The Ko Tee “plot” and extradition

20 03 2017

In our last post on the military junta’s marvelous story about a mammoth plot to accumulate war weapons, assassinate The Dictator using a sniper rifle and cause a rebellion based on Wat Dhammakaya, we stated:

While Ko Tee [Wuthipong Kachathamakul] has denied the arms belonged to him, the cops admit he’s been on the run since early 2014…. “Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact … Cambodia … for Mr Wuthipong’s extradition, but had received no helpful reply.”

Now the police can claim that Ko Tee “allegedly played a leading role in gathering weapons to support the temple and as such must be considered a threat to national security…”. This “plot” will presumably help with gaining his extradition.

Bingo! The Bangkok Post reports that the junta “has vowed to seek the extradition of hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee, from Laos following the discovery of a huge cache of weapons by authorities in a house in Pathum Thani.” (Like everyone else, we thought he was in Cambodia.)

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “he wanted Mr Wuthipong brought to justice given the weapons were found in his home, adding officials will contact Laos authorities to seek Mr Wuthipong’s extradition.”

They really want him for lese majeste and seem prepared to go to extreme devices to get him.

In our earlier post we also stated:

The next step for the police will be to parade the “suspects” before the media where they will presumably admit their guilt and “confirm” the “plot.” They may even be made to re-enact some “crime.” That’s the pattern.

Bingo! The same Bangkok Post story quotes a senior policeman as stating; ” The nine arrested suspects were questioned by military officers and they confessed to keeping the weapons for a particular mission…”.

Now we await the parade of “suspects.”

As a footnote to this story, readers might recall earlier posts, beginning in early February, about a junta desire to extradite anti-monarchists from Laos. This morphed into an alleged “death threats” against The Dictator, which were then said to come from republicans, and which saw attempts to push the Lao government to extradite the alleged conspirators. This effort went on for some time.

Does it seem like too much of a coincidence that yet another plot has suddenly been “revealed”?





Death of democracy and those complicit in it

16 03 2017

PPT decided to post about this event, even though it is on Cambodia. Promoted by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), it sounds like a reasonable event and we think readers will be interested.

Yet two things struck us about this event. First, that it is held in Thailand, which is a country under a military dictatorship. That’s kind of ironic and quite sad.

Second, a listed speaker and APHR Board Member is Kraisak Choonhavan, who is advertised as a “Former Thai Senator.” Another irony of this event is that Kraisak is a member of the Democrat Party, which has boycotted several elections, and he has supported two military coups, several anti-democrat movements and the actions of the current junta. He’s been very selective when it comes to human rights. That’s hardly the record of a parliamentarian who is serious about human rights.

Media Advisory: Report Launch and Press Conference

DEATH KNELL FOR DEMOCRACY
Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions

Monday, 20 March 2017, 10:30am at the FCCT in Bangkok

In February 2017, Cambodia’s Parliament approved a set of new amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which grant unprecedented powers to the executive and judicial branches to suspend and dissolve parties. The move marked a culmination of nearly two years of escalating persecution of Cambodian lawmakers. These attacks have come in the context of a renewed, broader crackdown on dissent, which has targeted nearly all segments of Cambodian civic life, as well as similar growing threats to other legislators across Southeast Asia.

In Bangkok on 20 March, members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), including lawmakers from Malaysia and the Philippines who will have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Cambodia, will present the organization’s latest report: Death Knell for Democracy: Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions. The report documents and analyzes the recent wave of attacks against parliamentarians in Cambodia, including judicial prosecutions, violations of procedure surrounding parliamentary immunity, and physical violence. APHR members will also share observations from their recent fact-finding mission, as well as discuss wider regional parallels and implications. Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson will also join the panel to comment on the report and provide his perspective on recent events in Cambodia.

Featured Speakers:

Hon. Charles Santiago, Member of the Parliament of Malaysia, APHR Chairperson
Kraisak Choonhavan, Former Thai Senator, APHR Board Member
Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, APHR Member
Phil Robertson, Asia Division Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch

Where: Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT)
Penthouse, Maneeya Center
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330

For more information or to request an advance (embargoed) copy of the report, contact: Oren Samet at oren@aseanmp.org

About APHR: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a human rights intervention force of current and former parliamentarians, who use their unique positions and innovative means to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, and promote democracy and human rights throughout the region. APHR supports the work of civil society and human rights defenders and encourages sustainable solutions that increase pressure on governments and multilateral bodies to ensure accountability and uphold and enforce international human rights laws.





Learning from the dictatorship

4 02 2017

Some analysts have argued that Thailand’s junta is learning from the authoritarian leaders of China. There’s debates about that, yet we don’t doubt that, among other things, The Dictator would love to control the internet as tightly as his Chinese counterparts.

We now know that other authoritarian leaders are learning from Thailand’s military dictatorship. At The Cambodia Daily, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, reckons “authoritarian ideas ‘spread like the flu among ASEAN leaders’.”

While we get the point, we’d observe that authoritarian ideas have long dominated in ASEAN countries.

The reason for his observation follows Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promising “sweeping changes to Cambodia’s law governing political parties in a move that could eliminate the CNRP and remove opposition leader Sam Rainsy or any other politician convicted by Cambodia’s courts—from a leadership position.”

His model? He says, “I think that we should follow Thailand, which means anyone committing serious mistakes would cause their party to be dissolved…”. He added:

“The People’s Power Party was dissolved just because Samak Sundaravej appeared as a chef on television,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to a side gig that Thai courts deemed a conflict of interest. “He then lost his position as prime minister and they also dissolved his party.”

“So we follow it,” Mr. Hun Sen said of the Thai example, saying he sought to “dissolve parties and then ban the political rights for not just a few leaders, but all the party’s board of directors.”

Authoritarian leaders are always looking for more ways to solidify their hold on power. The Dictator may well have looked at Hun Sen’s ability to manipulate elections and learned from that too.





Seeking more political prisoners

7 11 2016

The military dictatorship insists it is still seeking lese majeste extraditions. According to a report at The Nation a few days ago, it seems that the junta is hoping that, like them, the governments of Laos and Cambodia will ignore their own laws:

Legally speaking, the extradition of lese majeste fugitives from Cambodia and Laos is impossible, since treaties signed by Thailand with its two immediate neighbours don’t allow it. But legal loopholes can be found in such cases.

In fact, they are not legal loopholes, but bringing political pressure on those governments.

The military dictatorship is seeking the extradition of “three of the suspects … in Cambodia and six … in Laos,”

Treaties with Cambodia and Laos “contain grounds for mandatory refusal of extraction if there is a political offence involved.”

As the report makes clear, “[l]ese majeste is a political crime by nature, since the law in question effectively prevents any debate on the Kingdom’s head of state, rendering them ‘untouchable’.”

It makes the excellent points that:

Thai governments and their supporters routinely abuse Article 112 by using it to gag political opponents. Exploiting the monarchy’s high status in society, authorities enforce the lese majeste as if the country were still ruled by an absolute monarchy.

The hopes that both countries can be convinced to use “loopholes” to deport the junta’s political opponents back to Thailand for certain jail terms of many years.





More on the regular use of torture

30 10 2014

PPT has posted regularly on the use of torture by Thailand’s police and military.

These authorities use torture against locals and foreigners.

A report in The Cambodia Daily indicates the use of torture against three poor villagers from Cambodia “arrested in Thailand last week [who] were returned to Preah Vihear province on Monday…”. They claimed they were “tortured by the Thai military before being released…”.

The men were arrested in Thai territory “while searching for wild vegetables.” Perhaps they were seeking valuable timber.

A Cambodian military officer stated “the men told him that Thai soldiers persuaded one of the men to admit he was a Cambodian soldier in order to expedite his transfer back home.”

That confession led to them being tortured by “Thai soldiers … to get information about the location of Cambodian military troops and supplies.” Shockingly, “The Thai soldiers used pliers to pull out both of his big toenails in order to extract a confession…”. The man was also beaten with a belt and stomped on.

Video evidence shows that his toenails are missing.

Some Cambodian authorities dispute the claims. Whatever the truth of this particular claim, the torture sounds familiar to those who follow, for example, the torture used in the south of Thailand by soldiers there.

In this case, the Thai military are seeking to protect its monopoly control of the smuggling of forest products in the border area. Torturing and mistreating Cambodian villagers and other interests serves as a warning to others who may trespass on the illicit profits gained by the corrupt Thai military.





Killing Cambodians

16 08 2012

PPT has seen this story in a couple of places, and this one not one of our usual sources, being Hardwood Floors News, which sent us back to the Bangkok Post for the story that the various Thai border forces had “shot dead 38 Cambodians in the first half of this year for [allegedly] illegally crossing the border to log for valuable timber…”. Apparently a further 10 had been wounded. The figures seem to come from “the Cambodian authorities.”

Lat year the reported number of deaths, from the same source, was “around 11 alleged Cambodian loggers were reported killed over a 12-month period…”. The border is poorly demarcated, and another source says 15 in 2011 (see below).

The report states that: “Cambodian loggers are routinely caught sneaking into Thailand, often in search of rosewood, which fetches thousands of dollars per cubic metre and is in strong demand in China and Vietnam.” Switch across to the Burma border, and it is Thais in trouble for similar encroachment, but the 92 arrested in Burma weren’t shot on sight. We can’t help wondering what the Thai Army’s role is in all of this and asking what the difference is on the two borders. Is is a business dispute on both sides?

The report cited above notes that “Cambodian officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have repeatedly urged Thailand to arrest trespassers instead of firing at them, while Bangkok says its troops are acting in self-defence against armed Cambodians.” While perhaps arming encroachers on the Burma side? It is all very murky.

The Hardwood Floors story also had a link to a Cambodian human rights site that included this statement, from several months ago. In part the NGO stated:

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) is deeply concerned about the use of disproportionate force against Cambodian citizens crossing the border to perform illicit logging activities in Thailand. Eleven Cambodian loggers have lost their lives in the last two months, in what may amount to extrajudicial killings. Cambodian authorities must urge Thailand to investigate these and previous cases and stop using disproportionate force against persons breaching logging or border crossing regulations….

ADHOC is concerned that they may have been shot on sight, which would amount to extrajudicial killings. Thai authorities did not launch thorough investigations into these and previous cases. Investigations are necessary so that the facts can be clearly established and evidence can be provided to support allegations that Thai soldiers were fired upon first and that they were acting in retaliation.

ADHOC reminds Thai authorities that they are under obligation to use a proportionate level of force to impose Thai laws and regulations. The use of fire arms is only justified as a last resort, when law enforcement officials face direct threats to their lives. The obligation to respect the right to life entails an obligation to provide law enforcement and military officials with adequate training, as well as an obligation to punish those responsible for excessive use of force. Cambodian citizens illegally crossing the border or caught performing illicit logging activities must be arrested and tried or deported to Cambodia in accordance with Thai law.

That seems reasonable. The Thai Army, though, is seldom reasonable.





Updated: Royalist generals in charge

4 01 2012

It could hardly be otherwise: a royalist general is now supreme commander of the armed forces. At the Bangkok Post, General Thanasak Patimaprakorn is lauded as “a soldier worthy of working of his rank as supreme commander.” What are his qualifications?

The Post praises “Thanasak’s career accomplishments are second to none.” Military leaders have basic responsibilities as leaders that usually include the accomplishment of the mission and the welfare of soldiers.

Thanasak’s leadership appears measured, by the Post at least, by factors related to the monarchy. He is said to have been:

an outstanding royal guard for Her Majesty. In fact, he started out serving as a close guard to the Queen in his early days in military uniform. He has often been seen accompanying the Queen and extending an arm for her to lean on during her visits to villages.

PPT cannot imagine any other country where a military leader would be praised on such criteria.

Next, Thanasak is praised because he:

received the full backing of other top brass including Gen Prayuth and his predecessor, Songkitti Jaggabatara, during a search for a new supreme commander. And nobody opposed the choice to make him supreme commander in the military reshuffle in October last year.

In any place other than royalist Thailand, this kind of praise would amount to cronyism. And that is what it is: “Gen Songkitti, Gen Thanasak and Gen Prayuth are classmates from Class 12 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”

It seems he has done a bit of normal military command and bureaucratic work:

His past posts include a stint in border protection affairs, including on the frontier between Thailand and Cambodia. When he was a military chief of staff, Gen Thanasak drafted a defence scheme for the border and designed several plans for military drills.

Most significant in this is that he served in “the 1st Division, the King’s Guard. After that he received a promotion to become commander of an attack battalion of the army’s special warfare unit.” In the latter he is said to have “earned a reputation as an aggressive and efficient fighter.” At the same time, this unit has been highly politicized and said to be involved in several highly irregular and politicized actions.

Most recently it seems that the general has worked to oppose the ICJ ordered pullout of both Thai and Cambodian troops from a provisional demilitarized zone and to allow Indonesian observers in the area. The Post says:

Gen Thanasak has worked closely with the secretary-general of the General Border Committee to ensure Thailand is not at a disadvantage in negotiations with Cambodia.

The general added: “We will lose territory if Thai soldiers are not allowed to enter an area belonging to Thailand…”. Clearly he is opposing the international court’s ruling.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “insisted it was the military’s duty to protect the monarchy and that it was not complacent in assuming the responsibility.” Indeed, as seen above, “protecting the monarchy” seems to be the Army’s paramount task.

Prayuth then went further, invoking a quite nasty call for “the public to help the military defend the monarchy against efforts to undermine the institution. He suggested social boycott against the offenders of lese majeste law.” A social boycott is likely to translate into something quite sinister.  “Social boycott” is adding to Prayuth’s ongoing war on lese majeste targeting political opponents.

As he notes, the law is not insufficient:

You can’t employ the law alone. The authorities involved are trying to use both legal and political means in dealing with this issue. It’s not that we are complacent or that we are not firm about protecting the monarchy….

Is this an admission that the use of the law is bringing the monarchy down? The royalist general adds: “Most people in this country are aware what is going on.” Really? We wish he would tell us. Prayuth continued, saying that the “point is that we have to help protect His Majesty the King and the monarchy…”.

Well, yes, that much is clear, but it isn’t clear why Prayuth feels so agitated at present. Is it that some want a change to the lese majeste law? If that’s the case, then it may be evidence that Prayuth may be coming to understand that the law is bringing the monarchy down. Is the social boycott an acknowledgement of the failure of the law? Or is it an upping of the war on political opponents?

We can’t wait to see what happens when Nitirat launches its new campaign.

Update: The Nation has updated it story on Prayuth’s comments, expanding on what he said. One addition is that Prayuth is now quoted as stating that:

The military has the direct responsibility … but you should not let the military do it alone. Everybody must come out to help, as far as the country’s rules allow.

The longer story (which is still poorly edited and includes a sub-editor’s note) also confirms that Prayuth’s call is related to the questioning of lese majeste and his view that the law is insufficient or flawed. He seems to admit the need for reform when he states: “His Majesty the King in fact did not want offenders of the lese-majeste law to be punished.” Frankly, we have seen no evidence that this is the case, but the statement must carry some weight in the ongoing debate on lese majeste.

At the same time, Prayuth refers to those who “insult” the monarchy as “bad people.” He added: called on the mass media to denounce “those bad people” who are a threat to the country…. If you denounce bad people, good people will get the moral support. If you allow good people to be harmed more and more and fail to condemn bad people, our country will not survive…”. In the report he is apparently referring to the south in the latter comment, but it seems to apply more broadly and links with his “bad people” comment.

We are now more even more convinced that the lese majeste law is likely to be reformed.