Believe us, we’re from the military

24 03 2015

In recent posts a theme has been lies and impunity. This somehow “naturally” applies to the military and most especially under authoritarian regimes usually run by former military leaders who have made their way to the top by loyalty and attention to hierarchy then through any particular ability and certainly not through displays of even meager intelligence.

We don’t feel the need to harp on this yet the military lads – and they are all men at the top – keep displaying their incapacity for anything other than looking completely moronic and thinking that they might just have gotten away with it.

Stay with us on this…. it gets very silly.

The Bangkok Post reports that “a large quantity of illegal weapons and explosives found in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Huan Hin district…”. The “abandoned” weapons included “41 bars of TNT, four units of C-4 explosives and 31 fire bombs, rifle ammunition and other explosive devices” and were in bags and “labelled with what appears to be the army unit code ‘Phan 1 Roi 1′.”

The implication is that there is a military connection. After all, the military is always selling or stealing its own weapons. Or perhaps someone else stole them or they fell of the back of a truck or tank. Or maybe drunk soldiers decided to have some fun.

Whatever the “excuse,” we expect the military brass to come up with a story to “explain” this current find. Of late, weapons are said to belong to red shirts. Clearly, though, in this case, these were not weapons carefully located to implicate others.

Who would be the best group to investigate the weapons and explosives cache? Well, of course, it is the military itself! We are told they are “investigating any military connection.” What a good idea!

The ever so sharp and quick Army boss Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, who is both deputy defense minister and army chief, said “military agencies are investigating to see if the cache is state property.” He added that “it would be premature to assume based on the bags’ appearance that the weapons and explosives belong to the army…”. As quick as a molasses in January, Udomdej declared that anyone can have military sacks: “bags with military codes and logos are used during emergencies to distribute relief supplies, such as sandbags during floods.” Or, he reckons they could have been bags that “were discarded and later re-used to transport the weapons…”.

He did concede “that some soldiers may be involved in the illegal weapons trade. They would face tough punishment if any link was found.” What about their bosses? In the military, the buck stops with the privates and sergeants. The big boys get the loot, the houses and the cars, not to mention fancy and expensive watches.

With a bunch of military brass-cum-cabinet ministers-cum-junta members mumbling similar things and seemingly playing down the discovery, the Post turned to the military’s adviser and paid “academic,” who decided to buff his bosses’ posteriors by claiming that the weapons were “left over from past regional conflicts.”

That could be true, and we expect that they were just left around a Hua Hin farm by a forgetful arms trader. Such traders usually leave weapons and explosives on the side of one of Thailand’s biggest highways. That way, when they recall leaving them, they are easier to find.

Junta and army spokesman Winthai Suwaree helpfully explained that “illegal war weapons are found discarded in various locations occasionally.” It is those forgetful arms dealers. They get so many weapons from the Thai military that they just forget where they leave them.

We believe the military dictatorship and its minions on this. Clearly the military couldn’t possibly be involved.Fairies





Lies and lies

22 03 2015

When you repeatedly lie others come to the conclusion that everything you say is likely laced with untruths. So it is with the military’s top brass.

Readers will recall that the military recently abducted Nattathida Meewangpla, who was a witness to murders by soldiers at a Bangkok temple during the 2010 crackdown on red shirt protesters. The junta’s spokesman denied that the military could possibly have been involved. Within just a few hours, the military handed her over to police. One lie demonstrated.

Remarkably, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha then demonstrated his disdain for the intelligence or Thais and/or demonstrated his own thick-headedness by saying that the military hadn’t arrested her, just invited her to join them in what we might describe as their secret abduction headquarters. A second lie.

Then, having “invited” her, and then not charged her with anything, the brass quickly arranged for her to be slapped with both “terrorism” and lese majeste charges. We count that as lie number three.

Three lies over one abduction-arrest is a relatively low count if one considers the thousands of lies the military has told involving the tens of thousands of citizens it has abducted, tortured, disappeared and murdered over several decades. Of course, the lies are unnecessary because the military has impunity from prosecution in these instances of violence.

So when Army boss General Udomdej Sitabutr gets all huffy and puffy because the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Center claims the military tortured four men arrested as part of an alleged “terrorism network” plotting bomb attacks in Bangkok or of having carried them out, and then produces photographic evidence seeming to back up the claim, we wonder about his counter claims.Udomdej

Army boss, the suspiciously dark-haired General Udomdej “has threatened to take legal action against anyone who accuses the military of torturing four terror suspects arrested earlier this month.” That is not a lie. Under martial law, he can pretty much threaten and arrest/abduct any one he pleases.

The the General gets into the untruths. He “insisted that the allegation was untrue, and stressed that all security officers performed their duties without violating human rights.” That’s clearly a lie. And not just a little one. The military violates human rights on a daily basis; the links above are to just a few of these in recent days.

It gets into the deeper, almost pathological category of lying when he states: “Especially the action of harming suspects. We strictly do not do that…”. Of course, there’s ample evidence of the military using torture over a long period. Just look to the South to see confirmed cases of torture.

And Udomdej then contradicts himself, admitting, “Whoever does a wrong thing, they have to be investigated and punished.” But, dear General, if you say it doesn’t happen, how could you ever investigate it? Another lie.





Eat as much as possible

2 03 2015

When the military holds the monopoly of power in Thailand it usually leads to deals that fill the pockets and cushion the lives of the top brass.

In other words they reward themselves for illegal putsches. Often they throw in a bit of kit for the royals. We expect that this is what is happening as taxpayers pay the Army for new VIP helicopters:

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) has signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters to purchase six EC145 T2 light utility helicopters for VIP transport duties, it was announced on 23 February.

Photo from Airbus website

Photo from Airbus website

The value of the EC145 T2 contract, which IHS Jane’s understands was signed in late January, has not been disclosed but is estimated to be worth about USD50 million. Under the terms of the contract, the helicopters will be delivered to the RTA from 2016.

The Airbus announcement is here.

The military dictatorship is looking after the interests of its brass and others it ferries around. A kind of policy corruption perhaps?





More lese majeste charges linked to prince

22 02 2015

The Bangkok Post reports that lese majeste cases have been made against two further men associated with Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s housecleaning following his separation from third wife Srirasmi late last year. We think the total number of lese majeste cases related to this event is now 29.

Setthawut Pengdit, who is a younger brother of former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdit, “has turned himself in to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest.”

He and Boontham Thepprathan, a proprietor of the Colonze massage parlor-entertainment complex-cum-illegal casino, are accused of lese majeste. Boontham has not yet surrendered.

The lese majeste charges came after some 50 residents of the Lamtakong self-help settlement in the Pak Chong district “accused the pair of issuing unlawful title deeds…”. The deeds were allegedly for “more than 700 rai to Ban Chum Thong Co and Khaoyai Beverly Hill Co…”. That land is said to belong “to an army infantry unit” and that the “unit had loaned the land to the settlement, which issued Nor Kor 3 land ownership documents to the residents.”

It appears that this murky deal involved the army, police and “investors” making the land transferable by having the certificates illegally changed to “title deeds” without telling the residents. It is reported that “Setthawut had allegedly made a false claim to land officials — citing the name of former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan — that the land would be developed into a palace for the royal family.”

The report adds: “There is speculation that Pol Lt Gen Pongpat, convicted of a raft of charges involving a crime network, might be involved in the case as he is closely acquainted with Mr Boontham…”.

Setthawut has allegedly confessed.

It is quite a believable scenario that farmers would lose their land to “investors.” It is also conceivable that land could be acquired for a “palace;” this has happened before. That the Army and police would be involved in such deals is quite normal in rural Thailand.





Army boss wants (his) order

18 02 2015

Army boss Udomdej Sitabutr has many of the usual traits of the army brass. He’s conservative, intolerant, royalist, happy with hierarchy and has little capacity for understanding political difference.

The Bangkok Post reports that after some activists rallied on the weekend, holding a mock election, the Army boss has felt the need to warn “that legal action may be taken against people who protest against the coup because martial law is in place to limit political gatherings.”

That’s pretty well known, and four of the activists were arrested and bailed. Yet Udomdej’s warning is about anti-coup demonstrations. He says “[p]eople are allowed to express their views and take part in ‘positive’ activities, as long as they are within the law…”. That confirms that approved pro-coup rallies are okay  – as was seen, for example, at the US Embassy when rabid nationalists rallied.

Udomdej explained a military perspective as a national perspective: “I think most people prefer peace and order in our country. It is only small groups that carry out unlawful activities…”.

As might be expected, Udomdej says he doesn’t want “any more [anti-coup] political gatherings.”

 





More on the regular use of torture

30 10 2014

PPT has posted regularly on the use of torture by Thailand’s police and military.

These authorities use torture against locals and foreigners.

A report in The Cambodia Daily indicates the use of torture against three poor villagers from Cambodia “arrested in Thailand last week [who] were returned to Preah Vihear province on Monday…”. They claimed they were “tortured by the Thai military before being released…”.

The men were arrested in Thai territory “while searching for wild vegetables.” Perhaps they were seeking valuable timber.

A Cambodian military officer stated “the men told him that Thai soldiers persuaded one of the men to admit he was a Cambodian soldier in order to expedite his transfer back home.”

That confession led to them being tortured by “Thai soldiers … to get information about the location of Cambodian military troops and supplies.” Shockingly, “The Thai soldiers used pliers to pull out both of his big toenails in order to extract a confession…”. The man was also beaten with a belt and stomped on.

Video evidence shows that his toenails are missing.

Some Cambodian authorities dispute the claims. Whatever the truth of this particular claim, the torture sounds familiar to those who follow, for example, the torture used in the south of Thailand by soldiers there.

In this case, the Thai military are seeking to protect its monopoly control of the smuggling of forest products in the border area. Torturing and mistreating Cambodian villagers and other interests serves as a warning to others who may trespass on the illicit profits gained by the corrupt Thai military.





Missing the point

20 10 2014

One of the problems that faces “academics,” in Thailand and elsewhere, is that when they become media pundits they over-reach and write about things that aren’t based on their “comparative advantage,” which is writing about things they have actually researched. This problem becomes especially acute when some of these “academic” pundits don’t actually do any research in what is meant to be their day job and they blather on about things they don’t know much about.

PPT recently read yet another op-ed by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies in the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University. It was a view of the military and its politics which while summarizing some well-established information, also left out a pivotal piece of information. We’ll come to this a bit further down. First we’ll summarize some of Thitinan’s summary.

Thitinan remembers the late 1990s as “a promising period of de-politicisation” for the military. He blames Thaksin Shinawatra for “a manipulative re-politicisation in the early 2000s…”. Our view is quite different and we think that Thitinan should actually do some research on this to enable an inevitably more complex picture.

The logical conclusion of this view is to essentially blame Thaksin for the 2006 and 2014 putsches. That the rise of Thaksin prompted the two interventions is not in doubt, but the story is, as ever, more complex than Thitinan allows. He says:

The cradle of political power in the current phase of military rule is a fraternal cohort of senior army officers, known as the “tiger soldiers”, who hail from the 2nd Infantry Division (Queen’s Guard). Never have the former commanders of this division held so much power in Thai politics. Understanding Thailand’s new rulers and the sources of their power requires knowledge of the regimental cradle that bred them.

… Chuan [Leekpai] gambled and appointed Gen Surayud Chulanont from an obscure advisory position to the army commander-in-chief position in 1998. For a few years, it looked like Mr Chuan and Gen Surayud were going to remake the army into a professional fighting force, trying to do away with conscription, reducing the top-heavy number of generals, and scaling down the size of the rank-and-file.

That’s only partly true. His claim that it was when Chuan Leekpai doubled as defence minister that saw “wide-ranging reforms to make the military more accountable and professional” is an exaggeration and missing three critical points.

First, the move to “reform” the military was a defensive reaction by the military to a civilian uprising in 1992 that saw the military (briefly) disgraced for grabbing power in 1991 (which initially saw Chuan’s Democrat Party very quiet, even supportive) and engaging in a massacre of protesting citizens in May 1992. Chuan was dragged along by the public that literally spat on the military, jeered troops in uniform and demanded fundamental change. Chuan, as an indecisive and weak minister, was simply not up to the task of reforming the military.

Second, when Thitinan claims that “Chuan gambled and appointed Gen Surayud Chulanont from an obscure advisory position to the army commander-in-chief position in 1998,” this too is an exaggeration. The most important thing about Surayud was that he was close to powerful figures in the palace. In this sense, nothing had changed, and it was Prem Tinsulanonda and the queen who were managing appointments, not Chuan.

Third, Thitinan’s aim at Thaksin for politicizing the military by promoting his cousin, Gen Chaisit Shinawatra in 2003, to army chief fails to take account of the army brass’s moves against Thaksin, which were often involving the palace and sought to undermine the elected premier and his government, as had happened to Chatichai Choonhavan in 1988-91.

There’s much else that is debatable in this flimsy article, not least Thitinan’s claims that Thailand was about to be invaded by the Vietnamese in 1979.

Most importantly, though, for some reason, Thitinan has decided to muddy the role of Prem, the queen and the palace in manipulating the military for their own political purposes. After all that has happened over the past 15 years, that’s a political choice and an academic failure.








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