Color coding royal pardons?

4 05 2019

As is usual around supposedly auspicious royal events, “pardons” – a kind of amnesty – have been granted to prisoners and others serving sentences. They include commuted jail terms for serious offenses.

The latest, for the coronation, includes some interesting “pardons.”

Five leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy will be released. They were only convicted a few weeks ago. They are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Pipop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk, and Suriyasai Katasila. Sondhi Limthongkul’s position remains unclear, although he may have benefited by having his fraud sentence reduced.

Interestingly, PAD seem to have designed the kit for the king’s royal volunteer “army.”

What of red shirts serving sentences? We haven’t seen any news yet.

Anti-junta critic, sentenced on lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai report, student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, has benefited, but not by much. He was due to be released on 19 June.

We might be missing something, but it might be that royal pardons are now color coded.





Heroes and villains

14 02 2019

The Supreme Court has finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 may be seen as a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila were charged with “breaking into Government House and damaging property there during the protests they led against the Samak Sundaravej government from May to December 2008.”

But the process involved shows how the sentences have been reduced through the judicial process. Originally they were sentenced “to two years’ jail each, commuted from three years due to their useful testimony.” That was reduced by the Appeals Court “to eight months in jail, commuted from one year.”

However, the “Supreme Court ruled that their demonstration was not peaceful, as they claimed, because their supporters broke into Government House.” Apparently, this means that occupying Government House grounds for seven months, seeking to prevent an elected government from operating is okay.

A Bangkok Post editorial is closer to the mark, noting that PAD’s leaders “resorted to extremism and violence, sexed up by hate speech.” It also observes that PAD “set up armed and unarmed forces who mingled among protesters … and used tens of thousands of their protesters as human shields against the police crackdown.”

That PAD’s “ruthless operations” served as a model for red shirts and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee cannot be disputed.

The Post’s history of support for the yellow-shirted and PDRC movements seems forgotten. So too are the double standards of the judiciary in the sentencing of red shirts versus the treatment of yellow shirts.

This should remind us that, in the current political climate that emphasizes “loyalty,” the PAD leaders going to jail means they become heroes and martyrs in the renewed battle against the villainous Thaksin Shinawatra and for the monarchy.





Justice system a politicized tatters

1 02 2019

Thailand’s judiciary is in tatters. Politicized for years, conscripted into judicial activism and royalist to the core, the judiciary is unable to work independently or even to maintain rule of law.

The most recent example involves the Appeals Court upheld an earlier court ruling “that dismissed a trial against nine yellow-shirt leaders who demonstrations against late prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.”

The court decided, against all evidence, that Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipob Thongchai, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwongse, Amorn Amornrattanond and Therdpoum Jaidee:

were … not guilty … [when] the Appeals Court …ruled that their protests under the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy … were conducted peacefully and according to democratic principles.

They had stood accused of “attempting to use force to change the government and instigating chaos in the country.” This related to their extended protests in Bangkok and the seizure of government offices. Other charges relates to possessing weapons such as baseball bats, iron bars, axes and catapults.

The Appeals Court dismissed the weapons charges saying they may not have belonged to the protesters. The court then “found that the defendants were not guilty when they obstructed the authorities’ attempts to demolish their tents, saying that the incident did not start from the defendants’ side,” despite the fact that they occupied these buildings and their grounds.

The court then “ruled that the protests led by the nine defendants in 2008 were conducted peacefully, in a manner which was allowed in a democracy and under the Constitution.”

Of course, similar manufactured dismissals were manufactured as convictions for red shirts.

The justice system has brought itself into disrepute.





Updated: Bankrupt PAD

7 01 2018

As widely reported, including in the Bangkok Post, 13 core members/leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy face a combined bill of 522 million baht incurred as a court’s decision on compensation to the Airports of Thailand Plc, for losses incurred “by the 10-day closure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports 10 years ago.”

Apparently, “a legal execution notice sent by prosecutors, who were authorised by the operator of the two gateways, to seek the payments.” This follows a 2011 ruling by the Civil Court upheld by the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court between 2011 and 2017.

This might be good news for those who were outraged by PAD’s illegal actions that led to the judicial coup of December 2008.

But is it? It seems that the PAD leaders will simply declare themselves bankrupt.

The 13 are Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipop Thongchai, Suriyasai Katasila, Somsak Kosaisuk, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Amorn Amonrattananond, Saranyu Wongkrajang, Samran Rodpetch, Sirichai Mai-ngam, Maleerat Kaewka and Therdpoum Chaidee.

While Sondhi is in jail for another unrelated offense, we guess that the rest have had plenty of time to organize their personal finances.

Criminal lawsuits are continuing.

Update: Confirming our comments above, the PAD group has thumbed its nose at the courts (again). Chamlong “said he cannot find the money to pay, and he had no assets which can be seized.” In any case, he rejects the notion of compensation to Airports of Thailand: “I insist I did nothing wrong. Why was I ordered to pay such a huge sum of money — as if we burned buildings. But we never burned a single building…”. He added that “he does not regret the consequences he now has to face as he did it in the best interests of the country.” His yellow compatriot, Sirichai Mai-ngam simply said: “We have no money. We won’t run away. We won’t pay…”.





Light yellow standards

24 07 2017

The Bangkok Post reports on yet another (partial) victory for the yellow shirts of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

In another example of double standards and a politicized judiciary, the Appeals Court reduced “two-year jail terms imposed by the primary court for their seizure of Government House in an attempt to oust then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.” The court declared that their illegal occupation was “not intended to benefit certain groups or their own interests…”. In other words, the judge reckons they acted in the “public interest.” This is another example of “good people” double standards.

Thus the court reduced their sentence to eight months but did not suspend imprisonment.

The PAD lawyer then declared an appeal to the Supreme Court and asked for bail for all but one of the defendants:  Chamlong Srimuang, Phibop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila. (Sondhi Limthongkul is in jail already for fraud.)

This result came almost two years after the lower court decision. Perhaps their next case will be in 2019 or 2020? SO far their sentences have been reduced from three to two years and now to eight months. We can guess that the next court will be even more sympathetic.





Calling Bangkok’s middle class

28 04 2017

Thitinan Pongsudhirak deserves just a little praise for rather suddenly (and almost) taking a stand. His call to Bangkok’s middle class suggests that criticism of the military junta in elite circles is gathering some steam. While we don’t see Thitinan ever being a political rabble-rouser, he does speak the language of the Bangkok middle class:

Headed by Prime Minister [he means The Dictator] Prayut Chan-o-cha, a retired general and former army chief, the current military government that seized power by force will soon reach its three-year mark in office without the kind of civil society resistance and opposition that ousted ruling generals in October 1973 and May 1992. Whether the current Thai apathy in the face of military rule is attributable to a political culture that privileges order over liberty, and to what extent this phase of Thai political tameness extends, will be decided over the next several years.

What he means is that the middle class hasn’t risen. He continues:

Either [middle class] Thailand will break out of its military repression and return to a system of liberalising popular rule with an open society, or it will descend firmly into military-authoritarianism in the guise of illiberal democracy, dressed up with ersatz elections and rigged rules.

Well, yes, but that’s been the junta’s plan all along. It hardly takes three years to work that out. Again, he’s asking the middle class in Bangkok why they love the military and anti-democrats. He continues:

Not a week goes by without some kind of questionable government actions and top-down decision-making without public input and any semblance of accountability.

That’s true, but it began when the junta seized power. But, wait, there’s an excuse:

In the early months of the military government, the Thai public largely gave the benefit of the doubt to the generals who did put an end to endless street protests.

[And then there was] There was also a once-in-a-lifetime royal transition to consider, and a military government seemed most suited to oversee this delicate interval.

The latter is buffalo manure. Do think about what the military has managed through succession! Hope you are happy in the shophouses and apartments with the new arrangements. But, truly, if the military hadn’t been mutinous, and if they hadn’t been supported by the self-interested in Bangkok, maybe the anti-democrat street demonstrations could have been brought to an end without the coup the Bangkok middle class craved.

But what about the repression and the “deaths in custody” and the ridiculous fabrication of lese majeste cases? Thitinan sort of gets there:

Certainly, those in Thailand who dissent have been prosecuted and persecuted. Clearly, the quelling of dissent and spreading of fear are core reasons why Thais are putting up with military rule….

Related to fear is the lack of leadership. In social movements against military rule, only the Oct 14 uprising in 1973 was organic, spontaneous and broad-based. It was led by university students but they had wide support among other segments of society, including the media and merchants. In May 1992, the catalyst in what was dubbed a “mobile-phone mob” was the leadership of former Bangkok governor and popular politician Chamlong Srimuang and the Bangkok middle class.

This position is not supported by the historical evidence. One can only say that 1973 was “broad-based” if the working class and farmers are forgotten. When those groups did get involved, when electoralism developed, the middle class deserted in droves and cheered the military and its murderers in 1976. It was also the middle class that supported the coup in 1991 and then changed its collective mind. When it again felt that the working class and farmers were getting uppity by rejecting anti-Thaksinism, they supported the military again.

Reflecting this democratic ambivalence, he then drops the ball. His “solution” is: “some kind of civil-military compromise, as seen in Myanmar now and Indonesia in the recent past.” He means a negotiated solution that allocates the military thugs power and prestige and gives the middle class a disproportionate political weight. He ends with this lament:

Nevertheless if the Thai people don’t do something about their military rule, they may well end up with a government they deserve.

The middle class has its government.





The monarchy-military alliance

28 06 2016

The alliance of the military and monarchy goes back to the foundation of the modern military under the absolutist King Chulalongkorn.That link was broken with the 1932 Revolution.

Sarit

Sarit

Despite continuous struggle between the 1932 Promoters and the royalists, the monarchy-military alliance was not fully re-established and made exceptionally strong under the military dictator General Sarit Thanarat and the military-dominated regimes that followed.

Sarit took over a boy-king who came to the throne after the death of his brother, with an ambitious mother and surrounded by restorationist princes. It was only after the 1973 uprising against military dictatorship that the current king began to really feel his oats. With the military’s role in politics reduced and challenged, it was left to the king to maintain the alliance in the interests of the rising royalist elite.

By 1976, the military was back, with the support of the monarchy, following the military-backed murder of workers, peasant leaders and students that came, in part, from the monarch’s expressions of concern and fear about the rise of the Left.

This potted history leads to the big challenge that faced the alliance in May 1992. Then, as is its penchant, the military brass decided to gun down civilians protesting yet another military attempt to dominate politics.

These events saw the military in disgrace and the monarchy worked hard to rehabilitate its murderous allies. The usual image – endlessly promoted in palace propaganda – is of the king sorting out the crisis, with his meeting with the military premier General Suchinda Kraprayoon and the self-proclaimed protest leader Chamlong Srimuang.

This video shows the meeting, which included privy councilors General Prem Tinsulanonda and Sanya Dharmasakti. It is preceded by calls from Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn.

The king’s belated intervention in the events was meant to “save” the military. Even so, the military was shunned by a stunned public following the attacks on demonstrators.

Within a few short months, however, the king was speaking to rehabilitate his allies. As reported in the Bangkok Post on 15 November 1992, this was expressed in this way:

Recently there has been much talk about having too many generals, and why is there such ceremony to confer two hundred more general ranks to military personnel? … In truth, if we compare with foreign countries to the west or east or us we will find that they all have as many generals as us. One difference is that when their generals move to other jobs, they are no longer called generals.

Even in the United States, when a general becomes president he will be called mister which makes it seem as if they have fewer generals. But in Thailand those with a military rank retains it even when they go to work in other jobs. This is because they consider it an honour, an indication of a man with good performance. No matter what job you do, if they carry the rank with them, it is an honour, and it makes their colleagues trust them.

Therefore the number of generals in the country must be taken as not too many. We are not top-heavy. So do not feel disheartened after listening to those words, since it is only a kind of tongue wagging, and it is not damaging.

In fact, according to the Thai concept, those with a military rank consider it an honour which makes them proud and any job they do will be done better because of this realisation of the honour. There is no negative side to this. If they are transferred to other job or retired, their military salary Will not be tied to their rank. This means that the government does not have to pay more because of it.

But every person who acquired a military rank is proud of it. He will do a good service without the government having to pay him any extra salary. It is a way of saving government budget. If an army officer loses his rank when he is transferred to another unit he will feel sorry and may be discouraged. If there is a military rank attached to him when he works outside the military service it will encourage him to work efficiently, and the country will benefit more from him.

The king’s support for the rehabilitation of a murderous military is an act of loyalty and one of self-protection.

One result is that the military was not reformed, meaning it was again able to conduct coups in 2006 and 2014, seeing off supposed threats to the palace and the status quo.





Anti-democrats and the junta

22 03 2016

The anti-democrats in Thailand have a long history. They have usually been huddled around the monarchy and the military. There was a time, following the 1992 massacre of civilians, when democrats came into their own, and even some anti-democrats posed as democrats. An excellent example was the grinning mercenary and self-styled religious zealot Chamlong Srimuang.

The remnants of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and various other royalist and military-connected right-wing groups came together to support the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and cheered when the military ran its 22 May 2014 coup.

Since the coup, several of their leaders have been well-paid members of various of the junta’s puppet assemblies and so on.

With the military coming under attack from the middle class, mainly for its determination to stay in power, the anti-democrats have decided to support the junta on its claims that the military staying in power or having a veto over government are necessary for “reform.” That call for “reform” was the the catchphrase of the PDRC.

The Bangkok Post reports that a “pro-regime group has called on the administration to exert its executive powers to ensure reforms are in place before the next election.” Again, that is pure PDRC.

Green group secretary-general Jaturon Boonbenjarat is reported to have declared that “the government” and the junta “should emphasise reform issues over the draft charter, as time was running out.” The Green group was formed out of PAD.

These anti-democrats call for increased use of Article 44 for “reforms before elections without having to wait for completion of the draft charter … adding reforms could encompass police, judicial procedures, administration, to social inequality.”

“Reform” is code for rooting out the “Thaksin regime.” They want more purges of those they consider opponents.

They re not opposed “to the regime’s proposal of a five-year transitional post-election period, which includes an appointed Senate…”. But they are calling on the junta to listen to them: “Civic networks should speak out on what they want reforms to accomplish, and the regime should speed up efforts to put them in place…”.

One of the militant leaders of the PDRC and long-time Thaksin Shinawatra opponent Paiboon Nititawan, a former unelected senator, selected by the military dictatorship as a charter writer appointed by the junta’s puppet National Reform Council, said “he supported the regime’s proposal for an appointed Senate, which he said could help counter-balance the House of Representatives and the cabinet.”

Another junta puppet, Seri Suwannapanon, “chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA)’s committee in charge of political reforms, threw his support behind the selected senators, saying his panel had proposed the issue before the NCPO [junta] did.” Naturally enough, his “committee also backs the idea of allowing outsiders to become the prime minister and said the practice could help break the political impasse.” Nor did he “oppose the idea that civil servants be allowed to sit in the Upper House, but only if they can ensure the country’s stability and peace.”

The picture is of anti-democrats throwing their political weight behind the military, again.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that “Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, chairman of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), said on Monday the proposals were not made by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) alone, in an apparent bid to ease pressure on the junta.” He says it’s a decision of the junta and all its puppet organizations: “the NCPO, NLA, cabinet and National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).”

He’s clear that these junta puppet organizations do not want a “majority-controlled government” actually governing.





Further updated: Suthep re-enters politics

28 07 2015

Much of the media commentary about Suthep Thaugsuban leaving the monkhood has been about his declaration that he will no longer be involved in politics.

Suthep

A Bangkok Post photo

Suthep entered the monkhood not that long after the coup, as a kind of political exile, and after a couple of slaps from the military dictatorship on commentary he made about the coup and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee links to the military’s planning of the coup.

Like others with a penchant for mobilizing people, be it Thaksin Shinawatra, Sondhi Limthongkul or even Chamlong Srimuang, the military is suspicious of them.

Hence, Suthep’s declaration that he is not re-entering politics is something of a ruse.

For one thing, saying he is done with party politics is not saying much when the military dictatorship has sent parties to the wilderness. Parties are more or less defunct and those drafting the new constitution have tried to make them less significant into the future.

Second, during the PDRC campaign against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, much of the rhetoric was driven by royalist notions that are anti-party and a anti-politician, so an immediate return to party politics would be a denial of that anti-democratic ideology.

Third, it is noticeable that Suthep remains politically engaged. Photographed in his PDRC livery emphasizing monarchy and nation, Suthep stated that he “plans to join a foundation that other former protest leaders have established,” allegedly “to promote vocational education and other grassroots projects.” When he states that “I will work with the Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand. I will never go back to run in an election ever again. But I will be working in civil politics alongside the Great Mass of the People for the benefit of our country.”

In a sense, this is an acknowledgement of the post-politician/post-party politics that will be acceptable to the royalist elite and the military dictatorship. Suthep has re-entered politics in a space delimited by the military.

Update 1: As if on cue, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr has warned Suthep to steer clear of political organizing.

Update 2: The military dictatorship’s concerns regarding Suthep’s re-entry into politics has been shown in a statement by The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha “admitted yesterday he was concerned that politician Suthep Thaugsuban … has become politically active once again.” Prayuth was expressing concern about a press conference scheduled for Thursday that “will be the first time since the coup in May 22, 2014, that 12 PDRC leaders will officially get together to continue their push for reform.” Prayuth and Suthep

As Chairman of the so-called Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand, Suthep will attend the event. So will all of the other anti-democrat leaders: Sathit Wongnongtoey, Thaworn Senniam, Issara Somchai, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Akanat Promphan, Chumpol Chulasai, Chaiwut Bannawat, Puttipong Punnakan, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Natthapol Theepsuwan and Chitpas Bhirombhakdi-Kridakorn.

The “foundation” will consider its “strategy to support ‘reforms’ according to the six-point proposal initiated by Suthep himself…”.

 





Red shirt response

10 05 2014

Several readers chided PPT for observing in a recent post that “Red shirt protests about this so far seem feeble.” At the time we wrote that, the official red shirts were preparing a rally, well away from Bangkok to protest the Constitutional Court’s politicized decision-making. There is now an official red shirt response.

The Bangkok Post reports that Saturday’s red shirt rally was large and represented “a robust red response.” Andrew Spooner writes of the rally:

… over 100,000 pro-democracy Red Shirt activists gathered in a suburb of Bangkok to express their resistance to the Thai establishment’s moves to derail a fairer, more accountable society. That powerful and supposedly ‘educated’ Thais – like the cabal of well-groomed thugs in expensive suits who lead the PDRC/Democrat Party – are so ready to destroy Thailand’s hard fought for democratic gains whilst risking civil war, reveals them to be closer to nihilists than a credible political alternative.

He also notes what might be a warning to the red shirts – armored vehicles moving through Bangkok.Armor

According to the Post’s report, for the official red shirts, the line in the sand is not the Constitutional Court’s decision or the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s dubious decision to refer charges against Yingluck Shinawatra nor is it the Election Commission’s determination to not hold and election. Nor is it the anti-democrat’s illegal occupation of Government House or the senate’s unconstitutional actions. The line in the sand is any attempt to remove what remains of the interim government.

Jatuporn Promphan delivered a fine account of why the anti-democrats, in cahoots with the royalist elite and their tools in the judiciary and senate, are engaged in illegal actions. Yet these anti-democrats can pretty much do as they want. The sandy line is supporting the lame duck government:

Jatuporn said the UDD was ready to continue its rally for as long as it takes to support the government. The sight of tents along a four-kilometre stretch of Aksa Road, not far from a residence of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, indicated people were willing to stay for a week or longer.

He said the UDD would try to exercise full tolerance and not move anywhere yet.

“As long as the country’s democracy is not safe, we will be here,” he told reporters. If there is a coup or an unelected prime minister is installed, the red shirts will “escalate our fight immediately…”.

 Meanwhile, Suthep Thaugsuban has all but declared that he is in charge:

“The people hope there will be a new prime minister of the people by Monday. If not, we will have no choice but to take action by ourselves. We can’t allow the country to continue like this anymore,” Suthep said.

“From tomorrow [Sunday], we will issue statements. And I will read the statements inside Government House.”

Suthep is now ensconced in Government House with the armed and extremist Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform group, led by PAD’s  Nittithon Lamlua, at his side. He is joined by PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang and his Dhamma Army, and all of the other PAD leaders. It is looking increasingly like 2008, when the elected government was overthrown with barely a whimper. Could that happen again? The events of 2009 and 2010 suggest it shouldn’t, but the path across the line in the sand seems defined.