Regime preparations

18 09 2020

The regime’s preparations for Saturday’s rally suggest that it is feeling the heat. The activism of rabid royalists is meant to support the regime and to threaten the students.

The Bangkok Post reports that so serious is the “threat,” that “Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon will run the Operation Centre monitoring the anti-government rally on Saturday, when protest leaders expect at least 40,000 people to attend.”

In addition to some 2,000 police, the regime is mobilizing more than 8,550 “crowd control officers.” Exactly who they are – military? other officials? – remains unclear.

The Thai Enquirer reports, in ironic terms:

Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-ocha, who came to power in 2014 after deposing of a democratically elected government in a military coup and proceeded to rip up the constitution, said on Thursday that anti-government protesters must respect the rule of law and be appropriate during their demonstrations.

They have a point in their irony, for when Gen Prayuth avers that Thailand is “a country is governed by the rule of law and if you do not respect the law other people might find that unacceptable,” seems to express the double standards that the regime is infamous for.

This is reinforced when the general who was in charge of troops that gunned down protesters in 2010 said that “Thailand’s economy is suffering and the protesters should understand that their rallies may hurt other people.”

He’s gone further, invoking virus techno-fascism:

I would like to take this chance to tell various groups that want to protest for various reasons, that protesting is exponentially multiplying the risk of infection and will create a new wave of COVID infection in Thailand…

He added that “the protests could damage the gains achieved by doctors and nurses who worked hard to contain the virus.”

Gen Prayuth was also loud in warning” “protesters know what is appropriate and not appropriate in the Thai context and that they should respect the boundaries of Thai society.” He means that the protesters should not “touch” the absent king.

Meanwhile Thailand’s yellow shirts are morphing into a version of America’s Alt-Right, blathering about color revolutions and US oligarchs joining with Thai oligarchs and the CIA to bring down the regime and the monarchy. Such claims have previously been mainly limited to Russian sites but are now being widely circulated. Part of the reason for this is that the mainstream media in Thailand has been less critical of the current student protesters than was the case with the red shirts.

The yellow ones are quite deranged, but their concocted claims of “plots” have been effective before. Expect more of this.





No accountability

20 05 2020

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) have called on “the Government of Thailand to re-activate its investigation into the [murderous military] crackdown [in 2010], and ensure transparent proceedings and due process for all involved.”

The joint statement demanded:

The Government must ensure that activists fighting for justice for victims of this massacre are protected from reprisals. The Government should take genuine and impartial steps towards ensuring justice for all if it is to gain the trust of its people….

The good old days at the Army Club

The groups wants the government to conduct “a reliable and transparent investigation to assure its people that such forms of violence would never recur, and to ensure the protection of advocates pushing for accountability.”

Those responsible would “need to be held accountable, regardless of position or political affiliation. Without this accountability, the right to fundamental freedoms, and the ability of the public to trust its Government remains compromised.”

While PPT supports such calls, it must be acknowledged that accountability, transparency and impartiality are simply not possible from the current regime.

The military crackdown was ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, leading a Democrat Party coalition government. That Democrat Party was supportive of the 2014 military coup, the resulting junta and is now a part of the pro-military/military-dominated ruling regime. It is never going to be a part of any effort to establish accountability, transparency and impartiality on 2010.

More obviously, the military assaults on red shirt protesters, including the use of snipers, were led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 coup and remain at the apex of the current regime. Such a government is never going to be a part of any effort to establish accountability, transparency and impartiality on 2010. In any case, these former military leaders, who still conduct themselves as soldiers, expect impunity for their actions that protect the ruling class.





Updated: No one forgets 2010

19 05 2020

There’s a trend in academic work that emphasizes memory, memorialization and memory. As it has translated in Thailand, several very smart academics have argued that Thais have forgotten important events, including 1976 and 2010. And, there’s discussion of how to remember. As an example, see one of the several op-eds at the Thai Enquirer today.

We feel this is too academic and too detached from the reality of the almost two-month long Battle for Bangkok. No one who was involved has forgotten. Nor do they need “advice” on how to remember. But, it is a decade ago, and many of those talking of memory, forgetting and remembering were too young, too class-disconnected, too bookish or too coddled to be involved and therefore, it is their memories that are constructed, distorted or reoriented. For examples, see the other op-ed at the Thai Enquirer by reformed/reforming/rethinking/unreformed yellow shirts (here, here, here, and here). And, do look at the real effort that this newspaper put into trying to understand 2010 (here, here, here, and here). We don’t agree with everything that is said, but applaud the effort made.

The 19th of May 2010 marked the end of the red shirt struggles. April and May 2010 again revealed the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of today’s regime is born of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. These men, blood on their hands, remain at the center of yet another military-backed regime.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible. Unfortunately, while no one involved forgets, it is Jatuporn Promphan who captures the essence of “remembering” for those defeated by the military’s armed excess:

“The truth is that this is the deadliest fight for democracy in Thailand…. Over the past 10 years, the Redshirts have been living humbly because we know that there is no way for us to fight. We can only seek for justice, but it will not be delivered.”

Update: It was at Wat Pathum Wanaram that – according to the courts and eye witnesses – the military gunned down people, including medics, in a zone they had declared “safe.” Since those murders, the military has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence witnesses and silence campaigners. Of course, the military has a lot to hide. Sadly, the military has also used the virus to close the temple on the anniversary of its murderous assault.

 





Updated: Appalling Abhisit

18 05 2020

Like the military, the appalling Abhisit Vejjajiva and the (Anti)Democrat Party have been spooked into responding to the illuminations of sites in Bangkok that remembered and questioned the military’s crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

As we previously posted and is widely known, the crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

In a Bangkok Post report, Abhisit reportedly claimed:

he thinks the country has yet to recover from the decade-old wounds despite several legal cases connected to the red-shirt mass protest having been settled in court and an independent panel shedding light on what happened.

Like his “book,” called The Simple Truth – a travesty of untruth – Abhisit’s observation here is misleading. The “independent” panel was, in fact, appointed by his regime and almost none of the cases that matter have been “settled in court.” In fact, as Khaosod reports, despite courts finding that the military murdered red shirts and bystanders, “[t]en years after a military crackdown that left about 90 people dead, no army personnel has ever stood trial over the killings…”.

Abhisit and Suthep have never been held accountable. When they were charged they defended themselves with spurious accounts and by claiming the police could not investigate them. They claimed that the charges were a subterfuge by political opponents, insisted that most of the deaths were the work of terrorists – men in black – and that the use of weapons and lethal force was justified by terrorist attacks on the military. Supporting them, the military leadership repeatedly claimed that it did not kill any protesters. Then Deputy Army Commander General Prayuth stated: “My subordinates did not kill anyone, but they were shot at…”.

The good old days at the Army Club

The charges failed because the lapdog of military and royalist regimes, the NACC rejected malfeasance allegations against Abhisit, Suthep and Anupong. Following the defendant’s script, he NACC considered the red shirt protests were not peaceful with armed militants among the demonstrators. Because of this, the NACC agreed that regime had acted legally in authorizing armed personnel to reclaim the demonstration sites and that they had to protect themselves and did so in accord with “international standards.” All allegations and charges against Abhisit, Suthep and Anupong were dismissed.

No one seriously expects justice in royalist Thailand.

This year, Abhisit continues to blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his parties.

Let’s have that coup!

Startlingly, Abhisit now says: “We all should look ahead and work together with an open mind to prevent the preconditions for military coups…”. He apparently thinks all Thais are morons and have short memories. Arguably, Abhisit ranks second behind Suthep in the stridency of calls for a military coup. In allowing his Democrat Party to repeatedly sabotage parliamentary politics and in taking to the streets several times to hasten a coup, Abhisit would be better advised to shut his mouth and avoid the buffalo manure drivel that emanates from that aperture.

He’s supported in his avoidance of justice when the Democrat Party avers:

“The allegation [against Abhisit] has been already disproved by contests in the justice system, whether a court of justice or an inquiry by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which already proved that the crackdown was in accordance with the law…”.

“The allegations [against Abhisit] are distortions to defame him.”

The Democrat Party now supports a regime that came to power via the 2014 coup. The credibility of the justice system has been destroyed by the military and its puppet regimes and associated parties.

Abhisit then attacked the illuminations: “The movement’s search was launched with rhetoric that was bent on pointing fingers, which is not the way to attain the truth.” If there’s one thing the appalling Abhisit has shown that he can avoid, it is the truth. And, he reckons Thailand can’t handle the truth (unless it is his truth).

Update: The renewed attention to the murderous events of April and May 2010 have pricked the military-supporting Democrat Party. According to Khaosod, the anti-democratic party “will take legal action against anyone who accuses its former leader of illegitimately ordering a military crackdown on Redshirt protesters that left about 90 people dead 10 years ago.” The unpopular party claims that such “accusations” are libelous. In Thailand, the libel and defamation laws and threats to use it is often used by criminals, liars and the powerful to silence whistleblowers and critics. Truth is often suppressed by such actions.





Truth, May 2010, no remorse

13 05 2020

After the illumination attacks on King Vajiralongkorn in Germany, illuminations of sites in Bangkok have remembered and questioned the military’s murderous crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

Prachatai reported that messages “projected onto key locations of the May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests” on Sunday night and the projected hashtag “#FindingTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”) trending on Twitter. The projections appeared just “a week before the 10th anniversary of the May 2020 crackdown on Red Shirt protestors on 19 May.”

The crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

The locations included “Wat Pathum Wanaram, Soi Rangnam, the Ministry of Defence, and the Democracy Monument.”

Other messages were: “May 1992, 2010: killing fields in the city” and “Facts about May 2010: (1) the military forced all Red Shirts out of CTW [Central World] (2) The military took control of the CTW area (3) The fire happened when the military took control of CTW (4) The military wouldn’t let fire trucks in to put out of the fire…”.

The identity of those responsible was, at first, unknown, but the military elements of the regime sprang into repressive action, threatening “legal” action. The Nation reported:

“We do not know the exact purpose of this group but speculate that they have also spread these messages around social media to gain a wider audience,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said. “It seems they are trying to bring up past political events, but this could lead to misunderstanding by authorities and institutes.”

Lt-Gen Kongcheep continued:

“I personally find it inappropriate to project these messages on government and public buildings, which could spark disagreement amid a crisis that the country is already facing. If the group wants to seek the truth, they can find it from evidence in legal cases, some of which have already seen verdicts while others are awaiting further legal procedures…”.

Of course, this is buffalo manure. As Prachatai explained, the:

casualties of the April-May 2010 crackdowns included unarmed protestors, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders. While the Abhisit government claimed that the protestors were ‘terrorists,’ news reports, pictures, and video footage show that none of the victims were armed, and until now, no trace of gunpowder has been found on any protestors’ hands. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report, the excessive and unnecessary force used by the military caused the high number of death and injuries, including the enforcement of “live fire zones” around the protest sites in which sharpshooters and snipers were deployed. No officials responsible for the crackdowns have so far been held accountable for these casualties.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is clear, saying the projections are “a sign of popular support for the demand for truth about the 2010 violence…”. He observes:

… the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, just like its predecessors, has no answers for those demanding justice for at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010….

In the decade since, the authorities have conducted no serious investigations to prosecute government officials responsible for crimes. While protest leaders and their supporters have faced serious criminal charges, successive Thai governments have made paltry efforts to hold policymakers, commanding officers, and soldiers accountable.

Under pressure from the military, authorities made insufficient efforts to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped against former Prime Minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda over their failure to prevent the wrongful use of force by the military that caused deaths and destruction of property. To add insult to injury, Thai authorities have also targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims.

Khaosod reported that the “Defense Ministry will file legal action against those responsible for a light spectacle…”, although it was not clear what the charges would be.  According to the Bangkok Post, “Pol Col Kissana Phatanacharoen, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police Office, said on Tuesday that legal police officers were considering which laws were violated and who should face charges.”

We suppose that the regime can concoct something, including using the current emergency decree, even if Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seemed stumped.

Meanwhile, the “Progressive Movement, a group of politicians loyal to the now-disbanded Future Forward Party, appeared to claim responsibility for the actions Monday night by posting a timelapse , behind-the-scenes video from inside a van.” The Nation confirmed:

The group also said on its Twitter account that the authorities had no need to track them down….

“The truth might make some people uncomfortable and they may try to silence it but the truth will set us free from your lies,” the group boldly announced on Twitter. “We are no longer your slaves. Find the truth with us on our Progressive Movement Facebook page between May 12 and 20,” it added.

Lacking any remorse, the military is insistent that action be taken against protesters who did not gather and merely composed projections. Its political allies are threatening that the “Move Forward Party, a reincarnation of Future Forward Party, may face dissolution for sharing images of messages with a political tone that were recently projected in public places across the capital…”.

Interestingly, much political discontent is simmering. As The Nation reports, a “large crowd of mourners, many dressed in red, paid tribute to [lese majeste victim] Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul on Sunday (May 10) as the pro-democracy fighter better known as Da Torpedo was laid to rest in Bangkok.” The report notes that: “Her funeral marked the first large pro-democracy gathering during lockdown. Many mourners dressed in red instead of black to demonstrate their determination to carry forward Da Torpedo’s fight for democracy.”

The regime and its murderous military appear worried.





Remember 10 April 2010

10 04 2020

We want to remember the events of 10 April 2010 by posting a page of links we have maintained since those tragic events. The statistics mentioned may have been changed over time and many of the links will be out of date but remembering these events is important:

Red shirt coffins

BATTLE FOR BANGKOK

This is a set of links that readers may find useful on the events of  10 April 2010 when at least 23 were killed and more than 850 injured when the government’s security forces attempted to clear red shirt protesters. We have posted a sample of the international press coverage from 12 to 28 April.

Posted 12 April: Thailand’s Troubles and photos / 436 photos from 10 April and more here / Channel News Asia video report / Prachatai’s iReport photos / The Nation’s State photos / Pantip.com photos from Rajadamnoen / New York Times photos / BBC video report on 10 April and a video and brief report on the red shirt parade of coffins. More on the parade here from AP / A soldier’s story / Thai-language press front pages / The Economist has a viewpoint / Asian Correspondent video / Council on Foreign Relations has a so-called Expert Brief, with a comment on the monarchy / LA Times on a teetering government / Al Jazeera blog /Hiro Muramoto’s last video / The Guardian has a fine little editorial: Colour-coded chaos:  The Thai ruling elite would do well not to underestimate the red-shirted rebels / LA Times editorial on an early election / TODAYonline on rumors of a silent coup / Thailand’s Troubles blog from Rajaprasong and a collection of video from Saturday/

Posted 13 April: For a taste of anti-red shirt blogs, desperately seeking the armed members of that group, see here. It seems that finding a few red shirt shooters somehow outweighs the fire power of a huge and well-armed army / InTheNews.co.uk, Thailand teeters on the brink of political collapse / a longish report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Battle of Bangkok could be lost on playing fields of Eton / Philip Bowring’s op-ed at the IHT / James Hookway at the Wall Street Journal, Thai Protesters Vow to Strengthen Effort, with some related video and some very good images at the slideshow / Seth Mydans at NY Times / Reuters on splits in the military /  Seth Mydans in the New York Times and people power / The Australian, with Peter Alford on “Abhisit Vejjajiva’s embattled Thai government is scrambling for a negotiated settlement…”. / Across the Aisle /

Posted 14 April: 2Bangkok.com‘s take on the situation-background / Reuters, What’s going on in Thailand? / ASEAN concerns / CNN video (with abandoned military vehicles) and story on protests resuming / Frank G. Anderson on recent events and the monarchy / Seth Mydans at the NYT on Kasit’s comments on the monarchy / The Atlantic on recent events / Tyrell Haberkorn on Thailand on openDemocracy/

Posted 15 April: Washington Post editorial / ASEAN offers assistance / AP on troops clearing up after Saturday / Edmonton Journal on the final battle / A right-wing Korean perspective / The Hindu editorial / Tom Plate in the Japan Times / Kevin Hewison in the Herald-Sun / Asia Times Online / Protester savagely beaten:

The Australian on Abhisit’s narrowing options: “Badly damaged by the military response, Abhisit now has no other options than to go to the country or resign, both of which will set Thailand on course for an early election,” says Control Risks, an international consultancy / Seth Mydans in the NYT on the growing red shirt protest / NTTV video on protest / The Epoch Times has the government’s view written by “Puan Khon Thai”, but it sounds like the government itself; perhaps “Rataban Thai”? / But for all of this a buck can still be made / Hannah Beech‘s reflection in TIME / The Economist on 10 April and repercussions / BBC on red shirts at Rajaprasong /

Posted 16 April: Sue Cato on Seeing red in Thailand / Thai share market steeply down /

The Globe and Mail correspondent Christopher Johnson, making the case for Abhisit while being calm about red shirts / BBC video of Arisman’s escape from the authorities and a story here / Sky News has a story on the “great escape”, video and galleries of pictures / The Times on the military / Asia Times on the military and a coup / Life in the red zone / a solid Al Jazeera report on the background to and current events. Well worth a look. Kraisak Choonhavan, who was once “with the people” accuses Al Jazeera of falling prey to red shirt propaganda, and there is much more / BusinessWeek on army taking control / 2Bangkok.com situation update / Siam Report on Democrat Party financiers / SMH on Thaksin, money and red shirts / The Independent on  Abhisit’s humiliation /

Posted 17 April: AP and TODAYOnline on government strategy / Bloomberg on impacts of recent events / AFP on red shirt rally /

The Irrawaddy on army control / A really worthwhile little AFP report on the injured / Thailand’s Troubles, What’s it all about? / The Nation’s State on live rounds on 10 April / Richard Ehrlich at Asia Sentinel on police and army rebellion /

Posted 18 April: New America Media comment / Asiaone on tourism – not as bad as thought?  TIME disagrees / BBC on PAD / AFP on PAD / AP on military preparations / NYT on military preparations / NYT on PAD / The National op-ed / Bloomberg on possible 2nd clash  / AP on armed troops at Silom / Irish Times on a standoff / Nile on standoff, with pictures of army and police / IPS on the red shirts /

Posted 19 April: Bangkok Pundit and a set of videos about red shirt rallies / Moneyshow on recent events and the monarchy / Vietnam’s ASEAN response on the crisis / Thailand’s Troubles has a great set of photos from within the “red zone” / WSJ on ec/onomy / Fitch drops rating / Grant Peck on soldiers at Silom / Christian Science Monitor on troops deployed / VOA where Ron Corben seems to think “no colors” are not PAD / Australian editorial  and story on Silom occupation / CNN video and story from Korat / Reuters does some definitions / Globe and Mail on color revolutions / Thomas Fuller in NYT on red Khon Kaen /

Posted 20 April: Irish Times on violence/coup / Simon Roughneen at The Irrawaddy on the current standoff / VOA on live rounds / Sky News on the military, Silom, with 50 high-quality pictures / Richard Barrow with photos of Fortress Silom and sniper positions and more of his photos, many reminiscent of the 2006 coup / Asia Sentinel on current situation / AP on red shirts digging in / CNN reports, with video, from  Silom, with police and military on one side and red shirts on the other; look for the policewoman buying a phrai t-shirt at about 1:10 mins / CSM on threatening to shoot protesters / BBC on this also, with video / Reuters on scenarios / More pictures and stories from the red zone / NTDT video on “stern warning” – i.e. to shoot – from army / ABC News on tourists leaving red zone hotels /

Posted 21 April: Simon Roughneen’s photos at the bottom of the story dated 19 April / Al Jazeera on Khon Kaen’s red shirts preventing troops and weapons getting to Bangkok / WSJ on pro-government rallies / Reuters on red shirts / AP on standoff / Vancouver Sun on red shirts / Globe and Mail and soldier’s loyalty / on the AHRC call for no blood / Denis Gray on red shirts / video from red shirt zone and soldiers in the yellow shirt zone / The Vancouver Sun on Khon Kaen / Bloomberg on negotiations / CSM and the aftermath of 10 April / Straits Times on red zone / Nirmal Ghosh on Silom clash / NYT on Thaksin / Gulf News on the need for an election /

Posted 22 April: Centre for Research on Globalization on revolutions / Patrick Winn on Silom skirmish and red zone / CNN on standoff in Bangkok / Washington Post on threats and skirmishing, with several pictures / The Irrawaddy on Khon Kaen and more / BBC report, including audio, on crackdown coming / Economist’s Banyan on 10 April and more / NYT and The Times on Bangkok explosions / UN Secretary-General on crisis in Thailand / Red shirts and class struggle / Shawn Crispin on defending Thai capitalism /

Posted 23 April: CNN backgrounder on the Thai crisis / Reuters backgrounder / Thailand’s Troubles on previous rebellions / Belfast Telegraph on Bangkok’s hostile camps / Malaysian journalist’s account of Silom bombings / AP on aftermath of bombings /video from France 24 / Simon Roughneen on Silom / Xinhua on “multi-colored” rally / SMH on waiting for the next crackdown / Stocks decline after bombs / WSJ, CSM, TODAYonline and The Guardian on chances of compromise / several articles on various countries issuing travel warnings – USA / Thomas Fuller with more on rebellion in Khon Kaen / SMH less sure of negotiated settlement /

Posted 24 April: Simon Roughneen on compromises /Indonesia offers help on political crisis / Abhisit spurns talks with red shirts covered in Reuters, The Independent, Times Online, VOA, AP, CNN, Sky News, BBC / BBC’s Rachel Harvey on red shirts / USA Today on crisis / Al Jazeera on Abhisit rejection, with video / AFP on retaking Rajaprasong / Reuters on the economy /

Posted 25 April: Xinhua thinks Nation TV is leading station / NYT on Abhisit / Radio Free Europe on red shirt rally / BBC on Abhisit warning protesters / Washington Post/AP and the political crisis / Bloomberg on the crisis / WSJ on lasting damage to Thailand / Times Online on definat red shirts / The Telegraph on Abhisit’s rejection of red shirts /

Posted 26 April: CSM on watermelon soldiers / Reuters on updated political scenarios / VOA on provincial protests / ABC on pro-government rallies / one of many “avoid Thailand” stories / BBC on provincial actions by red shirts / Straits Times on red shirts / FT on Abhisit’s hard attitude / Business and crisis /

Posted 27 April: World Socialist Web Site on Thailand’s political crisis / VOA on SE Asian worries / AP on extending demonstrations / FT on Abhisit’s foreign media blitz / CSM and UPI on treason / Foreign Policy on fraying at the top / FT on red shirts / Washington Times on king and crisis / Irish Times on Thailand’s tinderbox / Independent on preparing for battle / NewsTime on the Battle for Bangkok (they took our header!] / Irish Times on skytrain blockade /

Posted 28 April: CTV News on Thailand’s crisis – let’s begin in bars!? – and Eurasia Review – interviewing a journalist / Australian, CSM, CNN, AP, LA Times, BusinessWeek, WSJ and Al Jazeera video on Don Muang clashes / VOA on “more than Thaksin” / Telegraph on travel advice / Al Jazeera video inside “red city” / Jim Glassman interviewed by the CBC. To hear the interview, click here and follow these instructions: On the left side of the screen, under “Latest Interviews on the Early Edition,” look for “Complete shows from the past week,” and  click “Tue.”  The interview comes up at 2:01:54.





Red shirts engaged in political struggle

15 08 2019

Khaosod reports that the Court of First Instance has acquitted 24 red shirt leaders of terrorism charges related to protests in 2010.

Most significantly, in its ruling, the Court “stated that the Redshirt leaders engaged in ‘a political struggle and not an act of terrorism’.” However, one of the defendants, Weng Tojirakarn, said that “the prosecutor will likely appeal the lower court’s decision.

In fact, it was state officials who have been found by several courts to be responsible for most of the murders that took place in April and May 2010. Independent reports tend to agree.

Those who ordered the bloody crackdowns in 2010 – Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban – got off (but have been ruthlessly punished by voters) and their eager military accomplices murdered with impunity, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Anupong Paojinda.





Political violence and official impunity

2 07 2019

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is administratively in charge – still – of all security units. He has finally spoken of the attack(s) on activist Sirawith Seritiwat. He wasn’t very convincing when he “denied being behind a recent attack that left a pro-democracy activist in a critical condition.”

He went on in junta-speak: ““I don’t condone violence. Whoever causes unrest in the country must be punished…. The case is still unclear. It is under investigation.”

Gen Prawit managed to maneuver into to ultra-rightist narrative when he added that he did not know if the attack was politically motivated or a “personal issue.” This plays into the “fake news” (that Prawit claims to want to end) from ultra-yellows and the junta’s own, including the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the Palang Pracharath Party and police “leaks” to a rightist newspaper that claim “Sirawith might have been attacked by loan sharks due to a family debt…”, which Sirawith’s mother has vehemently denied.

Meanwhile, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda “aired his suspicions that both attacks on Sirawith were orchestrated by the same group.” Brilliant! No wonder he is police chief! But then he managed to support the rightists thugs and their aim, warning “that it wasn’t safe to get political in public, saying that activists should avoid campaigning publicly…”. That’s what the thugs (and the junta) want. He also mentioned that police “couldn’t guarantee their [activists’] safety.”

Some of the reporting/op-eds on the cowardly attack is worth considering.

Veera Prateepchaikul at the Bangkok Post observes the brazen attack, claims of state connivance and the attackers’ apparent nonchalance, “convinced they would never get caught.” He is right to say that the “unprovoked violence deserves condemnation in the strongest terms.”

He’s also correct to observe that “there has not been a word from any other incumbent ministers except …[Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon…”. He notes their silence on previous attacks on Sirawith and other anti-coup activists. And, he’s has little doubt that the “attack on Mr Sirawith was politically motivated.”

But, then, as ever, Veera wants to compare this violence with that under Thaksin Shinawatra. While political violence occurs under all regimes, the culprits and motivators of political assassination, beatings and enforced disappearance are almost always believed to be police and military. In recent cases, He also mentions the murder of former ministers in the 1940s, by police. It isn’t clear why Veera does not look at the rise of royalist-rightist violence sponsored by the military in the early 1970s.

(He might also get his facts right. He states that “whistle-blower Ekkayuth Anchanbutr went missing without trace in 2013 during the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” In fact, according to Wikipedia and The Nation reported Ekkayuth’s “body was found in the southern province of Phatthalung…”.)

Then there’s Paritta Wangkiat who is a columnist for the Bangkok Post. She observes the rightist cheering of the political thugs. That’s the “He deserves it”response, “with apparent satisfaction…”. Some on social media “referred to the activist as a ‘saboteur’ against the nation who deserves to suffer from even more attacks.”

She’s right to observe that these “recent attacks reflect the current state of polarisation in Thai politics with a dangerous rise in incidences of violence.” Her comment that the rightist “acceptance and encouragement of the use of violence against someone with a different political ideology speak volumes about our sick and rotten society” is worth considering.

But she looks to the past decade when, again, her view should be more historical. This kind of violence, conducted with impunity, is a defining characteristic of Thailand’s military and its efforts over several decades to “protect” monarchy and promote anti-democracy.

While Veera neglects it, Paritta does mention the impunity with which the military under Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Anupong Paojinda shooting down dozens of protesters and injuring hundreds more or the cheering associated with that, including from the Bangkok Post.

Sadly, she gets amnesic when she refers to “unidentified killers.” Letting the murderous military off the hook for their dirty deeds contributes to its impunity.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

On another point, however, she offers insight by observing the class nature of political violence. She notes that:

Thais are expected to know “their place”, be submissive and accept oppression…. This attitude of submissiveness and obedience has been embedded in society making it a perfect match for an authoritarian regime.

Such attitudes are the bread-and-butter/rice-and-fish sauce of the military and royalist rightists.

Where she gets it wrong is to argue that there is apathy towards political violence. There’s no apathy, on any side. Rather, the problems is that the military and other authorities operate this barbaric way with legal impunity.





Blood on their hands: remembering 2010

19 05 2019

19 May 2010 is remembered as marking the end of the Battle for Bangkok.

April and May 2010 are remembered for the utter brutality of a military that still views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. Several of these men, blood on their hands, will be at the center of yet another military-backed regime for the next few years.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible.





Enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution

13 05 2019

On 6 March, writing together four Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations wrote to Thailand’s government on the disappearance and murder of exiled political activists. The details are important, so we reproduce this letter in full. A report is also available at Prachatai:

Mandates of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

REFERENCE:
UA THA 3/2019

6 March 2019

We have the honour to address you in our capacity as Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 36/6, 35/15, 34/18 and 34/19.

In this connection, we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the alleged enforced disappearance and extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions in late 2018 of Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn, Mr Chatchan Bubphawan, and Mr Kraidej Luelert. These three men are political activists affiliated with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), a political movement affiliated with the Pheu Thai Party. We also wish to bring to your attention information on a fourth man, Mr. Itthipol Sukpan, also affiliated with the UDD, who reportedly disappeared in 2016.

Furthermore, we would like to bring to your attention information received concerning recent amendments to the draft Bill on Suppression and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance that appears to fall short of international standards.

Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn (also known as Surachai Sae-dang), age 75, is a prominent political activist. He was a member of the now defunct Communist Party of Thailand. In 2009, he set up a political group called the “Power of Democracy of Dang Siam Network” while the other two political activists, Mr. Chatchawan Bubphawan (also known as Comrade Phu Chanah), age 54, and Mr. Kraidej Luelert (also known as Comrade Kasalong), age 47, were his followers and close friends.

Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn was charged under the law of lèse majesté
(article 112 of the Criminal Code) along with several other individuals. They were the subject of communication ref. no THA 13/2012 sent by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in 2012. We thank you for your reply received on 26 December 2012 but remain concerned regarding the continued existence and use of lèse majesté legislation which curtails the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, in contravention with international human rights norms.

According to the information received:

Mr. Bubphawan, Mr. Luelert and Mr. Danwattananusorn

From 2009 to 2010, the three activists participated in protests organized by the UDD in Bangkok and Pattaya city. In April and May 2010, mass scale demonstrations were organized by the UDD in central Bangkok, calling for the then Government led by the Democrat Party to dissolve the parliament and hold a general election. Mr. Bubphawan served as the security guard of the UDD during the protest. In May 2010, there were clashes during the protests and the Royal Thai Army used excessive force against some protestors – more than 90 people were killed including eight soldiers. Many UDD activists were arrested and prosecuted in relation to their involvement in the demonstration.

In 2011, Mr. Danwattananusorn was imprisoned under article 112 of the Criminal Code (lese-majeste law) but was released by the Royal Pardon in 2013. Later, in 2014, Mr. Danwattananusorn and Mr. Bubphawan were charged by the Royal Thai Police under the 1947 Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks and Imitation of Firearms Act of possession of illegal weapons and involvement in the UDD demonstrations in 2009 and 2010. Mr. Danwattananusorn faced an additional charge under Article 116 (sedition) and Article 209 (Participating in secret association) under the Criminal Code for playing a leading role in the protest in 2009 in Pattaya and in 2010 in Bangkok.

The three activists fled to Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in May 2014 after the military assumed power and the establishment of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) military council. On 13 June 2014, Mr. Danwattananusorn was summoned under NCPO Order No. 57/2014 and Mr. Bubphawan was summoned under the NCPO Order No. 61/2014. The orders required them to report to the NCPO but both did not present themselves. As a result, in June 2014, the Bangkok Military Court approved arrest warrants against both activists for violating the Orders. These warrants remain active.

From August 2014 to 2018, the three activists ran an underground podcast programme called “Patiroob Prated Thai” (Thailand’s Reformation) criticising the military and the monarchy. The majority of the audience were reportedly Thai nationals who were sympathetic to the UDD. The podcast program was published twice per month on YouTube.

The three activists were last in contact with persons associated with them on the 12 December 2018 after they recorded a podcast for this programme. They decided to leave their home in Vientiane Province’s Tha Ngon area in the Lao PDR out of fear for their safety in connection with a visit to the Lao PDR on 13 December 2018 by the Prime Minister of Thailand and the Head of the NCPO.

Persons associated with the three men have lost contact with them since 12 December 2018. On 22 December 2018, a contact for the three men visited their home. He found the door unlocked and nobody in the house. The van that Mr. Danwattananusorn regularly used was parked on the premises and his belongings were untouched, including his manual sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) which he always carried with him during his travels.

On 27 and 29 December 2018, the bodies of two unidentified men were found on the banks of the Mekong River bordering Thailand and Lao PDR in Nakorn Pranom Province in Northeast Thailand. The men appeared to have been killed in the same manner – handcuffed and strangled with a rope. Their bodies were then reportedly disemboweled, stuffed with concrete, wrapped in a net and sacking and dumped into the Mekong River.

On 22 January 2019, the official report of a DNA test from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Bangkok’s Police Hospital indicated that the DNA samples collected from the family members of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert matched the bodies that had been discovered.

On 24 January 2019, the Deputy Police Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police announced that the Royal Thai Police will conduct an investigation and will submit the two cases to the Provincial Criminal Court for post-mortem inquests. He denied allegation of enforced disappearances and killing of the three activists.

Mr. Danwattananusorn’s whereabouts, remain unknown. The Deputy Police Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police informed the public on 24 January 2019 that according to intelligence sources Mr. Danwattananusorn is still alive. It is unclear where the investigation into his disappearance currently stands. Unofficial information has been received indicating another body was found near Tha Champa village cluster in the Lao PDR. On 25 February 2019, persons associated with him filed a complaint to Tha Uthane District Police Station in Nakhon Phanom Province to investigate his disappearance.

Given the active arrests warrants and their involvement with the UDD, it is believed Thai officials may be responsible for the killing of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert and the disappearance and possible killing of Mr. Danwattananusorn[.]

Mr. Itthipol Sukpan

In 2016, Mr. Itthipol Sukpan, a political activists also affiliated with UDD who also lived in exile in the Lao PDR, went missing there and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Mr. Ittipon Sukpan was a leader of the Chiang Mai 51, a Red Shirt group based in Chiang Mai Province and a radio host on FM. 92.50, a community radio station belonging to the group. On 27 May 2014, Mr. Sukpan received an order 25/2014 by the NCPO to report to the military in Bangkok. Mr. Sukpan had criticised the monarchy through comments made on Facebook. He did not report to the NCPO as summoned and instead fled to Lao PDR.

In 2014 and 2015 Mr. Sukpan criticized the military through YouTube videos and Facebook posts. During this period, persons associated with him were visited by Thai military officers and were informed that the authorities were investigating allegations of lèse majesté against Mr. Sukpan.

Mr. Sukpan last made contact with persons associated with him on 19 June 2016. He was last seen on 22 June 2016 while eating in a restaurant and then left on his motorcycle to return to his house at around midnight. Late that evening a man was heard crying out in that area. His motorcycle and one of his sports shoes were found the next day one kilometer from the restaurant.

Persons associated with Mr. Sukpan received information that Mr. Sukpan had been arrested by the Thai authorities and taken to the 36th Infantry Military Circle in Petchchaboon Province in Thailand but when they enquired about him at the Circle the military denied that he had been arrested. On 20 July 2016, a Spokesperson of the NCPO told the public that the NCPO had monitored Mr. Sukpan’s activities and acknowledged that he was in exile in a neighboring country, however, the NCPO’s Spokesperson denied acknowledgement of arrest and detention of Mr. Sukpan by Thai authorities. The NCPO Spokesperson said that the Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police together with the NCPO would investigate the case and he said that he suspected that Mr. Sukpan’s disappearance was a fake news which was made by the opponent of the NCPO to discredit the NCPO during the Constitution Referendum. The fate and whereabouts of Mr. Itthipol Sukpan remain unknown.

Another activist, affiliated with UDD, who had also been living in the Lao PDR reportedly disappeared in 2017.

Legislation criminalising enforced disappearances and torture

The crimes of enforced disappearance and torture are not currently codified within Thai law. A draft law on this topic has been pending since 2010. In May 2016, the Government of Thailand decided to enact the legislation rendering enforced or involuntary disappearance and torture criminal offences, but the legislation was put on hold in February 2017. A draft Bill on Suppression and Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance was re-submitted to the National Legislative Assembly for consideration and promulgation in December 2018. It is scheduled to be adopted on 7 March, ahead of elections which will be held on 24 March 2019.

It appears the bill may not be fully compliant with international standards: two key safeguard provisions were removed from the draft (Articles 11 and 12); the draft no longer contains an explicit and absolute prohibition of acts of torture and enforced disappearances in any circumstances, including during a State of Emergency; and there is no provision prohibiting the refoulement of individuals to countries where they would face a real risk of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or enforced disappearance. These shortcomings are deeply concerning and seriously weaken the legal protection against torture and disappearances.

We express our most serious concern regarding the alleged abduction and killing of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert, the alleged enforced disappearance and possible killing of Mr. Danwattananusorn and the alleged disappearance of Mr. Itthipol Sukpan and that these events may be directly linked to their political opinions and activities. Should these allegations be confirmed, they would be in violation of international human rights law articles 6, 7 and 19, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Thailand on 29 October 1996. The ICCPR guarantees the rights to life, to personal security, to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and freedom of expression, association and assembly.

In its General Comment 36, the United Nations Human Rights Committee underscored that State parties are expected to take all necessary measures to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life by their law enforcement officials and to protect life from all reasonably foreseeable threats, including from threats emanating from private persons and entities. Furthermore, we highlight that thorough, prompt and impartial investigations must be undertaken for all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions. Failing to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate and bring perpetrators to justice could give rise to a breach of the Covenant (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 and CCPR/C/GC/36).

In relation to the allegations that the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Danwattananusorn and Mr. Itthipol Sukpan remain unknown, the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance sets out necessary protection by the State. In particular, it states that no State shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances (article 2) and that each State shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent and terminate acts of enforced disappearance in any territory under its jurisdiction (article 3). The declaration underscores that investigations should be conducted for as long as the fate of the victims of enforced disappearance remains unclarified (article 13), and that states should take any lawful and appropriate action to bring to justice persons presumed to be responsible for acts of enforced disappearance (article 14).

While we welcome efforts to ensure that enforced disappearances and torture are codified as crimes within Thai law, we underline the importance of ensuring that any legislation in this regard is fully compliant with international human rights standards As matter of urgency we strongly recommend legislators enact a robust law that fully complies with the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which Thailand is a party to; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), which Thailand signed in 2012, and which it has pledged to ratify including in several recommendations which it accepted during its universal periodic review in 2014; as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Several of the obligations laid out in these instruments are non-derogable, notably protection from torture and ill treatment and enforced disappearance even in a State of Emergency and the right of non-refoulement where a person may be at risk of torture or enforced disappearance. It is essential that these legal principles are fully articulated and incorporated into the domestic legislation and that the definition of all crimes be in line with international standards.

The full texts of the human rights instruments and standards recalled above are available on http://www.ohchr.org or can be provided upon request.

In view of the gravity of these matters, we would appreciate a response on the steps taken by your Excellency’s Government to safeguard the rights of the above-mentioned persons in compliance with international instruments.

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:

1. Please provide any additional information and any comment you may have on the above-mentioned allegations.

2. Please provide the full details of any investigations which may have been undertaken into the killing of Mr. Bubphawan and Mr. Luelert. Have any perpetrators been identified and if so have any criminal prosecution been undertaken? If no investigations have taken place, or if they have been inconclusive, please explain why, and how this is consistent with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the treaties it has ratified.

3. Please provide information on the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Danwattananusorn and Mr. Itthipol Sukpan. If their fate and whereabouts are still unknown, please provide the details on any investigation or other queries which may have been carried out. If no investigations have taken place, or if they have been inconclusive, please explain why.

4. Given that the crime of enforced disappearance is not yet codified within Thai law, please elaborate on the legal framework which is being applied to investigate these cases and the disappearance of other Thai activists in Thailand or in neighbouring Laos.

5. Please provide an update on the status of the draft law criminalising enforced disappearance and torture and the measures being taken to ensure that it is fully compliant with international standards.

While awaiting a reply, we urge that all necessary measures be taken to protect the human rights to life, personal security, integrity and freedom of expression in Thailand and to prevent the violation of these rights, and in the event that investigations establish that the allegations described in this letter are correct, to ensure the criminal accountability of any person responsible for them.

Given the seriousness of the allegations, we may publicly express our concerns in the near future as, in our view, the information in our possession appears to be sufficiently reliable to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention. We also believe that the Government authorities at all levels and the wider public should be alerted to the adverse implications for the enjoyment and exercise of human rights of these allegations. Any public statement on our part would indicate that we have sought your Excellency’s Government’s information to clarify the issue in question.

This communication and any response received from your Excellency’s Government will be made public via the communications reporting website within 60 days. They will also subsequently be made available in the usual report to be presented to the Human Rights Council.

A communication on this case is also being sent to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Bernard Duhaime
Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Agnes Callamard
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

David Kaye
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Nils Melzer
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment