Updated: Reflecting the regime II

27 08 2021

Continuing with our posts about  things that define the regime’s royalist Thailand, there have been several reports in the last few days that do just that.

The Thai Enquirer’s Cod Satrusayang responded to the release of a video showing a senior police officer suffocating an alleged drug dealer while demanding a large bribe.

Of course, the video went viral, with an investigation launched. But there was a here-we-go-again feeling. We’ve been here before. We’ve seen and heard it before. And there was cynical resignation as many on social media predicted another cover-up. As Cod says, “we should be more surprised and shocked at the footage rather than nod along grimly.

After all, police and military enjoy impunity and the levels of corruption are legendary. Just think of the Red Bull hit-and-run case, the Korat killings, the Saudi Blue Diamond saga, the 2010 murder of red shirts, the forced disappearing and murder of numerous political figures, the shooting of Chaiyapoom Pasae, the Tak Bai deaths, and we could go on and on.

Cod puts it this way: The time has come to ask whether officers like this murderer is the exception or the rule.” He adds: Given the reality of things and given how endemic corruption is within the police force maybe the time has come to consider not just reforming the police but dissolving the force altogether.”

AP adds on this story, detailing the crimes. Police Col Thitisant “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari” who was caught on camera suffocating a man to death. It was Joe who tortured Jeerapong Thanapat, a 24-year-old drug suspect, attempting to extort two million baht from him. Like Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, Joe is on the lam.

It isn’t just murderous police who define the “good people” regime, but this regime is defined by failed/compromised institutions.

The police are hopeless, with allegations of police brutality and corruption common. The video was leaked to lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd who “received a complaint from a junior policeman in Nakhon Sawan…”. That policeman reported the usual cover-up:

When the suspect died, Thitisan allegedly ordered his men to take the body to the hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose. The junior policeman said the woman was released but told not to say anything about it, and that Thitisan paid the victim’s father to remain silent.

The Bangkok Post reported that the “junior police officer … sought … help in forwarding the clip to the national police chief.” More revealingly, that junior officer and his fellow officers feared they would be killed!

The Royal Thai Police is a failed institution, operating more as a criminal gang than a police force.

But what about the rest of the bureaucracy which abet the police (or fear them)?

The “state-run Sawanpracharak Hospital, which issued a death certificate for the dead drug suspect, have defended their finding that ‘methamphetamine poisoning’ was the cause of death.” This after a “forensic examination.” Police told was “a private hospital that the man fell down and lost consciousness while he was running away from police who were chasing him during a drug crackdown.” Corruption? You bet.

How big is the corruption? Huge. Found at Pol Col Thitisan’s 60-million-baht house in Bangkok were 29 luxury cars worth more than 100 million baht. It is impossible that this great wealth could have been missed by anti-corruption agencies. After all, Ferrari Joe boasted about it on social media.

But, the hopeless NACC is now on the job, belatedly “probing the unusual wealth of Pol Col Thitisan…”.

A police source said Pol Col Thitisan wasn’t this rich from the beginning but he has built his own wealth out of some grey area businesses including trading edible bird’s nests while he was a deputy sub-division chief at Narcotics Suppression Division 4, overseeing drug suppression operations in the South.

The photos below are from the Bangkok Post, showing just some of Joe’s assets.

The story continues:

He later moved on to making money out of suppressing the smuggling of luxury cars and supercars in the South. He earned a lot of money from rewards offered for seizing such cars — 45% of the value of the car confiscated — and handing them over the Customs Department for resale through an auction….

Not bad for a cop earning less than 50,000 baht a month. But no one should bat an eyelid, for there are dozens of army generals, navy admirals, air force air marshals, and police generals who have declared unusual wealth to the NACC, and it has done nothing, zilch. That was in 2014.

So there’s a range of corrupt institutions. The NACC is at the pinnacle, rejecting any number of cases against the regime.

Thai Enquirer points out the obvious:

Somehow the Office of the Inspector General, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) keeps missing these high-earning cops and generals.

Do we trust these organizations to investigate the case further? See if this is part of something bigger? Doubt it.

The NACC repeats is compromised inaction again and again. As The Nation reports, it can’t “reveal Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam’s assets…” despite being “asked by the Official Information Commission to reveal what assets had been declared by Prayut and Wissanu when they took office.” According to Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, NACC president, “the commission can only store information and investigate if there are any discrepancies, but cannot reveal details.”

But what about all those generals? Nothing. What about the fabulous wealth of convicted drug dealer/deputy minister Thammanat Prompao? Nothing.

Of course, “nothing” protects the “good people.”

And another related story. why is it that cabinet “approved the proposal by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration to amend the prime minister’s order regarding the procurement of antigen test kits (ATK) by the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO)…”.

That order “stipulated that the antigen test kit the GPO would purchase must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by the Thailand Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

That’s now ditched so that Chinese kits can be purchased from Beijing-based Lepu Medical Technology. That contract is for about 600 million baht for kits “banned in the United States due to a high risk of false results.”

The regime is rotten to the core.

Update: The murdering cop story gets worse by the day by the actions of the most senior police. Those bosses are appointed by the regime because of their political positions and based on links to powerbrokers, including the palace.

Joe Ferrari has been taken into custody. As usual, he was not tracked down, but negotiated a surrender to police in one of the most corrupt jurisdictions, Cholburi.

Startingly, national police chief Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, himself worth almost 105 million baht, then gave the murderer a national stage. In allowing the suspect to speak to the nation via national television, Gen Suwat appeared to support Pol Col Thitisan when he “said social media had been reporting that Thitisant was trying to extort the dead drug dealer so he wanted people ‘to hear what happened from the mouth of the person who had committed the crime’.”

Parts of Thitisant’s speech to the nation is reported in the linked post.

What was Gen Suwat thinking? Cod Satrusayang provides something of an answer, suggesting that Thailand is “an alternative Nazi-inspired universe”:

You see Joe Ferrari is one of the good people. Despite murdering an alleged drug dealer in cold blood, with a plastic bag, while his men held the guy down, he is a good person. Never mind that this is the kind of scene you’d expect to see in a Nazi movie, Joe is a good person.

You see Joe is a good person because he is a “relentless crime fighter,” because he volunteers with royalists, because he is polite and clean cut. He is a good person.

He is not a bad person like the unruly protesters who do not know their place, who dare to question the establishment.

He adds, that the contrast with anti-monarchy/pro-democracy protester Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak:

I was in the newsroom when police arrested Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak in the middle of the night, put him in an unmarked van, and sent him to a police station in the suburbs for processing.

There was no press conference, there was no fanfare, it was the Thai deep state working efficiently to suppress, gag, and detain those that would question the current establishment.

It was chilling, frustrating, Kafkaesque.

It made me question how I ever bought into the land of smiles lie, that Thailand’s paternal autocracy was built to work for and protect its people.

The regime is loathsome, rotten to the core, festering, bloated, and putrescent.





Army impunity

24 01 2021

The impunity enjoyed by officials has a long history in Thailand but it is undeniable that it has expanded and deepened since the the 2006 military coup. Under the current regime there is essentially zero accountability for officials. Sure, there are occasional “crackdowns” and the odd prosecution, but the rule that officials can get away with stuff – even murder – holds.

In a Bangkok Post editorial, questions are raised about the Royal Thai Army, which celebrated “its strength and solidarity” on Armed Forces Day.

The editorial asks the public to “keep in mind that military officials still owe a few explanations on its pledge to reform, following several cases, including the Korat mass shooting last year that left a huge stain on its image.”

Clipped from Khaosod

It points out that on 8-9 February 2020, a disgruntled soldier “shot and killed 29 innocent people and wounded 57 others in Nakhon Ratchasima…”. The killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. Indeed, this corruption continues. The Post mentions an alleged “illegal allocation of over 70,000 rai of forest land in Nakhon Ratchasima for a real estate project involving senior army officers.”

Yes, the very same province as the mass shooting. The Post adds that there “have been no reports of an investigation, let alone progress and punishment of culprits.”

The Post then recalls the unexplained death of a military conscript – there’s been more than one case – and asks: “How can the RTA restore public trust when it is entrenched in scandals? Why should the public trust a force of armed men who can barely be transparent in their affairs?”

How many times have we heard such pleading. In fact, it is as many times as reform has been rejected by the military as the Army maintains it impunity and its control.

We should note that the Post editorial mistakenly states that the Korat shooting “is considered the deadliest mass shooting in the kingdom’s history.” This mistake reflects some big omissions.

The biggest is the murder of almost a hundred red shirts and bystanders in April and May 2010. Who has been held accountable? No one from the Army.

Who killed protesters in 1992? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters on 14 October 1973? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered people at Kru Se in 2004 and Tak Bai the same year? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

What about the enforced disappearances of activists and unexplained murder of civilians like Chaiyapoom Pasae? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

The list could go on and on and on.





Updated: More judicial contortion

27 10 2020

Two legal cases suggest just how hopeless the situation has become under the junta.

The first is a case that is, for many, at he core of the rebellion currently seen in the country. Back in February, the Constitutional Court tied itself in knots by bending laws to order the Future Forward Party dissolved over a loan to the party from Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, conjuring the loan into a gift. It also banned Thanathorn and the members of FFP executive committee from politics from 10 years. It cleared all other pro-regime parties of similar charges.

Now, the ever pliant Election Commission today decided to file criminal charges against Thanathorn. Of course they are. Is it no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds.

This sounds a bit like pouring gas on a fire. But neither the regime nor the king are particularly thoughtful.

The second story is about the Army’s murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae. The Civil Court has ignored all of the evidence of the Army’s culpability, withholding of evidence and track record of filing the same evidence in two cases, to dismiss a case against the Army. It seems it is far better to side with the Army and believe its “witnesses” than to risk abolishing the impunity the Army enjoys.

Double standards, again and again and again.

Update: Prachatai has a useful report on Chaiyapoom’s case. It details the problems with the evidence and judgement. The courts under the junta and the regime have become a joke.





Don’t trust them

26 02 2020

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk has an op-ed on military “reform” that warns:

Reforming the Thai army is much easier said than done. After all, the current army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong himself called the Royal Thai Army a “sacred” organization, setting the tone of whatever debate the society may have.

Gen. Apirat. Clipped from Khaosod

When someone wants an organization to be treated as sacred, it’s often because they want it to be above criticism, accepting neither scrutiny nor accountability….

Most significant in discussions of “reform” is that current “investigations” are internal to the Army. There’s no question that, following the Korat massacre, there will be any kind of independent scrutiny of the Army. In normal countries, there is usually some serious parliamentary oversight of the military. Not in Thailand.

Then there’s the sense of entitlement and real impunity that protects the perquisites, corruption and crimes of senior officers. This “culture” means that “reform” is all but impossible. The flow of funds to the top are unlikely to stop. As Pravit points out, “the sense of military entitlement is indeed so deep-rooted that it bypasses political divisions.”

Chaiyaphoom

Since the 2006 coup and especially since the 2014 coup, these attitudes have been further embedded. Think of the way that the military gets away with murder, literally. The case of Chaiyapoom Pasae where the military has withheld evidence, lied and more.

More recently, as outlined in The Thaiger, anti-military/pro-democracy activist Sirawith Seritiwat was attacked several times, once beaten senseless with baseball bats, in broad daylight. Police were assigned to “investigate.” Result? Nothing.

As the report observes, “Bangkok police have abruptly suspended their investigation into the brutal attack on a political activist and pro-democracy leader in June of last year.”

Sirawith posted on Facebook that police wrote to him, stating:

Sirawith. Clipped from VOA News

The investigation into the case has already been completed and the probe report was forwarded to public prosecutors, who recommended that “the investigation should be halted” on the grounds that evidence gathered could not identify who was involved.

In our view, it is unlikely that the police will uncover evidence against the attackers, most likely because the attackers are associated with the military, regime and/or police. The attackers were warning Sirawith, silencing him. It’s an old tactic. Sirawith “wondered police might be involved.”

If a “sacred” institution can run coups, murder, and engage in multiple other crimes and massive corruption, internal investigations are going nowhere.





With 3 updates: Reflections on Korat murders II

11 02 2020

Gen Apirat Kongsompong is now seeking to deflect criticism over the Korat mass murder away from the Army.

He gave a long news conference where he stated: “Do not blame the army. If you need to blame someone, blame me. I accept all criticisms and thoughts because I am the commanding officer of the army…”. He added, however, “that he would not resign despite calls for him to do so.”

Moreover, he made the claim that the shooter was “not an army officer…. The minute he [opened fire] on civilians he became a criminal and was a soldier no more…”.

Apirat shooting at civilians in 2010

Given pictures of himself opening fire on civilians (above), we guess he’s making the distinction between soldiers who go rogue and those who do as they are ordered. But that, too, is only partially true as unresolved cases of murderous action like Chaiyapoom Pasae suggest that the military and its officers do indeed get away with murder. And then we could mention 1973, 1976, 1992, Tak Bai and many more such murderous attacks on civilians involving the military.

Gen Apirat also contradicted Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and himself in earlier reports, saying that “safety protocols around armouries were ‘up to standards’,” adding: “I guarantee that the safety protocols are up to standards.”

The families of the victims of Sgt Jakkrapanth’s murders might have another view.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post states that an emotional Apirat “apologised for a soldier’s murderous rampage.” It also reports that the “army chief admitted the shooter was maltreated by his supervisor and said he [Apirat] had already terminated many unsound “welfare” projects, some of which involved middlemen.”

There are so many corrupt practices in the military that they are normal. One we recently heard of was the channeling of military salaries to commanding officers who let conscripts off duty after their initial training. Recall how vehement the brass is in opposing the end of conscription and think of the millions of baht that would not flow up the line. The “welfare” makes generals wealthy.

Update 2: An updated Post report states:

Army chief Apirat Kongsompong has vowed to terminate unsound internal army projects, after shady transactions were raised as a possible motive behind a soldier’s shooting spree in Nakhon Ratchasima that left 30 dead and 58 wounded….

The army chief admitted the shooter was maltreated by his commanding officer and the officer’s relatives, and admitted there were many “unsound” projects, including for welfare housing, loans, and projects which involved cooperation between military units and merchants.

Gen Apirat said he had already terminated some of these projects, adding this was the first step in sorting out problems that had plagued the army for a long time.

He attacked critics:

“There are people who criticise the army. I urge them not to blame the army … because the army is a sacred organisation … Blame me — General Apirat”, he said.

A major problem is exactly this: the brass consider the Army “sacred” and, by definition, inviolable and above the law, not to mention the people. Reform has been impossible.

Update 3: An editorial at the Bangkok Post calls for more transparency from the Army asking why only it can investigate itself. It points out that Gen Apirat needs to be reminded that the corruption he called “unsound internal army projects” is, in fact, “just the tip of the iceberg.” It is added:

For years, there have been allegations about unsound and fishy financial operations involving the military as a whole. Instead of being open to criticism and investigation, the military has always taken a defensive stance by slapping those daring to question its financial deals with legal action.

These include the sedition and computer crime charges filed by the former military regime against Thanet Anantawong, who once shared an infographic detailing the alleged corruption related to the military’s Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin.

And it reminds readers that as recently as December:

the Defence Ministry also countered the opposition Future Forward Party’s (FFP) move to scrutinise its 18-billion-baht off-budget spending in the 2020 fiscal budget.

This funding is off-limits to public disclosure or scrutiny by the Lower House thanks to the 2018 Financial and Fiscal Discipline Act passed by the former military regime. This law allows internal audits of such off-budget spending.

That’s a recipe for mammoth corruption.





With 3 updates: Reflections on Korat murders I

10 02 2020

It isn’t often that the unelected soldier at the head of the country and his critics are in agreement. But on the tragic events in Korat, there’s at least one point of agreement.

Prayuth’s political weapons

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was reported as saying:

All I can say is if we had fully followed [the standard security procedure], we would have been able to mitigate the degree of violence [in this incident]….

Even if we insisted we had completely followed a proper security procedure, the question is what more could we have done to improve the efficiency of security measures?

By “we,” Gen Prayuth is continuing to think of himself as a soldier.

It is certainly true that the security of arms and armories is slack on military bases and soldiers arms trading is relatively common. This is a part of the corruption in the military that is organized to the top.

Meanwhile, Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong seemed to confirm slack weapons security when he issued an “urgent order” for:

all army units to adopt stricter security measures including that the bolt carriers of the guns in guard post armouries are removed and kept separately by the chief of the guard post.

Also under the same set of new measures, bullets and machine guns will also no longer be stored at any guard post….

Apirat shooting at protesters

As the events of the terrible events in Korat remain somewhat murky, Gen Apirat’s orders on machine guns remains unexplained, at least in what we’ve seen.

Gen Prayut also said:

he had learned from investigators that it was a personal conflict involving a dispute over a house sale involving a relative of Jakrapanth’s commanding officer, which arose three days before the shooting incident.

In another report, citing some of the regime’s critics, it is agreed that “Thailand’s military faces hard new scrutiny of its ability to secure weapons and control troops at its bases and barracks.”

While this report is wrong that this “the worst mass shooting of civilians in the often violent kingdom’s modern history” – think of the military’s many attacks on civilian protesters in recent decades – it raises important issues.

Not least, critics are right to point to the unprofessional nature of Thailand’s military and:

the wisdom of the wisdom of having many of its senior-most officers busy in politics, running ministries and staging frequent coups instead of imposing discipline among its rank-and-file.

“Discipline” in the military is usually feudal, with torture and violence used on its own and junior soldiers have to act as the servants and laborers for officers. As the report adds:

Thailand’s heavily politicized and sometimes poorly disciplined military culture has not yet been mentioned as a possible motivating factor in the killings. But officials, dissidents, politicians and others have frequently criticized its lack of focus on purely military affairs.

Apirat on his knees. Clipped from Khaosod.

It might also be asked if the military’s focus on supine obeisance to the monarchy, where its senior leaders gain their positions through playing palace politics and, now, doing all it can for the king, following his compulsive-obsessive manias and spending billions on exalting and “protecting” the king.

Clearly the brass has its attention to politics and propaganda.

This is all worse by the impunity enjoyed by the brass and those working for them. This allows the military to get away with murder. This adds to ill-discipline and promotes corruption and money-making.

All of this is (possibly) seen in the motives of the murderous soldier in Korat:

The gunman’s rage allegedly erupted after a land sale where he apparently expected to receive a commission fee. Thai soldiers are often involved in side businesses, many security-related, to bolster their low incomes.

The first person among three killed at the Suatham Phithak military camp was his commanding officer, who allegedly was involved in the land deal. Details about their relationship were not immediately clear.

Whether this is true or not, you get the picture.

Update 1: Above we mentioned that we were unsure about the mention of machine guns. That is explained in a Khaosod report which states that shooter Sgt Jakkrapanth Thomma “left the base with firearms including a Heckler & Koch rifle, an M60 machine gun, a shotgun, a handgun, several types of grenades, and over 700 rounds of ammunition.” It adds: “The soldier reportedly switched to a machine gun loaded with armor-piercing rounds when fighting the besiegers, leading to the death of one police commando.”

Update 2: Readers might be interested in Ji Ungpakorn’s views on the Korat massacre.

Update 3: Worth looking at Atiya Achakulwisut’s op-ed at the Bangkok Post and her criticism of the military that runs Thailand via the unelected PM.





No justice from the military

23 05 2019

The mothers of two men murdered by the Army in early 2017 are suing it for 11 million baht in compensation, with their lawyer urging the authorities to ensure justice for the families.

The families of Abe Saemu and Chaiyapoom Pasae have been forced to the Civil Court because the Army and the military junta has refused any justice for the extrajudicial killings, despite the “Chiang Mai Provincial Court ha[ving] … ruled last year that Abe and Chaiyaphum had indeed been shot dead by military officers.”

Chaiyaphoom

PPT’s summary of the murder of Chaiyaphoom is worth re-reading for the details of this horrendous cover-up that began from the moment he was murdered. The impunity is staggering, even for the junta’s Thailand.

Ratsada Manuratsada, representing the families, “said his clients have the right to seek compensation as per the Liability for Wrongful Act of Officials Act, under which official agencies have to make reparations for the wrongdoings of their officers.” He added: “We have to take this case to court, because the acts of military officers in both cases are a clear discriminatory action and directly violates their rights…”.

Ratsada also “called on relevant officers to disclose the latest update on the process of filing a criminal case against the officers behind the slayings…. He also asked whether the police had already submitted the case docket with a Military Court attorney, as civilians are not allowed to file a case with the Military Court directly.”

And, Ratsada again called for the “release of a CCTV recording of the incident involving Chaiyaphum at the checkpoint, which has been missing so far.” Well, “missing” only in the sense that the military has withheld it.





Updated: Get rid of the junta

19 03 2019

Perhaps the best that can come from the junta’s “election” is a massive vote for anti-military parties a massive vote for anti-military parties, even if those parties are flawed in some ways.

To remind us why this military junta and its government should be sent packing  it is worth recalling disappearances:

  • It is now two years since the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017. What happened when the military involved were “investigated”? Nothing at all, mainly due to cover-ups.
  • The disappearance of all “investigations” of allegations of the junta’s corruption.
  • The missing 1932 memorials while unthinking conservative royalism is promoted.

That’s just a sampler.

Then there’s the repression. One example of many relates to the use of computer crimes laws, recently made worse. And, it is important to recall that this repression is not just directed at the junta’s political opponents.

This is emphasized in a recent and long article at Coda.It begins with the story of the hopelessly flawed Thai police going after a 19-year-old British tourist who claimed she had been raped while visiting Koh Tao. As the report observes, the “allegation was serious and the response was rapid, but not in keeping with the norms of a rape investigation. The local police first denied that the rape had occurred; they also described her accusation as ‘fake’.”

They then went after some overseas dissident media: “In an another remarkable move, police also obtained warrants to arrest the editor of an online Thai newspaper in Britain and the administrator of a dissident Facebook page in California, both of whom had shared or reported on the case.” Followers in Thailand were arrested.

The message was clear to the Thai media: self-censor. Not surprisingly, “there has been little domestic news coverage of the case, even as it has been widely reported in Britain and the United States.”

One of those targeted was “Pramuk Anantasin, the California-based administrator of the CSI LA Facebook page, which has hundreds of thousand of followers and regularly shares stories that are censored in Thailand…”.

But the article points to a different reason for the crackdown: protecting the Chinese tourism market:

To understand Thailand’s censorious response to the alleged rape case, it is important to go back to another tourism-related event which took place around the same time, but one that received even less attention. On July 5, 2018, shortly after the rape, a tour boat sank off the Thai resort island of Phuket, killing 47 of its 93 passengers, nearly all of whom were Chinese. The incident was widely covered in China and, in the coming months, resulted in a large drop off in inbound tourists.

But CSI LA is not off the hook. The head of the junta’s “Judge Advocate General’s office, Col Burin Thongprapai, lodged a complaint Monday, after the Facebook page said the photos ‘proved’ soldiers had been ordered to vote for a certain political party, believed to refer to the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party…”. The military denies and then sues for “defamation.”

Whether the particular story is true or not, it remains clear that the military leadership has made it absolutely clear who they think the people – including soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen – should vote for.

This is a regime that needs to be ousted. Is it possible? We hope so.

Update: The Nation has an AFP story on why the junta should be sent packing. It is headlined “Deaths, jail and cyber spies: The dangers of dissent in Thailand.”





Murder and the failure of the justice system

11 08 2018

In our first post on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017, we made several points. We began by saying no one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event.

The junta immediately defended the soldiers who shot the young man:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The courts have decided that the military shot Chaiyaphoom, but no more than this.

The police initially insisted that Lahu activist Chaiyaphoom was linked to drug trafficking. They also stated, immediately, that the killing was in self-defense. They claimed Chaiyapoom was shot after he tried to attack the soldier with a hand grenade while fleeing. Another version of the police story also had him threatening the soldier with a knife. It later emerged that the military used exactly  the same “defense” in a case a month earlier and at the very same military checkpoint.

The story became more bizarre when it emerged that in neither case did the “grenade” explode! It was being alleged that the two used the grenade like throwing a rock.

You’d think the story could be better than this if you were concocting it. But these officials and the military are so sure of their impunity that they can come up with ludicrous, improbable and dumb excuses and just get away with it.

Immediately after Chaiyaphoom’s one-shot death, the police insisted there was no foul play.” And they also claimed that a large number of meth pills were “found” in the car that Chaiyaphoom allegedly ran from. Shut the door, close the books and go home. There’s nothing to see or investigate.

Locals were aghast and knew there was a cover up. When the military suddenly showed up in villages and strong-armed potential witnesses and a few who spoke out, it was clear there was a cover-up.

More covering up followed. The Army boss Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart said his men “had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade…”. Deputy Dictator Prawit Wongsuwan said much the same.

Local witnesses of the shooting told a different story. They were soon silent, no doubt intimidated.

By the end of March, the military and police had refused to release CCTV footage of the killing. Third Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the military had sent CCTV evidence to the police.

Gen Chalermchai also “stated that he had already watched the CCTV recording of the scene. He said the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all questions.’ Releasing the footage might lead to confusion in the investigation process and arguments among society.”

Then in mid-April it was reported that the generals were lying:

Pol Col Mongkhon Samphawaphon revealed to BBC Thai that the police have not received CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

The police submitted a request to the military for the footage. However, the military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.

Intimidation continued.

In mid-May 2017, it was reported that police had received the CCTV video. The police stated that they had “spent a week unable to view critical footage because they didn’t have a computer with the necessary software to watch it.”

Then, almost six months after Chaiyapoom was killed and over five months after the military first stated it had handed the CCTV footage to police investigators, a lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family said he was concerned about the CCTV footage which was prime evidence. He said he did not know whether the military has given the footage to prosecutor.

Later still, the CCTV video remained “unavailable”:

Although the trial in the killing of ethnic Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae began over seven months ago, the court has not yet received the Army’s CCTV footage, critical evidence which recorded soldiers shooting the activist.

According to Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, the Army had already sent the CCTV hard disk to the police, but the file cannot be opened. The lawyer said that he would ask the court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.

As court proceedings continued, it was reported:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

In June 2018, a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on Chaiyapoom’s killing was delivered, concluding that “the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

Again, Chaiyaphoom’s lawyer and family petitioned the Army to reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain. The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men.

Now it is reported – some 17 months after the extrajudicial killing – the Army would have the public believe that there is no footage. That’s what they have now told the family.

This is breathtakingly dumb. Those generals, then, were simply lying. They cannot be believed on anything at all. They are scoundrels of the lowest order.

More importantly, they may have engaged in malfeasance justifying legal proceedings against them.

Now it is claimed the tape was erased. It is claimed it was never there having been erased to create space on the tape/disk for additional recording.

So what did the generals view? Porn perhaps? Family holiday videos? Blank screens? We think not. We actually think the generals did not lie. Rather, they saw the events, realized it was incriminating its troops of an extrajudicial murder, and after hiding the evidence, it has now been erased.

That’s a criminal act. The Bangkok Post’s editorial doesn’t say anything about that, but says this:

Thailand has been unable to hold state officials accountable for extrajudicial killings, torture or forced disappearances due to a flawed and biased justice process.

The missing footage once again will prevent the justice system from fulfilling its mission of getting to the bottom of yet another mysterious killing.

Its time to say that the justice system under the military dictatorship is incapable of delivering anything resembling justice.





Dumber than a bag of hammers II

7 06 2018

We at PPT have been critical of the justice system because it has been politicized, practiced double standards and enforced injustice. The system that runs from police to prosecutors to courts includes many nodes where the rich can pay bribes to avoid courts, charges and jail. The regime uses it to maintain impunity and to repress and jail political opponents. They make use of the lese majeste, sedition and other political laws and decrees.

The junta has worked hard to “cleanse” the so-called justice system of the “politically unreliable.” While the judiciary has long been a nest of royalists, the junta has re-made it as a bunch of clueless political automatons. That may be something of an exaggeration as some professionals remain at various courts, but it is essentially a judiciary that does as it is expected.

The result of the junta’s interventions is that the judiciary is looking as dumb as a bag of hammers. We say this based on two reports of the dumbest court ruling we have seen for some time. One report is in The Nation and another at Prachatai. They report on a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017.

The court “concluded that the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

How dumb can a court get? Or how politicized and corrupt can it be? Seriously? Everyone involved knew that the boy was killed by the military. The military has said it shot him. The media reported it. Witnesses said it.

So the court, after 14 months of the judicial system’s “investigations,” concludes the obvious and known. It concludes what was never in dispute.

An astute reader might say that this is just a part of a longer process. Yet, as we know from such “investigations” into the 2010 military murder of red shirts that such decisions can be an endpoint.

So this court didn’t just rule that a military bullet killed Chaiyapoom, it refused to confirm anything else. The court did not rule the killing illegal.

In essence, it has granted impunity for the military’s shooter and his commanders.

The court “refused to consider the argument made by Chaiyaphum’s relatives which claims that the activist neither possessed drugs or hand grenades nor attempted to stab the authorities as the army had accused him of doing.”

In response, the judge stated that “the court was only asked to find the cause of his death.” That is, of course, a reflection of what the police “investigated,” what the military brass and junta demanded and what the prosecutors did. It is a failure of the judicial system and shows that this judge is a little more than a dopey processing terminal for the military.

Lahu Chiang Mai Group president and Chaiyapoom’s mentor, Maitree Chamroensuksakul, said “he could not have imagined that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court would simply announce results that the public already knew.” He added: “I am disappointed, frankly speaking. In fact, one year should have been long enough to nail down the culprit…”.

Now that the court has confirmed what everyone knew, after 14 months of hidden evidence and intimidation of witnesses and others, its report will go “to a public prosecutor who will decide whether the soldier who killed Chaiyaphum will be indicted or not.”

More delays, intimidation, suppression of evidence and political interference will follow.

And, if the prosecutors decide to press charges, the case will probably be heard in a military court, where justice is almost never served and proceedings will likely be secret.

The family can file a civil suit, but that is the system’s way of ensuring that there will be likely be delays of years in hearing the case.

Again, “Chaiyaphum’s lawyer and family have also petitioned the Royal Thai Army to publicly reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain.” The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men. Early on, when the military was justifying its actions, “there were widespread reports that video footage of the incident existed and that several military figures, including Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart, had already watched it.”

Cover-ups go right to the top in the impunity that the murderous military enjoys.

That’s why it is now “said the footage did not include what had happened at the time Chaiyapoom was shot.” How convenient that footage once claimed to vindicate the military is now said to not show anything at all about the case. Clearly the military leadership is full of scoundrels and liars. They can get away with murder, again and again.

The Prachatai report includes a timeline of the military’s role and intimidation, the judicial system’s failures and the stonewalling. But there’s much, much more to be learned in this case and the similar case of a Lahu killed a little while before Chaiyapoom, where the military used exactly the same “excuse” for the killing.

Judges overseeing dumb decisions for a murderous military are not dumb themselves. They are just doing their “duty” in protecting the state’s older brothers and enforcing the required impunity.








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