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.





On the EC and an “election”

6 06 2018

Don Pramudwinai works for the military junta. He’s the Minister of Foreign Affairs hired to give the military dictatorship a civilian face in its international dealings. He’s one of the few civilians in the junta’s cabinet.

He got his position because he has been important in converting the Ministry into a nest of anti-democrats clad in yellow. He’s also been defined by anti-democrats as one of the “good” people.

So it was something of a surprise when the Election Commission decided he may have breached rules in the junta’s 2017 Constitution

But, as reported by the Bangkok Post, the junta says this “good” minister “will not yet have to give up his post despite the ongoing controversy surrounding his wife’s shareholdings.” Not unless the Constitutional Court decides to stand him down.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared he’s not going to reshuffle his cabinet.

The irony of this case is that a so-called good person is caught in rules the junta’s puppets designed to limit elected politicians in any future civilian government as they schemed on how to destroy the Shinawatra clan.

Another complicating factor is that the complaint came from a Puea Thai Party member. This means that the case comes to be defined as good vs bad people in the eyes of the junta, anti-democrats and the minister himself.

This paradox causes a Bangkok Post editorial to find, as the junta has, in Don’s favor. The Post prefers not to wait for the Constitutional Court. That’s not a particularly smart approach for a newspaper that has supported rule of law and the justice system.

Haughtily, Don has decided he’s done nothing wrong either and seems miffed that he should be accused by people he hates.

This amounts to little more than another sideshow in the political poking of the junta. In addition, it helps the junta by taking attention away from bigger issues: Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches (nothing heard from the National Anti-Corruption Commission on that), election rigging, the extra-judicial murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae, and so on.

Meanwhile, the “election” issue drags on.

The EC says it will “ask” the junta “to lift the ban on political activities if Tuesday’s meeting of the Constitutional Court backs an NCPO order on the political parties law.” It has done that so as everyone knows, there is no junta-imposed legal barrier to lifting its ban.

As an aside, it would have been unheard of for the Constitutional Court to decide against the junta. It could decide against Don, but that’s unlikely. Even if it did, he’s a civilian, so expendable for the military dictatorship.

Lifting the ban won’t change a huge amount the activities of the junta and its minions. It will still spy on and seek to disrupt the political parties it defines as enemies. It will continue to use the massive resources of the state and the military to campaign for a junta-preferred outcome to the rigged election.





Pandering to the murderous military II

28 05 2018

This is the second of our two posts on how the military dictatorship and the military itself enjoy impunity and why the junta maintains the military boot on Thailand’s collective throat.

Bangkok Post military groupie-cum-reporter Wassana Nanuam writes about Third Region Army commander Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop. It begins with a discussion of this loudmouth general’s querulous and insensitive comments about the extrajudicial murder of young Lahu rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae.

Yet the way this is handled is, frankly, disgusting.

The idiot general reckons he “had no idea he would still be answering questions … a full year after the incident occurred on March 17 last year.” Saying that he would have killed the kid with a weapon set to automatic fire says much about this thug.

But never mind, Lt Gen Vijak is a big deal in drug trafficking in the north. Wassana says he “leads active suppression squads against the heavy proliferation of drug smuggling…”, implying that killing alleged drug smugglers is to be applauded.

Wassana repeats all of the military’s unverified, unlikely and unbelievable claims about the murder of Chaiyaphum. She says nary a word about the fact that the military has suppressed evidence, harassed witnesses and threatened witnesses. She can use quotation marks and say “alleged,” but she’s effectively speaking for them when she’s silent on facts about the case.

This likely encourages the military to kill more people.

When she concludes with anecdotes about the Vijak opening restaurants (is that legal when he’s a serving officer?) and dishing up food for friends, she’s bleaching his and the military’s dirty laundry. The journalistic ethics of such stuff must surely be questioned.





Impunity, intimidation and murder

6 05 2018

The statement below is reproduced in full. It refers to the sad and covered-up murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers.

Even for Thailand under its military dictatorship, this account is a shocking set of events. It confirms the manner in which the authorities can literally get away with murder while harassing others, jailing them without grounds, for revenge or to silence, and worse.

+ – + – + – + – + –

Joint Statement by Protection International (PI) and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) on Acquittal of Nawa Chaoue, Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender, Co-Founder of Save Lahu Group

02 May  2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand, on 24th April 2018, at about 3:30 pm community leaders from Save Lahu, Protection International (PI) and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) witnessed the Acquittal of Nawa Choue, caretaker to Chaiyaphum Pasae, Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender and co-founder of the Save Lahu Movement. This positive outcome closes a series of false accusations and 331 days of incarceration for seeking justice for the killing of Chaiyaphum and for defending human rights.

Nawa Chaoue is the co-founder of Save Lahu group, caretaker of Chaiyaphum Pasae, and sister-in-law of Maitree Chamroensuksakul – Lahu indigenous human rights defender. She is also a member of the Lahu Youth Protectors Group and Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT).

Mr. Chaiyaphum Pasae, the Lahu Human Rights Defender who was shot dead by military officials in March 17, 2017, comes from that same village. Nawa and Maitree Chamroensuksakul were mentors of Chaiyaphum Pasae.

On 29th May 2017, the house of Human Rights Defender Maitree Chamroensuksakul was raided by police while he was returning from a meeting with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, during an academic visit in Bangkok on 26th and 27th May 2017. The raid took place during an alleged anti-drug operation in Ban Kong Phak Ping (Muang Na Sub-District), in the Chiang Dao district of Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai province.

Nawai Police station and the Committee on Narcotics Control (Narcotics Control Board) intervened in the siege and search. During the search they reportedly did not find any narcotics. They were looking for Maitree, who was not at his house during the raid. They then arrested Nawa, a mentor to Chaiyaphum, and Chanthana Pasae. Both women were indicted for drug possession.

The authorities accused Nawa of being complicit to the alleged drug-related offences and for supplying drugs to Chaiyaphum on 17th March, two days before he was shot by military personnel. Nawa was in jail at the Chiang Mai Correctional Institution since 29th May 2017 where she was incarcerated for 331 days until her acquittal on 24th April 2018. The Court set bail in the amount of 2 Million Thai Baht as a security deposit. Her family immediately applied for bail and the Justice Fund on 18th July, 2017, and was granted the 2 Million Baht from the Fund in November 2017. However, her request for bail was denied by the court.  Despite the setback of being denied bail the organisers consider it an achievement to have accessed the amount of  Two Million Thai Baht from the Justice Fund for her bail, because it is still a substantial amount accessed by an indigenous woman facing these charges. The organisers also see this as a partial response to our earlier recommendations in the Shadow Report for Thailand to the CEDAW 2017 to ensure access to justice by rural and indigenous women in Thailand.

Since the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyaphum Nawa was highly visible in the call for justice led by Maitree. She has led and participated in activities for Chaiyaphum by: (1) reporting the death threats received by Maitree at the Police Station with the National Human Rights Commission; (2) coordinating visits by The National Human Rights commission of Thailand, Protection International and other human rights organizations; (3) organising the commemoration “60 Days after the Death of Chaiyaphum Pasae”. This solidarity event was held under heavy surveillance on 16th May 2017. It is believed that she is being held solely as a result of her family ties with human rights defenders Mr Maitree Chamroensuksakul and Mr Chaiyaphum Pasae.

The extrajudicial killing of Chaiyaphum, the harassment of  Maitree and the false charges against Nawa are evidence of how Human Rights Defenders are persecuted for the legitimate defense of human rights in Thailand. Rural, Indigenous and Women Human Rights Defenders are also among the poorest and most criminalised in Thai society. When they raise their voice in calling for justice and defending ethnic minority rights, they are harassed,  threatened, criminalised and perennially exposed to risks to their lives by state and non-state actors.

Lahu is an indigenous group in the border between North of Thailand and Myanmar. Thailand categorises them as one of the Hill Tribe groups. Offences related to possession and usage of drugs are common allegations against many hill tribe people living in the Thai-Burmese border area and this includes community based Human Rights Defenders. There is documentation of military officers using anti-drug operations to legitimise attacks on activists who expose and speak against violations by the military and other security personnel.

Mindful of the continued persecution of Human Rights Defenders in Thailand, Protection International and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development urge the Thai authorities to:

  • Urge the Public Prosecutor to not appeal on her case and instead ensure full and adequate compensation to Nawa Choue for damages and human rights violations to her during the 331 days she was incarcerated on false charges.  Compensation should include financial compensation for the legal fee, lost livelihood and income during the period of her incarceration, and ‘public apology’ from the relevant authorities.
  • Immediately cease harassment   and intimidation against  community Human Rights Defenders like Maitree and Nawa  and other indigenous peoples HRDs in Save Lahu who diligently seek justice and stand for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Respect and deliver the commitments made by the Thailand Government to uphold international standards of human rights, specifically the work of U.N. Special Procedures by ensuring an open invitation to the mandate holders; and immediately accepting any pending country visit requests from them.
  • Adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and other Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory to.
  • Increase the capacity and budget of Justice Fund Office, and prioritise Human Rights Defenders in Thailand in accessing the Justice Funds as they perennially face judicial harassment and criminalisation for legitimate human rights work.
  • Adhere to the General Recommendation (CEDAW/C/GC/33 of 2015) on Women’s Access to Justice that looks into issues of justiciability, availability, accessibility, good-quality, provision of remedies and accountability of justice systems; discriminatory laws, procedures and practices that is of concern to rural and indigenous women HRDs too.




Weekend reads

1 04 2018

We are still kind of catching up from our downtime a weeks or so ago, and want to recommend some interesting material for our readers. Hopefully our military censors/blockers will also learn something from these stories.

At the Bangkok Post: The Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group story is belatedly addressed for Thailand – we commented about 10 days ago – but adds little to the story, although there seems an attempt to diminish the possible role of the Democrat Party even though the only Thai cited is Chuan Leekpai. If there were links between the Democrat Party and/or its government and SCL, look to the party’s Anglophiles for the connecting points.

On the extrajudicial killings at Prachatai: Yiamyut Sutthichaya writes that  “March 17th marked the first anniversary of the death of the young Lahu activist, Chaiyaphum ‘Cha-ou’ Pasae. He was shot dead by a soldier…”. As far as we can tell, nothing sensible has happened on this case since day 1. It has been a cover-up. Read the account, weep for Chaiyapoom and weep for Thailand under the junta’s boot. This is a case of official corruption far more egregious than the Deputy Dictator’s watch saga. The latter interests the middle class who seem to care little for rural kids murdered by military thugs.

“No conspiracy”: The Dictator says he’s stuck to the “roadmap” and there’s no conspiracy to further delay the junta’s promised election. Everyone knows this is a mountain of buffalo manure, but The Dictator keeps saying it. No one believes him – no one – and Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post calls him out. While at the Post, go and read the stir caused for the junta when Thaksin suggests that Puea Thai will do well when an election comes along. That’s also what the polls say, including the junta’s own polling. That’s also why the junta is splashing taxpayer funds about, seeking to buy supporters.

Insidious Internal Security Act: In talking with political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Kritsada Subpawanthanakun reminds us that the the Internal Security Act has now been around for 10 years. A tool wielded mainly through ISOC, it is used to undermine political opponents of Thailand’s establishment. This is highlighted by the fact that the current law was implemented by Gen Surayud Chulanont’s government, put in place by a military junta and borrowing Surayud from the Privy Council. The links between ISOC and the palace are long, deep and nasty.

For more on ISOC: Nutcha Tantivitayapitak writes of “ISOC’s cultural mission” in “the ideological promotion process of ‘nation-religion-monarchy’ by the security agencies…, especially after the enforcement of the 2008 Internal Security Act. Security agencies such as ISOC, which has power over civilian agencies, moved forward in ideological indoctrination through cultural tools.”





An injustice regime

21 03 2018

Justice is not a particular forte of military dictatorships. For Thailand’s variety, the emphasis is on law applied in a politicized manner and double standards, topped off with notions that the powerful should expect impunity.

A particularly egregious case, extended now over a year of mostly silence and some lies, is the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers. PPT has regularly posted on the “investigations,” which amount to almost nothing more than cover up and lies. Such a non-response/cover-up by the authorities can be considered an admission of guilt without saying those words.

We were heartened to see both an op-ed and an editorial in the Bangkok Post recently, both drawing attention to this most obvious example of the regime’s misuse of deadly force and the military’s ingrained expectation of impunity.

As the op-ed by Paritta Wangkiat states:

We know that a bullet fired at his chest killed him. But the rest of the story has been mixed with conflicting accounts. The mystery behind his death stands as a stark reminder of how hard it is for minority and ethnic groups to obtain justice in the Land of Smiles.

Of course, it is far more than this. Any one outside the economic and political elite cannot be assured of anything approaching justice in Thailand.

In this case, there was some hope that CCTV footage would reveal the truth. Sadly and defining of impunity, we learn:

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. The next is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. It’s likely that the case will draw to a conclusion very soon.

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.

This screams cover up.

The editorial notes that “Chaiyaphum’s family … have complained of state intimidation during the investigation into the activist’s death.” It is the police, military and other authorities who intimidate.

The editorial is right to say: “The military is obliged to handle the case fairly and refrain — or abandon — any attempts at a cover-up, as this would taint the nation’s image. The slain activist and his family deserve justice, which is long overdue.”

Right, but all too weak. We can’t think of many cases involving the military and its use of murderous force that have ever been handled “fairly.”





Whitewashing and covering up

12 03 2018

Keeping General Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watches out of the front pages, Italian-Thai Development boss and wildlife pilferer and jungle food connoisseur Premchai Karnasuta is filling the headlines.

Former editor of the Bangkok Post Veera Prateepchaikul is reflecting a widespread angst regarding Premchai’s cases when he says there’s no surprise that deputy national police chief Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul has been vilified for seeming to find excuses for allowing Premchai off some of his hooks.

Pol Gen Srivara is overseeing the investigation into the illegal hunting case against the four members of Mr Premchai’s group, with Mr Premchai being the main suspect. The others include a female cook, a hunting guide and a close aide of Mr Premchai. But the way in which he has handled the case from the beginning leaves much to be desired.

Pol Gen Srivara seems adept at finding excuses fro Premchai while preparing the public for the expected whitewashing of Premchai.

No surprises at all. Where’s that Red Bull cop killer? Where’s the case meant to “investigate” the murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae? Where’s the case against corrupt cop Somyos Pumpanmuang? We could go on and on.

The police are available for hire by the wealthy and kowtow to the powerful. They are paid handsomely for their service.