Updated: Big Oud replaces Big Joke

20 04 2019

In yet another Khaosod report carrying the disclaimer: “Note: Some details were omitted from this story due to legal concerns,” it reports on the outcome of the still unexplained removal of Big Joke, Surachate Hakparn, a former immigration chief who was quickly and surprisingly taken into custody, removed from his posts and then made a civilian.

That self-censorship line usually implies something to do with the monarchy.

This new censored report states that Maj Gen Sompong Chingduang, known by the nickname “Big Oud,” has been appointed by Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan as the new chief of the immigration bureau.

The naming of someone in the military and police as “Big” seems to us to carry a similar meaning to “Sia” that is often applied to “jao phor” and underworld gang bosses.

Big Oud is reportedly in charge of the Border Patrol Police and a usually reliable source states that, like Big Joke, Big Oud is close to Gen Prawit. If true, then those who felt that Big Joke’s removal was a slap for Gen Prawit were probably wrong. That said, the BPP has long been close to the monarchy.

But the mystery continues. Big Joke is reported to have fled overseas gone on holiday overseas. Gen Prawit states a disciplinary inquiry is not going to happen: “There won’t be any…. It’s over.”

When asked for reasons for Big Joke’s fall, Gen Prawit refused to comment, except to say: “I don’t know. If you want to know so much, go ask him yourself…”. Big Joke cannot be contacted.

This is Thailand today. A senior and a policeman who rapidly became the public face of the police is simply removed from all positions and his previous life erased, without any explanation.

Update: The Bangkok Post has an an editorial that calls for transparency over Big Joke’s dismissal. It states that Big Joke is now in the USA but that many questions remain about his sudden and unexplained downfall.

Ominously, it adds:

The officer was last seen at Government House, following the April 9 order, where he reported briefly to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who supervises the Office of the Permanent Secretary under the PM’s Office.

Once an active netizen, Pol Lt Gen Surachate has been absent from social media, and unreachable by telephone.

The implication is that Thailand is no better than a banana republic – well, a banana monarchy.

Murderous monarchists II

22 01 2019

Yesterday we posted on the handcuffed, disemboweled bodies, filled with chunks of cement, found on the banks of the Mekong, and how one of the victims was likely Phoo Chana, a 57-year-old who had fled Thailand after the 2014 coup and lived in exile in Laos, working with Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn).

Surachai, Phoo Chana and Kasalong all went missing at the same time. Their enforced disappearance was probably the work of murderous monarchists, acting under orders. We assume that the orders to torture, murder and dispose of the bodies probably originated high up in Thailand.

It is now confirmed that the second tortured and mutilated body is that of Kasalong. Khaosod reports that “a source at the Forensic Science Institute … speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Tuesday that DNA testing has linked the second body … to a man known as “Comrade Kasalong…”.

This also means that Surachai was probably also tortured and murdered.

The real identities are not publicly known but both were red shirts working with Surachai.

It seems that at least five anti-monarchy Thais have been “disappeared” and probably killed.

The viciousness of the murders brings to mind the work of rangers and Border Patrol Police in earlier times but also reminds one of rumors of cruelty and murder in the 1990s linked to high places.

In the report of this particular murder, “Police in Nakhon Phanom, where one of the bodies was recovered, vowed Tuesday morning to find those responsible.” Presumably they will be sleuthing in Bangkok.

More royal forces

27 08 2018

Readers will know that the Army maintains units that is meant to protect the king and royal family. The command of those forces was delivered to the king by the military dictatorship.

To be honest, we have lost track of the units that are now commanded in the palace for the palace.

In addition, the whole military apparatus is effectively at work for the king and monarchy as a force for internal security.

Not to be left out, the police has formed a division to “be responsible for ensuring security for His Majesty the King and members of the royal family…”.

The Crime Suppression Division’s commando unit is to upgraded and will “report directly to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB),” not the king himself, if the proposal is approved by the junta’s cabinet. It is likely to be monikered the royal guard and special operations division and will eventually located in Nonthaburi.

To protect the royal family, the division is proposed to have a commissioner as a police major general, with 10 deputies – police colonels – 20 deputy sub-division chiefs, 42 division inspectors and more than 100 deputy division inspectors. In total it will have about 1,200 personnel, a number of who will be transferred from the Border Patrol Police.

It will be populated by “those with military-like personalities, good discipline and being quick learners.”

We can’t recall how many military and now police will have responsibilities for “protecting” the monarch and the extended royal family. It is a heck of a lot, in line with this royal family being one of the wealthiest and and costliest of the world’s few monarchies.

A few other things

12 08 2018

While the junta is busy censoring us, they might find some of these things of interest, several supplied by readers:

1. A couple of doctoral dissertations: Claudio Sopranzetti’s “Owners of the map” is available as a free download from Harvard, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11169780; and Sinae Hyun, Indigenizing the Cold War : nation-building by the Border Patrol Police of Thailand, 1945-1980.

2. Readers may find this site of interest: Music of Thai Freedom. Songs from the Thai Pro-Democracy Movement Translated for the English-Speaking World.

3. National Security Archive has accessed 16 documents on Thailand Black Site and (now CIA director) Gina Haspel describing extended sessions of physical violence and waterboarding; CIA cables detail contract psychologists working for Haspel. It is disturbing stuff.

Protecting the king

9 04 2018

It seems that the king needs extra and special protection. That’s the gist of a story at the Bangkok Post that details “advanced anti-terrorism training course” for 60 police officers.

That number is “double that of past years” and that’s why we say extra protection. That this is special protection is seen in the rather odd notion that the king’s protection requires “advanced anti-terrorism training.”

This year is also said to be “special” because usually it involves just 30 officers from the Border Patrol Police. The latter have a long connection to the monarchy (opens a PDF) that began when the US’s CIA began pouring money into this unit and the rest of the police force in the early 1950s.

The additions for this year included the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), which “is to set up a new unit whose main duty is to ensure security for … the [k]ing and members of the royal family as well as other important persons.” It is added that those who “come from the CIB [Central Investigation Bureau] will be selected into a team to ensure security for … the [k]ing…”.

The training takes place at the CIA’s old lair for the BPP at Naresuan Camp near one of the royal family’s palaces in Cha-Am. The training is said to have been “updated recently based on an Israeli training module.”

The “CSD will [also] receive an extra budget of more than 200 million baht to cover the cost of purchasing new and high-tech weapons…”.

The taxpayer money spent on the world’s wealthiest monarchy continues to expand.

With a major update: Remembering the 6 October 1976 attack

6 10 2013

The Bangkok Post reports:

A ceremony to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the October 6, 1976 bloodshed was held at the historic park at Thammasat University on Sunday morning.

Assoc Prof Udom Rathamarit, deputy rector of Thammasat University, presided over the opening of the ceremony which was attended by relatives of those who died in the incident and some leading political figures who were part of the then student movement for democracy.

Thai Rath Newspaper

Thai Rath Newspaper

A statement was read out in memory of the “heroes” who sacrificed both in the October 6 event and the October 14 student uprising which took place earlier in 1973.

To be honest, that seems a pretty scant report for one of modern Thailand’s most significant royalist-monarchy massacres of democracy protesters. Perhaps the royalist nature of the killing and burning of protesters at Thammasat is the reason for so much silence. Should any reader think the king and palace were anything other than rightists bent on pushing extremists for murderous action, read this post from a few months ago.

The murders of 1976 were in the monarchy’s name and supported by the palace. The most dramatic and horrible event was the royalist-inspired attack on people – mostly students – damned as “disloyal.” Just days after the bloodshed, the crown prince distributed awards to paramilitary personnel involved. The massacre at Thammasat University has never seen any state investigation. Impunity was the rule because the state’s troops and rightist gangs were doing the work of the royalist state. The main perpetrators of the massacre are claimed to be the Border Patrol Police who trained many of the rightist gangs in the name of the monarchy and with considerable U.S. funding. The BPP was (and remains) close to the royal family.

The regime that was put in place following the massacre and a coup was headed by a palace favorite. Thanin Kraivixien remains a Privy Counselor even today, considered “respected” because of that. Yet the fact is that his administration was one of the most right-wing, repressive and brutal regimes in Thailand’s modern history.

In other words, the massacre at Thammasat University was intimately linked to palace political machinations.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a longer article about one of the remembrances of 6 October. PPT was aware that there was a split between “Octobrists” with some now red shirt activists with another group having continued to support the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its political progeny. The Nation reports that the 14 October Foundation is now “seen as part of the yellow shirts, as it is under Dr Wichai Chokwiwat.”  The latter is quoted as complaining that “capitalists have played a bigger role in Thai politics.” He explains his perspective:

Since the … [14 October 1976] uprising, people have become more aware of their rights. They fought [for] elections. But elections…are not the answer … as the representatives do not aim to solve the country’s problems, [they aim] to maintain their power and benefits. This is…not a real democracy…”.

The yellow shirt disdain for elected representation is clear.

At the Bangkok Post, the red shirt-related group is discussed. It is led by human rights activist and red shirt Jaran Ditapichai, who proclaimed that the “protests [of 1973-76] had paved the way for greater freedom of speech and assembly.”

Two recently released lese majeste convicts attended. Surachai Danwattananusorn was only released from prison last Friday but attended. Also there was Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, released a couple of months ago. He praised the October Generation: “Without the courage and contributions of the October Generation, nobody else would have fought for democracy in subsequent years…”.

Writer Watt Wallayangkoon observed that “the victories earned by the … “October Generation” were short-lived and were counteracted by ultra-royalist elements and a fear of communism within wider society.” He added that  “The red-shirt struggle [for democracy] is not yet finished…”.

Cold War, CIA, universities

13 01 2013

Earlier in the week, PPT posted a comment by a U.S. operative on the manner in which the Americans helped re-make the monarchy in the teeth of the Cold War. We still haven’t been through all the more than 900 pages of reminiscences that download in one document, and there’s a lot of interesting material.

We felt the following might interest some of our readers, especially given the links between the royal family and the Border Patrol Police, “hill tribes” and many of the other people and interests listed in the account.

These comments are from James L. Woods, who was with the Research Analysis Division, Department of Defense in Bangkok from 1964 to 1967 and then was Advisor, ARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency] Unit, Bangkok in 1969-1973. with annotations and bold by PPT:

…[I]n the fall of ‘64 I was in Thailand, probably working on a Long-range Assistance Strategy, and found an old management intern friend out there, Lee Huff, running a little office for the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and we got together. He said, “I’ve just been called. They told me I’m going to be posted back to Washington rather abruptly. We’re looking for a replacement. Would you be interested?” I said, “What are you doing?” He explained that this was a special project – Project AGILE – under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency…. In Thailand it was still operating out of a hotel downtown and at the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering on the Chulalongkorn University campus, with a very small staff under Marine Colonel Tom Brundage…. Lee was running the social-behavioral science research program and asked if I would be interested….

…[W]e worked closely with them [the CIA] in the field, because they were operating out of AID/USOM, running the Border Patrol Police program, and also they were very interested in general in the issues of internal security and they had their advisors in many of the same agencies that we had ours…. We also did some work for something called CSOC, which was a Thai organization, the Communist Suppression Operations Command, run by General Saiyud Kerdphon, and there were a number of CIA advisors over there operating for the most part out of the embassy. We were all part of the country team and the ARPA field unit in Thailand was a U.S. component of that…. The U.S. approach was that this was a counterinsurgency-oriented program. Thailand was the laboratory for the soft side and Vietnam was the laboratory for the hard side or things that go boom. So in Vietnam – I would go over there from time to time, and they would come over to Thailand from time to time to escape Vietnam mainly – they were doing a lot of systems work – village information system, hamlet evaluation system, territorial forces evaluation system. They were doing stuff trying to evaluate how was the war going, for MACV. They were also doing ordnance testing; the Armalite rifle which developed into the AR-15, which developed into the M16…. On our side we were doing studies and analyses and systems research and a good bit of electronic research including remote sensing, trail sensors, testing different kinds of mobility equipment and communications equipment…. Our office – the Research and Analysis Division – was in charge of social and behavioral and systems research, and we worked for the most part through contractors. We brought in rather sizable teams from RAND, RAC – Research Analysis Corporation … – Stanford Research Institute, Cornell Aerolab, BMI, AIR – you name it, we had it – and a lot of individual scholars on contract.

We built some systems and libraries, which were turned over to the Thai, which hopefully they have found useful –for example, the Thailand Information Center with a gazillion documents. Everything useful that had ever been written about Thailand that we could find in the scholarly community was in there. We turned that over to a Thai university actually. Our hill tribes data base, we turned that over to another Thai institution, the Tribal Research Center, in Chiang Mai. The Village Information System, we turned over to a Thai ministry, although it was still very much in an embryonic state…. [PPT: Readers might find this related article of some interest, although the extent of U.S. involvement is not discussed in any detail.]

… [T]hey have Border Patrol Police, which was very much a U.S.-funded program, a lot of it. The CIA provided a lot of the equipment and guidance and so on, but the Thais have kept it up….

After going back to the U.S. and completing a course at Cornell University, with the doyens of Southeast Asian Studies there – George McT. Kahin is mentioned – Woods returned to Thailand:

I went back to the ARPA field unit, or research center, but I was posted immediately to Chiang Mai University in the north for a year as advisor to the dean, which sounds odd but we knew the dean from his previous position in Bangkok and he was trying to establish an expanded research program on northern Thailand, especially the tribal minorities problem. There was a Tribal Research Center, which the Thai government was attempting to operate, co-located at the university, and so my job was trying to build a tribal research program in the north working out of the university….

Much of their [RTG] information came from the Thai Border Patrol Police who were posted to the outermost fringes of the kingdom and were basically a CIA project or at least were getting support and training through the CIA part of USOM…. We were also sponsoring basic ethnographies by a number of anthropologists, European and American, at the time, again trying to collect in-depth ethnographic understanding of several selected lesser known tribal groups. So that’s how I spent a rather odd year as the advisor to the dean of the faculty of social sciences at Chiang Mai University….

This, of course, eventually came to the attention of the American Anthropological Association and some others and got them greatly excited. It’s cited in a book which was published some years later called Anthropology Goes to War featuring me as one of the devils they identify as corrupting the practice of anthropology….Anthropology Goes to War

Before the war went bad and became greatly unpopular, we had the leading American anthropologists on Southeast Asia on the consultant payroll and they were hard at work, and some of them stayed at work. Dr. Gerry Hickey – an expert on the Montagnards of Vietnam – worked with us throughout the war….

… We had Dr. Ladd Thomas, Northern Illinois University. Now, Ladd, I recall, was a political scientist, and he reported that students invaded his office and threw his furniture and books out the window….  The same thing was going on all over. We had a couple of very senior professors out in California, David Wilson, political scientist, and Herb Phillips, anthropologist, and they had been cutting-edge scholars on Thailand. Herb capitulated. David basically got up on his feet and told all his student and faculty critics to go to hell; they could think what they wanted but they weren’t going to interfere with his right to speak out. But Herb went over; Herb gave up.

Project Camelot is also mentioned. On the impact of this work, Woods says: “So I would say to the extent there was an impact, it was over on the counterinsurgency side where the CIA was very much involved as well and USOM with the USAID development programs…”.