“Public” discussion

26 07 2017

How does the junta handle “public” discussion? The linked report explains.

The military headed up the military junta’s main “reconciliation” effort by coming up with something various called a “social contract” or a “national harmony pact.” In fact, this was a set of military junta musings about how to keep a lit on Thailand’s sometimes raucous politics by banning and repressing the junta’s political opponents.

Following its release, the military junta then ordered what it called “final public hearings to introduce the draft of the so-called social contract, and seek opinions on it…”.

These meetings “were held at four regional military barracks around the country from Monday to Thursday beginning 17 July.

The report states that “[h]undreds of people joined in…”. Who were they? Apparently, almost all “seats were reserved mostly for those enlisted or invited.” Further, the report states that “[m]ost participants were civil servants called up by Interior agencies.”

It is unclear how many “outsiders” made it to the meetings. It was reported that “[d]espite it being a top national agenda item, only one well-known figure, red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, attended the seminar on Monday at the First Army Area command in Bangkok.” Hours later, he was sentenced to a year in jail.

The report goes on to explain that in a “two-hour long presentation by the military, less than 30 minutes were spent on the introduction of the draft social contract…”. The rest of the presentation by the military “involved officers emphasising the military’s dedication to recreating national harmony and the inclusive, non-dictatorial approach they had adopted in the scheme.” In other words, the officers shoveled buffalo manure.

That’s how the military arranges reconciliation for the military and by the military.





On the campaign trail

29 06 2017

The military junta continues to campaign for its dictatorship, now and into the future, when it chooses to hold an “election.”

The Bangkok Post reports that, unlike political parties that are banned from campaigning, the dictatorship is sending out teams of uniformed soldiers to campaign for the junta.

We note in passing that the soldiers are paid by taxpayers who now foot the bill, not just for corruption in the junta, commissions on arms deals, salaries for puppet assemblies and agencies and vanity and royal posterior polishing projects, but for electoral campaigning.

The Post report tells of “Army speakers … being sent to provinces nationwide to give seminars promoting love of the nation, royalty and the military…”. There are to be 12 campaign teams touring the country.

They are not your average teams. They are drawn from the “Special Warfare Command and the Army Air Defence Command.” As we have long said, the military has little to do in terms of normal defense (the south excepted) and is focused on the repression of political opponents. Psychological warfare was pioneered for the Thai military by the CIA in the 1950s, and little has changed. (The generals are remarkably conservative and, hence, slow learners. Indeed, they learn little in their training and service apart from which butts to cherish.)

According to one of those conservative and dull generals, Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisart, says this particular roadshow will “promote national unity and would organise seminars presenting [distorting] Thai history and promoting love for the nation, royalty and the military.”

Note that the nationalist trilogy just changed from the 1920s version of nation, religion, monarchy to a junta preferred nation, monarchy, military.

On the “election” campaign trail

The Army chief was asked if all of this was about a military party being formed to run in the junta’s “election.” He responded, saying “that was a matter for the future.”





Royal military training and death

23 06 2017

A few days ago, Prachatai reported on another case of a soldier’s death while training. This kind of report is common as military officers sanction hazing, torture and repeated beatings of recruits and lower ranks.

This case is about “a soldier who allegedly died from ill-treatment during military training….”. Sub Lt Sanan Thongdinok “drowned to death on 6 June 2015 while swimming as part of the King’s Guard Regiment training course.”

The soldier “was forced to swim back and forth repeatedly by a trainer at the 1st Infantry Regiment King’s Own Guard in Bangkok until he became too tired and drowned before trainers could rescue him.”

A doctor from the Central Institute of Forensic Science “testified on 15 June that the soldier died from being submerged for longer than five minutes, causing heart failure, hypoxia and bleeding in the brain, liver, and kidneys, adding that his head had also sustained bruises from being hit with a blunt object.”

The “trainer was also in the swimming pool, but did not help Sanan when he was drowning.”

The hearing is ongoing.

King Vajiralongkorn takes a personal interest in the training of the King’s Guard troops. In recent times, one of his concubines, Suthida, was catapulted to the rank of General in the unit.





2010 military crackdown report

21 06 2017

In a post at New Mandala that almost slipped by, Kwanravee Wangudom reports that an English-language edition of Truth for Justice, consisting of six selected chapters from the mammoth Thai-language fact-finding report by the People’s Information Centre, is available.

The 300+ page report can be downloaded as a PDF at the PIC website.

The earlier 1300+ page Thai report can also be downloaded.

The Thai version was published in Thai in 2012. The English version was edited by Kwanravee.

PIC’s report “is produced in the hope that it will stimulate a wider global discussion on truth, justice and reconciliation in the deeply-divided Thai society, and perhaps elsewhere.”

It might even cause some rethinking about the murder of citizens by military leaders who now run the dictatorship. It might also cause some rethinking about the manner in which the leaders such as Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have not be held responsible.





Updated: Guns and grenades II

5 06 2017

The military’s response to the guns and grenades arms trading events of recent days is interesting.

For a start, as The Nation reports, the “National Council for Peace and Order has instructed regional Army officers to investigate recent cases of weapon trafficking.”

Yes, that’s the military junta telling its minions to “investigate” itself. Military “investigating” military is the basis of these events. The military has long demanded this privilege, but in the current circumstances, where the military controls government, all ministries, and so much more, accusations of conflict of interest seem too limited. The military state suffocates everything. It is a military dictatorship.

Statements that Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, who is the junta’s “secretary,” “telling officers to get tough on criminals who tried to avoid detection by new methods such as using social media and couriers to transport drugs and weapons” misses the issue completely.

But that’s the point. Deflect criticism by focusing on methods, not the culture of impunity that has allowed virtually every senior military officer to become wealthy beyond their salaries. The military is built on the corruption that comes with its political interventions.

General Chalermchai is said to have “also expressed concern that the recent case suggested weapons trafficking in border areas was occurring and urged officers at border checkpoints to screen vehicles for illegal items without exception, including state-issued cars and civilian automobiles that display government stickers…”.

What he is saying is that he’s disappointed that this trafficking has hit the headlines. Such headlines have occurred regularly over the decades – back to the 1940s – and they go away and the trading goes back to “normal,” largely controlled by the military and police.

The point elsewhere response has also come from the jewel and gold encrusted Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan. He “ordered officers to pay special attention to the southern border provinces especially during the fasting month of Ramadan…”. No one has mentioned southerners in these cases, but the General seems to want false leads.

The response of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to the arrest of one of its officers with multiple war weapons is telling. Among other largely secret roles, ISOC is a specialist anti-democrat organization that arranges “third-hand” political interventions. It seems to want to create the impression that the soldier involved with the weapons was carrying a false ISOC ID card. They know that this excuse has worked previously.

And, there’s no more news about Vice Adm Rattana Wongsaroj’s role. He’s the marine commander for Trat and Chanthaburi provinces who reportedly rushed to the navy site where the officer found smuggling weapons was being held.

While on such matters, a footnote: what happened to all those corruption cases around Rolls Royce? No news? Is that really surprising to anyone?

Update: The military brass, keen to throw all and sundry off the scent, have made claims that weapons trafficking is by implicitly claiming their own innocence: “Military top brass on Tuesday vowed to suppress illicit arms trade by some low-ranking soldiers who have been involved in stealing and selling state weaponry online and across the border.” When one of those involved in recent cases is an ISOC intelligence officer, the scent should be leading to the top brass.





Reporting successful internet censorship

12 05 2017

Khaosod reports that the “Royal Thai Army’s cyber unit claimed success Thursday in defending the monarchy online, saying it has gone after 820 offensive items since October.”

The report gets a little odd on the numbers, but essentially states that the “Army Cyber Center announced the figures at army headquarters in Bangkok, saying it was proof of progress in the crackdown against alleged online defamation of the royal family.”

We are guessing that almost all the references are to King Vajiralongkorn in the period since October, although we suppose some might have been critical of the dead king.

Assistant Army Chief Gen. Somsak Nilbanjerdkul was happy and “presented a plaque of recognition to those who performed [what he said were] excellent duties.”

Fascists like such symbols and recognition from big bosses.

The Director of the cyber snooping operation is Maj. Gen. Rittee Intravudh. He stated that “the center placed importance on cyber threats against the monarchy through social media.” The figures he provided were that “the 820 items targeted since October included 365 things posted to Facebook, 450 YouTube videos and five tweets.” He added that just “seven of the content creators were based outside Thailand..”.

The Major General did not reveal “how many led to actual blocking or removal.” Confusingly, the report then states: “435 sites defaming the monarchy have been shut down.” (That’s where the numbers get a bit screwy. Is it 435 or 820?)

Despite the huge crackdown and a whole-of-dictatorship effort at censorship, Rittee “said the center has discovered 274 new items, among them 120 made just last month.” Yet he reckons the trend is “that there will be less dissemination of content [defaming] the monarchy…”.

We are guessing, but perhaps the king’s fashions and the royal-inspired theft of the 1932 plaque are the things that the junta most wants to block and which it has been ordered to block.

He would he say if the snooping led to prosecutions. However, if they are getting awards for their work, we might assume prosecutions.

Rittee also revealed “some success in getting Facebook to block some posts from users in Thailand but acknowledged that some have learned how to circumvent such blocking.”

He said a “court has also recently ordered the blocking of 6,000 websites deemed critical of Thailand’s monarchy.”





Parallel domination

9 05 2017

The king might be causing the military rulers angst as his erratic behavior and demands make problems for the junta, but that’s not stopping the regime preparing for its ongoing political domination.

In an earlier post we noted moves by the military to dominate the civilian administration in one province and involving on regional army commander.

The military is now establishing a parallel administration. The Bangkok Post reports that the “Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) has forged ahead with major changes in its personnel in what is seen as a move to ensure military power in the provinces ahead of a general election.”

ISOC is the 1960s-era anti-communist agency that became addicted to political murder, intrigue, plots, election rigging and other political manipulation. It has played a considerable role in maintaining the military’s political dominance and in bringing down elected governments.

Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisat, who is deputy to The Dictator in ISOC, has signed an order for “a full-scale reshuffle of provincial Isoc military officials that will take effect in October.” This is one of the largest rearrangements in ISOC for decades, described as “unprecedented.”

ISOC is being made even more significant for the military’s meddling. ISOC is upgrading its position by making more provincial commanders generals rather than colonels.

In effect, ISOC provincial bosses will be “military governors” in a parallel administration. Their job going forward is “to keep track of provincial governors while critics and opponents of the regime are active during the transition period.”

Critics rightly observe that the “77 provincial Isoc military officers will help drive the regime’s policy on all fronts and give the provincial governors a little push to ensure policy implementation.”

The provincial Isoc military officer is “to coordinate between the army, Isoc and the regime.”

The emphasis is on provinces “known to be strongholds of the anti-regime United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.”

Provincial ISOC officers work directly with provincial governors but report to regional ISOC commands, each headed by the regional army commander.

Thailand is a militarized state and will remain so following any “election” the dictatorship feels like managing.