Only double standards I

3 11 2017

We have pointed to the double standards that operate in Thailand hundreds of times. So many times, that it seems that double standards are the only standards used by the military dictatorship and its puppet agencies, including the judiciary.

Two recent examples involve judicial action against student activists and, somewhat differently, in actions against provincial governors for royal funeral failures.

In the first instance, the Bangkok Post reports that a Khon Kaen Court has found student activist Sirawith Seritiwat guilty of contempt of court. He was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and fined 500 baht, put on probation for one year and ordered to do community service for 24 hours.

Another six activists of the anti-coup Resistant Citizen and Dao Din groups were put on probation for one year and ordered not to assemble or organize similar activities. They were also put on probation for six months.

Their “crime” was to gather on 11 February near the court “to show support for Jatupat Boonpattararaksa. They held ‘Free Pai’ posters in the court’s compound.”

On the face of it, this sentencing may seem rather similar to the case of anti-democrats sentenced a few days ago. But that is indeed superficial. These students – seven in total – were engaged in a peaceful and quiet show of support for a friend who was charged in a ludicrous lese majeste farce case before a kangaroo court.

The anti-democrats – more than 100 of them charged – were involved in a threatening and violent occupation of PTT building during anti-democrat street rallies in 2014, causing considerable damage.

There’s little comparison that can be made between the two sets of sentencing, except for the double standards and political persecution.

Then there’s the case of two provincial governors who are “facing a formal investigation into their alleged mishandling of dok mai chan (sandalwood flower) laying rites during the late King’s cremation ceremony on Oct 26, while three district office chiefs in Bangkok have been transferred to inactive posts for similar reasons.”

Because this is monarchy stuff, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda sprang into action, setting up investigations to be completed within seven days. This apparently all based on social media and newspaper reports. The accused are alleged to be guilty of “poor management.”

The double standard is the response. Monarchy stuff, even rumors, lead to official action within hours.

Compare this with murders, graft, nepotism, torture, enforced disappearances, and more, all associated with the military, the junta and the elite. In these cases almost nothing happens (apart from cover-up). Think of:

  • The the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and its associated lese majeste cases.
  • Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.
  • And who killed Ko Tee in Laos?
  • The ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda.
  • The nepotism of generals, constitution drafters and other puppets and grifters.
  • There’s plenty of land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

As we said, double standards are the only standards.





Lese majeste threats after the funeral

31 10 2017

Lese majeste has been a critical law and existential threat underpinning Thailand’s military dictatorship’s repression. The funeral last week has provided another opportunity for ultra-royalism to reach yet another high point.

This is why it is not surprising to read in the Bangkok Post that the politicized, Cold War-style Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) has issued a “warning on fake and distorted news.” Maj Gen Pirawat Saengthong of ISOC has “revealed” that “photos being forwarded on social media of last week’s royal cremation ceremony are not all what they seem.” Shock! Horror!

The military spook “said some netizens have been sharing photos of a different ceremony.” Shock! Horror!

Facing such a dire situation, the ISOC mouth piece “suggested this could constitute lese majeste.” What is going on here? The Post states:

Maj Gen Pirawat was referring to photos of a royal event in December, 2015. His Majesty the King when he was Crown Prince took part in a ceremony to collect the remains after the funeral of the late supreme patriarch, Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara. The event included a procession, with army troops in parade dress. At a glance, certain photos of the 2015 procession resemble last week’s funeral for King Bhumibol.

The Post is not at all clear on what the general is babbling about. They wonder how this sharing can result in “insults to the monarchy and [puts] national security … at stake…”. It adds that: “His brief talk with the media did not include any indication of the key ingredient of fake news: the positive motive. Unless the persons sharing these photos know they are wrongly captioned, it seems a careless or honest error, without intention to deceive.” It then adds, like everyone else when it comes to the monarchy, trembling with fear: “Of course, any knowing attempt to demean the monarchy should be investigated.”

Noting that ISOC itself has been a purveyor of “fake news” in the past, the Post sees the whole episode as an attempt to censor and threaten the innocents. Of course, that’s the basic point of lese majeste. (The Post also mentions “false information that seemed deliberately spread has occurred for the past seven months after the killing of 17-year-old Chaiyaphum Pasae…”. It could havbe also mentioned dozens more flase stories from stolen 1932 commemoration plaques to various concocted “plots.”)

We believe that the photos ISOC is seeking to repress are those of the king’s girlfriends and “wife” who participated in the events of the funeral.





Updated: After the funeral, more of the same

30 10 2017

The funeral is officially over but the hagiographical syrup and royalist nastiness and threats continue to flow.

As in other periods where ultra-royalism is boosted by the military state, it becomes dangerous for anyone who might dare to express different opinions.

The military regime may also be emboldened by the continued rise of ultra-royalism, which obviously feeds into its political ambitions when it decides to call its “election.” Presumably the coronation will add to all of that political use of royalism.

In the meantime, we might also expect cowed and submissive politicians to become warily more active.

A Bangkok Post editorial has a bet each way. It drips royal loyalty for a couple of paragraphs, observing what should be obvious: “The expiration of the mourning period returns the country to a semblance of normality…”.

It strokes the military dog:

The members of the government under Gen Prayut deserve a respectful thank you for their care and attention to the events brought to a grief-stricken climax last Thursday. The preparations for the funeral of the great King Bhumibol Adulyadej provided impeccable grace, and splendour remarked on around the world. When he seized power three and a half years ago, Gen Prayut promised to unite Thais. Last week, Thai people were united as never before.

In fact, the funeral was fitting in that it marked a crescendo of military-backed monarchism that has defined one of the most politically repressive eras in Thailand’s modern history, with that repression being in the name of the monarchy and claimed to be protecting it.

The funeral was fittingly militarized but few have bothered to think about what this means for Thailand going forward (well, backward, under the junta).

(If one watches the Ananda Mahidol funeral and compares it with the recent event, the military dominance and precision of the latter is clear.)

The Bangkok Post then reminds the junta and its readers that the “funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore.”

It adds that several of these “questions” are “urgent.”

It lists:

These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park‘s improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part “improvement”. These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in “donations” — a word which has become synonymous with “scandal”. In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

Then there is the ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda. His latest mess is over  laser, speed-detection guns at hugely exorbitant prices.

But, really, is that it? Of course not. As the Bangkok Post itself reports, “[l]ocals in eastern Thailand are opposing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s [the junta] order to reorganise city planning in Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces to bring it in line with the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) policy.”

There’s plenty of other land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

But what about the political repression that has juveniles charged with lese majeste. There is the old man potentially charged with lese majeste for comments about legendary events. And there is the law student, singled out by the military dictatorship for lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai story that was also shared by several thousand others. What of the mothers and others jailed for scores of years on pathetic lese majeste charges? Protection of the monarchy means crushing many and threatening everyone.

Then there’s the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and associated lese majeste cases.

Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.

And who killed Ko Tee in Laos? We can all guess but probably the assassins, speaking Thai, will never be revealed. That’s the impunity that official murders enjoy.

We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people.

Update: Readers will be interested in two views of the events and legacy of the ninth reign at New Mandala. Both are reasonably tame and the first quite lame.





Further updated: Covering the corruption money trails

22 10 2017

Recall the claim that Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda had approved the purchase of hundreds of “road speed guns for six times the normal price?”

Anupong said the “849 hand-held laser speed detectors – each costing 675,000 baht – was urgent to replace outdated equipment.” That’s more than 573 million baht. The project did not go to open bidding. And, oddly, the speed cameras were said to be for the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

The Bangkok Post’s Umesh Pandey states that General Anupong is one of The Dictator’s “closest associates …[and] has hit the headlines once again and this time, again, it is for the carelessness of his decision making.”

According to Umesh, “Gen Anupong defended himself, saying that he was unaware of the pricing of the equipment and it was only his role to pass on the requests of the agencies to the cabinet. The cabinet did not ask too many questions and approved the procurement plan presented by Gen Anupong.”

Sound familiar? It should. General Anupong made similar noises when he approved the Red Bull plant in Khon Kaen that has now been cancelled. Don’t blame me, he said, I just processed the approval.

Yeah, right. Then there was the deflated zeppelin. And the GT200 magic wands, both purchased in the past with Anupong and General Prayuth Chan-ocha working on the very bad deals that were both likely to be corrupt.

On the speed guns, there’s a belated attempt to construct a story that is so riddled with nonsense that the story is designed to befuddle while hoping the story goes silent – the junta’s trusted strategy. (Think of Rolls Royce corruption, the murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae and the “stealing” of the 1932 commemoration plaque, to name just three silences.)

The new story is that The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department planned to buy laser-equipped speed detectors to enforce speed limits and would lend them to the police every so often. We looked at the Department’s website and couldn’t see how it might use speed guns….

Department Director-general Chayapol Thitisak “said the detectors were necessary for officials to effectively enforce the law against speeders and inculcate traffic discipline. The devices would mainly be used on secondary roads connecting districts, tambons and villages.” The department’s plan was claimed to be “in response to requests from organisations running campaigns to reduce road accidents…”.

That seems a most unlikely story to us.

Trying to save the boss, director-general Chayapol said the “procurement process had not begun…” and that “no sale had been concluded…”.

Maybe. Let’s see, when The Dictator gets his boot out of his mouth over Facebook, how he defends his former boss and co-conspirator.

Update 1: Interestingly, Veera Prateepchaikul, in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post has almost the same points about this deal as our post.

Update 2: General Anupong is under continued attack from yellow-shirted ultra-nationalist Veera Somkwamkid who says that Anupong’s proposal to “the cabinet on Oct 10” was approved at “a budget of 957.6 million baht for the procurement of 1,064 hand-]held speed guns, each worth around 900,000 baht.”

Meanwhile, Anupong went all Sgt Schultz: “I have no idea how many speed detectors the government approved for the procurement because it’s beyond my authority. You have to ask the DDPM…”.





Sorting out corruption, deaths, theft

17 09 2017

PPT was pleased to note a Bangkok Post editorial on the case of the young Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae who was killed by soldiers about six months ago. The Post refers to this as an “extra-judicial killing in broad daylight…”.

The events of the killing have been muddied by the authorities, with “some cabinet ministers [having] made an attempt to defend the soldier who gunned down Chaiyapoom.” The “evidence” the junta’s officials and the military claimed is hidden, unavailable or concocted. The “footage from CCTV that captured the moment when the shooting took place” has not been released.

Junta boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered “a probe.” Like many such “investigations” under the junta, “to date [it] has seen no progress with the case seeming to disappear into thin air.” The handling of the case has been secretive, even furtive. The state has also sought to implicate Chaiyapoom’s relatives and have threatened locals in order to further muddy the waters.

The case is now in the courts. They are so opaque, politicized and in the pocket of the junta that there is little chance that the state’s “obligation to bring justice to Chaiyapoom and his family” will be fulfilled.

On corruption, Suphawatchara Malanond who is Dean of the Law Faculty at the Prince of Songkla University, has an opinion piece at the Bangkok Post that raises many issues regarding state enterprises.

Among these, corruption scandals is worthy of consideration, not just for the traditional state enterprises but for corporations where the state maintains investments.

The 11 “key corporatised state enterprises” are: “PTT Plc, TOT, CAT Telecom, MCOT Plc, Thai Airways International Plc, Airports of Thailand Plc, the Transport Co, Dhanarak Asset Development Co (a state enterprise under the Treasury Department), Thailand Post Co, the Syndicate of Thai Hotels & Tourists Enterprises Ltd and Bangkok Dock Co.”

That reminds us: What happened to all those “investigations” into Rolls Royce engines at Thai Airways and PTT’s commissions?

The failure of “investigations” under the junta is definitional of the regime.

That’s probably why the Bangkok Post reports that Interior Minister General Anupong “welcomes” an “investigation” into the deflated blimp.

At the same time, the general and “the army have defended the worthiness and performance of the army’s controversial 340-million-baht aerial patrol project, including an airship, which has been decommissioned only after eight years in service.”

As the general explains, “its performance was effective or not must be assessed by the army,” suggesting that any “investigation” is likely to be fudged. After all, loyalty is usually valued in the military.

General Anupong set the tone by undervaluing the airship by seeking to value the blimp as a balloon rather than as an equipped machine.That’s the start of the fudge.

But, again, Anupong feels under some pressure. It remains to be seen how far The Dictator is prepared to go in protecting his former boss. Loyalty?





Updated: Soldiers, deaths and unlikely coincidences

5 09 2017

After quite a period of media silence, The Nation reports that the case of murdered activist Chaiyapoom Pasae is finally seeing some legal movement.

It is reported that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court will be handling Chaiyapoom’s case and another involving the death of Abe Sae Moo. Both cases involve soldiers are accused of using excessive force. Both were “killed at the Ban Rin Luang military checkpoint in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district earlier this year.”

Public prosecutors have finally “asked the court to look into the deaths.”

The first hearing on Chaiyapoom’s case took place on Monday. Sumitchai Hattasarn, who is a lawyer from the Centre for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights and representing the dead boy’s parents, said he had “prepared 10 witnesses for this case in a bid to get to the truth…”.

On the other side, “public prosecutors had prepared 45 witnesses for the soldiers.” The defense claims will be to self defense on the part of soldiers.

After Abe was shot on 15 February, the military claimed soldiers had shot him “in self defence because Abe was about to throw a grenade as he fled in a drug case.”

No soldier blushed with shame when following the shooting of Chaiyapoom on 17 March, this was also claimed to be an act of self defense because Chaiyapoom ” pulled out a grenade at the checkpoint after the discovery of drugs in his car.”

Remarkable coincidences indeed. Some have suggested it was the same grenade and probably belongs to the soldiers involved.

We remain in the dark over the CCTV footage that the police and military claim was available. What has happened with that?

Update: Prachatai has a report that comments on what it calls “withheld evidence.” It states:

The lawyer [for Chaiyapoom’s family] said that he is concerned about the CCTV footage of the crime scene which is a prime evidence on the case because he does not know whether the military has given the footage to prosecutor as yet or not.

That’s almost six months after Chaiyapoom was killed and over five months since the military stated it had handed the CCTV footage to police investigators.

Everyone smells a rat, and it is probably a fat one in a camouflage uniform.





Junta repression deepens V

22 08 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship seems to be in a panic.

As we recently posted, some of this seems to be caused by Yingluck Shinawatra’s upcoming verdict. In that post, it was reported that police were to block entry to the government complex where the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions will convene.

We also reported statements that the police are about to set up road blocks nationwide (well, where they think the oppositional red shirts are located) to prevent people traveling to Bangkok for that verdict. As it turns out, it is military thugs who are setting up check points.

The Bangkok Post reports that troops began “setting up checkpoints on all key roads leading to Bangkok Monday to screen people heading to the capital…”.

The report adds that “[c]heckpoints are also being constructed in provincial areas and plainclothes police dispatched to provide security outside the capital…”.

Checkpoints are threatening for many, not least because troops can be trigger happy. Recall that no investigation has been completed regarding the apparent extrajudicial murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae, gunned down by troops months ago at a checkpoint.

In addition, “[o]utside Bangkok, officers are tasked with looking for potential ‘troublemakers’ among Ms Yingluck’s supporters.” In red shirt areas, the repressive actions are deepening: “… a 700-strong security force made mostly of soldiers was recently dispatched to Udon Thani…”.

At the court itself, the “Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) has decided to increase the number of officers in and around the court on Friday from 2,500 to 4,000. They will be supported by three helicopters, 20 riot-control vehicles and four ambulances…”.