The Dictator’s face

1 06 2018

Spoofing The Dictator is a crime in Thailand. It is treated so seriously that an international manhunt has resulted in arrests.

We have no idea whether Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, self-appointed president premier of Thailand, actually spat that those complaining about fuel prices should put water in their tanks. He might not have said it, but over his more than four years of unfettered power he’s said many silly, nasty and/or threatening things. He often barks emotionally at reporters.

But when he gets lampooned in social media, police are poked into action to save the murderous general’s “face.”

It is reported that a “Cambodian man has … been arrested in Phnom Penh after allegedly posting fake news about the Thai prime minister on the internet while six Thais have been detained in Bangkok for sharing it…”.

It may or may not be “fake new” – thanks Donald – or it may be something else again. But The Dictator is apparently furious, unable to sleep and as agitated as hell. He can’t believe that anyone could treat him so badly.

A pity about all of those red shirts murdered by troops he commanded, but from The Dictator’s perspective, these were beings less than people. He, however, is great and good and can’t possibly stand these social media spoofs, lampoons, “fake news,” clickbait or anything that shaves a layer off his “face.”

Police are working with another increasingly dictatorial regime to arrest and extradite “Heng Ratanak, 21, of Cambodian nationality.” He’s “accused of importing into computer systems false information that may undermine national security or cause panic among the public under the computer crime law…”.

National security? What a farce. All of this to save the boss’s face!

But it doesn’t stop there.

Police have also summoned “six Thais who allegedly shared the article.” All have been arrested. They face a “charge of knowingly propagating or forwarding false digital information that may damage national or economic security, or cause panic among the people.”

That’s the power of dictatorship and The Dictator. He wants to teach them a lesson, just as he taught the red shirt protesters a lesson.

The Dictator losing face is dangerous.





Dictatorship and royalty

23 04 2018

The military dictatorship has proven itself to have the right attitudes and ideology for dealing with other authoritarian regimes, especially the party dictatorships of China and Laos and the Hun Sen regime in Cambodia. Most especially, Thailand’s military regime has felt most comfortable in dealing with military leaders in those countries.

It has had some issues with Laos, where red shirt and republican dissidents reside having fled the royalist military dictatorship following the 2014 coup. The military dictatorship has kept the pressure on, and we can assume some collusion in the enforced disappearance of Ko Tee from his residence in Laos. He’s presumed dead.

Thailand has a long history of political interference in its smaller neighbor’s politics, and there have been many ups and downs. So it is to be expected that all Lao regimes develop the relationship with some caution.

The current Thai dictatorship has been especially agitated about republican dissidents in Laos and has been seeking a deal to get them jailed in Thailand or, if that fails, to have them silenced.

Speaking in Vientiane, Lt Gen Souvone Leuangbounmy, chief-of-staff of the Lao People’s Armed Forces has “played down Thai authorities’ concerns about political fugitives and those wanted under Section 112 of the Criminal Code…” in Laos.

He says that “Thai political fugitives in Laos will be kept under strict surveillance to prevent them from engaging in lese majeste activities…”. He added that “Laos would be vigilant in trying to stop any acts which could affect Thai people” and soothed the military junta: “Please rest assured. You can count on us…”.

He made these comments as Thai military leaders visited Laos. We assume that he was saying this because the Thai military visitors had raised the issue (again).

Perhaps Lt Gen Souvone’s position is a compromise by his regime, under pressure from the “big brothers.” Will they accept this?





The junta’s prize

24 03 2018

Some time ago PPT raised concerns regarding the direction of the Cambodian government as it seemed more than will to deal on exchanges of political opponents seeking refuge in Thailand and vice versa.

The step-by-step process of arranging exchanges of those seeking refuge in the other country has now reached an important milestone.

Prachatai reports that “Phnom Penh has agreed to help Thailand in hunting for Thai fugitives. This confirms the concerns among Thai refugee communities in Cambodia and human rights organisations that both countries are making a deal on exchanging political refugees.”

On 21 March, one of Cambodia’s political thugs, Tea Banh visited Thailand’s Dictator “to discuss cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia.” Among other things, the two agreed “that both countries would help each other in searching for fugitives to further strengthen the relationship.”

This agreement makes “the situation of Thai political exiles in Cambodia even more precarious, given that about a hundred Thais are living in exile in Phnom Penh after the 2014 coup to escape legal harassment.”

As the article points out, the enactment of a lese majeste law in Cambodia seems designed to allow the extradition of Thai lese majeste fugitives from Cambodia. Extradition usually requires a similar law in both countries, and that now applies for Cambodia. Then again, neither Thailand nor Cambodia worry too much about law.





Putting the shoe on the other foot

11 02 2018

Back in November, PPT posted on potential trouble brewing for Thai dissidents in Cambodia. At the time, Hun Sen seemed to be asking for the Thai junta to deport members of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled to Thailand.

On 8 February, Thailand handed over a Cambodian labor activist. Sam Sokha was “sentenced” in absentia by a Hun Sen regime court on 25 January for the vague “crimes” of “insult of a public official” and “incitement to discriminate.” In other words, she threw a shoe at a billboard depicting Cambodia’s authoritarian premier.

Of course, after she was presumably forcibly repatriated from Thailand, she was arrested.

According to several reports, Thailand’s military dictatorship deported her despite the fact that “the UN refugee agency reportedly had formally recognised her as a refugee.”

This is not the first time Thailand has done this. In 2016, the dictatorship worked with the Chinese to send dissidents back to China, including two who had UN status and were awaiting third-country resettlement.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said:

Thailand was fully aware of Sam Sokha’s status as a refugee, yet still returned her to Cambodia, where she is likely to face a prison term for expressing her political views…. It’s sad but not surprising that a military junta would do a favour for a neighbouring dictator, but they should not cement their friendship at the expense of a refugee.

We may guess that the junta expects Cambodia to return the favor and will be hoping to capture some Thai dissidents.





Lese majeste and the repression of political opposition

22 12 2017

Thailand’s lese majeste law has long been used as a means to repress political opponents of royalist, usually military-dominated regimes. More recently it has been used by the palace to “clean” its own house, but that is another story.

As a case study in expanding political repression, Cambodia provides a lens on lese majeste that is sometimes neglected for Thailand.

Cambodia’s current regime is certainly descending into deeper political repression as Hun Sen, born of U.S. bombing, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese invasion, grasps power ever more to himself and a coterie of supporters and the tycoons he has created. His disdain for dissidents is deep and his authoritarian proclivities well known.

It is reported that, despite there being no obvious threat to Cambodia’s weak monarchy, Hun Sen’s regime “is considering the implementation of strict lese majeste laws such as exist in neighbouring Thailand, which would criminalise perceived criticism of the Southeast Asian nation’s monarchy.

This law is being conjured “amid a crackdown by Hun Sen’s government against political opposition, the media and the NGO sector. Last month, the government successfully dissolved the major opposition force, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).” It has also “shuttered the US-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute and forced closure of the Cambodia Daily newspaper. The Bangkok Post reported on Monday that the Cambodian Information Ministry had shut down a further 330 print media outlets.”

In fact, the law would not be to “protect” the monarchy, but would be to trample Hun Sen’s political opponents. Indeed, the “country’s ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng already faces a lawsuit, filed by Hun Sen in October, for insulting King Norodom Sihamoni…”. The former DPM referred to the king as a “castrated chicken,” blasting him “for not getting involved in Cambodia’s political situation during a secretly recorded phone conversation.”

Clearly, Hun Sen seeks to ensure that his political opponents can’t use the monarchy against him. He’d rather use the monarchy for his own political purposes.

The parallels with Thailand can be drawn noting the way in which an alliance of palace and authoritarian regimes was created and maintained.





The hunt for dissidents

21 12 2017

Almost a month ago PPT posted on potential trouble for Thai dissidents in Cambodia. At the time, we noted that the military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by red shirt dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

In a sign that Thailand continues to pressure Laos on this, the two nations have seen defense minister agree “to increase bilateral cooperation against people threatening the other’s security…”. As much as Thailand’s military dictatorship might bleat about cross border trafficking, the primary aim of this “cooperation” is to get red shirts back from Laos and jail them in Thailand. In a human rights climate where authoritarians have a political picnic, this trade in dissidents is likely to expand.

Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Minister for Time, General Prawit Wongsuwan and Lao Defense Minister Chansamone Chanyalath met in Vientiane and “discussed improving cooperation on overall security issues and agreed to seriously increase cooperation against illicit drugs and ‘groups of people who threaten the security‘ of either country…”.

They agreed they “would take serious action against people threatening the other’s security, and exchange intelligence reports for the purpose.”

That’s bad news for the dissidents currently based in Laos.





Trouble for dissidents

30 11 2017

The military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by having to deal with dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

However, it is Cambodia that has been a safe haven for many red shirts and has challenged the junta, who have been suspicious of Hun Sen as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

Now it seems that the junta may have an opening. The Phnom Penh Post reports that

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday raised the spectre of Thailand deporting members of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled the country….

Hun Sen declared that “Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should … ‘chase’ those people ‘staying in Bangkok’, in an apparent reference to ex-CNRP members who have fled.”

As Hun Sen destroys his opponents he will be keen to see those in Thailand deported. He is likely to be willing to make deals with Thailand’s military junta.