swimming in it.





Money for nothing II

17 02 2017

In a post a little while ago, PPT had the story of puppet legislators missing in inaction at the National Legislative Assembly. We mentioned Prachatai’s report of an iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We used the word “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

At the end of that post we speculated that because “leaves” from the puppet NLA are “secret,” and because The Dictator’s brother is one of those involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, we expected an announcement that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

Clean hands?

Clean hands?

Sure enough, we already have that statement. The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “it is not a problem that General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the former Defence permanent secretary and brother of the prime minister, takes frequent leave from legislative meetings…”. Oddly, he also stated that “a committee is being set up to examine the case.”

And just in case you wondered, General Prawit declared that “Preecha took leave under normal regulations of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”.

Of course he did. And, if he didn’t, you can probably bet he has applied now and been approved.

As we understand it, even on leave – for almost all the six months he missed almost all meetings – he still draws his NLA salary that is in excess of 100,000 baht a month.

Money for nothing.

Prawit explained the “situation.” He speculated “that as Preecha also served as the defence permanent secretary he might need to take leave sometimes.”

In any case, the NLA is just a rubber stamp for the junta so missing meetings is hardly an issue for The Dictator and his dictatorship. Demonstrating its puppet status, “Prawit said he had already talked to NLA president Pornpetch Vichitcholchai. Prawit said they found no problems…”.

Still, to launder the record, General Prawit “told Pornpetch to go ahead with setting up a committee to examine the case.”

That will result in a finding that there’s no issue. Junta-led “investigations” of themselves always reach this conclusion.

Naturally enough, General Prawit was loyally supported by “Army Commander General Chalermchai Sittisart also defended the absence of NLA members from legislative meetings, including the PM’s brother.” Chalermchai did admit that the NLA “is far different from a normal House, as it draws members from various professions, many of whom are civil servants, meaning they also have their own work to take care of.” He means its a puppet, rubber stamping hoax legislature.

General Preecha’s record displays considerable evidence of corruption and nepotism. His protection by his brother and the regime is simply one more case of gross double standards.





Army not united

8 02 2017

Less than a week ago, PPT commented on discussion of a possible coup in Thailand and the remarkable sight of military leaders and junta bosses denying that a coup was possible in 2017 and declaring the military is (almost certainly) united.

As if to confirm that the junta’s tank tracks are falling off, “Army chief [General] Chalermchai Sittisat has called for unity in the army…”. tank

That’s in the already “united” military. Well, perhaps not.

General Chalermchai said this “as he inspected the 1st Army’s headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok. Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the 1st Army commander, and high-ranking army officers were present to welcome the army chief.”

Chalermchai declared that “the army plays an important role in ensuring security and supporting the government [the junta].”

He babbled on about nation, religion, and king “and the people.”

Where’s there problems? It seems there are different views on the junta grasping and keeping power for decades:

If we think and act along the same lines, the army will move forward with honour and dignity and will become a main pillar supporting government efforts to run the country,” Gen Chalermchai said…

And, as usual, about promotions, with General Chalermchai insisting “he adhered to the merit system in promotions, a mechanism used to avoid problems associated with frustration over promotions seen as unfair by some.” We assume that Apirak’s promotion is one of those that has caused frustration.





Smoke, fire, coup and assassination

3 02 2017

PPT didn’t give much attention to the cockamamie notion in the Washington Post about “a number of researchers work on forecasting where coup attempts are likely to occur.” The idea that “statistical models” can “predict” the chance of a coup in Thailand is 2017 is 11%. Humbug political science “learning” from quantitative economics.

But the mention of a possible coup in Thailand caught the “imagination” of media commentators in Thailand. Television news mentioned it again and again, having tired of cheap pictures stolen from a Kyoto hotel.

Then there was smoke. The military leaders and junta bosses came out to deny that a coup was possible in 2017. After all, the military is united.

Then there was fire. Suddenly there was talk of assassination threats against The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator. More remarkably, the Army chief has thrown gasoline on the fire. General Chalermchai Sitthisat declared saying “an assassination plot targeting Deputy Prime Minister and Defence [General] Prawit Wongsuwon,” to use his words, “could be real.”

His response was: “I am convinced that nothing will happen. Those who issued threats will be prosecuted,” referring to social media death threats against Prawit and General Prayuth Chan-ocha. (We can only guess that the culprits will turn out to be red shirts. At the same time, almost all such threats in the past have been military-linked.)

Not only that, Prawit suddenly sounded less sure about the no-coup line, saying:

… there will be no coup following the next general election as nobody wanted a coup unless the country was “unable to move on”.

… Gen Prawit said if there was reconciliation and if all Thais gave their full cooperation, there was no way a coup would be staged again, adding the military would also be under the next government’s administration.

The latter claim is a bit odd. “Under” seems to suggest he knows The Dictator’s group will be the next “administration.” The military is unlikely to be “under” and “administration” is does not select and have elected. He went on with the hypotheticals that sounded increasingly like threats:

There was a strong possibility that the military will not stage a coup again if all politicians can reconcile with each other and care for the people without conflicts, he insisted.

Gen Prawit stressed there will be no counter-coups given unity in the military. Also, the present government, the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the army were as one as Prime Minister Prayut is doing his best in every way for the country’s benefit, he added.

Whenever there is an election, the plan is clear. However, where there’s smoke and fire, assassination threats do begin to sound like there is real dissension in the military.