Free Penguin and Rung

26 04 2021

Tyrell Haberkorn and Thongchai Winichakul of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have a call for the release on bail of political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. It is at NikkeiAsia. Read it in full.

Clipped from The Nation

The two have “gone on hunger strike while being detained ahead of their trials in late May for alleged lese-majeste. The pair are refusing nourishment to protest the denial of their right to bail.”

Penguin began his partial hunger strike on 15 March 15 and Rung joined him 15 days later: “The risk to their health grows with each passing day.”

The authors note:

…these activists have not actually insulted, defamed, or threatened the monarchy. Instead, they have dared to call for an open and frank discussion on the place of the monarchy in Thailand — particularly with respect to its relationship with the law, the judiciary, the military and its assets.

Parit faces at least 20 counts of violating Article 112, and Panusaya at least nine. Their sentences for speeches at peaceful protests and social media posts could break records — evidence how afraid the state and the palace are of such discussions.

They point out that the “right to bail is guaranteed under Thai law and by Thailand’s international human rights obligations, but it is routinely denied in Article 112 cases on the grounds of national security and the fact that the harsh penalty makes flight more likely.” By denying bail, they say,the regime “has effectively shut down the protest movement, and instilled fear in those who dare to dissent.” And, authoritarianism deepens.

They conclude:

As each application for bail is denied, it becomes more evident that preventing citizens from openly discussing the monarchy and its role in the Thai polity are to the authorities more important than the lives of citizens. Parit, Panusaya and all the other political detainees must have their bail rights restored.





Monarchism and secrecy

25 04 2021

Prachatai reports on cabinet approved draft amendments to the Official Information Act. As with changes proposed for the registration and operation of NGOs, the approved amendment promotes and supports political authoritarianism that is rooted in monarchism.

As the report notes:

The Official Information Act B.E. 2540 (1997) was intended as the cornerstone of the people’s right to access state information….

Under the current procedure, the authorities are required to make a wide range of information accessible to the public on request, including cabinet resolutions, the structure of state agencies, policies, regulations, budgets and concession contracts with private companies.

Of course, the authorities could still legally “withhold or not give information that would damage the monarchy (Section 14), or that would damage national security, international relations, law enforcement or the wellbeing of a private individual (Section 15).”

Those bits of information on the monarchy would be available after a massive 75 years and after 20 years for other withheld information.

The draft amendment, however, expands the kinds of information that can be withheld and adds “a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine for any ‘individual’ who discloses such information.”

The draft now states that withheld information is that which could be “used to damage the monarchy and information about royal security, cannot be disclosed.

In addition, the amendment:

… prohibits the publication of information about state security regarding the military, defence, terrorist prevention, international affairs related to the state security, intelligence, individual security and “other information about state security as announced by the Cabinet following recommendations of the Board.”

“National security,” dominated by issues surrounding the secretive monarchy, has “been interpreted in a highly military manner after the 2014 coup.” Nakorn Serirak, a lecturer at the College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University, a former expert on the Information Board, said the:

increased presence on the Board of military officers expert in national defence, intelligence, counter-terrorism and security-related international affairs may cause a greater information lockdown when it comes to considering appeals against non-disclosure decisions.

The increased restrictions and penalties for those who disclose it will cause a “shrinking of freedom of information for Thais…”.

Mana Nimitmongkol, Secretary-General of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT), is also quoted. He says that the amendment will allow “the authorities to sweep many documents, like those to do with procurement or construction project details, under the security carpet, making it impossible to check corruption in projects.”

The descent into dark authoritarianism was the aim of the 2014 military coup and is a part of the military-monarchy dictatorship.





Mad authoritarianism

23 04 2021

There’s been considerable discussion in recent days of a draft law that would allow state monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities. This amounts to a predictable deepening of control by an authoritarian regime. At the same time, it is reflective of a quite mad authoritarianism as the regime has increasingly come under the influence of ideas of conspiracy that dominate the “thinking” of mad monarchists.

Thai PBS reports that the effort to strictly control civil society organization and dominate political space by limiting NGOs by the “monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities” through the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations “stems from fears of foreign intervention in local politics and adverse impacts of NGOs’ foreign donations on national security.”

That report cites Amnesty International as saying that other states have also introduced “restrictive laws and policies, and stigmatising rhetoric…”. The examples provided include “Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Hungary, and the Philippines.”

In the Thai case, the bill appears to reflect the increasingly frenzied deep yellow shirt conversations about CIA (meaning the USA) and Jewish (meaning George Soros) conspiracies to undermine the monarchy. There’s no evidence for such conspiracies, just an ever-mounting social media gnashing of teeth and tan ever-higher piling of buffalo manure, some of it egged on by organized anti-Western bloggers and “news” outlets. Such sources have waged a campaign against “colour revolutions” and, since the rise of the red shirts, have increasingly focused on Thailand. In Thailand, their deeply conservative narrative has been couched in “radical” terms, railing against “American imperialism.”

This narrative caught on among yellow shirts who themselves had dealt in fictious notions of conspiracy against the monarchy that constructed accounts of the Finland Plot to bring down the monarchy and of Thaksin Shinawatra’s anti-monarchism.

Such conservative fictions were easily imbibed by military monarchists. One result is this bill to control civil society groups. It was the post-junta cabinet, dominated by military monarchists that “in late February approved in principle the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations, which would require NGOs to report their financiers and amount of funding, to have their accounts audited, and to ensure that their activities are lawful.”

Thai Enquirer refers to the Bill as the “Operation of Non-profit Organizations Act,” and notes that the “legislation was proposed by the Council of State…” which cited the concerns that resulted in the draft bill, including that NGOs “receive funding from foreign persons or entities.” Nothing new there; it has been a standard operating procedure for decades. However, in these reactionary times, there’s a view that this “might adversely affect the relationship between Thailand and that of other countries.”

Thai Enquirer explains what the Bill will do:

This draft bill, if passed into law, would require NGOs to register themselves with the Director General of the Department of Provincial Administration, prior to commencing its activities in Thailand. Once registered, they will be additionally required to comply with rules and conditions prescribed by the Minister of Interior, in addition to those requirements set forth in the legislation.

In addition, NGOs would be subject to an annual disclosure viz-a-viz sources of funds and must file an annual tax report to authorities. And, more horrendously, the NGOs can only receive funding from foreign persons, entities, or groups of persons, only for the purpose as prescribed by the Minister of Interior. Failure to comply with these requirements would subject the NGOs to criminal sanctions. Potentially imprisonment for persons involved.

It is unclear whether receiving funds to engage in political advocacy such as calling for the amendment of the constitution would be one of the permissible purposes. However, given the government’s track record and how the government MPs have reacted to iLaw’s requests, it is reasonable to fear that the purpose of political advocacy would not be permitted.

The article continues, noting that the regime:

does not wish to appear subtle about its motives either. It includes as material substance of the law that the bill would effectively ensure that NGOs are operating in Thailand without “Tai-ya-jitr” (hidden agendas). It remains unclear what “hidden agenda” means in this context. Is advocating for democracy … under the authoritarian regime regarded as a “hidden agenda?” … One might therefore reasonably conclude that this law is aimed at curtailing the activity of liberal NGOs….

The regime “has provided numerous hints about how it intends to use the law,” citing “a senior intelligence official specifically cited a statement signed by 13 human rights organisations … as demonstrating the need for further control over organisations working in Thailand.” That statement by human rights groups “condemned the government’s use of force against protesters.”

As The Interpreter observes:

Since a military coup in 2014, however, civic space and fundamental freedoms have taken a beating in Thailand. Authorities have harassed activists, cracked down on protesters and obstructed the proceedings of civil society. But these actions have failed to fully extinguish dissent, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has now proposed a draconian new law governing associations and organisations, which, if passed, would do more to crush civic space and undermine Thailand’s role in the region than any other effort by the Thai government in the past decade….

Under the proposed legislation, any group engaged in non-profit activities – no matter how small, informal or unorganised – would be required to register with the ministry. Student groups, community organisations, protest movements, artistic collectives, social clubs and short-lived associations would all fall within the remit of the law.

It establishes a “mandatory registration scheme overseen by the Ministry of Interior” and gives “authorities expansive powers to control and monitor groups of all sizes and types.”

Under the current authoritarian regime, the proposed law’s “broad terms and steep penalties would likely be wielded arbitrarily against independent-minded individuals and organisations.”

It imposes harsh penalties for failing to register: “individuals associated with an unregistered group could be punished with up to five years’ imprisonment.”

…The law would give the Ministry of Interior sweeping powers to determine the conditions under which registered groups operate. Activities backed by foreign funds would require pre-approval by the ministry, with foreseeable consequences for groups that frequently come into conflict with the government. More worrying still, the law would allow officials to inspect a registered organisation’s office and access its emails without justification or judicial oversight. It provides no safeguards against governmental misuse or arbitrary application of the law.

…Moreover, the selection of the Ministry of Interior as the ministry responsible for enforcing the law is telling. The Ministry of Interior oversees local administration and internal security within Thailand. As a result, it frequently comes into conflict with community associations, non-governmental organisations and other groups that would be governed by the law. The surveillance and enforcement powers granted by the law would bolster the ministry, to the detriment of those seeking to hold government officials accountable for corruption, human rights abuses or other misdeeds.

Such requirements and such intrusive surveillance mean that the government would determine which NGOs could register and what they could do, if they receive international funding.

The Interpreter further observes:

Adding to the law’s recklessness, the timeline set forth for registration – 30 days from the date of enactment – does not provide enough time for the ministry to register the thousands of currently unregistered groups operating in Thailand. If it were passed, numerous organisations would be forced to cease operations, and many would never reopen.

That is likely one of the aims of the legislation.

Each of the reports mentioned in this post reports on responses from NGOs. Among many issues, they note that the law is in conflict with several provisions of the constitution – not that such matters have ever bothered this regime – and that the law would allow “authorities to harass civil society groups and activists critical of the government by categorising them as NGOs.”

The Interpreter concludes:

If enacted, the proposed law would devastate Thai civil society and could lead to an exodus of international organisations currently based in Thailand.

Clearly, the regime’s support for the monarchy and the need to suppress anti-royalism puts it in alliance with all kinds of mad monarchists. For them and the regime, only conspiracy theories can “explain” attacks on their beloved monarchy and monarchist ideology. When mixed with the regime’s military-induced love of hierarchy and order, the outcome is a political system that is deeply authoritarian. The threat is to make Thailand forever authoritarian.





Down the shute

4 03 2021

PPT doesn’t always post on rankings, but the Freedom House index struck us as telling of Thailand’s descent into a dark era. Freedom House’s report now ranks Thailand as Not Free. While one might dispute such indices, it is clear that the country now languishes with some sad companions in these “league tables,” looking far more authoritarian than democratic.

Freedom House’s report on Thailand begins:

Thailand’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that had performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.

It goes on

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Read it all here.





Updated: Going Chinese on Myanmar

1 02 2021

With a military coup in Myanmar, the military-backed and populated regime in Bangkok has responded as you would expect.

Despite bogus claims that the rigged 2019 election made the military junta somehow “democratic,” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has shown that the military mindset rules.

Gen Prawit declared that the coup, the democratically-elected government that won in a landslide, and the military detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of her party as an “internal affair.”

This response sounded very much like it might have come from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Naturally enough, Cambodia’s autocratic leader Hun Sen concurred that it was an “internal matter.”

Of course, Gen Prawit has been involved in at least two military coups in Thailand and he and other military bosses are close to Myanmar’s military.

The company the regime keeps shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.

Update: Prachatai reports: “As the Myanmar military seizes power, detains politicians and declares a 1-year state of emergency, the democratic opposition in Thailand condemns the putsch and holds a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok…”. In another Prachatai report, it is reported that “after Thais and Myanmarese staged a protest against the coup by the Myanmar military this afternoon, they were dispersed by the Royal Thai Police with shields and batons. 3 people were arrested.”

Thailand’s military-monarchy despots have become the protectors of authoritarian regimes.

 





NUS Press doing the regime’s work

17 01 2021

Asia Sentinel has a story about NUS Press being ordered – that’s the implication – to bin a book after taking through a production process to printing. Of course, the book is about the Thai monarchy, the dead king, and King Vajiralongkorn, and it is edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. This censorship would be remarkable for a proper university press, but that is not what NUS Press is. It is a press run by a state-dominated university in an authoritarian state. Academic freedom is not something that the university or the press uphold.

Because Asia Sentinel is often blocked in Thailand, here’s the full story, with just a couple of edits, by John Berthelsen:

Singapore’s NUS Press Accused of Ditching Thai Anthology Under Pressure
Compendium of scholars discussing end of previous Thai king’s reign sent to Yale instead

More than 100 international academic figures have signed an open letter accusing Singapore’s National University Press of bending to political pressure and dropping the publication of a compendium of scholars analyzing the prospects for the end of the era of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.

Titled “Coup, King, Crisis,” the book was edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai dissident now in exile at Kyoto University in Japan and features writers including Paul Handley, the author or the acclaimed book “The King Never Smiles,” as well as Australian academic Kevin Hewison…. Other authors included Federico Ferrara, Claudio Sopranzetti, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Edoardo Siani, Paul Chambers, Sarah Bishop, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Krislert Samphantharak, Tyrell Haberkorn, David Streckfuss and Somchai Phatharathananunth.

The manuscript was later accepted and published by Yale University under Yale’s Southeast Asia Studies Monograph series. Singapore public universities and political research institutions, according to Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based rights NGO, “have direct government links that enable political influence and interference in hiring and firing. Recent faculty turnover at two major universities has increased concerns about political pressure. Self-censorship on Singapore-related topics is common among academics, who can face legal and career consequences for critical speech.’

Pavin, who composed the open letter, said Peter Schoppert, director of the NUS Press, and Tan Eng Chye, the NUS President of the decision to cancel the publishing contract in March 2020, but failed to give any explanation regarding the withdrawal, saying the decision “was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community.”

“It seems reasonable to assume that the NUS Press’s decision was due to political pressure,” Pavin wrote. “The unexplained and last-minute decision violates the fundamental principles of academic freedom. The reference to outside stakeholders indicates that individuals and/or interest groups outside of academia have the final say in the publication process. This makes a mockery of the independent peer-review process, calling into question the academic integrity of the press itself.”

Some of the authors, including Pavin himself, have had a stormy relationship with the Thai government. He recently complained that he was being followed by unknown figures in Japan. In fact, Thailand has reached well outside the country’s own borders to harass exiled dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch, which in its 2020 World Report said that “In recent years, dissidents who fled persecution in Thailand have faced enforced disappearance in neighboring countries. At least two Thai exiles in Laos, Wuthipong Kachathamakul and Itthipol Sukpaen, were forcibly disappeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2018, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatchan Boonphawal, and Kraidet Lueler were abducted and murdered in Laos. In May, authorities in Vietnam repatriated Chucheep Chivasut, Siam Theerawut, and Kritsana Thapthai to Thailand and the three men have since disappeared.

The manuscript was proposed to the NUS Press in October 2018 and went through what the protesting scholars called a “proper and vigorous peer review process, and all contributors revised their essay accordingly, and in a timely manner.”

On August 29, 2019, Pavin wrote, he signed a contract with the NUS Press on behalf of the contributors, completing the necessary steps to ensure meeting the publication deadline of Spring 2020. As the manuscript was about to go to press, Schoppert wrote to him saying: “It is with great regret that I have to inform you that NUS Press will not be proceeding with our publication of and distribution plans for ‘Coup, King, Crisis’ and would release a statement saying it was “not the sort of decision a university press takes lightly, but it was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community. We have informed the book editor, Assoc Prof Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and the contributors to the book, and released them from their obligations under our contract. We apologize for the late notice, and the inconvenience caused.”

Spurned by NUS, Pavin spent the intervening months trying to find a new home for the book. Although Schoppert wrote that although NUS wouldn’t print the book and that it was open to discussing “measures that can be taken to mitigate the impact” of the cancellation, Pavin didn’t bother to negotiate.

The decision on the part of the NUS Press to drop the project revealed the university’s “knowing sacrifice of legitimacy for expediency,” according to the open letter. “Its action exposes others not so well positioned to increased pressure from those who would undermine the foundations of an open society.”

Pavin publicly called for an international moratorium by scholars on all further manuscript reviewing for and submission to the NUS Press, which “has damaged and made a sham of the academic review and publication process “and asked colleagues to not send any new manuscripts to NUS Press.

The affront to critical, independent scholarship represented by NUS Press’s action on this manuscript “suggests that NUS is underserving of its current level of global ranking,” according to the letter, and “has caused reputational damage not just to the press itself but also to NUS.”

The letter and its signatories is available here, and is a PDF.

We may as well assume that the book, now published by Yale’s Southeast Asia Program, and available at Amazon, will be banned in Thailand.





Political arrests III

9 08 2020

Yesterday, the big news was that the Criminal Court “approved bail for a lawyer and a student activist [Arnon Nampa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok] who were arrested on Friday on multiple charges including sedition in connection with their involvement in a recent anti-government rally.” Both men say they will fight the charges.

Clipped from The Nation

Interestingly, Arnon immediately taunted the military and regime, “saying that he would travel to Chiang Mai for a rally on Sunday as planned earlier. There, he said he would speak on the same topic he raised last Monday, when comments he made about the constitution and the monarchy touched on some highly sensitive matters.” That’s Postspeak, tiptoeing around the absent king (watch out for another flying visit of about 24 hours over the next week) and his gorging on the public purse and power grabs.

Equally significant was the gathering of “hundreds of their supporters … at the Skywalk across from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where they flashed three-finger salutes and chanted ‘We are not afraid‘.”

They seemed to be responding to Mike, who wrote to supporters saying:

Our arrests are a clear testimony that the dictators don’t want people to assemble…. If, having seen that, we still don’t fight, we’ll be enslaved by dictators and bullied by a judicial system that is not just. The time is up for fear. Let’s fight like brave people…. Let’s end it in our generation.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer referred to the regime’s political strategy against mounting student protests as “decapitation arrests,” meaning that it sought to remove or repress those it considers the protest leaders. Hence the arrest of Arnon and Panupong.

That report also quoted anonymous “sources inside the police, the government has made clear to the police leadership that the student movements should not be allowed to expand beyond its current size prompting the police to move against the student groups.” It cites political analyst Arun Saronchai as observing:

By removing the leadership, they want to see if the students can regroup quickly or whether the momentum will die. The government can litigate all these student leaders until the end of time…. However, it may backfire on them and galvanize the movement even more.

Police have been increasing their activities on university campuses: “security forces increasingly taking an interest in the student bodies that were becoming politically active.” As one academic explained: “They want names, they want numbers and they want to know who is leading the protests…”.

The Bangkok Post reports:

The pair were taken into custody by police armed with warrants on Friday afternoon. Samran Rat police have sought arrest warrants for 15 more demonstrators and were told to apprehend them all by Monday….

Police are also reported to be in the process of collecting evidence to seize 16 more people, bringing the total number of suspects from the July 18 rally to 31.

The Post’s reporting comes with a weasle-worded editorial headline: “Police need a slap on the wrist.” Seriously? What dope came up with that? The editor, it seems. The editorial itself is better, describing the arrests as “ill-thought, excessive.” It says the charges are “disproportionate given that the previous rallies — or flash mobs — in Bangkok and the provinces were peaceful…. [T]he alleged offence against the Emergency Decree is nonsensical.” It adds:

The heavy-handed approach by police is equal to a crackdown on political activism as well as freedom of expression, all civic rights endorsed in the 2017 constitution. Such a blatant act would make the country and the [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] administration subject to international criticism.

And, presumably domestic criticism? It concludes with the weasle-words:

Thailand cannot afford another political crisis, a factor that would see the country trapped in an economic abyss.

Last week, the premier even stressed the need for unity that will enable the nation to move forward. A suppression of activism would not bring the nation to that goal. An open talk between the government and the activists about how to avoid political crisis is necessary. Before that, the prime minister must give the police a slap on the wrist.

That’s the same police who are corrupt, gun-toting thugs who can’t follow a snail trail and repeatedly lie to the public. But, heck, the Post seems okay with all of that when the political order is under pressure. The Post has a habit of weak support for democracy and it seems it is a hard habit to shake.

Better to return to the Thai Enquirer report, where Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch observed the regime’s actions as amounting to a “total disregard for fundamental rights.” He said:

We have prominent human right lawyer and we have student activists facing sedition charges for peacefully holding a political rally to demand a democratic vote and good governance, this should not be a criminal offence…. If such peaceful actions are considered by the Thai authority to be criminally offensive, it would tell the world that Thailand is not a democratic state, it is a pariah authoritarian state to the core….

Of course, Thailand has not been democratic since the 2014 military coup. And the military and regime plan to keep it authoritarian.





Authoritarians and technocrats aligned

1 07 2020

One of the outcomes of the virus crisis around the world has been the rise of technocrats. They need to be watched as closely as the authoritarians, especially when their expertise is politicized. This is not just in Thailand; it is a global phenomenon.

Two examples will keep this post short. First, as a Bangkok Post points out, the medicos have developed big heads:

The Medical Council yesterday gave people a rather unpleasant surprise with its announcement detailing the obligations of patients seeking medical services….

Most important of all, the Medical Council is a professional body whose main missions are to register and regulate medical practitioners and maintain medical standards in the country.

In issuing the order, the council relied on the Medical Profession Act of 1982 which empowered it to “promote the studies, research, and professional practices in medicine” and “to assist, to advise, to disseminate and to educate the public and other organisations in matters concerning medicine and public health”.

The law does not seem to allow the council to “regulate” the public when it comes to medical services, however. That means the announcement’s status is questionable. Its content is also unclear and impractical.

The second case involves the authoritarian state and technocrats:

… all passengers boarding Bangkok’s MRT and BTS must check in and out via the Thailand Wins system. The new rule comes on the same day social distancing measures will be dropped and all seats made available.

In addition to recording their travel with the tracking app, commuters are asked to refrain from talking while riding the rails, the operators of both systems announced early this evening. The State Railway of Thailand has yet to announce that it will require the same aboard its Airport Rail Link system.

This means the regime can now track all of its Bangkok-based opponents more effectively, while hiding behind “medical advice.” The slippery slope is well lubricated and it is steep and deep.





Nepotism in Bangkok

11 04 2020

As we mentioned in a previous post, authoritarianism seems to be spreading faster than the virus. The latest diktat issued in Bangkok bans alcohol sales for 10 days.

On this, the Bangkok Post’s Ploenpote Atthakor says:

I, like many other people, am baffled about the latest move: How it can help the country, Bangkok in particular, fight the disease? Unfortunately, no one can explain this to me sensibly or rationally.

But the thing that caught PPT’s attention was that Capt Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, spokesman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), announced the ban at the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The spokesman, Capt Pongsakorn just happens to be the son of junta-appointed governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang.

It might be just another example of the nepotism that is so common in Thailand’s junta a post-junta regimes, but there should be questions asked. Or is nepotism now normalized?





Mad authoritarians

3 04 2020

Globally, we have seen authoritarianism expand at a pace never before seen. Many who are fearful of the virus approve of this and even demand more draconian measures.In many places, petty officials have grabbed opportunities to advance their power.

While we at PPT don’t often comment on what happens to foreigners in Thailand, a recent story at Khaosod revealed a mad authoritarianism at the notoriously hopeless Immigration Division of the police.

The dopes at Immigration, with nothing to do much now that the money tree at airports has been felled by the virus, are now looking for opportunities. But as a set of dullard authoritarians, they are bungling and threatening people’s health (and sanity).

A week or so ago, a strange report stated:

The Immigration Bureau (IB) is stepping up its crackdown on people who hoard medical supplies, engage in price gouging, and use bogus websites to solicit donations to help Covid-19 patients or hospitals.

It isn’t clear why the IB was doing this. Perhaps a money making venture by squeezing the small fry involved in such activities?

More to form is screwing foreigners. For some time, there have been criticisms of the IB for forcing foreigners to do all kinds of immigration activities during the virus outbreak. Other countries have ditched this in the interests of health, but not the dopes at Immigration. In Thailand, “overstayers” are being fined 500 baht a day.

Now, in a feat of unimaginable stupidity, the Immigration Bureau has decided that “[n]ine separate documents are now required for foreigners stranded in Thailand to extend their stay for up to 30 days…”.

Why? According to Immigration spokesman Pol Col Phakkhaphong Saiubon, the reason is “national security.” That’s an authoritarian’s best hiding place. This dill stated: “… national security is our utmost priority.”

Foreigners caught in Thailand and residents must now come up with “land deeds, rent contracts, and even selfies … with their accommodation…”. They also need the “TM7 application, copies of their passport, … applicant’s photos, … a certificate from their respective embassies, a copy of rent contract, document confirming their stay at the accommodation, a copy of landlord’s ID card and house registration, and a map showing the location of their residence.

What kind of police mind comes up with such ludicrous requirements in such times? Social distancing? Forget it.