Abhisit, Ampol’s death and moral turpitude

11 05 2012

It is with considerable disgust that PPT writes this post. We once chose to refer to Abhisit Vejjajiva as the Butcher of Bangkok for his role as the prime minister who took responsibility for state actions that resulted in bloodshed in April and May 2010. We are stuck for an appropriate description of Abhisit in the current circumstances of the death in custody of Ampol Tangnopakul.

Abhisit was prime minister when Ampol was arrested, charged and imprisoned. Abhisit was responsible for a committee that he himself established that was – he claimed – meant to review all lese majeste charges. Abhisit’s personal secretary was the one who snitched when nasty messages were received, and attributed by the authorities to Ampol. In all respects, then, Abhisit is complicit in all of the major events that resulted in Ampol receiving his ridiculous 20 years in jail for offenses that could only be loosely tied to him. Abhisit is complicit in Ampol’s death in custody.

And yet, we now read reports of Abhisit’s comments on Ampol’s death that beggar belief. At The Nation where this former prime minister makes no apology, cannot offer words of condolence or express any normal human emotion. Rather, he uses Ampol’s death as a means to attack his opponents, and in doing so, tramples on the body of the man he sent to prison to die.

All this reprehensible man can say is that “he did not want Ampon’s death to be used for political gain.” Send him to jail and his death for political gain but damn anyone who makes the obvious political implications of the death of a political prisoner. Disgusting.

Worse, Abhisit uses rabid yellow shirt social media swill to make disingenuous claims:

There are attempts to use Ampon’s issue for political purposes. Some people advised his family not to seek a royal pardon, and that explains why the process was slow [when Ampon later decided to follow such a path]….

This is one more of Abhisit’s lies. It is a fabrication by ultra-royalists and Abhisit adds it to his large repertoire of lies on lese majeste. This one is reprehensible as he incants it over the body of a man he condemned to jail.

Ghoulishly, the Butcher declares that it is the current government’s job to answer all questions on Ampol’s death. What about the questions to Abhisit about his shoddy, snitching role in Ampol’s death?

And, as you’d expect from this royalist, Abhisit then demands that the government “assure the public over its stance regarding Article 112.” In other words, Abhisit uses the death for political purposes, and sees no problem at all with the law and wants it maintained and, if his party is to be believed, strengthened!

Abhisit has sunk to new depths.

Of course, as well as other rabid royalists, Abhisit is joined by the Army chief. General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s political comment is reported in the Bangkok Post:

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, meanwhile, warned against any attempts to exploit the death of Ampon as a tool to drag the high institution into the lese majeste law issue.

Prayuth himself has been guilty time and again of using the monarchy for political purposes and he has used Article 112 liberally for that purpose.

Neither man has any shame.

Abhisit at CFR I

26 09 2010

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. PPT has some commentary on the talk, and we will provide further commentary on the Q&A in another post, when we can get to it:

He is introduced as speaking on the current situation in Thailand. The first thing that strikes a well-informed listener is that he says very little that is new, and sticks pretty closely to the furrow that the regime has plowed since it came to power and especially since the violent 19 May crackdown. As PPT has long pointed out, what Abhisit says and does are often diametrically opposed, so his statements require contextualization.

Regular readers will recall that PPT referred to Abhisit then as the Butcher of Bangkok because his government was responsible for the largest-ever official number of deaths in political protests in Thailand. Note we emphasize “official,” and readily acknowledge that earlier protests probably resulted in more deaths at the hands of authoritarian and military governments. Twice in the speech, Abhisit refers to “regrettable losses of life” but says nothing at all of his government’s role in the events, the fact that the military slaughtered and maimed protesters or anything else that would suggest true regret.

Likewise, he says absolutely nothing about people locked up. He says nothing about political prisoners, whether red shirts or victims of the lese majeste or computer crimes laws. It is as if they do not exist for this prime minister. He seems to wash his well-manicured and soft hands of the grime and blood of his struggle to remain in power.

Abhisit makes no mention of the monarchy, the judiciary, the elite, the military, double standards or any other issue that would be suggestive that he gives any credence to his opponents.

Abhisit does say the word “democracy” several times, perhaps anticipating that an American audience will lap up this rhetoric. Perhaps they do, but well-informed listeners will notice a hollow ring as democracy is defined in terms that the regime chooses and relies on rule of law language that would suit most authoritarian regimes. Thaksin Shinawatra is always accused of having a disdain for democracy, seeing it as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Abhisit, however, strips the term of much of its meaning. The result is his penchant for authoritarian politics and repression.

Abhisit claims he did not anticipate the events of April and May 2010, but now views them as part of a process that has Thailand building on the “foundations of our democracy.” Despite “challenges” he is confident that Thailand will win through a “long and difficult process.” Given that the Democrat Party and Abhisit himself were essentially supportive of the 2006 coup, are wrapped like Siamese twins with the major repressive forces in Thailand, and have implemented repression in all political arenas, the meaning of “democracy” for him and his supporters is no more than “Thai-style democracy,” which is no democracy at all.

One of the lessons of April and May, he says, is that when “trying to develop a democracy, there will be clashes of values, clashes of opinions, but the key thing … is to find a way to … avoid violence and and illegal means to …political ends…”. The government, Abhisit opines, is “determined to embark on a process of reform and reconciliation…”. He speaks of “reaching out” to “all parties” in this process. He says this is to “build the right values that support our future and stronger democracy…. respect the law, good governance, accountability and transparency.”

PPT is sure that there will be many who will read this and need to get their jaws off the floor. Yes, he says it all the time, but he does nothing meaningful.

Justifying the use of the emergency decree in Bangkok since April this year, the premier jauntily asserts that: “If you are in Bangkok you’d hardly notice the effect of the state of emergency…. Ordinary people are not affected…”. As many ordinary people have stated, along with intellectuals, journalists and human rights activists, this is fundamentally wrong. Abhisit knows it, so he is dissembling yet again. In fact, the emergency decree (and earlier uses of the internal security laws) is central top  political control for his government.

The prime minister then speaks in self-congratulatory terms of his efforts for reconciliation: “What I have done is set up a number of independent commissions…”. He repeats this word “independent.” He says Anand Panyarachun’s is the most important commission, to “look at some of the structural issues that give rise to inequalities,” admitting that “for some” that such inequalities gave rise to the violence of April and May. Abhisit has generally rejected this latter line, but sees the Anand commission as a PR exercise to change the views of others on this. As PPT posted recently, the Anand commission seems remarkably reluctant to do much at all.

Would it only be PPT that finds Abhisit’s statement on the media threatening?: “We are engaging the media so that they go through a process of reform as well.” It seems Abhisit wants them to “retain freedom of expression” while reporting news with responsibility and accountability. The mainstream media have been reluctant to participate. However, the most striking issue is that while Abhisit’s regime has closed almost all of the opposition media, it mollycoddles the yellow shirt media such as PAD’s

As might be expected from the leader of a political party that was manipulated into parliamentary leadership, Abhisit tries to normalize the backroom dealings and extra-parliamentary forces that catapulted an unelectable party to the head of government. He says the the parliamentary system is “fully functioning.” He complains that there are misconceptions that the political crisis arose from a “somehow undemocratic process.”

He states: “That is not true,” and goes through the usual explanation of how his coalition came to power without mentioning the role of a politicized judiciary or of the military, People’s Alliance for Democracy, Newin Chidchob or the palace. Oddly, Abhisit places some emphasis on the fact that the PPP did not get a majority when elected…. The Democrat Party have never had a majority, and the only party ever to have a majority in parliament was thrown out by the military….

Abhisit seems to welcome “the opposition” saying they want to be involved in the reconciliation process – although, in reality, he is the one who has been suspicious of these overtures. Abhisit rejects debate on “who did what, who’s right and who’s wrong” in favor of him, as a “true democrat,” being confident that the government is addressing the “real issues that matter to the people.”

Abhisit demonstrates his toughness when he says he will not “cave in” to “some demands” as he gets the country “through this crisis.” In fact, though, this is nothing more than his personal hatred and fear of Thaksin Shinawatracoming to the fore. He makes the claim that one unnamed person or small group has placed their interest above that of the nation – Thaksin , of course. One should “never allow the use of force, violence,  or intimidation to effect political changes.”

That might sound reasonable, but then the U.S. used violence to gain independence and fought a civil war on political rights. The French Revolution involved considerable violence, and we could go on and on. Members of the elite is always opposed to violence, except when they are perpetrating it.

On early elections, Abhisit is boringly repetitious: “Over the last two years, I have never rejected calls for early elections. But my conditions that I have set are set for the best, for the country’s interests…”. He has not moved on this for months. Back in March, we posted this:

What was striking, however, was Abhisit’s insistence on constitutional change before an election. He has a patchy track record on this. There have been statements from him on constitutional reform, but these have all fallen into the usual traps. He has made no personal commitment to meaningful constitutional reform and has not personally been engaged with the agenda. It’s the talk but … no action problem again.

The government’s other line is to say that “elections will solve nothing” while also saying that dissolving parliament is not off the agenda. Many in the middle class and elite will agree with the rejection of elections because they fear the outcome will bring politicians they view as pro-Thaksin back to power. Abhisit may have angered some in his right-wing support base by talking, but nothing he said is going to immediately cause concern for his yellow-shirted supporters in the Democrat Party or more broadly.

Nothing’s changed. Abhisit lists the reasons he has opposed early elections. First, the economy needed time to recover. Second, he says he doesn’t want to see an election resulting in a weak government and a process like 2007-08. Third, and most important “I have always said that elections should only take place under peaceful and stable conditions…”. He says “he does not believe in elections where there continues to be intimidation, threat of the use of force or violence against candidates or parties…”. Only if the red shirts can guarantee this, will he go for an early election. He believes he has a right to stay in power until the beginning of 2012. After all of this, he blames the red shirts for rejecting his conditionality.

The closest he gets to accepting red shirt “demands” is to say that average red shirts “have been exploited by some political leaders” and it is this that led to the “unfortunate and regrettable events of April and May.”This is the “villagers are ignorant” claim so often repeated by Democrat Party leaders and the yellow shirts. Even if the red shirts have legitimate gripes, they are “manipulated” by the evil Thaksin and other nasty politicians. Only yellow shirts and government supporters are not manipulated and remain clear-eyed…. This is elitist nonsense but also a necessary rationalization to de-legitimize political mobilization by the under-classes.

This is Abhisit unchanged, using his English-language skills to sell his authoritarian government to U.S. investors and government. Military dictators and the king have long done the same. Abhisit fits that model ever so neatly.

Abhisit’s desire to be an elected PM

13 09 2010

The big news of the day at The Nation is that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has “revealed a desire to win a second term if a general election is called this or next year – which could prove the climax to his political career.”

A pipe dream? Quite possibly, for his party has never received electoral support from more than a minority of voters, being at the head of a party that wins an election is a little far-fetched. But he does have all the forces of the state with him in his effort to bend public opinion in his direction.

Abhisit Vejjajiva

Abhisit said that a “general election might be called early next year” but he wanted to be sure there would be no repeat of the embarrassing result of 2007, when the Democrat Party unaccountably lost an election the military thought it would win.

No, he wasn’t that honest. He actually said “he wanted to see results first from inquiries by a reconciliation committee led by Kanit na Nakhon and another panel led by Sombat Thamrongtanyawong.” Both panels have been almost invisible since being formed.

PPT can understand that Abhisit, hoisted into place by a bunch of elite and palace autocrats, manipulated by the military, business interests and corrupt and self-serving political hacks, would really like to be elected to his essentially appointed position. With sufficient threat and use of the armed security forces, he might be able to wrangle such a result.

In his weekly talk, Abhisit showed that reconciliation is simply a political shibboleth when he made comments that associated the Puea Thai Party with a recent string of bombs: “The red-shirt leaders and the Pheu Thai Party leaders cannot deny involvement because the suspects who were arrested also are linked to them…”. PPT wasn’t aware that suspects were held in many of these cases. Of the recent cases, we assume Abhisit is speaking of one case – the attempted bombing in front of the Phum Jai Thai Party headquarters.

Responding to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s latest statement on reconciliation, Abhisit “said Thaksin should know that reconciliation was about national interest, not his personal interest.” A standard line, but then Abhisit resorted to the very personal when replying to students in recent days.

Even if he manages to fiddle an election victory, he will always carry the stain of being the Butcher of Bangkok, responsible for deaths and injuries on the streets and for the imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners.

On elections and buildings vs. people

23 05 2010

Andrew Marshall, in an article in The Irrawaddy (21 May 2010) comments on the post-crackdown situation. He observes: “The Red … [Shirts] will return to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, to Buriram and Mukdahan, to Nong Khai and Nan, bringing home first-hand accounts of the bloody battle of Bangkok. Towns and villages across the north and northeast will be further radicalized. Until talks between the Reds and the government collapsed last week, a November election had seemed possible. But it is hard to imagine an election ever being held in such a poisonous political atmosphere.”

PPT thinks he’s right. The point about elections is one we made some time ago. Part of the reason for the government opposing red shirt demands was because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his advisors believed they’d probably lose any election that would have followed a House dissolution. But as we pointed out, PPT believed that Abhisit was opposed to any election, earlier or later, until he knew he and his backers could engineer a win. Now he has a “mandate” to postpone an election because his candidates are unlikely to be able to campaign in red shirt areas. He has often said that this ability to campaign is a required condition for any election.

Indeed, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij has been quoted as having “acknowledged the difficulty of putting the Thai political scene back on an even course. He said in principle the government could agree to early elections in November as long as calm was restored throughout the country…”. He added: “We need to make sure that emotions have cooled to the extent that candidates from all parties can feel safe in campaigning anywhere in the country.” To make the message clear, he stated: “And if we can do that in November, we will do it in November. If it takes a little bit longer than that, we will give it the necessary time that is required…”. In fact, the only reason for going to an election will be that the government and its supporters are sure they can win.

Marshall is also right to point to anger. Anger doesn’t always lead to radical action – the Burmese people have been angry for a considerable time – but will underpin political decision-making and action for many years to come.

PPT has experienced some moments of extreme concern as well. There’s plenty to be angry and concerned about. The partisanship of the mass media and the campaigns against any media seen to be in any way critical of the Thai government’s reprehensible actions in recent days is breathtaking. The current anti-BBC and anti-CNN campaigns stage-managed and promoted by the government are abominations. By the way, we say the government is managing these things because PPT received emails from Democrat Party insiders circulating the information that has now become part of the “campaigns.” We are angry at the way the government is seemingly able to whitewash its draconian track record, its murder of citizens and its on-going repression.

This government is so royalist and so repressive that it even blocks a tiny blog like PPT, usually read only by a few thousand in Thailand. If the government is so right and so good, why does it need to block every single critical observer? Why is it fostering attacks on the international media that are highly personalized? We know the answers.

But here’s something more to be angry about. We think the Butcher of Bangkok has prevented information being available about injuries and deaths during the crackdown. Sooner or later there will be a debate about this, probably in cyberspace. There, the government’s supporters, including the moles the army has working the blogs, will argue that there were cameras everywhere, so nothing could be hidden. When this argument begins, recall that most foreign journalists were behind the troops (including CNN). Few were “embedded” with the red shirts. Those that were on the red shirt side of the event each report from several to many deaths. One reader we have who was there, reports that the troops looked like they were on a hunting trip. The film of soldiers firing deliberately and repeatedly at targeted protesters is suggestive of a higher casualty figure than we have seen – on Friday, the Erawan Emergency Center is reporting a total of 53 people had died and 413 were wounded since 14 May.

It is infuriating to read accounts by many, many journalists that focus on the damage to buildings – see the AP report in The Irrawaddy, where the whole report by Vijay Joshi is about the damage to buildings. Not a serious word about deaths or injuries. How crazy is that? Crazy is probably the wrong term….

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