On opposition and the monarchy’s centrality

22 07 2014

At the Financial Times there’s a report on “Thailand’s scattered and demoralised opposition is seeking to regroup after a military coup in May toppled the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra and drove some of its leading ‘red shirt’ supporters into exile.”

แปลจากบทความ “Thai Opposition Regroup Abroad In Bid To Regain Power” ของหนังสือพิมพ์ไฟแนนเชี่ยล ไทมส์is available too.

Jakrapob Penkair has talked about preparations “to register an official organisation-in-exile in an unnamed western country and to launch a ‘road map’ detailing plans to regain power” for some time, and he is quoted again.

Yet action seems difficult in the face of an all-embracing and suffocating fascism from the military dictatorship inside Thailand.

The report notes that the “military government headed by [The Leader] General Prayuth Chan-ocha has led a crackdown on red shirt supporters, detaining many and forcing them to sign documents renouncing politics. Gatherings of more than five people have been banned…”.

Yingluck is facing continuous and vindictive legal actions from partisan “independent institutions.”  She has “branded unfair an investigation that last week called for her to face criminal charges.”

Other “senior opposition figures have gone into hiding or self-exile in Europe, the US, Japan or Cambodia.”

Thaksin Shinawatra has been quiet.

Jakrapob observes that “the opposition was divided between those who wanted to fight on and those who felt demoralised after the latest coup.”

The Free Thai Movement, which Jakrapob helped form, says it will “seek to rally Thais living abroad, including up to 300,000 in the US, to back the democratic cause.”

It’s latest statement is reproduced at Asia Provocateur, and also available as แถลงการณ์อย่างเป็นทางการ: “องค์กรเสรีไทยประณามการควบคุมสื่อของคณะเผด็จการทหารไทย”

The movement states that it will “also press western governments to impose sanctions against the Thai dictatorship, beyond the limited countermeasures launched” to date.

Jakrapob states: “We need to mount external support … to finish the unfinished revolution…”. He adds: “The reform of Thailand has to involve the monarchy…. We can’t keep saying they’re above politics…”.

Jakrapob says that the “latest coup may have been prompted by tensions surrounding the succession of 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” That was also a line run at the time of the 2006 coup.

Whether it is about succession or not, it is clear that the monarchy remains central for the royalist elite’s rule. As Jakrapob observes, “the crisis stemmed from the unwillingness of the Thai elite to cede political and economic power to the rural masses.”

The monarchy is critical to this “unwillingness.” After all, the “children” cannot know better than the “father.”

 





Updated: The dictatorship and fabricated claims

29 06 2014

As most readers will be aware, the Dictator and his military junta will brook no inference as they suppress and threaten their way to “royalist reconciliation.” Their latest stunt is a claim that anti-coup activist and one of the leaders of the Organisation for FreeThais for Human Rights and Democracy, Jakrapob Penkair is a gun runner. Yesterday, the military dictatorship issued a further arrest warrant for him, claiming “possession of war weapons…”.

The claim is considered a fabrication for at least two reasons.

First, Jakrapob has recently been in Cambodia and Hong Kong, setting up the Organisation for FreeThais for Human Rights and Democracy, and it is this which causes the charge. The junta is merely seeking a pretext that “makes it possible for authorities to seek the extradition of Mr Jakrapob from any country with which Thailand has a criminal extradition treaty. The other charges against him of lese majeste and failing to report to coup authorities are not extraditable offences.”

The senior policeman making the charge is the now notorious junta lackey Somyos Pumpanmuang, who is running a mission for the junta that includes quite ridiculous extradition warrants against Rose Amornpat, and suppressing peaceful demonstrators with massive police “rallies.” He also recently led a “police taskforce is investigating recent discoveries and seizures of war weapons and arms caches in Bangkok and other provinces to identify who supplied them.”

A second reason for considering this charge fabricated is related to the “seizure” of weapons. PPT has previously expressed skepticism regarding the remarkable “finds” the police and military claim to have made. We have also posted several times on how many of the military’s own weapons go missing and are traded.

The Bangkok Post reports on one of the biggest finds. Police proudly proclaimed that a “haul of war weapons seized in Nakhon Ratchasima on Monday will be expanded to locate the source of money used to procure them.” The “haul” included “firearms, including assault rifles, magazines and various types of ammunition,” and grenades. The weapons were “seized” on “a house belonging to Noppadol Petchmadan, 42, in Nakhon Ratchasima.” The diligent cops proclaimed that they were investigating “the red-shirt linked ‘Khon Kaen model’ armed network, which the suspect is allegedly connected to.”

The so-called Khon Kaen Model is quite possibly just one more military concoction. That aside, what  did suspect Noppadol have to do and say?

The “raid” netted “four M-16 assault rifles, six other automatic rifles, including one AK-47, two machine guns, a shotgun, a firecracker launcher, an M-79 grenade launcher, two bulletproof vests and various types of ammunition,” all said to be “brand new.”

Noppadol “denied any involvement with the ‘Khon Kaen model’ armed network.” In fact, he stated that “he was well-known among many people in the weapons trade, including soldiers, police and government officials.” He admitted “procuring weapons…”. Of course he did. That is is way of making a living, and as he has stated, the police and military “trade weapons” and know him.

We simply do not believe the claims made by the military dictatorship. They are self-serving and altogether too convenient.

Meanwhile, as might be expected, at Asia Provocateur, Jakrapob Penkair, the Executive Secretary of Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FT-HD) has denied the claims made by the military dictatorship.

The charges levelled against me today by Thailand’s illegitimate coup regime reveal, once again, the desperation of the Generals and the Establishment they represent. The false claim that I am behind some kind of “armed element” is not only a fiction but yet another example of the injudiciousness of the fraudulent Thai junta.

Let me be clear – there is simply no evidence whatsoever to connect me to the junta’s seizure of arms and I would challenge them to produce such evidence. Of course, even the seizure of said arms has more than a whiff of suspicion about them. There has been no independent investigation regarding these arms’ seizures, no chain of evidence has been preserved and the kind of claims the junta are putting forward are so flimsy they would be washed away very quickly when subject to proper cross-examination.

As for any attempt to “extradite” me on such charges, the junta must know that no government on earth would succumb to their threats and that I would be given full access to any evidence they have concocted and also the platform to challenge such evidence.

For the record, I must state that I have no involvement in any kind of “armed” struggle. I believe fully in a political, social and cultural struggle secured in reality by the democratic will of the Thai people. The Generals and their Establishment masters know very well that if the democratic will of the Thai people is expressed, power will be removed from them and returned to more accountable and legal forms.

It’s only two days ago our organisation was being dismissed as “irrelevant” by the junta. Now we face allegations of being behind a regime-concocted “armed struggle” along with attempts to curtail our rights to travel via the revocations of passports. These actions by the junta reveal only one thing – their increasingly obvious insecurity – something which will only grow in the days and weeks to come.

That’s why the only “judicial” vehicle they could use to expedite their false charges would be through their own military-run “courts” where due process and the rule of law have long been abolished in favour of despotism. It must be said that any and all cases coming before the military “courts” exist in the context of a form of jurisprudence that is little more than a theatre of the absurd, such is the lack of any form of legal rights.

At the moment the military and the forces they represent are the only agents engaged in any kind of illegitimate “armed” struggle against the will of the Thai people. Those who believe in democracy have no need to use force of arms as we are fully confident that the moment the franchise is returned to Thais the junta will be little more than an historical aberration.

I should add that the revocation of passports by the junta is not only another grotesque repressive act it also turns any Thai citizen who stands against the military regime into political refugees. Such revocations will further expose to the global community that the junta are little more than petulant tyrants operating far beyond the norms of international law.

We ask our supporters to remain steadfast and not be distressed or disheartened by the junta’s threats and games. The only action the junta have available to themselves is to attempt to crush the hopes and aspirations of ordinary Thais. Yet, with each turn of the repressive screw, the junta just further seal their own fate and will strengthen your resolve to return sovereignty to the Thai people.”

Update: Junta flunkey Pol Gen Somyos said “police did not need to ‘make up’ evidence as alleged by Mr Jakrapob to make it possible to seek his extradition from Hong Kong or elsewhere.” Somyos is playing catch up on this because he simply can’t produce any evidence for the claims he makes. But why does he say that they don’t need this well-crafted “evidence” to extradite Jakrapob? It is Jakrapob’s “alleged criminal offence” associated with his alleged “involvement in leading red-shirt supporters to stage a violent protest at the home of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda on July 22, 2007…”. Yep, something that happened seven years ago, and following the period when the Abhisit Vejjajiva military-backed government was in power. Why didn’t they think of this? No prizes for a correct answer.





Opposing the Constitutional Court

24 03 2014

The Bangkok Post includes a story about a “group of academics calling themselves the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD) yesterday issued a statement opposing the Constitution Court’s ruling to void the results of the Feb 2 general election.” We thought this statement well worth reproducing in full, and nicked it from Asia Provocateur:

Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

We Oppose the Ruling of the Constitutional Court Intended to Render the 2 February 2014 Election Unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court has ruled on a matter forwarded to them by the Ombudsman under Article 245 (1) of the Constitution. The matter in question was whether or not the general parliamentary election held on 2 February 2014, in line with the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), was constitutional. In a statement announced by the Chief Spokesperson  of the Constitutional Court, the Court commented that there were 28 electoral districts in which there were no candidates who submitted applications to contend in the 2 February 2014 election.  The Court further commented that elections cannot be held in those districts after 2 February because the effect would be that the general election was not held simultaneously on the same day across the kingdom. Therefore, the Court ruled that the 2 February 2014 election was not one that was held simultaneously on the same day throughout the kingdom. The effect of this ruling is to make the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), particularly the setting of the date of 2 February 2014 for the election, unconstitutional and in contradiction with Article 108, paragraph two, of the Constitution. It is the view of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD) that this ruling of the Constitutional Court ruling contains the following problems of constitutionality and political legitimacy:

1. Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of Thailand stipulates that the Ombudsman can propose a matter to the Constitutional Corut when he thinks that there is “any provision of law that begs the question of constitutionality.” Therefore, the substance of the case that the Ombudsman has the discretion to send to the Constitutional Court to consider must be a “provision of law.” But in this case, the clearly visible problem is that the substance of the case is “the holding of the general election.” When the substance of the case is not a “provision of law,” the Ombudsman cannot propose the case to the Constitutional Court, and if the Ombudsman forwards such a matter to the Constitutional Court, it is the duty of the Court to refuse to accept the request for examination. The acceptance of the aforementioned matter by the Constitutional Court is unconstitutional in line with Article 245 (1) and is equivalent to the Constitutional Court singlehandedly amending the Constitution and altering the substance of the permitted cases for examination under Article 245 (1). There is no provision in the Constitution that gives the Constitutional Court the authority to do so.

2. Article 108, paragraph two, of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand prescribes that, “The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed within the period of not less than forty five days but not more than sixty days as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom.” The facts show that the election day was set for the same date (2 February 2014) throughout the whole kingdom in the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013). The aforementioned setting of the date of the general election was therefore constitutional.

But in this case it appears that the Constitutional Court has used evidence of events that occurred after, and were unrelated to the setting of the date of the general election, as the basis of their examination. In other words, the Court used the fact of candidates not being able to register to compete in the election in 28 electoral districts to claim that if a general election was held in these districts after 2 February 2014, it would mean that the general election was not held on the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. The Court made this claim even though the Constitution does not mandate that the general election must occur on the same day throughout the whole kingdom. There may be acts of god or other unavoidable incidents which may make holding an election on the same day as the rest of the country impossible in some districts. The Constitution stipulates only that the election day must be “set” to be the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. Therefore, the setting of the date was already done constitutionally.

3. In addition, there is also the fact that, on the whole, the 2 February 2014 election passed in an orderly fashion. The Constitutional Court’s raising of the instances of not being able to register to run for election in some districts as a result of obstruction by some individuals in order to claim that the section of the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013) that set the date for the general election was unconstitutional was done with the intention to spoil the  election. In addition to having no basis in law, there is an additional problem of interpretation of this ruling. Have the ballots of those people who went to vote on 2 February 2014 been destroyed or not, and under the authority of which Constitutional or other legal provision?

4. Analyzed from a perspective of political struggle, it can be seen that the obstacle to the election came from the collaboration between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and individuals who support the PDRC inside and outside the Parliament, and collaboration between those who are overt and covert in their actions to destroy parliamentary democracy. In addition, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) did not act with an intention to work in line with their framework of authority and duty in order to successfully hold elections. Therefore, an effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court is to prop up opposition to electoral democracy and make it come to fruition. This ruling disregards and neglects the rights of the people: those who hold the authority [in the country] and can express this authority in line with the rules and regulations that are in force.

5. This cooperation to oppose democracy will continue to create a political vacuum in order to open up the space for an extraconstitutional prime minister and government to come to power, and in order to push forward amendment of the Constitution in a direction that will weaken and devastate electoral democracy. The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy therefore condemns these attempts, those that have occurred and those that will occur in the near future, as antithetical to the basic rights and liberties of the people.

6. It is clear that from the 2006 coup up until the present, all of the independent agencies and the judiciary have become instruments of a powerful minority group acting in opposition to democracy. This group does so simply because they wish to swiftly destroy their political opponents. This has allowed the independent organizations and the judiciary to become distorted and seized to be used in the service of the destruction of democracy and the economic development of the country for the the sole purpose of causing the nation to become stagnant in a smelly, clogged whirlpool of violent conflict without end. Therefore, it is time for the people to come together to demand that the independent organizations and the judiciary are reformed and checks and balances are established. It is time to demand that these important mechanisms of the country come to be under the supervision of organizations representive of the voice of the majority. The people must take on these important tasks and make these changes come to fruition in the near future.

7. This method of spoiling elections has progressed for nearly a decade and may cause the nation to fall into a state of violence from which there is no exit. This state will remain until every authority and every side in Thai society comes to respect the equal voting rights of the people.

The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy would like to assert that the only solution for Thai society at present is to accept the principles of “equality of the people,” “sovereignty belongs to the entirety of Thai people,” “legitimacy of the majority,” and “respect in the rights and liberties of minority voices.” This is necessary to carry out reforms to eradicate the mechanisms that are antithetical to democracy, and before democracy, which is barely holding on at present, is completely destroyed.





On democracy in Thailand

19 12 2013

Readers will find something of interest in two recent posts by Andrew Spooner. The first is at Left Foot Forward, a UK political blog, about the fascist turn in Thailand and those opposing it. He concludes:

Thailand stands at crossroads – the potential for civil war is now obvious and fascism is rearing its ugly head. It’s time for the global community of democrats – whether on the left or the right – to stand shoulder to shoulder with those battling extremism in Thailand.

The second is at his own Asia Provocateur blog, where he has “asked four prominent persons from what I would call Thailand’s “pro-democracy alliance” the four same questions to gauge the range of thoughts and feelings as to the country’s present political situation.” The four are: “trade unionist and possible prospective party list MP candidate for the new Palang Prachathipatai Party (Democratic Force Party)” Jitra Kotchadej, political exile, Jakrapob Penkair; Secretary General to Yingluck Shinawatra, Suranand Vejjajiva, and Panuwat Panduprasert, a lecturer in the Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration at Chiang Mai University.

 





Violence and bias

28 11 2013

Readers will find Asia Provocateur Andrew Spooner’s recent post on violence and media bias of interest. His point is that these demonstrations, like those of PAD in earlier days and the various ginger groups that preceded Suthep Thaugsuban’s current lot, ooze right-wing and violent ideology. He uses the term fascist to describe the “movement.”

Their spokesperson says they are “civilized.” If they say it, the idea seems to be that it will eventually be believed. She should have just said that the protesters represent the rich, for the rich believe they are civilized compared with the nasty red shirt lot who are farmers and workers.

It seems that some of the media supporters of the current lot are having second thoughts:

It is undeniable the government has reached an impasse and lost legitimacy to run the country…. But the protesters are also destroying their own legitimacy more and more by violating the laws.

The first sentence is wrong, but the second betrays the concern that Suthep is losing momentum.





Updated: On Suthep, monarchy and violence

25 11 2013

In an earlier post we mentioned Suthep Thaugsuban’s call to make the country’s administration a genuine monarchy. Jakrapob Penkair, who says this was a call for an absolute monarchy, comments at Asia Provocateur. He notes that “… Suthep is practically changing his stage rhetoric from anti-government into anti-democratic regime-change.” Revealing its bias, The Nation is reporting only the Democrat Party’s “fixed” version of Suthep’s call for a change of government, claiming he said:

“A people’s government will be established to amend the country’s rules so that it is genuinely a democracy under constitutional monarchy,” he said…. Suthep encouraged people who back the protesters’ cause to seize state power “with their bare hands” by occupying government offices all across the country.

In amongst all of this, the palace managed to get out some propaganda pictures of the beach-side monarch. This goes hand-in-hand with bizarre denials of any behind-the-scenes activism in Thailand, claims that the foreign media “hate” or “loathe” the monarchy, and manufactured complaints about the foreign media’s “bias,” that lend themselves to xenophobia and violence. Such complaints mirror elite, palace and royalist barking about CNN and other media during red shirt protests.

Suthep’s demonstrators are being egged on with calls to violence couched in terms of saving the country and monarchy. As the Bangkok Post states, he “ordered protesters to storm into the offices of the Finance Ministry and the Budget Bureau in the afternoon. Later, another group of demonstrators seized offices inside the Foreign Affairs Ministry.”

The TJA executive meets on lese majeste

The TJA executive meets

There have been intimidatory challenges to the media and attacks on journalists. Remarkably, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Thai Journalists’ Association could only manage a mild statement on such intimidation, while essentially justifying the actions of protesters. Such bias is expected from the ultra-royalist organizations, mirroring their previous bias.

The imagery has been violent for some days, and Suthep’s call for a genuine monarchy is mirrored in this photo of demonstrators from a weeks or so ago attacking the World Court and calling for the heads of “traitors,” while displaying royal and royalist paraphernalia:

Beheadings

Some of this violence and direct action has caused the Yingluck Shinawatra government to extend the Internal Security Act to cover Bangkok, Nonthaburi and other nearby areas.

Update: The Bangkok Post is reporting that:

… Suthep Thaugsuban has now called on demonstrators to seize state offices nationwide, including provincial halls and district offices, after protesters on Monday stormed the Finance Ministry, the Budget Bureau, the Foreign Ministry and the Pubic Relations Department (PRD).

As with the PAD demonstrations in 2008, this illegal confrontation is meant to create a crisis situation that will propel some action by judiciary, palace or military. Does Suthep have a plan? Who does he hope will intervene?





Spooner and Suranand

18 11 2013

Readers will no doubt find Andrew Spooner’s interview with Suranand Vejjajiva of some interest. Suranand is Secretary General to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. PPT will highlight a couple of points while urging readers to consult the whole interview.

The first interesting point for us is on the amnesty:

Was it a mistake to attempt a blanket amnesty?

The intention of the blanket amnesty bill is based on to forgive (but not forget). Many countries with violent political conflicts eventually end up with amnesties as a mechanism to set the country back on track. It is not a mistake but maybe a little too naive and “off” in terms of timing and communicating to the general public.

SuranandThis is surprising. Suranand usually has a good feel for the political pulse. This response might be spin, but if it is in any way real it suggests that the Puea Thai government is out of touch with its support base. If that were the case, it would be very dangerous for the party and government. It is important that Puea Thai not take the red shirts or the voters for granted. They are comrades and supporters who expect to be heard.

Critics claim the govt let down their supporters by not reforming laws like lese majeste or not doing enough to free the Red Shirt prisoners – what would you say to them?

The government has been trying to work to free the Red Shirt political prisoners as hard as possible. Some has been released but many remained, stuck in the judicial maze. The work will need to continue. As for lese majeste, the law remains a sensitive issue in Thailand.

Excellent question and a tired and rather pathetic answer. Wouldn’t it be remarkable to hear some one in (any) government actually explain the real reasons for sensitivity on the now completely bonkers lese majeste law.








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