Updated: Oops… friendly fire

6 04 2014

Those peace-loving lads who guard the anti-democrats and especially their leaders have blown their cover behind the Suthep Thaugsuban’s rhetoric again. The Bangkok Post reports that the trigger-happy lot have blasted two soldiers.

The extremists known as the Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand (NSPRT) who are a bunch of die-hard PAD extremists “shot and wounded” the two soldiers  while the soldiers were “on patrol duty on Soi Likhit near the 1st Army Region headquarters and Wat Benjamabopit in Dusit district on Saturday night, according to Maj Gen Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 1st Infantry Division.”

Apirat, who is known to be pretty trigger-happy himself when it comes to red shirts, said the incident took place at 9.10pm and added that the two were in plainclothes. His response was, apparently, more security for the extremists! He reportedly stated:

“Our soldiers have filed a police complaint that plaincloth[es] soldiers on motorcycle patrol were fired at, possibly by NSPRT guards providing security around their rally site. They might have shot the soldiers out of a misunderstanding. However, we have to take legal action against them because the protesters should not have been armed.

“After the incident, I have ordered the setting up of more checkpoints,” Maj Gen Apirat said.

CWO Pairoj Kantha, one of five plainclothes soldiers who were patrolling on three motorcycles, told a police officer on duty that:

At the time of the incident, he heard one gunshot, which was followed by a series of gun shots fired from a war weapon, possibly an AK47 rifle….

“When the first motorcycle fell, two NSPRT guards came out of a bunker. One of them pointed at the head of a wounded soldier with a .38 revolver. I had to quickly identiy myself as a soldier on patrol. The guard pulled back his weapon. I immediately arranged for the wounded to be admitted to hospital,” CWO Pairoj said.

The two soldiers were admitted to Ramathibodi Hospital. The military brass needs to explain how it can be so accepting of such an attack by heavily armed extremists. We suspect the answer is that this was “friendly fire.”

Update: If they weren’t so dangerous, the extremist, “student,” Brown Shirt-like, PADistas would be comical. At the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the “Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand has denied any responsibility for the shots fired at an army patrol on Saturday night in Dusit district in which two soldiers were wounded, saying it was not the work of their guards as earlier reported…”. They reckon that there was “a clash between the soldiers on patrol and an unidentified group of attackers, leaving two soldiers wounded.” This completely and totally disputes the statements made by the soldiers involved. The “students” say the “the area was outside the NSPRT’s responsibility.”





His way

3 04 2014

PPT always enjoys reading accounts of the statements of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Army’s chief and chief loudmouth. Of course, in a democratic system (and even communist systems of yore) Army chiefs were not meant to mouth off about politics. Prayuth knows this, but obviously gets frustrated and is unable to control his tongue. The latest report of his uncontrollable muscular hydrostat is from Khaosod.

Prayuth reportedly declared:

“Every Thai must return to be the order-loving Thais, not the do-whatever-I-want Thais…. Today we have to be the Thais who have order, respect the laws, and sacrifice our personal interests for the sake of the national interests, to ensure that the Nation, the Religion, and the Monarchy will be safe.”Prayuth

Our response to the General is that he should not only keep his mouth shut, but the days he hankers for are long gone. General, your thinking is of an old military-palace-aligned elite that is well beyond its “use-by” date. The coup in 2006, that you supported and have continued to support sounded the death-knell of a time that was already gone.

He apparently continued, “No one would win if they keep fighting each other like this. We would all be in trouble. That is why we must find the solution, either by legal or special ways“.

Our response to the General is that he should not only keep his mouth shut, but we thank him for confirmation that the old military-palace-aligned elite is indeed intent on a “special” judicial coup to get rid of yet another elected government that it quite mistakenly views as the ource of all of the royalist elite’s fears and pining for a past of military enforced “order-loving” Thailand. General, society has changed, and you haven’t. Neither have your political bosses in the elite. They are too old to change and too protective of their economic and political privilege.

All the chatter will now be about the potential for a military coup because of the reference to “special ways.” Prayuth has refused to rule out a coup, but PPT thinks that only a very serious deterioration will lead to a coup. The military boss is banking on a judicial coup that will, with the protesters still on the streets, presumably be given some legitimacy in the post-judicial coup propaganda that will attempt to explain yet another illegal ousting of an elected government. Keeping the protesters organized and active is a bit risky, but a judicial coup without “popular mobilization” also carries risks.

 





Army and inquests

26 03 2014

PPT has lost count of the court inquests that have indicated that the Army is responsible for the deaths of several red shirt protesters in 2010. Certainly, as far as we can tell, no effort has been made to indict any Army commander for ordering his troops to shoot down protesters. Yes, we know that Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have been charged, but the Army brass just walks free. Army boss and loud mouth General Prayuth Chan-ocha blasts red shirts as criminals and has no shame in doing this even when he was commanding murderous troops.

Khaosod reports that “the South Bangkok Criminal Court, Mr. Narin Srichomphu was apparently shot and killed by military-issued weaponry which was fired from a group of soldiers at Saladaeng Intersection in the Ratchadamri district during the final military assault against Redshirts protesters on 19 May 2010.”

Prayuth and his predecessor General Anupong Paojinda should be held responsible for these murderous acts. Why should the Army continue to enjoy impunity?

The inquest is a part of legal procedure to identify those responsible for over 90 deaths caused by the unrest in March-May 2010.

In this case, “the judges noted that much evidence points to the army’s use of live ammunition against Redshirts protesters on 19 May 2010, such as bullet types, video clips of the clashes, testimony by members of the security forces, and ballistic investigation.” The commander of the troops at Saladaeng at the time, Colonel Noppasit Sitthipongsophon,  “insisted that his unit was only armed with blank rounds,” his own soldiers “testified to the court that they did fire live ammunition at the protesters.”

The court concluded that:

“… the deceased was killed by high-velocity bullet which penetrated his head and nerve system…. A bullet fired from the direction of the military personnel who were operating under orders of the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES)”.

That seems pretty darn clear.





Army guards

27 02 2014

Our post on the active Navy serviceman acting as a guard for the anti-democrats was just one example of numerous statements of military personnel working as guards of “protecting” the anti-democrats. Of course, there are numerous rumors that it is service personnel who have been acting as teams of shooters for them as well.

At Khaosod there is a report that makes for interesting reading on this as the attempted denial of such involvement by a senior Army officer sheds more light on alleged gun battles at several sites around the city.

Police reported gunfire that extended over several hours “between anti-government militants and unidentified gunmen last night,” apparently referring to the very early morning of the 26th. Shooting was reported from Pratunam, Rajaprasong, Pathumwan and near Chulalongkorn University on Henri Dunant Road over two hours. It is said that “many witnesses and reporters” saying that anti-democrat “guards were seen firing at unidentified gunmen.” Several media outlets have reported on this event.  Khaosod includes this:

However, Maj.Gen. Warah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st King′s Guards Infantry Division, told reporters today that there was no shootout between opposing forces last night.

Maj.Gen. Warah claimed the incident was “merely” about PCAD guards shooting at drunken men who threw fireworks at their checkpoints in order to chase them away….

“It wasn′t a gunbattle, and no one was injured,” Maj.Gen. Warah said, “It was only shooting to scare off [the drunken individuals]“.

A separate shooting incident at the Makkawan Bridge is also explained by Warah, who claims “it was caused by a group of teenagers on motorcycles who approached a PCAD campsite to ‘harass’ the protesters.” He adds that the anti-democrat guards “responded by firing their guns at the group and managed to drive them away from the rally site…”. He continued:

“I′d like to ask the media, especially the TV media, not to portray the news as fierce gunbattle with unidentified forces,” the army commander told reporters, “Let me insist that our soldiers kept guard at every location. No such thing happened”.

He added, “Please do not exaggerate in your news reporting, because it would frighten the public”.

Soldiers will also increase their patrols around the protest sites to ensure safety for “all sides”, the officer announced.

This is an odd denial/admission. At the same time, thanks to military and judicial backing, the report clearly indicates that the anti-democrats operate with legal impunity. One other point that come to mind is that the various attacks and defenses raise questions again about splits within the military. In 2010 several claims were made regarding soldier-on-soldier violence due to splits, settling old scores or political inclination. Do these recent acts of violence suggest “third hands” but a struggle within the military?





Ji on violence

25 02 2014

As we sometimes do, we reproduce Ji Ungpakorn’s latest consideration on Thailand’s politics:

Violence begets violence

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Indiscriminate violence against ordinary people, whether they be involved in politics or not, is always appalling and serves no progressive or democratic purpose. The recent killing of children is even worse. We have no idea who has been committing these latest atrocities in Bangkok or in Trat and it would be foolish to make wild guesses. It could be those on the side of dictatorship who want to create conditions favourable for a military coup or the resignation of Yingluk and it could also be disgruntled hot heads from the Red Shirt movement who are angry with the impunity of Sutep’s mob.

However, we must never lose sight of the fact that the violence in Thailand’s political crisis was started by the military when they used force to overthrow the democratically elected government in 2006. The military and the Democrat Party then shot down Red Shirt pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok in 2010. Among the dead was a young boy.

Since the beginning of the year Sutep’s thugs have been openly carrying automatic weapons in the streets and they have been filmed using them against unarmed civilians. They used systematic violence to intimidate voters. Yet no one has been arrested and the conservative elites, mainstream academics, NGO leaders and mainstream media have done all in their power to condone or ignore Sutep’s mob violence.

Violence and intimidation has been used by the anti-democratic side against progressive academics and activists like Sombat Bun-ngarmanong.

We must also put this political violence in a wider context. Over the last month children and adult civilians have been gunned down in the Patani region, probably by the Thai security forces. Sometimes they pose as separatists, like in the most recent incident when a crude note was exposed as not being written by anyone with a proper knowledge of Yawi or Malay.

Systematic state violence against civilians has taken place in 1973, 1976, 1992 and in 2004 and also in Taksin’s war on drugs. The real source of violence is the Thai ruling class. They create the conditions to breed more violence.

The solution is to establish standards of human rights by punishing the state actors and big men who commit these crimes. Today that means bringing Sutep, the generals, Abhisit and Taksin to court. The democratic space needs to be expanded and strengthened. All those who have been involved in destroying democracy since 2006 are only shedding crocodile tears over the recent tragedies.





Attacking Somsak

13 02 2014

A few days ago we posted on Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha going after historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul on some kind of beat-up story that he had demeaned the monarchy.

As is unfortunately expected these days, when such claims are made, thugs show up to attack and intimidate those accused. These could be Army thugs or they could just be the run-of-the-mill ultra-royalist thugs. It is clear that whoever

Somsak’s house was attacked with gunfire and one report mentioned a Molotov cocktail.

Khaosod reports that some anti-democrats were ecstatic:

A number of pro-monarchy commentators on the internet reacted with joy when they heard the news of attacks on Mr. Somsak′s house. Some publicly expressed their regrets that the historian somehow managed to survive the gunfire.

How does one deal with the “uneducate” lot who “protect” the monarchy and feudalism.

Fortunately, the more sensible Nitirat group of progressive academics “have thrown their support behind Mr. Somsak by condemning the incident as ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilised’.” It is surely that.





Guards

9 02 2014

PPT couldn’t help but notice the picture below, which we clipped from the Bangkok Post or The Nation today. The guards are for the anti-democratic rally, and the senior cop is going to “negotiate” on something or other. But it is the guards who are of greatest interest. The one on the right is military. But tell us that the one on the left isn’t military.

He’s wearing a helmet, clearly has a flak jacket under his outer coat, and carries a walkie-talkie usually used by officials. He’s also masked to prevent his identy being revealed. (Why is a senior policeman visiting a site with masked men guarding it?)

Military guards





Protecting reputation I

8 02 2014

In a follow-up story to the lese majeste accusations leveled at historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, the Army is reported at The Nation to have made it clear that “accusations” made against the monarchy “caused bad feeling for military personnel and public members who are loyal to … the [k]ing.” And as if to protect a manufactured reputation, an army spokesperson opined: “His Majesty has long made great contributions to the country…”.

And, it might be added, done very nicely himself and from the taxpayer.

The Army warns that it will “push for police action over cases of lese majeste, amid concern over spread of messages deemed damaging to the monarchy on the Internet.” The Army will “provide information about such acts against the monarchy to the relevant authorities.”

The Army brass seems agitated and says:

The Army will attempt to stop acts that are offensive to the public. Information will be supplied to relevant authorities and agencies for further action. The Judge Advocate General’s Department will work with the police to keep track of the progress of such cases….

General Prayuth Chan-ocha is said to have “expressed his concern about the spread of information deemed offensive to members of the Royal family.”

To be honest, we aren’t sure what this is about, but perhaps the story on the prince and troops.





A Washington view

7 02 2014

We thought readers might be interested in the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) view from “inside the beltway.”

As would be expected, it is highly focused on U.S. interests, elites and their politics, worried that Thailand can’t play its “regional leadership role” and calling for a “new elite arrangement is needed, but it must be one that recognizes Pheu Thai’s … electoral mandate, though not necessarily with Yingluck [Shinawatra] as prime minister. That a U.S. policy leader would see Yingluck as expendable is remarkably shortsighted. She has been the one leader in the past decade or so who has shown a capacity for compromise:

Thai Democracy Faces Continuing Hurdles in the Wake of Elections

By Murray Hiebert, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Gregory Poling, Fellow, and Noelan Arbis, Researcher, Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies, CSIS

Thailand held national elections on February 2 that besieged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government hoped would quell a months-long political crisis. The polls proceeded more peacefully than had been expected, and the higher-than-predicted turnout undercut the message of government opponents who claim to represent the will of the people. But the elections did not break the current political deadlock, which is set to continue for at least several months—months in which Thailand cannot fulfill its role as a regional leader and during which the United States and the international community should sharpen their messaging toward Bangkok.

Government opponents, led by former senior Democrat Party politician Suthep Thaugsuban and supported by many middle- and upper-class residents of Bangkok and southern Thailand, forced the cancellation of voting at 11 percent of polling places, mainly in the south and the capital. A week earlier they had prevented hundreds of thousands of people from voting early. According to the Election Commission, voter turnout in the 68 (out of 75) provinces where at least some polling places opened was about 45 percent, defying opposition expectations. But the commission has said it will hold off releasing any results until early voters are given another chance to cast their ballots on February 23.

The Election Commission will need to organize by-elections in all those constituencies that were unable to vote, including the 28 in which demonstrators blocked candidate registration in December. By-elections will also be needed for constituencies in which unopposed candidates received the support of less than 20 percent of eligible voters or fewer than the number of “no” votes cast.

According to Thailand’s constitution, a new parliament cannot be formed until 95 percent of seats are filled. The elections clearly fell short of that number, although how short remains unclear. But the Election Commission has said that organizing all the necessary by-elections could take anywhere from three to six months. That means the country will be stuck with a caretaker government until at least mid-2014, assuming it can cling to power that long. Such a government cannot make crucial budget decisions, cannot pass important legislation, and cannot reach international agreements. In other words, it cannot lead, either at home or abroad.

The Yingluck government still balances on a knife-edge, with the opposition challenging the election results in court and continuing to mount street protests. Many observers in Bangkok expect the political stalemate will be resolved by some kind of an “administrative coup” in the weeks ahead.

Few expect a military coup like the one launched against Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin, in 2006. The generals appear loathe to overthrow yet another popularly elected government and face the domestic and international opprobrium that would follow. Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and other top generals publicly cast ballots in the elections, sending a message that even if they are not overly fond of the government, they will respect the system. General Prayuth on February 4 admitted that the elections had turned out better than expected and said the military would not be pushed by outside groups into launching a coup.

That leaves Thailand’s courts and other appointed government bodies as the key players to watch in the days ahead. Government opponents have petitioned the Constitutional Court to nullify the election results and disband Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party, arguing that the polls were not free and fair because they were held under a state of emergency. Many legal experts in Thailand have dismissed that argument, but the courts have consistently proved unfriendly to the current government and ordered the dissolution of the last two pro-Thaksin ruling parties.

A likely scenario is that Yingluck and most of the Pheu Thai leadership could be ousted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. On January 7 the commission charged 308 members of the parliament’s lower house, most of whom are members of Pheu Thai, with illegally seeking to pass a constitutional amendment to make the country’s Senate fully elected. Then on January 28 it launched an investigation of Yingluck’s role in a costly government rice-pledging scheme after bringing formal charges against two of her cabinet members. These cases could effectively nullify the February 2 elections by declaring the vast majority of Pheu Thai lawmakers ineligible for office for five years.

The only constitutional recourse then would be to organize yet another set of elections, which would have to be held amid even greater chaos. This would likely mean that the interim government would be replaced by some kind of appointed council made up of prominent Thais or technocrats with the backing of the military, not unlike what the opposition has been calling for. This council would need to figure out what to do about revising the constitution and eventually holding fresh elections.

Thailand’s political crisis will be solved by Thais, and international actors have limited leverage. But that does not mean that outsiders, the United States in particular, have none at all. Thailand has been a U.S. treaty ally for a half century and a friend for over 180 years. Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, should reiterate to Thailand’s political elites that, as a friend, the United States stands for democracy and hopes that the country will soon find its way back to a democratic political path.

In recent weeks, the U.S. ambassador and the State Department have urged Thais to resolve the current impasse at the ballot box. Those messages prompted the government’s opponents to accuse Washington of siding with the ruling party and threaten to force their way into the U.S. Embassy. Still, the statements reminded the military and others that the international community would oppose any extra-constitutional change in government.

While the annual Cobra Gold military exercises will go ahead in Thailand later in February, the United States should also remind Bangkok that the unending political bickering has delayed some high-level military-to-military engagement as well as civilian efforts to expand regional cooperation in neighboring countries like Myanmar and in joint regional health projects.

It might also be useful to remind Thailand that its neighbors worry about the country being missing in action. The Thai foreign minister could not attend a recent ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Myanmar, and Southeast Asian officials are starting to wonder if Thailand will be able to play its key role as the ASEAN interlocutor with China in the months ahead.

U.S. messaging will play only a minor, if any, role in helping to persuade Thailand’s political and military elites to preserve their country’s democratic system. In the end, the nearly decade-long cycle of rival factions seeking to oust sitting governments can be resolved only if Thailand’s various political stakeholders recognize that politics cannot be a zero-sum game. This is particularly critical given that highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a frequent arbiter in previous crises, is 86 and ailing.

A new elite arrangement is needed, but it must be one that recognizes Pheu Thai’s, or its next incarnation’s, electoral mandate, though not necessarily with Yingluck as prime minister. The Democrats must accept that no amount of constitutional tinkering will change the fact that their only sustainable path to power in today’s Thailand is by competing for votes nationwide, as dozens of third parties did in the recent elections. And Pheu Thai politicians must learn that an electoral majority is not a cudgel, because leaving opponents no recourse in the parliament will only drive them into the streets.





Army, prince and social media

6 02 2014

A report at Khaosod struck PPT as interesting for two reasons. First, it appears to indicate yet another Army brass mutiny, and second for its apparent confirmation of social media rumors regarding the political involvement of the prince.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul has claimed that the “Army has refused to comply with the government for deployment of troops to protect Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” He claims his request came after the anti-democrats “targeted a Ministry of Defence building where Ms. Yingluck held meeting with her Cabinet members.”

Lt.Col. Winthai Suvaree, a deputy Army spokesman said “Surapong has to submit the request via an appropriate channel, which is the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.” Winthai labored on about bureaucratic procedure and then made a remarkable claim:

“No one should expect the army to suddenly send troops without proper request, because that′s against the procedure,” Lt.Col. Winthai explained, adding that the army is still waiting for “more clarity” from Mr. Surapong in his requests.

“As far as I know, … [t]here has been no written document requesting [the troops] so far”.

Sounds like mutiny to us. The responsible officers should be sacked and discharged.RTAF troops

The second interesting item is this:

The government was forced to request presence of troops from a nearby Royal Thai Air Force base to protect the Prime Minister yesterday.

As we noted above, social media lit up with claims that the crown prince had personally ordered “his” troops to protect Yingluck. A document was circulated, including at Thai E-News, that claimed to be about this deployment. When the Air Force troops showed up, and we reproduce Khaosod’s picture, there was apparent confirmation.

PPT isn’t sure if this is coincidence + hoax or whether it is real. However, the social media seemed to be either convinced that this arrival of troops represented confirmation of a political split within the palace and of a succession struggle or was warmly welcomed as a sign of royal support.

What we didn’t see – and we may have missed it – was any statement that made the point that royals should stay in their palaces and shut up on politics. Royals should not be involved in any politics, ever. Thailand really does need to grow up.








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