Liars and damned lies

6 07 2016

In earlier posts, PPT has mentioned several instances where those representing the military junta and The Dictator himself have misrepresented or lied to UN bodies, representatives  and officials or about meetings and phone calls or lied to the Thai people about these interactions (all of these links are here).

They’ve done it again.

Khaosod reports that the “Office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the highly unusual step of refuting a Thai delegation’s account of a meeting held late last month on the referendum and freedom of expression.”

The report states that an unusual “statement released Tuesday, the U.N. said Thai officials mischaracterized to Thai media the meeting held 29 June between Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Virasakdi Futrakul, Foreign Affairs vice minister.”

The UN statement, cited here in full, at the official website of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states:

The Deputy Secretary-General met on 29 June with H.E. Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand. The Deputy Secretary-General expressed concerns about the recent reports of restrictions on the freedoms of expression and assembly ahead of the referendum on the draft constitution to be held on 7 August. Stressing the importance of the partnership between Thailand and the United Nations and welcoming the support for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regional office, he stated that respect for human rights and the rule of law are important elements for sustainable development and emphasised the need for open and inclusive dialogue to promote democracy and support national reconciliation.

The Deputy Secretary-General reiterated the United Nations’ willingness to support Thailand’s efforts in this regard, noting the importance of the continuing engagement between Thailand and the United Nations.

Khaosod reports that Michael Bak, adviser to the UN resident coordinator, explained that “… statements made to the Thai press by some members of the delegation and reflected in reporting in the press that the [deputy secretary-general] ‘is not concerned’ about the referendum did not accurately reflect the conversation that took place, where he clearly raised concerns, including about freedom of expression and the need for an open dialogue ahead of the referendum…”.

The statements to the local media apparently refer to comments by “Thai representative to the U.N. and former permanent secretary Norachit Sinhaseni…”.  It was he who was “reported in several media outlets saying the global body was ‘not concerned’ about the situation in Thailand in the run-up to a public referendum on the next constitution.” Norachit misrepresented the meeting, reportedly stating:  “The DSG said he fully understands the situation in Thailand and is not concerned with the Referendum Act…”, later reported as saying the “United Nations did not oppose the Referendum Act…”.

Norachit was at the meeting in New York, so we assume that he understands that he’s fabricating events and statements.

As Khaosod states, “[m]ilitary government officials have repeatedly returned from overseas visits claiming to have successfully made their case in the international community, despite conflicting messages from their hosts.”

They are liars, dealing in damned lies.

Updated: Thailand rejected at the UN

29 06 2016

Kazakstan does not look very much like a democratic polity. Yet it is not a military dictatorship. As the Bangkok Post has it, Kazakstan “easily defeated Thailand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, with just 55 countries backing Thailand against 138 for Kazakhstan.”

Junta supporters have pointed to the 55 and drawn some cockeyed notion about support for the regime, but that glass isn’t even half full.

Earlier, some of Thailand’s diplomats were quoted as declaring that “[m]ilitary-ruled Thailand stands a ‘good chance’ over oil-rich Kazakhstan…”. We couldn’t help wondering if these were the same shoppers diplomats who lied to the UN Human Rights Council. That these diplomats reckoned it was “a 50:50 draw, but we stand a good chance as we have secured support from Washington among others…” is another example of how the junta’s Thailand is Bizarro World, where its inhabitants are in some kind of delusional state or parallel political universe.

We also wondered if The Dictator’s self-described diatribe to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might have sunk a very leaky Thai ship in the UN.

In the end, the “second-round voting wasn’t close.”

For more background on this event, see Kavi Chongkittavorn’s propaganda-like piece in support if the junta’s bid for the UNSC seat and the opposition of Human Rights Watch and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) opposition.

Update: Despite all of the junta hype before the devastating defeat, and in the face of statements that the “Thai bid delegation, comprising former Asean secretary-general [and Democrat Party stalwart] Surin Pitsuwan and other retired ambassadors, had been optimistic about winning the race,…” Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has commented that: “We had anticipated that…. Never mind. Next time.” Prawit sounds as if he will still be around “next time” in 2017-18. Meanwhile, according to the same Bangkok Post report states that the “Pheu Thai Party claimed Wednesday the country spent more than 600 million baht in a campaign leading up to Thailand’s defeat in the race for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).”

Updated: No to No

25 06 2016

The military dictatorship’s repression is increasing over its intention to hold a referendum for its draft charter.

For a while, the junta pretended that its repression was of those engaging in “rude” or deceptive” campaigning on the charter. The Dictator even lied to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

NOThat exceptionally thin veil of deceit has given way to the suppression of anyone who opposes the military’s anti-democratic charter. A series of reports at Prachatai confirm this.

One report states that on 22 June, “Rangsiman Rome, a leader of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), … with another two members of the movement, handed out ‘vote no’ flyers to local people in Samrong District of Bangkok.”

Police and military thugs “approached them and asked them to stop, citing the Referendum Bill, but the activists refused the request, reasoning that the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has never said that such activity is prohibited. The authorities then allowed the activists to distribute flyers for only 30 minutes.”

A second report states that three days later, that police and military thugs arrested the activists when they attempted to hand out more Vote No flyers in a factory area.

Rangsiman Rome “was arrested while handing out flyers calling for a no vote in the August draft charter referendum, to workers at Bangplee Industrial Estate, Samut Prakan Province.” Some 9-10 others were also taken into custody.

Unionist and activist Jitra Kotchadej witnessed the arrests and “told Prachatai that while the activist and his friends were distributing the flyers, soldiers from the Royal Thai Marine Corps approached them and asked them to stop by 5.30 pm. The activists then asked the authorities to let them continue the activity until 6.00 pm as the workers in the estate would finish work by that time.”

The soldiers, some in uniform and others in plainclothes, then “carried Rangsiman away, put him in a car, and then drove off.” Prachatai has a video of the illegal abduction of Rangsiman.

A third report states that 13 were “arrested” by the junta’s thugs. They are described as “pro-democracy activists from the New Democracy Movement and the Try Arm workers union…”.

As usual, the regime is busy concocting charges against them. And, as usual, the charges seem to be that the activists have “violat[ed] the junta’s ban on political gatherings for distributing campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum.”

In other words, there can only be Vote Yes campaigns around the charter, all of them organized and mostly populated by the military.

The Dictator’s claim that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…” means those people who support the junta and a a Yes vote.

The 13 activists held are: Rangsiman Rome, Korakoch Saengyenpan, Worawut Butmat, Konchanok Tanakhun, Tueanjai Waengkham, Pimai Ratwongsa, Somsakol Thongsuksai, Anan Loket, Phanthip Saengathit, Thirayut Napnaram, Yuttana Dasri, Rackchart Wong-arthichart and Nantapong Panmat.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the 13 “refused to sign their names on the police reports.” Police then “refused to grant bail to some of the pro-democracy activists and filed an additional charge against the 13 activists for refusing to sign the police report.”

A fourth report states that the activists could face up to 10 years in jail as a military court allowed (what a surprise!) the thug police and military gang to continue to detain the activists, accused of “violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons” and of “refusing to cooperate with officers and for violating the controversial Draft Referendum Act which lays out 10 years imprisonment for persons who distributed content about the draft constitution…”.

Following these events, UN Human Rights – Asia released a statement. In part it reads:

We are concerned by the arrests of 13 activists in Thailand who were detained for defying a military order banning political gatherings of five or more people. Eight of those arrested on June 23 in Bang Plee Industrial Area in Samut Prakarn Province, south of Bangkok, were students affiliated with the New Democracy Movement (NDM). The three others were labour rights activists. At the time of their arrest, they were distributing leaflets related to the upcoming referendum on the draft Constitution. Eight of the activists are due to face a military court, while the five others have been released on bail.

The junta will ignore these and other human rights statements not just because it rejects the notion that its opponents have rights but because the junta is intent on having its illegitimate charter “pass” an illegitimate referendum.

Update: Khaosod reports that six of the arrested 13 have been released on 50,000 baht bonds. The other seven have been “ordered to be locked up … by a military tribunal [court] as they await their trial.” These seven “refused to pay bonds … demanding to be released without any conditions, arguing that they did nothing wrong and that the legal action against them is illegitimate.” They are right.

The Dictator and deceit

21 06 2016

We are never sure if The Dictator is an inveterate liar or that his upbringing in the corrupt, hierarchical and royalist army means that he has no capacity for discerning truth from deceit.

It wasn’t that long ago that a huge team of junta flunkies was sent to Geneva to lie to the United Nations about the military dictatorship and its repression and oppression.

Now The Dictator, the General and the self-appointed prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has stated that he has spewed forth some of the very same lies directly to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

According to the Bangkok Post, The Dictator has bragged about his 30-minute phone call with Ban, where he claims to have spent 25 minutes “explaining” Thailand’s “situation” to Ban, setting him straight.

The UN secretary-general “raised concerns over freedom of expression with … Prayut … during a 30-minute telephone conversation as red-shirt leaders filed a complaint Monday with the UN against the regime’s operation to block the opening of their referendum watchdog centres.”

Prayuth says he called Ban “and explained to him what was going on in Thailand.” He bragged: “Most of the conversation consisted of me talking for about 25 minutes and the rest belonged to the secretary-general…”.

There is one immediate reason for doubting this – Prayuth’s English is not fluent and we don’t think he could talk for 25 minutes about issues like human rights without a translator.

But let’s stick with Prayuth’s personalized rant for a while more.

On the “charter referendum and preparations for a general election,” Prayuth blathered that he “told him everything is proceeding according to the road map,” meaning according to Prayuth’s plans for Thailand’s authoritarian future.

The Dictator “said he also told Mr Ban about activities by groups with ‘ill intentions’ toward the country…”. We assume he doesn’t mean the military and the junta. By “ill intentions” Prayuth seems to mean those advocating electoral democracy.

When Ban expressed concerns regarding the lack of freedom of expression in Thailand, Prayuth  claims he “explained” that “we have such freedom.” He means the junta has it, but no one who opposes or criticizes it or who opposes military land grabs or corrupt parks honoring dead and nearly dead kings or is seen to speak about the monarchy in a way the military junta finds unacceptable.

On the draft charter, Prayuth brazenly lied, claiming “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”. No one believes this bald-faced deception. Even the Bangkok Post has an editorial beseeching The Dictator to allow some, any discussion.

Prayuth is like most dictators, willingly saying anything that suits his and the ruling elite’s interests.

No criticism allowed

29 09 2015

The military dictatorship and The Dictator are remarkably thin-skinned.

As PPT noted in an earlier post, there were some demonstrations against General Prayuth Chan-ocha in New York. There were also some small groups of supporters.

The Bangkok Post reports that ” military regime and the government brushed off anti-coup protests at the United Nations in New York Sunday, saying the move would not cast Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in a bad light or undermine him at the summit.”

Despite have earlier claimed that any demonstration would be an attack on Thailand, spokesman for the junta, Colonel Winthai Suvaree, said that “demonstrations at the UN General Assembly were common and the protests against the Thai leader were unlikely to attract special attention or damage the country’s image.”

Another mouthpiece, Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd claimed a propaganda victory for Prayuth and the dictatorship, declaring “Gen Prayut’s appearance at several key UN forums … an acceptance from the international community.”

Of course, that’s a lie that other dictators have claimed in the past. In fact, the military dictatorship damages Thailand simply by being the world’s only military junta ruling over any country.

U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon has reportedly told The Dictator that “he remains concerned over the shrinking democratic space in Thailand.”

Prayuth met with Ban in “the first UN meeting for the general who staged a military coup to topple an elected civilian government in May last year.” Ban reportedly “emphasised the need for the government to uphold freedom of speech and assembly…”. Prayuth babbled that “the road map leading to a general election” meaning there would be an election in July 2017. The usual and banal justifications for military dictatorship were trotted out.

Back home, the prickly junta didn’t want anyone to know about protests, and according to Prachatai, the junta “blocked the red-shirt websites and social networks to prevent them from broadcasting live the anti-junta protest before the UN 70th General Assembly in New York, US.”

Criticism of the dictatorship

15 11 2014

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is boss of the military junta and self-appointed and royal-anointed prime minister, has had a difficult and embarrassing time at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Khaosod reports that The Dictator claimed that he told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon “that the coup was necessary to ensure the safety of Thai people…”. He claimed that “he was forced to step in and topple the former government when it became clear that the violent political protests, which had been paralysing Thailand for six months, were about to spiral out of control.”

Yes, the same claims that were made by the military junta in 2006.

Apparently he babbled about establishing “sustainable democracy” and requested that Ban “understand” the coup. Stupidly, he claimed that “Thailand is still upholding all of the international treaties it has signed.” Of course, the military dictatorship violates those related to human rights every day.

In the Bangkok Post, there is a somewhat different report, giving the background for Prayuth’s self-justifications.

In that report it is stated that Secretary-General Ban “acknowledged” a return to “stability” in Thailand and also “expressed concern over the ongoing implementation of martial law in a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and urged a prompt return ‘to civilian rule and constitutional order’ in Thailand…”.

In the same report it is stated that “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Gen Prayut to restore a civilian-led government during the meeting on Thursday…”.

This comes on the heels of France also expressing support for democratic rule in Thailand. French ambassador to Thailand Thierry Viteau told Foreign Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn of France’s “desire to see Thailand return to democratic constitutional rule.”

The military dictatorship is unlikely to be swayed from mad monarchism, repression, censorship and its role in ensuring that the elite’s rule can continue relatively unimpeded.

Updated: Reacting to the coup

21 05 2014

The Wall Street Journal:

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, chief of the Thai army, is at pains to explain he did not stage a coup at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. The imposition of martial law, he says, is merely an intervention to restore order and break the deadlock between the elected government and royalist protesters. Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan remains officially in charge.

That’s laughable, as Gen. Prayuth showed when reporters asked about the status of the government. “And where is this government?” he joked.

Now the army has given itself unlimited powers for an indefinite period. Sure sounds like a coup.

Moreover, there is no public safety justification for the generals’ action. Thailand may be wracked by political conflict, but it remains largely peaceful. Even when protesters derailed a general election in February, the troops stayed in their barracks. If there is a political vacuum in Bangkok, the army and other elite-controlled institutions created it.

So why did Gen. Prayuth act now? One clue is the way Mr. Niwatthamrong has gone on calling for new elections later this year. The military and the aristocracy need to close off that possibility.

The only way forward for Thailand is to go back to the voters for a new mandate.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:

 “The way to secure Thailand’s peace and prosperity is through full respect for democratic principles and engagement in democratic processes,” the statement continues, and adds: “The Secretary-General urges all sides to exercise utmost restraint, refrain from any violence and fully respect human rights.”

The New York Times:

General Prayuth faces a daunting challenge: to cajole some form of reconciliation in a society split between the old-money elites in Bangkok who are backing the antigovernment demonstrators and a populist governing party with a power base in the provinces, led by a nouveau riche tycoon, Thaksin Shinawatra.

The last military coup was in 2006, and it overthrew the same political movement that dominates the country today. But analysts say the current impasse is more intractable than anything the military has taken on in the past.

The Deccan Chronicle:

What happened on Monday in Thailand appears to be a soft coup, martial law has been imposed and the Army is in control of the streets and television stations.

… India’s solidarity with the people of one of the working democracies of the region, a prosperous one with close trade ties and strong bilateral bonds should be reflected in our hope that democracy will get back on its feet fast.

The obvious way out would be for free and fair polls and India could offer assistance. The problem lies in Thai society having showed an inclination not to trust the popular vote, which the billionaire Shinawatras still command with the poor backing them. Any civilian government that lives under the shadow of the military intervention would only be beholden to the military top brass.

Kevin Hewison at The Conversation:

In the dead of night, Thailand’s military has used a 100-year-old law to declare martial law across the country. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army’s commander, has said it did not overthrow the government, so this cannot be Thailand’s 19th successful coup.

Should the military move quickly and call an immediate election, perhaps it would pass the “duck test”. Yet that seems highly unlikely. So, for the moment, the declaration of martial law looks like a coup and probably is.

Aspects of this military action bear striking similarities with the last coup in September 2006…. Back then, the conservative elite was in broad agreement on the need to get rid of Thaksin.

The palace’s support for that coup was a major element in elite solidarity. This time, the palace has been quieter, although several privy councillors, and others known to have links to the Privy Council, have been grumbling. It seems doubtful that the military would have acted without being sure of support in the highest places.

There are other similarities. First, the justification provided for martial law, enacted without consultation with the interim government, is remarkably similar.

Back in 2006, the military stated that it overthrew the government to prevent bloody clashes between the Thaksin government and royalist protesters known as yellow shirts. Of course, that was a concocted scenario. The palace and military had been hatching the plot for months.

Tuesday’s enactment of martial law was also said to be in response to supposedly pending clashes. Given that there has been sporadic violence for the past seven months, this claim appears as spurious as it was in 2006.

A second similarity is that the initial target of the intervention in 2006, and again today, was government supporters. The red shirt demonstration on the outskirts of Bangkok, which has been large but entirely peaceful, has been surrounded by troops. The police, also seen to be pro-government, witnessed armed soldiers surround their headquarters for several hours.

A third similarity is that anti-government protesters appear to have applauded and welcomed the military. It is likely that the business community will again support military intervention because the long months of anti-government activism have undermined the economy.

Ironically, many of Thailand’s major businesses have supported the demonstrations that have done the economic damage. This reflects the fact that much of the business class is bound to the conservative elite.

… The 2006 coup ended Thailand’s tenuous, elite-negotiated political consensus. There has since been remarkable political mobilisation…. The colour-coded demonstrations have tended to simplify a more complex political dystopia born of political and economic inequality, status and class-based conflict and even ethnic animosities that were long thought forgotten.

This grand unravelling has exposed the foundations of these inequalities and conflicts. Major institutions have been brought undone, mainly through their own audacious declarations of political bias: the judiciary’s double standards have been revealed; the monarchy is embroiled in political conflict; and “independent” agencies have been shown to be hopelessly prejudiced.

… An election within a suitable timeframe will likely reduce the potential for clashes. Anything else is likely to be dangerous.

Without an election, the military’s actions will, at best, further undermine Thailand’s electoral democracy. At worst, division, conflict and crisis will likely deepen.

Update: The Economist:

AT 3AM Thailand’s army, the institution that determines the fate of the country’s civilian governments, declared martial law.

It invoked a draconian 100-year-old law that was most recently used by Sarit Thanarat, a military dictator, following his second coup in 1958.

… It may look like one, it may sound like one, but the army insists this is not a coup, and that the civilian government is still in place. It dissolved the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), the government agency tasked with overlooking security. A so-called “Peace-Keeping Command Centre” now enforces martial law.

The army will be keen to keep its move regarded as a “non-coup” to prevent Thailand’s being cut off from international capital markets, and to prevent its officers’ prosecution at a later date. “What’s happened is that the army has given itself the legal means of achieving an army coup”, says Paul Chambers, an expert on the Thai army at Chiang Mai University’s Institute for South-East Asian Affairs. [PPT: we are not sure what “legal” means here. Nothing we see is legal and the disdain for legalities is clear]

… [M] martial law is something like a last ditch effort on the part of Mr Suthep’s sponsors. He had been playing the role of a front man for the old Thai establishment—representing the street-level id of the civil service, the army, the judiciary and the monarchy—and he has failed to deliver.

A Khaosod editorial:

Regardless of the pretext or intention, the martial law imposed by the Royal Thai Army today infringes on the rights of Thai citizens and should be repealed without delay.

… The military has insisted that this is not a coup. But coup or no coup, the martial law is already restricting a number of human rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Thai constitution.

There is no basis for Gen. Prayuth to impose the martial law. Although there has been sporadic violence over the past few months, the situation has not reached the full-scale “unrest” that Gen. Prayuth said last week was the condition for a military intervention.

Thailand’s martial law explicitly says that it may only be declared by the military in a time of war or insurrection. Neither is happening in Thailand at the moment.

On the first day of the martial law regime alone, at least 14 TV stations and local radio stations were shut down by the POMC, ostensibly to avoid dissemination of “distorted” information to the public.

Direct military intervention rarely ends well in Thailand. The fact that Gen. Prayuth decided to impose the martial law on the 4th anniversary of the unrest in 2010 — in which more than 90 people were killed in the clashes between the army and Redshirt protesters — is particularly uncouth. One can only wonder whether the military has learned its lesson.