Students rolling, royalists reacting

23 08 2020

As demonstrations continue, it might be expected that the young students and their supporters might be losing some support by demanding reform of the monarchy and calling for an end to the military-backed regime, both seen by conservatives as the cornerstone of the status quo.

In fact, this doesn’t seem to be happening. The Bangkok Post reports two surveys, one by the seldom trustworthy NIDA Poll with 1,312 respondents and another by the Suan Dusit Poll which claims 197,029 respondents. Go beyond the headlines, and it seems that a large majority support the students and their headline three demands. It also seems that support for the regime has dropped even more.

In the most recent demonstration in Khon Kaen, a statement was issued and called:

for an end to intimidation of the people, the government’s legal action against people with different opinions, inequality in education, inequities in the justice process and the plunder of natural resources.

“We want rights and freedom and human dignity because we are not slaves. We want a democracy which belongs to the people. We want equality in education and true justice in the judicial process. We want the decentralisation of power and the right of communities to manage their own resources. We want a new democracy….

Interestingly, several of these demands have ideological continuities with the rights demands heard during red shirt rallies a decade ago. That seems organic in the sense that many of today’s protesters were very young when the red shirts rose.

When the military has its government pad out its budget through rubber-stamping in parliament, the students get more supporters.

Regime and royalist reaction is pretty much what might be expected. As well as giving the military more kit, the regime is shoring up its support among the top brass. An example it Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s likely pick for next air force boss. Apparently, the job requirement is that the appointee must be “intelligent, ethical, dedicated and loyal to the monarchy.” We doubt the first two criteria can be fulfilled along with the last requirement. The other loyalty must be to the regime’s leaders.

Rightists are straggling along, as yet not well organized. This means they flop back on old tactics. For example, the “independent” agencies are used to undermine those various rightists think are “behind the children.” So it is that serial complainer Srisuwan Janya “says he will petition the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether the Move Forward Party (MFP) broke the law on political parties by proposing to amend the constitution’s Chapters 1 and 2 which contain general principles and sections associated with the monarchy.” Who pays him?

And surveillance and repression continues. As would be expected, “[s]ecurity agencies are keeping an eye on political activities ahead of a planned student rally on Sept 19 to prevent protest actions that may lead to violence and unrest…”, painting a picture of “Hong Kong violence,” obviously seeking to influence and agitate the Sino-Thais of Bangkok and linking to yellow-shirt ideologues who follow Russian troll sites on “color revolutions.”

They are also seeking to limit protest growth through political alliances with groups like the Assembly of the Poor. Hence last week’s arrest of the Assembly secretary-general, Baramee Chairat, for alleged offenses at the 18 July rally.

We doubt that these military and police spies are about preventing violence and are more about preventing protest and agitating against the “children.”

There’s a long road to be traveled.





HRW on arrests

20 08 2020

Human Rights Watch has issued a note on some of the recent arrests of political activists:

Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists
Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists Authorities Disregard Own Pledge to Allow Dissent

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release prominent pro-democracy activists arbitrarily detained for their role in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today. On August 19, 2020, Thai police separately arrested Arnon Nampha, Baramee Chairat, Suwanna Tanlek, and Korakot Saengyenphan, charged them with sedition and other offenses, and jailed them.

“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release Arnon and other detained activists.”

Police arrested Arnon, a defense lawyer with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, outside the Bangkok Criminal Court after he finished his day’s cases. He was charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with an intent to cause violence, violating the ban on public gatherings, and other criminal offenses related to his involvement in a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on August 3. At the protest, he wore a Harry Potter costume and publicly demanded reforms to bring Thailand’s monarchy into conformance with democratic constitutional principles. The police detained him at the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok.

Three other activists – including Baramee from the Assembly of the Poor in Bangkok, Suwanna from the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot from the Democracy Restoration Group – also face sedition and other charges similar to those brought against Arnon. They have been detained at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

The police previously arrested Arnon on similar charges together with another pro-democracy activist, Panupong Jadnok, on August 7. A week later, on August 14, the police arrested a well-known student leader, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, bringing similar accusations.

These six activists are among 31 people whom the police were purportedly seeking to arrest for speaking onstage at a protest sponsored by the Free Youth Movement in Bangkok on July 18. Since the Free Youth Movement held that peaceful protest in front of the Democracy Monument demanding democracy, political reforms, and respect for human rights, youth-led protests by various groups have spread across in Thailand. The largest protest was in Bangkok on August 16, with more than 20,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, respect for freedom of expression, and reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb the current monarch’s powers.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied that he ordered the police to arrest the activists and has maintained his pledge to listen to the youth protests. “There has been no order from the prime minister to target those activists,” General Prayuth said during a media interview on August 15. “The police simply use their own judgment and carry out their duty to uphold the law. In the current situation all sides should be reasonable and listen [to each other]. We need to avoid provocation and confrontation.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

Government repression has intensified in Thailand over the past five months as the authorities used state of emergency powers assumed by the government to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government protests and harass pro-democracy activists.

International pressure is urgently needed to press the Thai government to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests, and release those arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said.

“The United Nations and concerned governments should speak out publicly against the rolling political repression in Thailand,” Adams said. “Thai youth are increasingly demanding real progress toward democracy and the rule of law so they can freely express their visions for the future of the country.”





Activism and ingrained despotic paternalism

22 02 2017

Prachatai has a series of reports that deserve attention.

Anti-military base activism:

The military in southern Thailand have summoned villagers campaigning against a junta development project to a military base.

On 19 February 2017, the Assembly of the Poor, a civil society organisation advocating for marginalised communities in Thailand, reported via its Facebook page that 15 soldiers have visited villagers of Tha Sae District in the southern province of Chumphon.

Activists call for justice:

Human rights defenders accused by the military of criminal defamation for exposing torture in the Deep South have urged prosecutors to seek more witnesses.

On 21 February 2017, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF); Somchai Homla-or, Advisor to the CrCF; and Anchana Heemmina, President of the Duay Jai group, submitted a letter to the Prosecutor Office of the Deep Southern Province of Pattani.

The letter asked the prosecutors to demand police officers interrogate 14 more witnesses, reasoning that the police have only questioned some 10 witnesses even though there are more than 20 witnesses willing to testify in the three’s defence.

Activist calls for a counter-coup:

A leader of the recent protest against a coal-fired power plant has urged a high ranking general to stage a coup against the ruling junta if it does not keep its promise to postpone the power plant project.

On 20 February 2017, ML Rungkun Kitiyakara, one of the leaders of the recent protest at Government House, posted on his Facebook urging Army Region 1 Commander Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong to side with protesters if the junta breaks its promise to delay the power plant project.

While the first two stories refer to political activism defending human rights, the final story suggests how yellow shirt activists continue to rely on the military. This is an elitist “activism” of rightists who seem unable to dispense with the military’s despotic paternalism.

That story went on, indicating the elitist activists identifying splits within the military:

Rungkun posted that if the junt[a] pushes the power plan project forward, he will ask for more than bus tickets.

“I believe the junta won’t dare to break the agreement. But if it does… in addition to the bus tickets, there’s a high chance that we will need your [Apirat’s] tanks,” read Rungkun’s post.

[Ultra-nationalist yellow shirt] Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of Anti-Corruption Network and an opponent to the power plant project, also posted a similar message on his Facebook.

“Dear ‘Daeng’ (Apirat’s nickname), I believe you’re a soldier, a soldier of the King. If the junta betrays the people and the nation, you will not let it remain in power and keep ruining the country, will you? You will not disappoint the people, right?”

The monarchism expressed here reinforces political notions of despotic paternalism.





Resistance matters

18 01 2016

Resistance to the military dictatorship has been constant. Yet the regime has also been quite successful in repressing opponents.

Maintaining pressure on the regime is critical for Thailand’s future. Time and again in the past, students and academics have been important in opposing authoritarianism. Things are challenging this time, with these groups having been split by the red-yellow divide.

Yet it is heartening to see the neo-democracy students being so brave in facing down the military dictatorship. According to a story at Khaosod, academics are following suit.

The report states that “[p]ro-democracy academics want to shift to a proactive stance in an attempt to restore some political rights amid concerns the junta may attempt to remain in power much longer.”

They are right to be concerned for Thailand’s political future.

The report is about a group of “[s]ome 30 academics and NGO activists organized as ‘Thai Academics for Civil Rights’ [which] will meet Thursday through Saturday to review their role and come up with strategies and measures to push back against repression by the military junta against students and scholars.”

Anusorn Unno, the dean of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, asked: “What can we do to steal the agenda from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)?” He said:

his group is counting on the growing disillusionment of groups which used to support the coup-makers, including medical doctors, NGO workers, rubber farmers and some members of the movement created to oust the former civilian government, the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy with the King as Head of State, or PCAD.

These people increasingly recognize that paving way for the military to seize power didn’t enable [the country] to progress…. It wasn’t that clear in the first year since the coup, but the dust has now settled.

In fact, it was clear from day 1, but we agree that a wider group is beginning to see the failures and strategies of the dictatorship for embedding royalist authoritarianism.

Anusorn observes that: “The support base of the regime is eroding and simmering conflicts which have been suppressed await to be reignited…”. He mentioned Corruption Park.

The Assembly of the Poor is involved, with Barame Chairat, a coordinator, observing: “I agree that we need to launch an offensive because we have been on the receiving end so far… If we don’t do this, more will suffer.”





Who is brainless?

17 06 2015

The Assembly of the Poor is a group that has been active on rural political and resource issues since the mid-1990s and has been the subject of several academic articles [clicking opens a PDF] and books. It is a group that has clashed with the state on policy and projects, has needled various governments, including with protests in Bangkok, and has represented the poor in many parts of the country.

In other words, this is an activist group that has worked in, around and against various governments for a very long time. As a result, it is well-known by the authorities, who have accommodated to the AOP’s strategies.

But this seems not to mitigate the reaction of the military dictatorship’s flunkies who fear and abhor all “political activities.”

At Prachatai it is reported that a 13 June meeting of villagers in Chai Baa Daan District in Lopburi organised by the AOP to discuss a land dispute has been invaded by the men in green.

The Thai Lawyer for Human Rights Center (TLHR) says that a military squad “stormed into [the] meeting, citing the junta’s Order No. 7/2014 that bans “political” meetings. They took photos and confiscated documents, including a list of participants. This was despite the fact that the meeting had “already approved by the local administrative officials…”.

The local military may have their own local connections to support on this land dispute, for the commander of the squad reacted negatively, declaring that “villagers were ‘brainless’ and ‘do not have much brain cells’ in dealing with land issues.” He blamed the villagers for the ongoing dispute.





Junta is illegitimate

22 02 2015

PPT is late posting this, and we thank a reader for sending it on.It is clear and concise. We earlier referred to primitive accumulation in describing the actions of the state and military under the dictatorship as it clears out opposition to the control of wealth in Thailand. Perhaps it is this kind of opposition that makes The Dictator angry?:

Statement of Assembly of the Poor
Condemning the Use of Violence against the Poor to Protect the Capitalists’ Interests

On 3 February 2015 Mr. Pianrat Boonrit, the president of an agricultural cooperative, a member of Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand, was summoned by the military for attitude adjustment and detained in a jail in Vibhavadirangsit Military Camp in Surat Thani Province until 5 February 2015. On the same evening the military demolished Permsab Community (a member of the agricultural cooperative, the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand). The community locates in Chaiyaburi District in Surat Thani Province. The community members are struggling for land rights. They held a vigil not allowing the capitalist to enter and harvest oil palms in a national reserved forest of which the concession was expired for 14 years. Later on 11 February 2015 Mr. Chai Boonthonglek, age 61, also a member of the Federation was shot dead.

Yesterday (13 February 2015), the joint armed force of police and military officers guarded a private company’s transportation of the drilling equipment into Ban Na-moon Village, Doon Sad Sub-district, Kra-nuan District in Khonkaen Province to install the drilling rig. The drilling is continuously opposed by local people. Even the National Reform Council, hand-picked by National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) itself, voted 130 to 79 against the petroleum concession policy. But the NCPO [the military junta] does not listen and is stubbornly determined to use violence to clear the path for the capitalists.

Assembly of the Poor sees that these actions demonstrate the thoughtless and excessive abuse of authority, the disrespect of law and the leadership that acts like a doggish servant to the capitalists and is much more evil and wicked than politicians whom NCPO itself overthrew.

Assembly of the Poor condemns such actions of the NCPO. We see that the NCPO is not legitimate to govern the country. Its illegitimacy is even stronger than before. We do not have any demand to NPCO.

We would only like to call on to people from all walks of life to oust the NPCO if the NPCO does not immediately return the sovereignty back to people.

” Democracy where people can eat, Politics where the poor matter.”
Assembly of the Poor
14 February 2015





Assembly of the Poor activist arrested

17 07 2014

PPT reproduces this news:

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-138-2014
July 17, 2014

THAILAND: Arrest of human rights defender and land rights activist

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to express grave concern about the arrest of Prom Jarana (64 years old), a human rights defender and land rights activist with the Assembly of the Poor in Kaobart Village, Nondindaeng District, Buriram province. According to information provided by Protection International and the Assembly of the Poor to the AHRC, Prom was arrested by a group of soldiers and police at his home at 10:30 am on 17 July 2014 and taken to a military camp. His arrest comes after weeks of intimidation and threatened evictions against the community. Prom’s family was not informed of where or why he was being taken.

The arbitrary arrest and detention of Prom Jarana is a component of the attack on human rights which has taken place following the 22 May 2014 coup in Thailand. Led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the NCPO took power and abrogated the constitution in Thailand. During the first seven weeks of rule by the junta, there have been severe restrictions placed on freedom of expression and political freedom, ongoing formal and informal summons to report to the junta, extensive use of arbitrary detention, the activation of military courts to process dissidents, a targeted attack on poor and dispossessed people and the creation of a general climate of fear detrimental to human rights and the rule of law. Under the terms of martial law, which were put in place two days prior to the coup, soldiers can detain and interrogate anyone for up to seven days without having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. People arrested can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased.

Prom Jarana is a resident and human rights defender in Kaobart Village, Nondindaeng District, Buriram province.  The village has had a longstanding conflict with the Thai state over their right to live in the forest. The actions against he and his fellow villagers have been justified by the NCPO through two orders related to state forest policy. NCPO Order No. 64/2557 [2014], issued on 14 June 2014, provided government agencies with additional power to suppress and stop encroachment in land designated as forest.  NCPO Order No. 66/2557 [2014], issued on 17 June 2014, created a special unit of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), an agency comprised of military, police, and civilian officials, to aid in the enforcement of NCPO Order No. 64/2557 [2014]. Although the NCPO insisted that the actions of the officials must not harm poor people, thus far, the policies seem designed to do so.

On 28 June 2014, a group of approximately 50 fully-armed army, police and forest officials entered the village. The villagers were informed the army wanted to reclaim the land and the villagers had to dismantle their houses and leave the village. If the villagers refused to do so, the officials would return to dismantle their houses and evict them. The attack on Prom Jarana and Kaobart Village is not an isolated incident, but are part of a broader pattern that has affected more than 300 households and total of more than 1,000 people. The Asian Human Rights Commission has received reports that between 27 June and 2 July, army, police, and forestry officials have carried out similar campaigns of intimidation and threatened evictions in other parts of Buriram province, including Saeng Sawan,Talat Khwai, Pa Mamuang, Klong Hin Mai, and Sam Salueng villages. A group of 10 village leaders from Saeng Sawan village were arbitrarily detained without charge for seven days at the Somdet Chaophraya Mahakasatsuk; the villagers were never informed of the reason for their detention. In all of these villages, the villagers were told to dismantle their houses and leave the village. They were given until 7 to 10 July, before the officials would return to forcibly evict them. While the officials have not yet returned to forcibly evict the villagers, surveillance and intimidation of the villagers continues, and the villagers live with a constant threat of eviction.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms and wishes to express grave concern about the rapid decline of human rights protections it has engendered. The AHRC calls for the immediate release of Prom Jarana and all those who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained by the National Council for Peace and Order for their work defending human rights. Further, the AHRC calls on the NCPO and all other state security officials in Thailand to cease using the coup and the imposition of martial law as the justification to disregard human rights. To defend human rights is not a crime.





Bringing down the government

23 11 2012

Many in Pitak Siam are gleeful that the Constitutional Court has refused to seriously consider petitions against its rally and that the Yingluck Shinawatra government has been spooked into invoking the Internal Security Act.

But apart from that, little seems to have changed amongst the groups that are coming together to further undermine the elected government.

According to the Bangkok Post, the big rally supporters are from “the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) … [and] several active and retired soldiers will also join the ranks, along with strategic and tactical advisers…”.

Then there is the misnamed “multi-coloured-shirt group led by Tul Sitthisomwong,” which are simply ultra-royalist-fascists; the equally misnamed ultra-nationalist “Peace-Loving Thais group led by Kanchanee Walayasevi.” Of course the shock troops provided by PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang’s Dhamma Army will be there. So will the Democrat Party-aligned “Group of People from 16 Southern Provinces led by Sunthorn Rakrong” and the dinosaur  “group of state enterprise labour union activists led by Somsak Kosaisuk, a former PAD co-leader.”

The Post tries to claim that there will be new groups attending, including “the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-move), which consists of landless farmers, displaced people, and those affected by state projects; the Network of Small-Scale Northeastern Farmers; and the Assembly of the Poor.” All were part of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements in the past and aligned with the PAD, so there is nothing new here.

It is somewhat surprising that the AoP is returning to the fascist-yellow side given that its grassroots supporters have previously rejected PAD. PPT imagines that the old pro-PAD leadership is struggling to regain control of the AoP.

For all of this claim to “variety”, the basic hue remains yellow and the “anti-government rally tomorrow is expected to be mainly Bangkok residents and supporters of the opposition Democrat Party, many of whom are unhappy with the Yingluck administration.”

 





Updated: The poor protest

16 02 2011

Yesterday PPT posted on the expansion of protests in Bangkok. In the Bangkok Post, it is reported that an “alliance of thousands of poor people began a protest in front of the parliament on Wednesday, demanding earnest implementation of the government’s pro-poor agenda policy before politicians become pre-occupied with election campaigning.”

Urban and rural poor are said to have “converged on Bangkok today, joining 300 villagers from Chaiyaphum, Ubon Ratchathani and Buri Ram who have already been camping in front of the Forestry Industry Organisation (FIO) for nearly two weeks.” They vowed to “stay put until the politicians really do something.”

Bangkok Post photo

Referring to the gabfest that has gone on about “reducing social inequality and reforming this and that” from the government the poor claim to have seen little in real terms.

As an example, the article states that there are some “900 criminal and civil lawsuits were filed against the urban and rural poor in land disputes, mostly by state agencies.” It is claimed that the Abhisit Vejjajiva “administration has only offered sweet talk to calm us or appease us temporarily without seriously solving our life and death problem…”.

Update: The Nation includes this useful map of protests:

From The Nation





Bangkok protests

15 02 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that summonses have now been issued targeting  the 10 co-leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), “requiring them to report to police for violating an order of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO)…” under the Internal Security Act. CAPO prohibited the use of roads around Government House and the parliament that were occupied by PAD .

Those summonsed are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Prapan Khoonmee, Panthep Puapongpan, Rak Rakpong (Samana Pothirak, leader of the Santi Asoke sect), Suriyasai Katasila, Terdphum Jaidee, Pibhop Dhongchai, Amorn Amornrattananond and Tossapol Kaewthima.

While Chamlong Srimuang said his group would co-operate  with the police, he had brought a civil suit against a police investigator on the 2008 airports case, and The Nation reports that the The Thai Patriot Network had “filed a complaint with Central Administrative Court, asking the court to annul the government’s ban on demonstrations in seven Bangkok districts…. The complaint alleged that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cabinet had unlawfully invoked the Internal Security Act to ban demonstrations in seven Bangkok districts.”

PAD protests are likely to be bolstered each time there is a clash on the Thai-Cambodian border. PAD’s unhappiness with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is likely to further increase.

The red shirts now seem remarkably “well behaved” when they protest.

Just to add to the mix of protests, the Bangkok Post reports that the Assembly of the Poor, which was seen as weakening, now “says thousands of its members are on their way to Bangkok for a protest to put pressure on the government to open all the sluice gates of the Pak Moon dam and properly compensate people affected by its construction.”

An AOP protest in 2007

The AOP has been rallying in front of the Ubon Ratchathani provincial hall for more than a month and has now decided “to move its protest to the parliament in Bangkok.” The AOP expects 5,000 assembly members to make the trip to Bangkok.

Their action follows an unfulfilled promise in December from PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey to “seek cabinet approval for the permanent opening of the dam’s sluice gates.” Nothing had happened since the promise was made.

It seems that the Abhisit and his government is now faced with a growing array of issues and problems – the south, corruption, the border, protest groups, red shirts, the failure of investigations into the events of April and May 2010, increasing army dissonance, etc. – that make for considerable political uncertainty.