Libel, defamation and double standards

4 06 2016

Remember this from the Bangkok Post on 25 May?

The Appeals Court on Wednesday upheld the Criminal Court’s acquittal of former Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut of a charge of defaming former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in comments about her meeting with businessmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in 2012.

Chavanond’s claims were meant to imply several things and all were meant to denigrate Yingluck.

The Criminal Court dismissed the suit against Chavanond. An appeal was lodged and the “Appeals Court ruled that in his press interviews Mr Chavanond had not accused her of disclosing official secrets, but rather had made an honest criticism of her.”

Then what about this?

The Appeals Court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a defamation suit brought by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra against Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limthongkul and his two media businesses, and ASTV Co.

Thaksin alleged Sondhi defamed him while addressing PAD supporters at a rally at Government House on Oct 14, 2008. Sondhi accused Thaksin of infringing on the monarch’s powers, buying grass-roots voters, taking control of the police and bribing certain high-ranking military officials to weaken the royal institution.

His speech was broadcast live on ASTV News 1 satellite TV channel and also published on the website of the Manager daily newspaper.

The judge declared that while Sondhi’s words “were defamatory towards Thaksin, the defendant argued that there were other suspicious individuals who had political ties with the former premier as well as his close aides and henchmen such as Robert Amsterdam, Thaksin’s former lawyer who was accused of violating lese majeste law.”

The court decided that “Sondhi’s suspicions about Thaksin were genuinely felt and not therefore deemed an act of defamation.”

And what about this?

The Supreme Court Thursday reversed a ruling by the Court of Appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling sentencing red-shirt co-leader Jatuporn Prompan to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and fining him 50,000 baht for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Jatuporn made some remarks “accusing the then prime minister of wrongfully sitting in a chair that put him on the same level as His Majesty the King during a royal audience.” He accused Abhisit of failing to show due respect to the king.

The Criminal Court “ruled in Mr Abhisit’s favour, finding Mr Jatuporn’s remark was not made in good faith as it violated Section 328 of the Criminal Code.”

Jatuporn appealed and was acquitted by the Appeal Court, which “ruled his remarks were not defamatory.” Abhisit appealed to the Supreme Court. That court has decided that “Jatuporn had the intention to defame Mr Abhisit” and “reinstated the lower court’s ruling” and the jail sentence.

Readers might notice some similarities in these cases. Like a sore thumb, it sticks out that one side wins in each case.

Updated: Judicial bias favors lese majeste madness

26 12 2014

PPT’s readers should never be surprised by the political bias and gross double standards of the judiciary. At present, its the task assigned to it by the military dictatorship is to clean up a bunch of legal cases that hang over various royalists and to ensure that the political bias of the military dictatorship is institutionalized.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “criminal court has dismissed a libel case in which former foreign affairs minister Kasit Piromya was accused of slandering ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.”

KangarooCourtKasit’s work with the People’s Alliance for Democracy was highly valued by the royalist elite that anti-democratic in 2008, and he was rewarded with the Foreign Ministry in the military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva government in late 2008.

Kasit spoke on the PAD stage several times, and on one occasion, in November 2008, Kasit “said Thaksin was trying every way to seize the country and make it his personal asset.” He also claimed that “Thaksin had issued orders to kill Thai Muslims in the South and for extra judicial killings of drug suspects and that Thaksin wanted to become the president and topple the monarchy.”

The claims were published in several media and “Thaksin filed a suit against … Kasit as the first defendant and Co Ltd and ASTV (Thailand) Co Ltd as the second and third defendants respectively for publishing the speech.”

Kasit’s first claim is political rhetoric. The second, on the South, is certainly disputed, and no evidence of an order to kill has been produced. The third – on the war on drugs – carries some weight but no anti-Thaksin government has brought a case against him or anyone else involved, and we can only wonder if this is because the king and privy councilors also promoted the war on drugs and were satisfied by the murders.

The fourth claim is serious in that it amounts to lese majeste and, at the time, an unconstitutional plot. Nonsense though they are, lese majeste is a convenient political tool for royalist cowards like Kasit.

What is most interesting in the court dismissing the case, is the reasons for the decision. A first point made is that “since Thaksin was a public figure, he could be criticised.” That might well be true, but seems not to apply to the lese majeste accusation. On this, the court actually made a judgement: “Kasit intended to protect the country’s interests and an important institution. The court was therefore convinced he was expressing his opinions honestly.”

That is an invitation for every lese majeste imbecile in the royalist camp to attack all its political opponents with similar claims. The avalanche of lese majeste accusations and cases is set to increase still further.

While on this topic, we note a new paper by Duncan McCargo at Leeds University. Published by Contemporary Southeast Asia and titled “Competing Notions of Judicialization in Thailand,” the abstract states:

From Ji Ungpakorn's blog

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

This article examines the politics of judicialization in Thailand between 2006 and 2014, looking at the ways in which the judiciary became regularly embroiled in politics during this extremely contentious period. It takes as its starting point important royal speeches of 2006, and the interpretation of those speeches offered by the prominent academic and social critic Thirayudh Boonmee. Several key judicial decisions which had lasting political consequences are closely examined, including the 2006 election annulment, the 2007 banning of Thai Rak Thai, the removal of pro-Thaksin Shinawatra prime ministers Samak Sundaravej and Yingluck Shinawatra in 2008 and 2014, Thaksin’s conviction on corruption-related charges in 2008 and the judicial seizure of his assets in 2010. Some of the questions posed in this paper are as follows: Does judicialization inevitably mean conservative attempts to curtail the power of politicians and undermine electoral politics? Are judges working on behalf of Thai society, or in alignment with certain vested interests? Could greater judicial activism serve progressive social and political causes in the Thai context? The paper argues that Thailand’s “judicialization” is a complex phenomenon: judgements made by different courts, in different cases and at different times need to be scrutinized on their individual merits.

We can’t read the paper as it is behind a pay wall, so can’t assess the claims in full, but our view is that arguing that “judgements made by different courts, in different cases and at different times need to be scrutinized on their individual merits,” is like looking at individual trees and not seeing the forest. Academics do like to be careful but even the bark of trees can hide disease. In the case of the judiciary in Thailand, judicialization may not be the issue when the most significant courts are deeply politicized.

Update: A reader suggests to us that we should also note that a defamation action brought by the detestable Abhisit against Jatuporn Promphan has also been rejected. Jatuporn had accused Abhisit of being a “tyrant” whose “hands are tainted with blood.” The reader says this proves. McCargo’s point. Quite the contrary, this case is relatively unimportant. Abhisit has had several cases against Jatuporn. And, since 2009, Jatuporn has been jailed several times and has been found guilty in other courts, thrown out of parliament and has been repeatedly attacked by royalists. The failure of one of Abhisit’s cases has no impact on the weight of decisions by the politicized judiciary.

Another plan

7 05 2014

Almost a week ago PPT posted on chatter about a backroom deal being done to end the current political crisis and move beyond the impasse. We have also posted on Abhisit Vejjajiva’s “plan” and the very similar “plan” proposed by another Democrat Party premiership hopeful, Surin Pitsuwan.

There’s a pattern in this: all “plans” and the chatter reflect the hopes, desires and fears of anti-democrats.

PPT almost never posts anything by the bright yellow conspiracy theorist Thanong Khanthong for fear that someone may think we are taking him seriously. However, his rant a few days ago, at The Nation, is interesting for making the chatter more obvious and detailing the sources for much of the chatter.

Thanong states:

An unelected government is now widely believed to be waiting in the wings to take the reigns of power. Yingluck Shinawatra is set to be removed from power either by the National Security Council transfer case or the rice pledging scandal…. Following her conviction, an unelected administration would be formed via special clauses in the Constitution. This mechanism is nothing if not controversial….

Why has it come to this? Thanong explains that it is because Suthep Thaugsuban’s street protests can’t bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra government and stall elections and because military boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha refuses to run a coup.

On Suthep, the ultra-yellows are bored with him:

In fact, there was a window of opportunity to remove Yingluck on March 27, one day before the Senate election. Suthep summoned a mass rally, marching at its head all the way … to Parliament, where hundreds of thousands of protesters roamed Government House and Parliament. On that day, he was supposed to stage a people’s revolution – without tearing up the Constitution. Expectations were that Suthep would resort to Article 3 of the Constitution, which states that sovereign power belongs to the people, and to Article 7, which allows the appointment of an interim prime minister under special circumstances…. In this scenario, the military would come out in support of the “people’s revolution”. But the political script fell apart. For some reason Suthep chose not to go through with it, and hence the crisis has continued.

In other words, Suthep has done his job.

On Prayuth and the anti-democrat calls for a coup, Thanong “explains”: “ASTV analysts suspect he has a strong and longstanding relationship with Yingluck and Thaksin. Or, in other words, that he belongs to the other side of the political divide.”

Quite apart from the fact that PPT hasn’t ever before seen the connection between ASTV and analysis previously, this speculation by a propaganda arm of the anti-democrats leads Thanong to conclude that: “The scenario is somewhat farcical, a political merry-go-round: Suthep would like to kick out Yingluck; Prayuth is friends with Yingluck and does not want to kick her out; Suthep is friends with Prayuth and supports his stance.” Hence, the political impasse.

Thanong says the final hope is that, with the red shirts “weakened dramatically and they now fail to muster broad public support,” it will be that “Yingluck will be ousted by the independent agencies – not by Suthep and all the efforts of his mass protests. This is so ironic.”

Note that many media outlets agree that Yingluck will be removed today, and that her cabinet may be turfed out as well. Bangkok Pundit has a post on these scenarios.

If this removal comes about today, Thanong and many others who glow yellow will cheer and again note the irony – although PPT and many others have described the creeping judicial coup for several months.

Yet there is still a role for Suthep, although Thanong doesn’t see it. If red shirts protest, Suthep and his anti-democrats will be required to “protect” the court’s and “independent” agencies. And, if the decision today only removes Yingluck, many anti-democrats will want a final street push to remove the elected government. That removal will follow the Thanong-Surin scenario of manipulating the constitutional clauses related to the monarchy.


Updated: Barricading Bangkok

1 01 2014

Readers might be interested in two pieces of video that show a quiet anti-democracy protest site. The work being done at present is to build barricades, some of which look like pillboxes. Presumably these are preparations for events to come when Suthep Thaugsuban has called for protesters to regroup after a new year holiday and “take” Bangkok.

The symbolism of the “guards” is interesting with royal flags, and ASTV banner and images of the king:

Update: Khaosod reports on Suthep’s plan to shutdown Bangkok:

The People′s Committee for Absolute Monarchy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) has previously threatened to put Bangkok in a massive gridlock “after New Year” as the means to pressure the government into canceling the upcoming general election….

However, ever since he announced the plan to shutdown Bangkok last week, Mr. Suthep has not disclosed specific details of the strategy. Government officials warned that Mr. Suthep is intending to disrupt major roads and public transportation such as the BTS or the MRT.

But PCAD spokesman, Mr. Ekkanat Prompan, said in a press conference today that Mr. Suthep′s grand strategy of Bangkok shutdown has been “misinterpreted” in the media.

He denied that the PCAD is planning to shutdown public transportation as reported in the press, adding that the public should wait for Mr. Suthep himself to make announcements about the strategy in the future, since Mr. Suthep is the only one with a full knowledge of the plan.

Defending the royalist party

29 04 2013

In an earlier post, PPT commented on the failures of the Abhisit Vejjajiva-dominated Democrat Party. As a follow-up, we comment here on an editorial at The Nation defending the Democrat Party.

Pointing to recent criticism of the party, the editorial seeks to support Abhisit’s party by dismissing criticism as unfair. For example, it mentions criticism by academics and defends the party by elementary school-like debate through comparisons with the mightily successful pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties. It says:

Academics always criticise the Democrat Party leadership structure. One of the latest criticisms points out that the party neither belongs to “capitalists” or to the people. It’s just home to senior executives or veterans who have been there for a long time – perhaps too long, the critics say.

In defending the Democrat Party the editorial deflects the criticism away from the problems of the royalist party and pinning them on the voters (those The Nation’s allies at ASTV repeatedly and offensively refer to as buffaloes). The Nation’s defense of the electoral wing of the royalist elite begins:

Regarding the Democrat Party being dominated by an old guard, let’s check out its arch-rival: Pheu Thai is controlled by just one man. In fact, every party that enjoyed the strongest support in Thailand’s biggest electoral region – the Northeast – before Pheu Thai, had a more “concentrated”, serve-till-I-die style of leadership than the Democrats do.

Historically, this is nonsense. The reference to the northeast is a red herring (pun intended) as the northeast has a long history of support for parties perceived as supporting social underdogs and spurning the parties of the Bangkok-based elites. Sure, there have been ups and downs in this, but the trend is clear. Even in 2001, support for Thai Rak Thai was far more limited than in elections since, for Thaksin had to prove himself and his party to voters in the region. It is also intellectually bankrupt. The Democrat Party has been the party of royalists from its founding, and the failure of The Nation to mention this is either deceptive or reflects a shallow grasp of even the basic elements of political history.

The editorial makes the astounding claim of “fact” that:

the Democrats are always second-best because they lose in the Northeast every time, and the Northeast is a region always dominated by a party less progressive on leadership “culture” or management style.

Again, this is nonsense, concocted by the  propagandists at The Nation, to defend a party that has a bleak electoral record punctuated by support for military and palace-backed coups. As we noted in other posts, the “culture” of the Democrat Party is anything but democratic and is marked by elitism, royalism, and most recently, by repression and violence against opponents.

The problem with the Democrat Party  and the yellow-shirts who support them, and especially the ninnies at The Nation, is that they blame the poor, the uneducated and the workers and farmers for their own failures and reflects a class-bound incapacity for logic:

All the questions lead us back to the Northeast. To win the hearts of the poor may be easy for Pheu Thai, but it’s questionable Alongkorn’s apparently idealistic proposals would work in the Northeast for the Democrats. Voters in the Northeast do not care if a party is well structured or poorly organised and controlled by people outside the executive board. “Personnel” and “culture” don’t matter much to them, either. The poor think differently, or at least they do not see the Democrats’ problems the way the others seem them.

This sounds remarkably like men in white sheets explaining why the hated and feared former slaves shouldn’t be allowed to vote. It sounds like an elite opposing the march of history.

The voters of the Northeast reject the Democrat Party because it is disdainful and disrespectful of them and because many northeasterners reject the ruling class’s haughty monopolization of political and economic power.

PAD leaders finally indicted

14 03 2013

The Nation reports that 31 leading members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy were finally indicted for besieging Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports in 2008.

The report reckons they were protesting against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which is only partly true as they were attempting to create conditions for a military coup and protesting against the government of Somchai Wongsawat. In the end, they didn’t get a military coup; instead they got a military mutiny against the government and a judicial coup. The result was the deal cobbled together by palace, military and the so-called Democrat Party that put Abhisit Vejjajiva in the premier’s seat.

Sondhi and Chamlong in royal yellow

Sondhi and Chamlong in royal yellow

Of course, the legal system still treats the PAD leadership with kid gloves. Only 17 of the 31 bothered to show up at Criminal Court and they were all released on bail of 800,000 baht.

The 31 included Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, as well as Sondhi’s right-wing satellite television channel, ASTV (Thailand), “which broadcast the leaders calling on people to take part in protests during the PAD-led political gatherings…”. They can enter pleas on 29 April. The report states that:

The 31 PAD members have been indicted for terrorism; forceful entry; criminal conspiracy in violation of emergency rule; destruction and obstruction of facilities at an airport; affecting safety; causing traffic jams at public places; disrupting communications; causing others’ properties to depreciate; criminal conspiracy; obstructing officials’ duties; intimidating officials on duty; intimidating others and withholding freedom.

Plenty of red shirts were jailed on similar charges and some remain in jail, having been incarcerated almost three years ago.


9 11 2012

One of the striking things about the mass of news reports regarding an alleged plot to assassinate Thaksin Shinawatra has been how adamant the mainstream media has been that these rumors must have been manufactured by Thaksin for political gain. This seems reminiscent of the line run when Thaksin was premier and there were several alleged assassination plots against him.

Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor at the Bangkok Post and while she joins the throng of doubters, she has a different take, suggesting reasons why Thaksin should be worried. Oddly, she doesn’t mention the earlier assassination plots against Thaksin, but she does mention the assassination of Khattiya Sawasdipol by a sniper’s bullet to the head. These “lessons” aside, she comments:

After news about Thaksin’s planned visit to Tachilek broke, a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) commentator said he wished minority groups in Myanmar would do “a favour to Thailand” by killing the former premier.

When Mr Panthongtae said he and his two sisters would reunite with Thaksin at the border town, a female host of ASTV’s news talk programme said: “Good. Let them go, so they will [die] together there.”

The desire to see Thaksin die has dominated ASTV satellite television broadcasts over the past several days.

This rejection of extreme hate is lodged in a story where Kultida, a PAD supporter, still feels the need to justify PAD’s politics. Yet so much of that politics is built on hatred and maintaining it.

Wikileaks, Thaksin and moral turpitude

21 08 2012

The Nation has another one of its yellow-hued anti-Thaksin Shinawatra articles for which it is well-known. This one, as well as citing unverified claims by ASTV (from where its whole story is derived), lists a Wikileak cable to ask why the United States permitted Thaksin to enter the country when, in 2009, it considered Thaksin “may or may not have committed crime of moral turpitude,” and “considered him a man unsuited for a US visa.”

It seems that The Nation is referring to a Wikileaks cable dated 7 May 2009 under the name of then Ambassador Eric John. As usual, The Nation gets the quote wrong, and fails to provide the context of the cable. The actual quote is, with a bit more than the report has, stating: “… the possibility that Thaksin may/may have committed a crime involving moral turpitude.”

Many readers will be stunned to know that Thaksin is accused of “moral turpitude.” Like PPT, most sensible people would consider “moral turpitude” to relate to sexual immorality, but as a quick search shows, the U.S. maintains a legal definition that is entirely 19th Century in its framing, referring to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.” In immigration law, it is a convenient and generally difficult to define concept that allows immigration officers considerable discretion.

The cable is interesting for the context it provides to this situation and, contrary to the claims of yellow-shirted commentators, that the U.S. Embassy under Eric John was not a nest of pro-Thaksin diplomats. In fact, it shows that John and the Embassy acting, in part, to curry favor with the royalist Democrat Party-led and military-backed government.

The cable’s summary states: “Post recommends that the Department prudentially revoke former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s U.S. non-immigrant visas. This recommendation is based on our belief that Thaksin has possibly committed a crime involving moral turpitude.” A prudential revocation is a kind of “just in case” revocation for, as is stated, the Post only believes that Thaksin “has possibly” committed a crime. By recommending the revoking the visa/s the post is suggesting that the revocation can protect the U.S. and its relations with Thailand’s government.

In any case, the cable states, “Thaksin currently fails to meet the requirements for entering the U.S. on his valid B1/B2 visa because the RTG has revoked all of Thaksin’s Thai passports.” If the passports with the visas have been revoked by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, Thaksin could not enter the U.S. based on those previously issue visas and revoked passports. In fact, this is the lead point of the main body of the cable.

The cable also refers to two arrest warrants issued by the Abhisit government, one related to Thaksin skipping bail following his debated conviction in the lad deal case, and going into exile and the other related to his allegedly inciting violence in April 2009, where the post states:

While we do not have evidence that Thaksin intended for his supporters to engage in violent acts, and Thaksin has publicly denied orchestrating the mid-April riots, we believe that Thaksin’s rhetoric was inflammatory and could reasonably be interpreted as a call for unruly actions.

This leads the Embassy to conclude:

Given the above, post believes that there are grounds for a prudential revocation of Thaksin’s U.S. NIVs, based on the possibility that Thaksin may/may have committed a crime involving moral turpitude.

At the same time, the Embassy states:

Post has not at this time developed a view regarding whether grounds would exist for a finding of visa ineligibility in connection with a crime involving moral turpitude, but we note that the standard for a prudential revocation is lower than the standard for a finding of ineligibility.

The Embassy adds: “We make the recommendation for a prudential revocation having considered the political impact of such a decision, if it were to become public knowledge.” That said, the Embassy discloses:

We are confident that the current [Abhisit-led] RTG administration would welcome our revoking Thaksin’s visa. We hope to avoid a situation in which Thaksin manages to enter the U.S., which would ensure that issues surrounding Thaksin’s status would dominate the U.S.-Thai relationship, at least in the short term. We believe revoking Thaksin’s visa, and conveying that news to him, might help to deter him from trying to enter the U.S.

Finally, the cable notes that Thaksin is pragmatic and that he will understand this action: “We do not rule out the possibility that at some future date Thaksin may regain dominant influence over the RTG.” The implication being that the visa situation can be reviewed in the future. It is a pity The Nation engages in propaganda rather than journalism.

Wikileaks: Junta and the slippery slope of censorship

11 03 2012

In a Wikileaks cable dated 22 September 2006, a few days after the military junta used U.S. tanks to make yet another coup, this time throwing out elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Ambassador Ralph Boyce comments on post-putsch censorship.

The cable offers interesting insights from reporters who talked with the embassy about the events of the night of the coup, as the military quickly sent its troops out to media houses:

State-owned MCOT Channel 9 reporters said they aired Prime Minister Thaksin’s emergency statement only after ITV refused. After Thaksin had been on the air for a couple of minutes, armed army personnel burst into the Channel 9 studio, asked where the Control Room was, and demanded that the technicians cut off the broadcast. The screen went blank for a few minutes, and then Channel 9 began running the Channel 5 stock footage paying homage to the King.

In fact, by the time Thaksin was cut off at Channel 9, all Thai free-to-air TV was required to use “the same feed from army-owned and operated Channel 5…”. The embassy seems happy to report that “by mid-morning the next day they had returned to ‘regular’ programming…”. That this only included “positive” news about the putsch seemed not to bother the embassy too much.

Embassy staff are said to have visited various television stations:

At ITV, … armed soldiers lined the front gate, front door, and newsroom. A huge truck and armored vehicle were parked near the entrance, with more vehicles at the exit. ITV reporters and anchors said the military asked them not to broadcast material that might have a “negative impact” or “cause any resistance or disturbance.”

ITV staff stated “they felt the soldiers’  presence had an ‘oppressive’ effect on their work.”

The “entertainment-oriented Channel 3 has only a few soldiers guarding the entrance and news building, with no trucks or equipment.” At Channel 3 it was reported that a “producer said the military has requested that the station not air negative comments about the CDRM.”

Interestingly, the Nation Channel also had a” significant military presence, with armed guards and trucks at the gate and five soldiers with rifles (with the clips out) outside and inside the newsroom.” This was not to intimidate.

The president of the Nation Channel, Adisak Limprungpatanakij, is described as “avidly anti-Thaksin,” claimed the “coup has not affected press freedom.” He said the military commander told him:

the troops were to provide security to the Nation Channel and assist in linking to Channel 5 pool coverage. Nation Channel staff happily keep the soldiers well-fed during their stay.

The cable continues to note that “there is no troop presence whatsoever at ASTV, the free satellite TV network owned by anti-Thaksin campaigner Sondhi [Limthongkul].”

Foreign news was censored:

 For two days after the coup, pictures of or interviews about Thaksin triggered an interruption…. For example, UBC cut a BBC interview with Pasook Pongpaijit [Pasuk Phongpaichit], an academic mildly critical of the coup, and a CNN interview with Paul Handley, author of a book critical of the King.

The embassy says that after two days, “CNN, BBC and MSNBC are now broadcasting normally.” Normality was also claimed for the print media. Indeed, the claim is made that this media is “freer” than before the coup!

This claim is laughable, especially when the cable cites The Nation’s Pana Janviroj, who says that self-censorship is not even at work because: “We sympathize with the CDRM, so there is (no need for) self-censorship.”

Turning to radio, without noting that most stations were controlled by the military, the embassy bleats that a “well-known radio personality noted on air that, in contrast to past coups, no one tried to review or censor broadcasts.”

But outside the sphere of military control, it is acknowledged that “community radio stations have been temporarily banned in the provinces; local military officials have said this is because these stations are difficult to monitor and control.”

On the internet,

the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) called in all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to try to control website content, under threat of closure. Thus far, the CDRM has not closed any website completely.

… All of the major Thai chat sites have announcements posted that the country is under Martial Law and postings should be “careful and constructive.”

The “Politics Board” of was shut down yesterday following an influx of strong anti-coup messages. The board is back up, and even now, roughly half of the messages are mildly critical of the coup, although opinions are expressed in a sarcastic way.

In the face of all this censorship, the embassy doesn’t warn of the slippery slope of censorship. Sure, the embassy might have mumbled to junta something about “press freedom,” but seemed more interested in giving the impression that the censorship was light or even less than under Thaksin, and that everything was getting back to “normal.”

Of course, the military and royalists took to the slippery slope like Olympic downhill racers, and under the military-backed, royalist regime led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, censorship became especially intense as a regime of repression was put in place.

Wikileaks: Boyce meets an “annoying” Pongthep

16 01 2012

In this Wikileaks cable, dated 7 September 2006, a meeting two days before between U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce and the Thai Rak Thai Party’s deputy leader Pongthep Thepkanchana is reviewed.

Boyce, seemingly bored by TRT and Thaksin Shinawatra, claims that Pongthep “gave a fairly standard version of the TRT view of the political situation.” He is also not taken by his interlocutor:

Pongthep was unimpressive, but he is, according to many contacts, one of Thaksin’s leading choices for PM if Thaksin has to step down. The PM reportedly doesn’t want anyone too good, who might eclipse him. Pongthep should fit the bill.

We can only wonder what Pongthep might have thought of this ambassador who very openly wore his Thai political stripes as a supporter of the opposition to the most popular elected government in Thai history.

The ambassador “sought Pongthep’s views on the origins and possible cures of the Thai political crisis, which has dragged on for the better part of a year.”

On the origins of the political conflict, Pongthep

pointed to TRT\’s landslide victory in February 2005 as a problem. People looked at the PM and saw someone who “had it all:” money, education,  connections and political power. He is a visionary and, especially after the landslide, extremely self-confident. “Higher echelons” of Thai society did not like this type of elected leader.

Pongthep is said to have “singled out opposition firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul, motivated by a personal grudge against Thaksin, as a key opponent.” Nothing new there or in the claim that Sondhi used his “illegal, illegitimate cable TV station” to spread untrue accusations.”

Boyce admits that ASTV’s legal status is unclear but defends “Sondhi’s small cable station … as one of the most important tools the opposition has.” He cites others on this.

After finding Pongthep’s response on a question about the dissolving of parliament “annoying,” Boyce turned to the “ever-more-public conflict between Thaksin and the Privy Council, particularly Prem Tinsulanond.”

Pongthep emphasized that “there is no misunderstanding” between the royal family and Thaksin. Boyce thought this view disingenuous. Pongthep focused on those close to the palace:

The issues are with the Privy Council, which is used to having a lot of authority. In the past, for example, Prem could have influence over the military promotions of his proteges. He doesn’t want to lose that.

And, so close to the 2006 coup being initiated, Pongthep reveals that TRT strategists misunderstood Army boss Sonthi Boonyaratglin and the determination of Prem and friends. Pongthep says Sonthi wants

to promote his own aides. However, Pongthep added that he did not anticipate military intervention. Even if the military launched a coup, they would not be able to form a military government — those days were past. So, they would be taking a significant risk for no real benefit.

In the long term, Pongthep may have been proven correct – the Army found running a coup and then a country was more complicated than they expected – but he was remarkably naive on the process unfolding before his very eyes in September 2006. Given Thaksin’s departure for New York, he too was misjudged the Army and its allies and was overly-confident.

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