Contextualizing official murder

29 05 2017

Many readers will recall the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae and the failure of any serious investigation. There has been no serious investigation because there’s a cover-up.

In this context of an official cover-up and the efforts to ensure impunity for the soldiers and their officers who were involved, a recent report in the Bangkok Post deserves attention. It is sad and revealing. Most of all, it is a story of how the people are repressed and exploited.

Bits and pieces from the report can be quoted here, but do read it and weep for these people and for Thailand:

‘They pointed a gun at me,” Lana whispers into my ear.

She means military, police and officials and she’s talking both of an events in the past and a pattern of intimidation and exploitation.

In 2005, the gun was pointed at her by “them” to prevent her and other Lahu accessing their farmland in Ban Kong Phak Ping village in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district, just a few kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border. The altercation followed their discovery of young plants placed on the land as part of the authorities’ forestation project, which the Lahu were unaware of.

Violence is imprinted in her memory. Some local Lahu were reportedly beaten up by officials as suspected drug dealers.

Amid the intense drug suppression [Thaksin’s time], Lana was charged with resisting an operation to arrest two Lahu drug suspects in her village. Their house was raided but no drugs were discovered. The officials refused to back down despite the lack of evidence. They demanded Lana, who was widely respected in the local community, assist in the arrest.

After she refused to collaborate, she was arrested then imprisoned for nine months.

“We’ve fought for our rights for so long until we’re bored to fight and let it be.”

This conversation took place at a “gathering” on the spot where Lahu rights advocate Chaiyaphum Pasae, 17, was killed on the morning of March 17….

Many locals do not believe the Lahu youth [Chaiyapoom] was linked to drugs. But people in his village are watching the case from distance. It’s also not an issue that they speak about openly in their community despite the loss.

Chaiyaphum’s death heightens the fear the Lahu community have lived with after long years of discrimination….

Checkpoints [for drugs] became a common encounter during my daily drive with another journalist tracing the shadow of Chaiyaphum in Chiang Mai’s border towns. We passed the checkpoints easily.

But when it’s Saroj’s [a local’s] turn, he usually has to undergo a urine test despite this being a routine commute for him.

His 17-year-old nephew says he has been slapped in the face by a soldier. On another occasion, he was beaten and stamped on by military personnel although no drugs were found on him.

Four other Lahu I interviewed told me similar stories. They have all experienced violence themselves or have friends or family who have faced official violence.

“Life is already difficult for ethnic people who don’t have status here. They have no choice but to submit to fate. Would they [the military] do the same to suspects if they are not ethnic?” Saroj asks.

Remarkably, the authorities have poured mony into the area since Chaiyapoom was murdered. It might be hush money, it might be compensation, it might be an admission of guilt.

Aid has flooded into Chaiyaphum’s village. The state and military have dispatched resources to remedy the community’s loss. A new toilet was installed in mother’s house.

Trucks were seen delivering construction materials to the village to build facilities. Soon they will get water tanks and electricity lines. New social development projects will be slated for the village soon.

Local authorities visit the community to survey their problems and requirements. The chief of Chiang Dao district recently visited the village — some locals say he is the first chief to visit their community in a decade.

“This village has been neglected for so long. When the incident [Chaiyaphum’s killing] took place, we allocated a budget to assist the villagers because we don’t want them to be left behind,” says Chiang Dao district chief Sarawut Worapong.

…[T]he overwhelming military presence in the community has made some Lahu feel insecure, especially those close to Chaiyaphum or those who have experienced violence.

They claimed to have been photographed by military officials. Officials also took pictures of houses, claiming it was part of a survey to allocate aid.

A diagram of the drug network was shown to some community members which contained the names of their friends, in order to sow discord among the community.

Villagers are still seeking the truth behind Chaiyaphum’s death.

Atthachak Sattayanurak, an academic at Chiang Mai University, says the violence is a part of the authoritarianism that puts marginalised people vulnerable to abuse of power.

Especially when Thailand’s political environment is not conducive to democracy, vulnerable people like ethnic minorities are at the mercy of the state.

As she [Lana] keeps a faint smile when telling me her life story, I ask why she maintains such an expression.

“It’s just the way I am dealing with the problem. Actually, I’m scared.”





Making stuff up

17 05 2017

Two reports in Khaosod and one at The Nation should serve as reminders that Thailand under the military boot is a kingdom of lies.

The first Khaosod report is about infamous police chief Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. He’s the one who produced an assets declaration that stated he received a hefty monthly payment from beer magnates. Then he denied this. It was a mistake. And, anyway, he didn’t fill out the form himself, but had minions do it. Presumably they made it up? Hardly. But, no one in the junta was bothered. Such payments are the norm and apparently not illegal, not corrupt and not unethical. Just normal for this bunch of corrupt bastards.

The Bangkok police commander has now lied again and covered it up with a wholly unbelievable story that suggests that he continues to believe that the public are a bunch of clowns and dolts.

As the story has it, the policeman “visited the site of an explosion that wounded two people and told reporters it was not an explosion at all, but a ‘explosive-like loud bang’ caused by a malfunctioning water pipe.” Not long after, “a police leak burst his implausible claim of an injurious water pipe, [and] Sanit admitted that he made up his original version of events. The lie was necessary to deceive the perpetrators, said the lieutenant general…”.

Equally unbelievable, this latest claim from this fraudulent official is remarkable for displaying his own lack of intelligence, coming up with “stories” about as believable as a grade school student blaming the dog for eating his homework.

This person is a serial liar and a disgrace. But he’s got plenty of company.

The second Khaosod report is about the still unexplained extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae. Two months after his death, the police say the Royal Thai Army has finally handed over video footage of the events. The Army says the kid was a drug smuggler and “resisted.” No evidence of any of these claims is available, but top military and police say the video footage “proved” their claims.

Yet it took almost two months for the video to be handed over. And, then, as a hard disk that the police say they can’t view because of a software issue. What software? They can’t say.

But if they do view the footage, what then? Police Maj. Gen. Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk says “the Official Information Act prohibits information disclosure if it can affect others…”. Presumably he means official killers might be affected.

They just make stuff up.

The final story is from The Nation. On 2 May the Thai Ambassador in Seoul sent an official letter to the chairman of the May 18 Memorial Foundation seeming to complain that lese majeste detainee Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa had been awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

In that letter the ambassador lied that Jatuphat was guilty of certain crimes. Of course, he hasn’t (yet) been convicted by one of the kingdom’s feudal courts.

Jatuphat’s parents demanded an apology and retraction by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Getting the junta to correct its lies is problematic, not least because the junta seems unable to discern fact from fiction.





No remembering allowed I

13 05 2017

The junta continues to try to censor and repress, several times going into royalist overload in its efforts.

Part of its work is to effectively change history. Whether it wanted to or not, the theft and vandalism of the 1932 plaque caused the dictatorship to line up with their king in saying the past is best forgotten (in fact) and replaced with mythical legends about good kings and the current one (the silk purse-sow’s ear notion).

Other facts are simply ignored. What happened to the murdered Chaiyapoom Pasae? Best forgotten and swept under a military tarpaulin. And so on, ad infinitum.

While on history and this regime, or at least the devils running it, those people killed in 2010. Either they were republican dupes of a Svengali or they can be swept aside as deserving of death as bad people (or both).

It is no surprise to learn from The Nation that the military junta has prevented a “commemoration of late Maj-General Khattiya Sawasdipol…”.

Known as Seh Daeng, he was murdered with a single sniper shot to the head “during the 2010 red-shirt demonstrations against the Abhisit [Vejjajiva] government…”. As the high buildings were occupied by government troops, it may be assumed that the shooter was ordered to take out Seh Daeng by the Abhisit regime and military leaders including General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Anupong Paojinda.

Former deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung “claimed in 2012 that a group of senior police officers were behind the assassination…”, although we’d bet it was military snipers.

Colonel Winthai Suvaree, a spokesperson for the military junta “insisted that there was no attempt to thwart the family’s commemoration plan, but the event could be considered politically motivated,” so it was banned.

Seh Daeng’s daughter is unimpressed with the junta’s call for “cooperation” and forget about the commemoration of his murder.

She “insisted she would today go to Sala Daeng intersection on Silom Road in the capital to lay flowers and light candles to commemorate her father at the location where he was fatally wounded by a sniper.”

Ms Khattiyaa said she received a phone call from a police officer on Thursday, who said he was instructed by the army to ask about what she intended to do to mark the seven-year anniversary of her father’s death.

She “questioned why authorities want to prevent her and her sister from expressing gratitude and commemorating their father.”

Military dictatorship spokesman, and probably involved in the planning of the sniper attack, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said “in ordinary merit-making ceremonies, the NCPO [junta] always gives permission if the activities have no political implications.”

We assume he means ceremonies already deemed “political” for we doubt other merit-making  needs junta approval. But perhaps we have missed another expansion of the use of the junta boot.

Junta spokesman Winthai reckoned the fire-breathing anti-red shirts at the 1st Army Region are the ones swinging the boot in this case.

You get the picture. A couple of women are considered political threats to the junta because they might just challenge the junta’s history of Thailand or cause people to remember.





Contemptible justice system

10 05 2017

Readers will know that we have posted more than a few items that have shown and declared Thailand’s justice system an injustice system.

The police have long been corrupt thugs. But they are now worse than ever thanks to the fact that a military dictatorship condones impunity. They have to repay the military junta with loyalty. So when the biggest shot orders a piece of national history stolen as he wipes the “hard drive” of history, the cops do nothing, zilch. Loyalty demands no less.

The military is above the law. They literally get away with murder, with the latest case being that of Chaiyapoom Pasae. He was gunned down and now there’s nothing. It is all quiet. It’s probably just another cover up. We notice that the media has conveniently forgotten the case. Nothing happened, you can all go home. Witnesses intimidated, evidence withheld. Forget it.

The courts, positioned to have more power by a coterie of royalists, meddlers, constitution drafters and two juntas, is now a disgrace.

Lese majeste cases are just one example, where even the letter of the law is ignored as political opponents and others are shoved into jail for long sentences after secret trials, many in military courts. Cases are concocted, confessions forces and arrests made for political purposes.

Judges apply double standards as if they are the only standards and justice is not blind, but meted out with a view to vengeance and no consideration of the merits of cases. Of course, we are not necessarily pointing at every single case, but the politically significant ones. Thailand’s courts have become political courts.

Rather than detail the contemptible actions of the courts, we draw attention to an article by iLaw at Prachatai. It is certainly worth reading.





ASEAN MPs on Chaiyapoom’s case

29 04 2017

PPT reproduces in full a statement by the ASEAN members and former members of parliament on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae:

ASEAN MPs concerned about safety of minority rights defenders more than a month after killing of activist in Thailand

JAKARTA, 28 April 2017 – Regional parliamentarians expressed concerns today over the lack of adequate investigation to date into the shooting death last month of indigenous Lahu activist Chaiyaphum Pasae in northern Thailand, as well as reported threats against other activists and local community members in the area.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called on the Thai military to fully comply with the investigation and release key evidence related to the incident, and urged authorities to fully investigate all reported threats in order to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are respected. The collective of regional lawmakers said the case highlighted the dangers faced by minority rights activists in Thailand, which are characteristic of similar threats around the region.

“These latest allegations, and the lack of satisfactory investigations, have done nothing to address growing concerns over the human rights situation in Thailand,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“This isn’t the first time Thai authorities have been accused of committing extrajudicial killings and certainly not the first time that they’ve failed to provide adequate answers as to what really happened. This raises serious concerns about the safety of activists who are putting their lives on the line to defend the rights of their communities.”

Ethnic Lahu activist, 17-year-old Chaiyaphum Pasae, was killed by security forces during an alleged anti-drug operation in Chiang Mai province on 17 March. Chaiyaphum was a strong advocate for the rights of his community and other ethnic minorities in northern Thailand, and had been actively involved in campaigns against drug use.

Authorities have claimed that some 2,800 methamphetamine tablets were found in Chaiyaphum’s car and that he was shot in “self-defense” after attempting to run away from soldiers. However, witnesses present at the scene told reporters that he was unarmed and that he was beaten by soldiers before being shot. One witness has already fled the country due to fears for his safety, APHR has learned.

Although the police opened an investigation shortly after Chaiyaphum’s death, there are indications that the military is refusing to cooperate, including by refusing to make public CCTV footage of the incident. Photographic evidence seen by APHR raises further questions regarding the official military account of events – questions which could be answered by the release of the CCTV footage and of the autopsy results.

APHR called on military authorities to release the CCTV footage to the public, and also urged the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) to exercise its mandate and demand that, at a minimum, the footage be released to the NHRCT to aid in its own investigation.

“We can’t be sure if the police are failing to fully investigate the incident or if other authorities, namely the military, are blocking the investigation or not fully complying with requests. Either way, this is beginning to feel like so many other cases in the region where investigations have stalled due to inaction and no one is ever really held accountable and justice never served,” Santiago said.

“In addition to conducting their own independent investigation into the case, the NHRCT should ensure that no one in Thailand is above the law and that the incident itself, as well as threats and intimidation against witnesses and other activists, are fully investigated by the competent authorities. The military’s cooperation in this investigation shouldn’t be up for debate.”

Parliamentarians also raised concerns about the safety of other community members following reported death threats received by Maitree Chamroensuksakul, another Lahu activist who worked closely with Chaiyaphum. Maitree, who has also been outspoken about the abuses faced by his community, was recently told by local authorities to cease speaking out and recently found a bullet left on the doorstep of his house – a clear threat on his life. The threats against him follow a pattern of similar intimidation of other activists and community members in the area.

“It is imperative that the Thai authorities put in place the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Mr. Maitree and all witnesses in this case, in addition to fully investigating all reported threats against them,” said APHR Board Member Walden Bello, a former Philippine Congressman.

The cases highlight a dangerous trend in Thailand, where human rights defenders are increasingly at risk, APHR said. Parliamentarians called on the diplomatic community and the National Human Rights Commission to use all available means to ensure that the Thai authorities investigate these cases, punish the perpetrators, and protect – not threaten – activists and local communities.

“Mr. Chaiyaphum’s killing has come at a time when fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression, are under severe threat in Thailand. Fully investigating his death would send a clear message that the Thai authorities are finally willing to abide by their international human rights obligations, and that his case will not become just one more entry into a long list of cases of impunity for extrajudicial killings,” Bello said.





When the military is on top II

26 04 2017

While some of the media seems prepared to join with the junta in allowing the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae be eased off the front pages, Prachatai continues to report on events related to the military’s efforts to bury the case in delays and silence. (Consider the same manufactured silence on the political vandalism of the 1932 plaque.)

A network of academics and several ethnic minority groups recently met in Chiang Mai and “issued a joint statement over the summary killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a young Lahu ethnic activist who was shot dead by a soldier on 17 March.”

This group pointed to the “intimidation of relatives of the slain activist and witnesses of the killing” and noted the failure of the (lying) “military must submit the CCTV footage of the crime scene to the police for further investigation process.”

The statement said:

After the incident, soldiers have visited Kong Pakping Community where Chaiyapoom lived almost every day. His relatives or even the head of the community were summoned [by the authorities]. Bullets were found placed in front of houses of Chaiyapoom relatives….

Such intimidation is standard operating procedure for the state’s thugs. It is also the modus operandi of the junta itself when dealing with critics.





Chaiyapoom’s extrajudicial killing

23 04 2017

The Nation reports that Chiang Mai Police deputy commander Pol Colonel Mongkol Samparaphon says his “investigators” are “close to finishing the gathering of evidence” in the case of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom  Pasae.

The policeman claims “almost all witnesses had been questioned and the final results of the autopsy had been delivered.” He adds: “… I can assure [the public] that the police have gathered many good pieces of evidence…”.

But not the CCTV evidence that The Nation described as “the prime evidence in the case, [which] still has not been handed over to police.” Readers may recall that 3rd Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop lied when he declared ages ago that the military had already sent the CCTV footage to the police. Or perhaps the police lie when they say they haven’t got it. Or perhaps the police and the military collude to ensure impunity for state murderers.

Centre for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR) director Sumitchai Hattasan disputed all that the policeman claimed. He also stated that witnesses were fearful because “interviews given by senior figures in defence of the soldier who pulled the trigger.” He means the junta and powerful and dangerous military figures.

Of course the jolly Pol Colonel Mongkol lied when he “said there had not been any threats against witnesses and authorities could ensure their safety.”