A violent interlude II

15 08 2021

Sunday saw another of the now almost daily protests against Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime. In recent days, the locus for police crackdowns on rallies has been the Din Daeng area. The Bangkok Post reports:

Violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police resumed around the Din Daeng intersection on Sunday evening to round off the biggest day yet of “car mob” rallies.

Some of the protesters riding motorcycles and cars arrived at the intersection after joining the car mob rallies which converged at key locations including the Ratchaprasong and Lat Phrao intersections.

Around 5pm, a group of mostly young protesters broke away from the main parade rallies and gathered at Din Daeng intersection where confrontations with police have occurred over the past week.

The Post states that protesters initiated clashes. PPT wasn’t there, but that’s not what we saw on live broadcasts. It is true that perception of incidents depends a lot on where reporters are during an event.

That said, the Post generally presents regime perspectives and seems keen to present the protesters as violent.

Other reports present a different perspective. For instance, Prachatai, reporting on Saturday’s protest states:

What promised to be a peaceful march to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s house by the Talu Fa (Pierce the Sky) group made no more headway than other protests earlier this week. The protesters withdrew after police used force to keep them from reaching their destination.

At that protest – a series of multiple events – it is reported that when “some of the protesters tried to tear down the [now usual] container blockade, police responded with tear gas, affected many of those marching.”

Clipped from Prachatai

In all of this, the issue of political violence is being widely discussed among activists. Interestingly, it is reported that:

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar, who co-organised Sunday’s car mob rallies, arrived at the scene amid boos and jeers as he tried in vain to persuade the protesters to go home.

Earlier in the day, Mr Nattawut promised the movement’s wider rallies would be peaceful. He also said protesters would avoid confrontations with police and stay away from politically sensitive places, including Government House and the prime minister’s residence.

There’s clearly a generation gap on what matters, with the younger generation of activists more clearly focused on the anachronism that it the monarchy and more clearly identifying their opposition to the monarchy-capitalist-military alliance that has been dominant for decades. As well, there is a festering resentment of an older generation that has already capitulated several times over.





Fudging for the monarchy

10 05 2021

Without explanation (that we can see), the Bangkok Post has changed an online story. Guess what it is about? The king’s Siam Bioscience company. It might be a small thing, but it is illustrative of how the system works. Someone got upset, got on the phone and the story gets changed. If it was legitimate, you’d expect a note, but not in royalist Thailand.

Here’s the original story:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing

9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release — in English but with numerous grammatical errors — James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress [sic] in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set [sic] by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for  requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses [sic] mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of  vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question [sic] have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”

Here’s what it became, with the same headline, same date and same time stamp:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing
9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release, James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”





Updated: Mad, mad monarchism

29 12 2020

Two stories at the Bangkok Post in recent days demonstrate how monarchists have gone completely bonkers.

The first story is about Lt Gen Soraphot Nirandorn, an old man with a terrible comb-over who claims to be the son of a member of Khana Ratsadorn, or the People’s Party. Ordinarily, that affiliation would not guarantee interest in Soraphot.

But in the royal and royalist efforts to roll back the 1932 revolution, Lt Gen Soraphot’s seeking of “forgiveness” for his father, prostrating “before the statues and portraits of King Rama VII, King Rama VIII and King Rama IX…” gained attention.

He says his father, Maj Sawek Nirandorn, or Khun Nirandornchai, one of some 194 “promoters” of the 1932 revolution, “felt remorseful that he as a soldier had violated the oath of allegiance.” He added that: “When serving on a committee examining royal assets, he did something inappropriate. His last wish was to seek royal forgiveness, but he died before he could do it…”.  Sawek doesn’t have much of a role in the standard histories of the period.

According to Lt Gen Soraphot, his father “left the military and was appointed by Khana Ratsadorn to take charge of the construction of the Democracy Monument and was also appointed as a member of a committee examining royal assets from 1932–1948.”

Some of the details here seem a little screwy, but that could be the reporting or the old man’s poor memory, but his angst seems to have to do with land. When asked “if he would return the assets, Lt Gen Soraphot said he has no objection but will have to ask for consent from the rest of the family.”

For those interested in the story of the land scandal of 1937, download Virginia Thompson’s Thailand A New Siam and read pages 93-95. There it is stated that 33 of the 34 persons named as having ripped off land returned it. Unlike the silence that surrounds royal seizures of land today, back then, there was a furious debate.

The second story is even more bizarre, with the monarchist management and owners of the newspaper deeming it necessary to “clarify” a story from 1950. Yes, that’s 70 years ago. Of course it is about the monarchy and it is also a “clarification” dripping with political intent.

Phibul

The Post finds itself caught up in a series of royalist attacks on the doctoral dissertation titled “Thai Politics in Phibul’s Government under the US World Order (1948–1957)” by Nattapol Chaiching. Nattapol refers to the Post for 18 December 1950 in claiming that the regent attended cabinet meetings and that this caused annoyance for Prime Minister Phibul who demanded that the regent follow constitutional rules.

The Post contorts itself stating that “the paper never reported such information…”. it adds: “In fact, the article ‘Premier May Sit In with Privy Council’ merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced their concern about the appointment of 50 senators by the Privy Council without consulting the government as stated in the full article below.”

That sounds a lot like nitpicking, and we can’t find the article the Post claims to reproduce. All of this is prompted by a nasty royalist campaign. For those who can read Thai, there’s an account of the royalist effort here. The campaign is aimed at a group of revisionist historians.

What is clear is that Nattapol’s basic point is correct. Phibul was working against royalists who were reasserting their power and, as usual, ignoring constitutional procedures. As Sorasak Ngamcachonkulkid has it in his 2005 thesis, “The Seri Thai movement : the first alliance against military authoritarianism in modern Thai history” (p. 539):

Soon after the 1947 coup, senior and traditional members of the royal family and the aristocracy came back to play a central role in politics. The two traditional elite groups began by extending their control to the upper House of the legislature. Although the military leaders attempted to place their own followers in the senate, the Regent, Prince Rangsit, ignored their request and appointed one-hundred senators from among the nation’s most venerable and highly-educated elite. Only eight senators were selected from the 1932 revolutionary group, and no senators were appointed from members of the recent coup. Of the 100 Senators, 90 of them were princes … and [from] the aristocracy….

As time went on, Phibul railed against the royalists, seeking to roll back their power grab and especially against the regent. Indeed, in 1951, when Prince Dhani was appointed regent, Phibul voted against him.

Our point being that the royalists are grasping at straws and again trying to put the genie back in the opaque bottle.

Update: In the context of the above notes, it is worth reading Voranai Vanijaka’s op-ed “2020: Khana Ratsadon VS the Chakri Dynasty Part 2.” It sets out some of the ideological underpinnings for Thailand’s journey back to royal absolutism.





Updated: Thammanat and his bags of loot

16 11 2020

The story about the nepotism involved in Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s dishing out of a lucrative taxpayer-funded seat to one of convicted drug smuggler Thammanat Prompao’s wives has caused many to shrug their shoulders. “It’s just what they do!” say not a few observers.

We think the indignation should be far louder. After all, Thammanat and both his wives are fabulously wealthy and hardly need more money sucked from the body of the Thai taxpayer. Yes, we know, the king and the leeches of the royal family do the same.

Thai PBS provides some more detail on the great wealth of Thammanat, his registered spouse Arisara Prompow, and his 25 year-old common law spouse Tanaporn Srivirach.

The latter was “[c]rowned Miss Thailand in 2016,” and was “handed a job in the Secretariat of the Prime Minister on November 10.” Tanaporn is reportedly “among a quota of 20 government staff who must be nominated and endorsed by the premier.”

Arisara is reported to be “worth Bt189 million according to the assets declaration Thamanat filed last year when he became an MP.’ Tanaporn was declared to be worth “about Bt63.6 million in assets…”.

And, former inmate now minister, Thamanat “is worth a whopping Bt886 million…”.

An example of a Hermes bag priced in Euros. Sourced from the internet.

That’s a total wealth of almost 1.14 billion baht. We can only guess at how it is that someone who spent four years in prison can be so fabulously wealthy.

Tanaporn’s declared assets included some “42 ultra-expensive designer bags,” including a “Hermès Kelly 28 in black croc worth nearly Bt2 million, a shiny Hermès Constance in alligator leather worth Bt1.4 million, and a Chanel 2017 rocket worth Bt680,000, among others.”

She “also has a taste for luxury cars: her garage reportedly houses a Mercedes-Benz worth Bt5.8 million and a Bt8.9-million Porsche.”

Tanaporn is among a quota of 20 government staff who must be nominated and endorsed by the premier.

As we have said before, it beggars belief that the National Anti-Corruption Commission just accepts asset declarations and never asks how it is that those making the declarations came by their loot.

Update: The Bangkok Post has got around to criticizing Tanaporn’s appointment and the regime’s “response” is lambasted. An editorial states: “It’s not clear how her experience would benefit her new position as an official in the prime minister’s secretariat office.” We suppose that her relevant experience is being the crooked Thammanat’s wife. He’s a big shot and gets what he wants (and says what he wants – his lies).

It is not clear why the Post thinks Thammanat’s heroin trafficking conviction in Australia is “alleged” or why this is described as a “still unresolved scandal.” Nothing is unresolved and “alleged” is wimpish when the Post has seen the official documents from Australian courts. Nor is it apparent to us why the Post decides to portray Thanaporn’s appointment as showing that there is “the possibility that nepotism was at play.” Possibility? Seriously?

Most of the rest of the editorial is on target. Thammanat should have been sacked months ago and investigated for unusual wealth. That hasn’t happened because he’s a crucial enforcer and fixer for the regime.





Thinking about the ruling class I

30 10 2020

Often PPT is startled by some of the reporting we see in the mainstream media. Sometimes we are disappointed that some of that media simply cannot extract itself from regime and palace propaganda, from ruling class interests and from strangling self-censorship.

We reckon that the Bangkok Post has been particularly awful in the way it has reported many recent events. Its latest reporting on the king’s problems in Germany had this ridiculous, even laughable, line: “the King travels to Germany from time to time.”

Do they think its readers are morons? Every one knows that the king spends most of his time in Germany and that he ordered the junta’s constitution changed to allow him to conduct the affairs of state when in Germany. Everyone knows that royal minor wife Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi spends most of her time – since she was released from jail – in Germany. Every one knows that the queen spends most of her time in Switzerland. And, many know that Princess Sirivannavari spends much of her time in France. This is a European royal family. So why is the Post so hopeless?

Sirivannavari and boyfriend at Paris Open

Thinking about hopeless stuff, how about bail?

As we know, many of the “leaders” of the anti-regime protests are in jail, denied bail. THese are mostly young students.

How’s that work when a report in the same Bangkok Post tells us that “[s]elf-professed gambler Apirak ‘Sia Po’ Chat-anon was detained after showing up at a police station in Bangkok to be questioned about a shootout on Tuesday that resulted in two men being wounded.” Sia Po stands “accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna & Spa…”.

When he showed up at the police station – they didn’t go out and arrest him – he arrived with  “his brother … accompanied by Santhana Prayoonrat, a former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police…”.

Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

We won’t go into how it is that a gangster and gunman has a retired senior policeman with him – the answer is too obvious. But we do note that Sia Po was “later released without condition by the Thon Buri Criminal Court after posting 350,000 baht bail.”

But the students who haven’t shot anyone or or engaged in any violence are denied bail. Fair? Of course not. It is all ruling class buffalo manure. Think of all the cops supporting the Red Bull who drove over and killed a policeman.

There was another Sia who accused of gangsterism. That was Sia O several years ago. Are they all in this together? Of course they are. It’s a ruling class.

Even if the royal family aren’t engaged in gangsterism, they plunder the taxpayer’s money.





The Dictator must go

19 10 2020

Clearly, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s time is up.

Yet the Bangkok Post, which has been atrocious in its reporting of the pro-democracy protests, seeks to throw Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha a lifeline, saying that The Dictator:

… appeared to tone down his stance against protesters.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Sunday the prime minister recognised the right to protest but said demonstrations must be held in accordance with the law.

“The government is willing to listen to everyone ‘s problems and continues to solve problems in all areas,” the spokesman quoted him as saying.

The tone seemed friendlier than on Saturday, when according to the spokesman, Gen Prayut warned people not to attend gatherings and violate the law.

Perhaps the Post is hoping that the ruling class can retain its preferred leader?

Some reports are that Gen Prayuth is open to “discussions” with protesters. Well, he has many of their leaders held in custody. So maybe he could start there? But, seriously, the time for talking with The Dictator is probably gone. Now it is time Gen Prayuth went. Perhaps exile in Germany?

Meanwhile, the Thai Enquirer lists some of the draconian measures introduced by the military-backed regime.

A recently imposed new order has also made it illegal for people to take and post selfies of the protests on their personal social media.

Those found in violation could face 2 years jail term and a fine of up to 40,000 baht.

Local news has reported that more than then ten individuals have already been arrested for violating the selfie-rule as of Friday.

Some of these selfies appear associated with defaced portraits of the king and queen.

More rules:

The new state of emergency rules allows authorities to arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge – suspending habeas corpus.

The police can also confiscate any communication tools, including smartphones and weapons or products that are being used to support actions that are in violation of the emergency orders.

News outlets can be temporarily shut down if they produce fake news or information that can lead to conflict. The state will decide what is and is not fake news.

Soldiers are allowed under the emergency decree to be mobilized in quelling dissent.

Military camps can serve as makeshift prisons.

Speaking of “fake news,” the junta’s poodle that it the reports that Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae “dismissed a report on social media claiming the army had seized parliament…”.

It may not have “seized” parliament, but soldiers were sent to Parliament House and sealed it off. As the same report says, the Army was “deployed to guard important locations such as the Government House and parliament building.”

The soldiers used were brought from Kanchanaburi and Chachoengsao provinces, brought “to support police work in law enforcement under the emergency decree.”

Poodle Post also reports on the police/regime response on the accurate claims that they use water laced with chemicals in their water cannon. Police say “they followed international standards for crowd control and that water sprayed from cannons did not contain dangerous chemicals.”

Thinking himself too clever by half, Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, emphasized: “No dangerous weapons were used in the operation against a crowd of around 2,000…”. We are not sure which crowd he was looking at, but he adds: “The water sprayed at the crowd contained blue dye so that officers could identify rally participants for possible arrest later.”

Reporting him a third time on the same point, the Post says: “Pol Maj Gen Yingyos said the water did not contain dangerous chemicals or cause harm to the lives of demonstrators.”

But, then, he helpfully “acknowledged that some people might experience skin irritation. He said police officials could not confirm exactly what chemicals were used.”

There it is! They used chemicals but reckon they don’t know what they are! Seriously? Lies, deceit, and more. What a hopeless regime.





Updated: Car trouble II

16 10 2020

The Bangkok Post’s reporting on recent events in Bangkok has been abysmal. Worse, it has appeared as a mouthpiece for the regime. Compare its reporting with that at Khaosod English and understand how regime-grovelling and spineless the Bangkok Post has become. Are the owners running the show?

Which brings us to the almost unprecedented use of Article 110 of the Criminal Code. The Bangkok Post has almost nothing to say about this. Other outlets have already shown that the charges are a complete fabrication. Worse, the Post fails to read Article 110 accurately, downplaying it.

Francis. Clipped from TLHR

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, who are exceptionally busy just now, dealing with dozens of arrested activists, have a report on the royal  car debacle.

Both Bunkueanun (Francis) Paothong and Akechai Hongkangwarn have appeared before police, accused of “jointly attempted to commit an assault against the Queen’s liberty…”.

Both men are accused of having “incited demonstrators surrounding the procession to block the front of the procession and to crowd around the queen’s car.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

Akechai is accused of shouting, raising three fingers, and that he tried to push police officers.

The demonstrators are accused of causing the royal car to stop, allowing a group of demonstrators to shout insults accompanied by the three finger salute.

This “fit up” is necessary for the regime because it used the event as an excuse for a coup-like declaration of a state of emergency.

Such fabricated “criminal” cases were a defining feature of the military junta under Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. As arrests continue, the whole judicial system is a tool of the regime.

Update: The Bangkok Post’s editorial today, after two nights of historic rallying in Bangkok, is about the zoo. Hopeless.





Hardening lines I

13 08 2020

A couple of days ago, The Guardian reported the now obvious: “Thai protesters have broken a long-standing taboo, risking lengthy jail terms to criticise the king, after weeks of student-led pro-democracy rallies that have swept across the country.”

In fact, as Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recount,

Since 18 July 2020, youth and various civic groups have demonstrated against dictatorship in Thailand. Free Youth has proposed three demands: the state must stop intimidating the people, a new constitution must be drafted, and parliament must be dissolved. At least 107 public activities and assemblies have been organized in 52 provinces, the latest of which was the #ThammasatCan’tTakeItAnymore demonstration organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Assembly at Lan Payanak on Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 10 August 2020.

The students have included those in high school and university. They have been joined by other pro-democracy groups and individuals. The movement is decentralized and multi-headed.

That some protesters have begun to openly criticize “the country’s wealthy and powerful monarchy” has shocked some and provoked others.

The Guardian report believes this has “left the government in a bind. Allowing criticism to pass would undermine the status quo that keeps them in power … while cracking down hard on the students could foment further protests and intensify scrutiny of the monarchy.”

With King Vajiralongkorn having made another flying visit to “his kingdom,” we expect that the regime has been ordered what it must do.

(We assume Vajiralongkorn is on his way back to Germany via Zurich as the taxpayer-funded TG970 left Bangkok at about 2.30 am. If that is his flight, then he spent just 18 hours in country, visiting his hospitalized mother and swearing in new cabinet ministers.)

At Thammasat University on Monday students issued “a 10-point list for reform of the monarchy.”

The regime and the palace have reacted. Rightists have been mobilized, but for the moment remain relatively contained and constrained. But the self-proclaimed protectors of the monarchy have also been vocal in warning and threatening the students.

Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong provided the example for rightists by borrowing from rightist social media to describe the protesters as “nation-haters.”

Sunai Phasuk at Human Rights Watch warns that legal measures and intimidation of pro-democracy protesters “is getting more and more aggressive…”.

Claims on social media that the palace has been speaking to owners and executives of media firms, encouraging them to scale back their reporting of the protests and to oppose the students seems reflected in television news and in the press.

For example, the Bangkok Post seems to have become more recognizably rightist. Its report on Monday’s rally made accusations: “Comments made by protesters at the university’s Rangsit Campus in Pathum Thani have potentially violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.”

That amounts to a threat to the students by essentially calling for Article 112 to be used against the students.

They cite university administrators and their threats to students and distancing themselves from the rally: “Police will take legal action against all involved, particularly those who are not Thammasat University students…. For the university’s students who acted improperly during the rally, Thammasat will itself take action based on facts and in line with its regulations.”

For a university that has been the site of so much political activism, its compromised administrators made the astounding statement that the university will now “ban political activities on its premises that risk violating the law.”

The report went on to cite rightists and yellow shirts. Not a single student voice is heard in this “story.”

Unelected senator and rightist Kamnoon Sidhisamarn “told parliament that the demands made by protesters during the rally were unprecedented and their comments were the most violent he’d ever heard.”

Violent? Is he quoted correctly? If he is, then it is a lie and a fabrication that threatens the students and invites violence from the right.

Like many others, Kamnoon raised the specter of 6 October 1976 and its violence. While he moderates his threats by arguing that parliament should have a role in sorting out this conflict, his commentary remains threatening.

(At least royalists are admitting that the massacre at Thammasat in 1976 was by royalists and for the “protection” of the monarchy.)

Another unelected senator, Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana claimed the students had offended “tens of millions of Thai people loyal to the royal institution and the tradition of peaceful co-existence based on the mercy of the royal institution.” That’s pure royalist drivel but also a call fro a response from the right and ultra-royalists.

The Bangkok Post joins the call for parliament to play a role in preventing the “country plung[ing] into a deep divide, with the possibility of violent confrontations … [in] what could become a national crisis.”

It makes no comment on the student’s demands.

Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has observed that

The exercise of the right to freedom of expression and public assembly has caused at least 76 organizers of the events to face intimidation and surveillance, as well as being told to call off the events, denied permission to hold the events, and the events being intervened by the authorities, etc. At least four legal cases have been initiated against individuals who have exercised their right to freedom of expression, particularly as a result of their criticism of the monarchy. It has led to the arrests of lawyer Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, and Phanuphong Jadnok, a university student, and it appears more people will be slapped with legal cases. The issue has ignited widespread and fiery debate online as some view the exercise of such freedom of expression by the demonstrators as illegal acts and “insulting to the monarchy.” They have even threatened that the dehumanizing violence of 6 October 1976 at Thammasat’s Tha Pra Chan campus could repeat itself.

In response to the official and rightist threats, 130 academics issued a statement “to voice their support for student protesters who raised a 10-point manifesto on reforming the monarchy in a rally at Thammasat University on Monday.” They argue that the proposal “does not undermine the Palace.”

The academics supported the 10-point manifesto to reform the monarchy and stated that “the protesters were sincere and expressed their opinions within their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 34 of the Constitution. Moreover, it said, their activities are in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is recognised by Thailand.”

They pointed out that the proposals do not violate any law, arguing that “it’s a straightforward proposal that aims to protect the constitutional monarchy and democracy.”

Implicitly criticizing Thammasat administrators, they declared: “Educational institutions must not avoid or shut the door on freedom of expression. The universities should set an example and teach society to face challenges with patience, which is essential to democracy…”.

Part of the motivation for the academic statement was talk of a military coup, a point also made by the anti-government Free People movement which stated “it was also opposed to all attempts to stage a military coup…”.





Taunting the regime I

10 08 2020

Hours after being bailed on sedition and sundry other bogus charges, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa spoke at a rally in Chiang Mai.

Further upping its rightist line, the Bangkok Post refers to Arnon as having “led a discussion at a subversive protest on the monarchy’s role in Thailand” a week ago. Have the owners and board taken control of the editorial desks?

In Chiang Mai, Arnon declared: “We repeat our three demands: stop threatening the people, dissolve the parliament and write a new constitution…”. He added: “We call for this charter to be amended because it is the inheritance of dictators…”.

Other anti-government protests were held in Phitsanulok and Mahasarakham.





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.