Busy king

4 12 2017

Over the past week or so, the king has seemed busier than usual, at least in terms of public reporting. As usual, the reporting is circumspect.

Khaosod reports that the king is engaged in two activities that have been defining his still short reign.

The first is his continuing intervention in the way the security forces appear in public. Readers will recall that he has ordered a new form of salute and forms of military posture for police and military, demanded new haircut regulations for the armed forces and police and has  transferred agencies responsible for palace affairs to his direct control.

Now the king has ordered that “police will be given new uniforms…”. A police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said “that a single khaki shade, officially called Sor Nor Wor 01, will be implemented across the police force to display a sense of unity.” It seems that, over the years, different units have used slightly different shades of khaki.

No doubt this annoys the king as he has an almost obsessive–compulsive need for order and control. In fact, the king has already picked out the shade and has sent a “sample fabric and color pattern … to police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda…”.

Krissana found himself having to dissemble: “Every police officer deeply appreciates it…”. All 230,000 of them.

When the new design is finalized, “Gen. Chakthip will be the first to wear it ‘as an example’,” and will no doubt sport the required haircut as well.

The second task has been the consolidation of royal control over all of the property in the so-called royal district. Readers will recall the stealing of the 1932 plaque and the closure of Ananda Samakhom Hall to the public. The former parliament building appears to have been returned to the throne.

The king seems to want to wipe out all references to the 1932 revolution and grab back “royal property.”

One major gap in the property is the Dusit Zoo. The zoo began as a private zoo for royals and it was in 1938 that  the “constitutional government asked King Rama VIII’s regency council to give this park to the Bangkok City Municipality to be open as a public zoo.” No doubt the king regards this as theft. To get the land back – all 189,000 square meters – the king has decided the zoo should move.

The zoo was not talking about the move to Pathum Thani and a larger plot, said to be donated by the king. An official stated: “His Majesty is very merciful…”. And, no doubt pretty happy with this deal that expands the royal area substantially.

This is a king with a sense of where the monarchy should be, and that marks out a restorationist monarch.





Prawit targeted

28 08 2017

General Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Dictator, is being targeted by serial complaint lodger Srisuwan Janya for “dereliction of duty.” Included in the complaint lodged with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is Police General Chakthip Chaijinda, the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police.

Their dereliction of duty is in allowing Yingluck Shinawatra to skip out on the final day of her trial for – and here is the irony in the complaint – dereliction of duty on her government’s rice scheme.

Srisuwan states:

It was previously generally known that Yingluck’s movements were always monitored by all branches of the security forces, soldiers and police and all her activities shadowed. But when it came to the time she had to travel to hear the verdict, no one in the security forces, police and soldiers knew that she had fled Thailand or when….

 





Another bomb

31 05 2017

After a fourth bomb (that we know of) was located near the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station, it seems clear enough that the military junta’s “explanations” are confused and confusing and the “investigations” are a mess.

The clip from the Bangkok Post website gives the flavor of this, with a story that the bombings cases was “solved” (that’s the earlier story) and then the story of the new bomb, found before it exploded.

The “Bombing solved” story was of national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda saying: “Police believe they have identified the culprits behind a bomb attack at Phramongkutklao Hospital…”. That story also had Deputy Dictator and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan claiming “about 50 suspects were in custody and awaiting interrogation over the explosion at the dispensary’s waiting room…”.

The second story, a few hours later, is of the new bomb, although seemingly slightly different in construction. In that, the very same police boss states that “no connection has been found between the discovered bomb and the hospital blast at this stage of the investigation…”. He then added that the “recent series of explosions in Bangkok could have been politically motivated or designed to discredit the police.”

Given that the police are pretty much discredited already, the latter motive can probably be dismissed.

Meanwhile, the response of The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to suggest that the recent bombs have more to do with internal conflicts than what the junta describes as “politics.”

After all, the cabinet and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda are pushing ahead with promoting The Dictator’s “four questions” rather than doing anything too serious about bombs. The Dictator himself claims to be taking a break from speaking, grumbling: ““I have been attacked for so long. Is that fair to me?”

Yes.





What a story!

20 03 2017

The junta’s minions have come up with a remarkable story regarding the weapons “seized” in Pathum Thani.

In our earlier post we did express some skepticism about the report and added a note about Thai Rath saying the weapons were for an assassination plot. We expressed skepticism about that claim as well.

There has been a lot of skepticism, and not just from us. (The yellow-shirted royalists and anti-democrats believe all the stories.)

So the junta has come up with a story of a “plot” that suggests a remarkable effort to weave together a range of moral and political panics by the junta and among its anti-democratic supporters.

We cannot say that there is nothing in the “plot” claims – after all, all “plots” have to have some aspect to them that will convince true believers to believe. However, the royalists and anti-democrats have concocted a remarkable number of plots over the past decade to justify their political actions. Think of the Finland Plot, the infamous republican plot diagram and the “Khon Kaen model.” None of these has ever been shown to be other than a political concoction.

More recently, there was the claimed republican plot to murder The Dictator. We mention this, because it seems that the junta is using this to weave its current plot:

Police believe the huge cache of mostly military weapons retrieved on Saturday were intended to be used against authorities who had laid siege to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, including a plot to kill Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Add to this remarkable aggregation of Wat Dhammakaya and a plot to assassinate The Dictator, the weapons are located at a “house linked to hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee.” Then stir in a claim that “some of the seized weapons had been taken from soldiers during the violent red-shirt political rallies in mid-town Bangkok in 2010.”

Even the words in that quote are meant to reinforce the notion that red shirts are still “violent” and a political problem.

The cops reckon that the “weapons were being prepared for a potential attack against officers that had surrounded and were searching Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district…” and “were prepared to ‘harm or assassinate’ … Gen Prayut…”.

A police chief says that something he called “[a]n investigation” that “found people in Kotee’s group were preparing to use weapons to assassinate the government’s leading figures including Gen Prayut…. We found a rifle with a scope. We guarantee that this is not to shoot at birds but was going to be used to assassinate the leader of the country…”.

That’s a remarkably frivolous piece of evidence gathering and imaginative supposition.

He goes on: “If the government uses forces to suppress people in Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the armed group would be ready to help the temple and hurt officers.”

Evidence? It seems that “police and the DSI have always suspected that political groups have operated in Wat Phra Dhammakaya and intelligence from both agencies points to allegations they had tried to cause unrest.” Confirming this for the authorities, “[0]fficials found people in Mr Wuthipong’s network had been entering and leaving the temple prior to the siege and had been meeting him in the neighbouring country [Cambodia].” In fact, of the nine people so far arrested, the police say “[o]ne … was found to have showed up to the temple before…”.

It is a flimsy story. But there’s more: “Pol Gen Chakthip [Chaijinda] said Mr Wuthipong has played a role in inciting people to fight against the monarchy, and he is a supporter of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.”

And still more: The nine “suspects” had “joined the 2010 red-shirt political rally in central Bangkok.” The implication that the public is meant to draw from this is that the suspects might be “men in black.”

So far there’s red shirts, republicanism, Wat Dhammakaya, assassination, war weapons, men in black and monarchy involved in the plot. What more could there be? How about the frustration of the regime unable to extradite those they hate?

While Ko Tee has denied the arms belonged to him, the cops admit he’s been on the run since early 2014 (not since the coup as we said in our earlier post). “Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact … Cambodia … for Mr Wuthipong’s extradition, but had received no helpful reply.”

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

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





With 3 updates: Arresting protesters

18 02 2017

Several reports say that the military junta has moved against anti-coal-fired power station protest leaders.

Khaosod reports that the junta’s thugs arrested “three activists who led an overnight protest in front of the Government House against the regime’s plan to build a coal power plant in the south.”

At least “100 protesters from Krabi province demanded the government scrap the project, citing fears of environmental and health damages, only to be told by junta chairman [General] Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday the construction will go ahead as planned.”

They rallied at Government House overnight and in the morning, police “moved in and arrested three protest leaders and took them into custody.”

The police arrested Prasitthichai Nunual, Akaradej Chakjinda and Mom Luang Rungkhun Kitiyakara. Yes, that’s a princely Kritayakara.

Later, another two were arrested.

The Dictator had warned them not to rally. They rallied. He had them arrested. Like anti-junta protesters, they were all taken to the 11th Military Circle military base. They are charged with “violating the military government’s order against gatherings of five people or more after they refused to end the rally…”. They will be dragged before a “civilian court on Monday.”

As might be expected when southerners and members of the elite are arrested, immediately, a “network of southern academics and communities urged the government to release the detainees and reconsider the plan to build the 780-megawatt power plant.” These academics and “communities” declared that the “arrest of the key leaders to put pressure on the rally to end is against basic rights and humanitarian acts…”.

We don’t like coal-fired power stations. Even so, we have to ask: Where were this network when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Then the “Thai Labour Solidarity Committee pledged to stay behind the protesters to block the project. It called for an end to government attempts to end the rally as it could lead to more confrontations and conflict.”

Where were they when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Oh, yes, those arrested are among those who might have supported the coup.

And there’s the rub. The junta is going after its own supporters because they are behaving “badly.” We expect that even the dullards who inhabit the junta will quickly work out that this might not be a great political move. If they don’t, maybe some of the current protesters will get a lesson in junta politics.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that a further 12 protesters were taken away but later released. Some “100 Krabi residents were staying near to Government House” and the Post suggests that “the number is expected to swell considerably after news that representatives from Save the Andaman from Coal’s 51 allies are going to join are going to join the group in Bangkok.”

The detained protesters got a visit from national human rights commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit. Remarkably, given that it is generally silent, she suggested that the National Human Rights Commission “is considering making a statement about reminding the government it needs to understand people’s rights and the freedom to hold a peaceful protest.”

In fact, this protest has been no less peaceful than those held by student activists and and anti-coup activists.

Junta mouthpieces were active, seemingly seeking to downplay notions that there is any political conflict.

Colonel Winthai Suvaree “said the leaders were taken for talks to find a solution to the issue. Police have not yet pressed any charges against them…”. Meanwhile Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the “arrests were made because the protesters failed to disperse or move to a designated protest area set aside by authorities, who were trying to negotiate with the group.”

Update 2: The Nation reports that 16 protesters were arrested. It also reports that “[l]egal experts condemned the move, saying it was a severe violation of the protesters’ rights and demanded that they be released immediately.” The lawyers stated that the arrests “violated basic human rights and it was a misuse of power.”

Where were they when student activists and anti-coup activists were repeatedly arrested? Exercising their double standards?

This doesn’t apply to Chainarong Sretthachau, a lecturer at Mahasarakham University, who has supported students in the northeast in environmental protest. He made the good point that the “use of absolute power to crack down on peaceful protesters was a violation of human rights, because the Thai government had ratified international agreements.”

Update 3: The junta has sorted things out, solving its apparent political contradiction. The Bangkok Post reports that the detained “[f]ive leaders of the protest … have been released and demonstrators dispersed after the government agreed to renew the project’s environmental impact assessment and the environmental health impact assessment.” Sansern said this resulted from “talks between representatives of the government and core leaders and coordinators of the Save the Andaman from Coal group who had submitted a proposal to the government.”

We guess the realization that they were feuding with allies was a consideration. As the mouthpiece explained, “It should be made clear that the government is concerned about the people.” Its people.

This seems important as the Save the Andaman from Coal group declared “talks with the government representatives went smoothly. The protest leaders had been well looked after and the government had agreed to their proposals.” The group ended the protest and said that “protesters were set to return to their home province on Sunday. He said police would provide them with transport as well as food and water.” How nice.

The political nature of the agreement was emphasized when the five protest leaders who had been arrested “were brought to the protest site by Government House … and released…. They were accompanied by Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 1st Army, and Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the police chief.” How politically nice.





Believe it or not

27 12 2016

The military dictatorship’s usual pattern when dealing with “conspiracies” is to quickly “capture,” parade “ringleaders” and declare a “network” of “conspirators.” Usually the “conspirators” are declared to be directed by “leaders” overseas.

Since the 2014 military coup, this has been the standard operating procedure for the police and military. People go to jail and little more is heard of their cases or of the supposed conspiracy or network.

With the the passage of the amended and draconian computer crimes law, there were repeated cyber-attacks on easy targets – usually government, police and military websites or databases – the junta went into a bit of a spin. Military cyber warriors were ordered to capture those responsible.

As expected, within days, they had arrested up to nine perpetrators. The announcement was made by deputy premier General Prawit Wongsuwan who called the press together and paraded one “suspect.” It was the military that “arrested” the “suspects.”

PPT has to admit that these speedy arrests immediately caused us to be skeptical. After all, if the military and junta can’t protect their websites and databases even in the most basic ways, why would we believe that they can quickly capture the hackers?

A second thing that caused skepticism is that the country’s police chief has decided to bring attention to himself by taking charge of the “investigation.” That maneuver is usually a dead giveaway that this is a performance rather than an investigation.

A third reason for being skeptical was provided by the police chief, Police General Chakthip Chaijinda, who stated that 19 year-old Natdanai Khongdee was capable of the attacks, saying, “Natdanai was knowledgeable about technology since he had dropped out of a technical college in Bangkok’s Khlong Sam Wa district.” If accurate, this claim hardly seems credible.

The not so bright police added that Natdanai was not just hacking government websites, but was “allegedly in possession of two pistols, a rifle, two gun frames, ammunition, three compressed bars of marijuana and computer sets and accessories when apprehended.” Such claims seem to paint a picture of a “suspect” who does not fit the usual profile – if there is one – of “public interest” hackers.

We may never know the truth of the matter, but waiting to see if the cases just fade away will be telling of another beat-up by the military dictatorship.





The lese majeste ploy II

27 10 2016

As we noted in our previous post, during the mourning period, the military junta has been hard at work burnishing its ultra-royalist political credentials chasing down those it considers disloyal.

When it comes to political exiles, its activities are largely bogus but that seems not to matter in this slithering, salivating attention-seeking. Extradition has been the mantra of some, like General Paiboon Khumchaya, who carries the moniker of “Justice” Minister.

The latest lese majeste ploy involves Police General Chakthip Chaijinda who claims that “the police were working with Interpol on legal action against the lese majeste suspects living overseas.” It is not entirely clear if he means exiles or new “suspects” who he says are guilty of having “produced content deemed in violation of Section 112 of the Criminal Code … from overseas and released it online.”

In any case, the Police General, who says he has “no idea what these lese majeste offenders are thinking…”,seems to want to extradite them back to Thailand.

At the same time, and seemingly with no consciousness that he is contradicting himself and looking both dull and silly, he also claims that he wants to send anti-monarchists in Thailand somewhere else. Not only that, he offered to pay for them to leave:

“For those who are in Thailand, if they don’t want to live here [because they’re dissatisfied with the monarchy] they can leave the country. If they don’t have enough money to buy air tickets, I’m willing to pay for them.”

Let’s be clear on what Chakthip seems to desire. He wants Interpol to hunt down and extradite exiles and perhaps other “lese majeste offenders” overseas and he also wants to send similar minded Thais overseas.

That illogical “thinking” suggests that what Chakthip really wants is some embellishment of his ultra-royalist credibility in Thailand.

Meanwhile, not to be left out in this grasping at royal aura from the dead king and (presumably) from the yet to be king, junta spokesman and lackey Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has said that The Dictator has taken up the extradition mantra. General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “instructed state agencies to study which countries Thailand had agreements on extradition with and which countries had cooperated on such requests in the past.”

Well, we know none have ever cooperated on lese majeste extradition requests (if, indeed, any have ever been made).

The loyal Sansern then engaged in a bit a illogical banter on behalf of The Dictator, first saying that the lese majeste law was never used by the monarchy – “[t]he [royal] institution has never sued anyone for defaming the monarchy or royal family – and then contradicting this by saying that the “beloved and respectful institution … would rarely seek recourse to the courts itself…”.

It seems that the appeal of royalist grandstanding by taking advantage of the mourning period is so strong that it evokes bucket loads of loyalist junta froth and babble.