Intimidation deepening

18 09 2015

A series of reports confirm that the military dictatorship is extended and deepening its repression and targeting political opponents. The reports listed below are from just one day and a only brief scan of English-language news outlets.

Prachatai reports that the junta “handed down the decision” to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission to order the removal of a red shirt community radio station aerial be taken down and removed.

Voice People Radio FM 100.00 MHz and FM 100.75 MHz had not been operating since the 2014 coup, when it was ordered closed by the military. Earlier, the military had “confiscated broadcasting equipments necessary for running the radio programs, which they have not returned up to now.”

Khaosod reports that the military has briefly detained Falung Gong activists and confiscated pamphlets considered might “affect international relations” or  “peace and order in the country.”

Khaosod’s report states that Falung Gong is legal in Thailand but:

Thailand’s military government has banned all political activities and public gatherings since they seized power from an elected government in 2014. Although religious evangelization is mostly tolerated, Thai officials have treated Falun Gong with suspicion, fearing that its rhetorics risk antagonizing the Chinese government – a major junta ally.

Prachatai reports that the military has intimidated academics and students conducting environmental research in Udorn Thani province. The military was concerned that these academics and students were conducting research in areas slated for potash mining. The report states:

The research project is co-organised by the Science Faculty of Rajabhat University of Udon Thani and Chulalongkorn Social Research Institute. It is also supported by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. The project began since 2014.

In the field research, 40 students from Rajabhat University asked the residents of several villages in Prajaksilapakom District questions about health, local environment, and economic opportunities in the region.

The military thugs “reportedly recorded the name list of the project participants and took pictures. Moreover, they asked to see the questions, which the students asked the villagers…”. One of the academic stated: “It’s not the duty of the military, but the gross intimidation of freedom and rights of the villagers…. The military officers who are the state officials are acting on behalf of the investors to hurriedly push the potash mining plan.”

In these events, the junta’s repression focuses on media and social media, rural subalterns, lese majeste and protecting business. Other than technology, nothing much has changed over the decades of military repression in Thailand. However, it is clear that the current junta is deepening its political repression.





Request filled!: finding a community radio report

10 07 2012

Back on 23 October 2010, PPT posted “Thinking Differently is a Crime” about a report that came from the Campaign for Popular Media Reform. We had a link to a PDF of the report Thailand: Where thinking differently is a crime. The report of 12 pages had high-quality graphics and was an investigation of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s actions against community radio. This link used to work but now redirects to a web page selling fake medicine.

We are interested to get a copy of the report or a new link that works. Please email us at: thaipoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Update: A reader tells us that the original link quoted by PPT:
http://www.media4democracy.com/th/images/stories/documente_8_10/Report%20Where%20thinking%20differently%20is%20a%20crime.pdf looks like a hijacked link, that now has been disabled by the owner of the domain. This reader found the report here.





CPJ condemns community radio raids

13 07 2011

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a statement that “condemns the raid and seizure of broadcasting equipment by police at six community radio stations in Thailand’s northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province. The raids were staged two days after caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government lost to the opposition Peua Thai party in general elections held on July 3.”

Two of the six stations are royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) broadcasters and the others are red shirt-affiliated stations.

Remarkably, a PAD activist Supot Piriyagiatdisakul, seemingly blinded by rage, reckoned that the “raid was politically motivated and organized by officials wanting to please the new incoming Peua Thai-led government.” Yes, that is why they closed four red shirt stations. And, did Supot even stop to consider that there is no Puea Thai government, and won’t be for some time to come. It is the Democrat Party that remains in a caretaker role.

Sounding more rational, Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative is reported: “CPJ calls on Thailand’s incoming government to improve on the outgoing administration’s poor record of press freedom and to refrain from taking revenge against opposition media.” There’s been no hint of any “revenge” against any media, so Crispin is guessing.

 





Fixing the election V

18 05 2011

We think PPT has said most of what follows in various ways in recent weeks. We’re repeating it here because Marwaan Macan-Markar at the The Irrawaddy has said it so well in his latest story.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha “appears determined to carve out a dominant role for the military in the coming weeks, as political parties seek to woo an estimated 45 million voters ahead of the general election on July 3.” PPT felt they pretty much had the dominant role following the 2006 coup and the various attacks on the opposition. The point is that he wants to carve it in Palaeolithic stone.

His actions targeting the opposition red shirts and Puea Thai Party are listed, and we itemize from the article:

* Two days after the parliament was dissolved, Prayuth ordered a military reshuffle dispatching hard-line officers to take over the command in … opposition strongholds.

* Jatuporn Promphan was jailed… The army chief had a hand in this turn of events: he had ordered a complaint filed against Jatuporn for a speech containing comments alleged to have insulted the Thai monarchy.

* 13 community radio stations in and around the Thai capital had been raided by a team that had included military officers.

* And PPT throws in the 18-20 lese majeste allegations that the Army chief has sprayed about in recent weeks.

The article calls these “brazen acts [that] have confirmed the suspicions that the military has set its sights on retaining a prominent role on the stage of national affairs.”

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is cited:”The army’s intention to call the shots before and after the polls is blatant…. Gen. Prayuth is everywhere. He is hawkish and he doesn’t hide his hard line attitude…. The military is … focused on propping up the (ruling) Democrat Party-led coalition…. The rules are being stacked up in favor of (incumbent Prime Minister) Abhisit (Vejjajiva’s) coalition.”

As Marwaan observes, this “is an alliance that holds no surprises, given the role the military played in stitching a backroom deal to enable Abhisit’s Democrat Party to receive parliament’s backing to form a coalition government in December 2008.”

If the Army boss’s brazen interventions still see Puea Thai come out on top, despite his statements to the contrary, PPT doubts that he will accept the voter’s choice. This seems like the new vicious cycle in Thai politics.





Campaigning for the monarchy

5 05 2011

At the very time that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is demanding not a single mention of the monarchy in an election campaign, he is chairing a committee that spends billions promoting the monarchy as the symbol of the royalist’s Thailand. In other words, in a campaign against those considered republicans, who the regime identifies with the red shirts and Peua Thai Party. Abhisit proves once more that he could not lie straight in bed.

Prachatai reports that on 2 May, Abhisit chaired an Internal Security Operations Command meeting that discussed “activities to mobilize the public to protect the monarchy and national security.” Amongst the measures discussed were the ISOC-initiated “security hotline” – the “report a red shirt hotline” – that allegedly promotes “the public’s knowledge, understanding and awareness of security issues and impacts from various threats, and to seek their cooperation in monitoring and informing the authorities on the threats so that a mass coordination centre in each province can quickly solve problems.”

Just since April Fool’s Day, ISOC has despatched some 100 teams to propagandize on “the duties to protect the nation, religion, and monarchy.” This includes “the protection and worship of the monarchy…”.

ISOC promotes free concerts – and in some areas makes it compulsory to attend – to “promote patriotism and loyalty…”. It also “uses its community radio network for national security, consisting of 700 stations, to broadcast via the internet three times a day, focusing on the monarchy’s great gifts to the people and promoting patriotism and loyalty.”

We would assume that all of these stations are correctly registered, but that is a false assumption as these are pro-regime activities and are not subject to any laws, unlike opposition stations, which are harassed, censored and shut down.

ISOC continues the mass-mobilization of vigilantes, known as the Thai Volunteers to Protect the Country, recently “training 209 students of Srinakharinwirot University to produce educational materials to promote the appreciation of the royal kindness and loyalty, and organizing free concerts.”

The monarchy is only banned from politics for some parties. More of those double standards at work. A just which party would these vigilantes be promoting if there is an election?





Bangkok Post editorial supports the use of lese majeste

2 05 2011

In quite an astounding Bangkok Post editorial we see the Post supporting the use of lese majeste charges, recording the political nature of the “crime” and simultaneously demonstrating the nonsensical nature of the crime.

The editorial refers to Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha’s use of the Internal Security Operations Command, the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Crime Suppression Division to close 13 red shirt radio stations for “broadcasting a speech allegedly containing comments offensive to the monarchy…”.

The editorial says that this operation “is troubling on several scores.” Why? It claims that there is no way to know if the alleged speech by red shirt leaders was “dangerous,” thereby justifying the actions. So how to deal with this? According to the Post: “If the speech is truly offensive, it clearly should not be made public, and if it is not offensive, it is still dangerous for anyone to publicise it for obvious reasons.”

But does the Post explain that this is the kind of illogical nonsense that allows lese majeste to be used for political repression? No. It actually congratulates Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva for pushing “against politicians from all parties making any references to the monarchy in their campaigning. This should include accusations of lese majeste since the public has no way of knowing if they are justified.”

The truth is, as PPT recently posted, that Abhisit wasn’t being non-partisan in his call. In fact, he was attacking the Puea Thai Party as anti-monarchist. Additionally, the Bhum Jai Thai Party remains dead keen to use monarchy and lese majeste as its election strategy and the Democrat Party has been avid in using lese majeste against its opponents.

The Post seems to want to disagree with Prayuth’s lese majeste campaign. But it lacks the political courage to put this into print. It fails to acknowledge that Prayuth’s is a politically-inspired use of lese majeste accusations against a plethora of red shirts, trying to intimidate and shutdown opposition media before the election that the royalist Democrat Party cannot be allowed to lose.

The lack of political courage becomes total spinelessness when the Post states: “It is now up to the courts to decide their guilt or innocence.” And in the meantime, these opposition leaders are prevented from participating in political activities. They are censored and repressed.

Spinelessness becomes amoeba-like when the editorial declares: “Lese majeste should not go unpunished, but the media and the public must resist any push to make this issue central to the upcoming campaign.” In other words, the Post is signed up with Prayuth for his election strategy even when it asserts that lese majeste “should not be a defining issue of the campaign…”. The Post demonstrates that lese majeste can be an election strategy for the elite but that it shouldn’t be up for discussion. And the Post then has the hide to call for “intelligent debate” of anything but the lese majeste electoral strategy of the Abhisit government and its backers.

It really is astounding how the mainstream media is prepared to bend and slither on lese majeste. Human Rights Watch had the issue clearly stated and the Bangkok Post should be chastened that it can’t write as clearly.





Human rights continue to decline

1 05 2011

With major statements by Human Rights Watch and the Asian Human Rights Commission, both pointing to the further deterioration of human rights in Thailand, it is worth looking at what they say in some detail.

HRW’s statement notes the state’s aggressive censorship of opposition community radio stations associated with the red shirts, observing that the “crackdown followed the government’s announcement that it would dissolve parliament on May 6, 2011, in preparation for national elections.” The question then raised is one PPT has been commenting on for several months: how can an election be fair with the opposition stifled and censored?

HRW demands that the “government should immediately allow the stations to resume operations,” noting that the elections “can hardly be credible if the government closes down opposition radio stations and websites…”.

But even if these radio stations were able to operate – and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government fears these stations for they provide alternatives to mainstream and state-controlled media – even that would not make for a “credible election. As PPT has reported, however, arrests of red shirt leaders continue, aimed at shutting up the opposition.

HRW notes that the Abhisit government mouthed platitudes (PPT’s words) about being “committed to protecting rights, but it has become the most prolific censor in recent Thai history.”

That’s a big statement but absolutely true. PPT has pointed this out several times, noting that even Thaksin Shinawatra, accused of numerous human rights abuses, was not able to gain the same level of control and deliver the level of repression and censorship that this palace-military-capitalist regime has.

HRW’s complaint was prompted by the raids by “hundreds of armed police officers joined officials from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) … [on] 13 community radio stations in Bangkok and surrounding provinces associated with the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)…. The stations were forced off the air for broadcasting material deemed offensive to Thailand’s monarchy. Broadcasting equipment, computers, and documents were seized. At least two station operators were temporarily held in police custody and questioned, then released on bail.”

HRW notes that the raids “were ordered by the army commander-in-chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha…” who has been running a broad-ranging campaign against persons he deems a threat to the monarchy.

HRW claims the “court warrant … provided vague authorization for the raids on the ground that the community radio stations have been operating illegally. But among hundreds of unlicensed community radio stations across Thailand, only those closely linked with the Red Shirts have been targeted…”.

HRW added: “Freedom for all Thais has suffered badly because the government and military have cast aside the rule of law to clamp down on critical speech…”.

The military has responded, as seen in a remarkable story in The Nation. It is remarkable as arguably the most inane response ever by a military that seems to assume that the public is as brainless as the military speakers making the comments masquerading as “explanations.”

The story begins with a claim that the “13 community radio stations run by the red shirts were shut down because they violated the law and not because of any political reasons…”. This claim is attributed to Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) spokesman Major-General Ditthaporn Sasasamit who claimed that ISOC “had told the police it had received complaints from local residents about the illegal radio stations’ frequencies interfering with regular radio broadcasts.”

So we are left to conclude that the “complaints” were received for just 13 of the more than 800 stations and that each of these just happened to be red shirt stations. No one in their right mind could ever believe such nonsense. But the military just sprays it out there, treating sensible Thais with complete disdain.

Then, of course, it is added, and this time truthfully: “community radios also broadcast speeches made at the April 10 rally that contained messages deemed to be threatening to national security, offensive to the monarchy as well as inciting unrest…”.

Despite this statement of political acts, the army babbles on about “reject[ing] accusations that the recent raids on red-shirt radio stations were politically motivated.”

Army chief Prayuth chimed in, supporting the lame comments by army and ISOC spokesmen saying that “action had been taken because those radio stations had really broken the law by operating illegally, interfering with legal radio frequencies and provoking social unrest…. The stations tried to provoke violence, and even urged soldiers not to follow orders. They did something wrong…”. In truth, they were wrong because the oppose the government, the army’s political entanglements, coups, election rigging and the descent into brutish political authoritarianism.

The actions currently being taken against red shirts are clearly politically motivated and are designed to silence red shirt media.

Meanwhile, the Asian Human Rights Commission says that “blatant threats” made towards Somsak Jeamteerasakul were ignited by Army boss Prayuth, who “derided Somsak in an interview on April 7, describing him as ‘a mentally ill academic’ who ‘is intent on overthrowing the institution’ of the monarchy.”

AHRC describes this threat in the context of “ultra-conservative forces are using the symbolic power of the king and royal institutions to advance a new authoritarian project…”. PPT has delineated this “project” several times.

While all of this is going on, the Wall Street Journal has an interview with Prime Minister Abhisit that fails to mention the use of repression and intimidation against political opponents under the guise of lese majeste claims. For the WSJ, it is business as usual in Thailand. In fact, ther is nothing usual about current politics.

Hence it is surreal when Abhisit is cited on his “plans to dissolve the House of Representatives by Friday and call what he described as a landmark election…”.

PPT imagines that, if it does come off, it will only be a landmark in the sense that the military and elite backers have expended money and opposition blood in an effort to gain an electoral mandate for a government that could not win a free and fair election. If it does win, wait for all the nonsense about how free and fair this election was and how a mandate will permit further repression.

When Abhisit says: “This is a real opportunity for Thailand to get out of this cycle of violence…. For too long I think we’ve been held back” it should not be forgotten that he supported the whole string of events that saw multiple election results overturned by a tainted judiciary, palace political intervention and a military coup. The body count in the violence makes it clear that the state’s weapons and snipers were used to maintain this government in power.

PPT is quite taken aback by the WSJ’s comment that “[g]oing to the polls now might provide Mr. Abhisit with a fresh mandate to pursue fresh policies to help buttress the country’s economic progress, analysts say, and he is choosing to call the election several months before the end of his term in December in order to provide Thailand with a firmer sense of direction and to remove the shadow of uncertainty that still hangs over the country.”

We are taken aback because Abhisit has no mandate except that cobbled together with money from businesses backing the Democrat Party and its now coalition partners and the military and palace brokering a deal that bought parliamentarians to support the party of the aristocracy. That he is saying he will call elections just short of this parliament’s full term is not great innovation; most elections in Thailand come before a full term is served.

What is clear is that Abhisit is only now seeking an “electoral mandate” because he thinks that his military-backed regime, after all of its fixing and what used to be called “policy corruption” but for the “analysts” in the WSJ are “fresh policies,” finally has a chance of getting the votes it needs.

But really, where are the WSJ’s analysts on the corruption of the electoral process that has taken place very openly in a series of fixes, acts of political violence and censorship and repression? Where is the acknowledgement that the Abhisit government has become the most prolific censor in recent Thai history?





More censorship of red shirt media

27 04 2011

The Abhisit Vejjajiva regime is expanding its censorship of red shirt media at the time that the prime minister harps on about a coming election. If anyone ever thought this election was meant to be an open and free competition should now be convinced that the regime has never even considered such a possibility.

The BBC reports that the “offices of 13 radio stations linked to Thailand’s anti-government red-shirt protesters have been raided by police.” The claim is that they operate without licenses.

However, on this point, Bangkok Pundit adds that

Naew Na reports that government officials from Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), Crime Suppression Division (CSD), and the local police armed with a court order searched community radio stations which were in breach of the law, especially those stations that had not not received a license, which numbered 13 in total. Seven were in Bangkok and six were in surrounding provinces. The officials are currently undertaking details checks and if they find any wrongdoing, they will seize such equipment together with bringing those responsible to be interrogated in various localities so that further legal action can be taken….

That sounds like fishing by ISOC, which hardly needs a real excuse to censor. The truth is that this is about silencing critics.

Meanwhile, some red shirts believe the raids are another signal of an imminent military coup, with Jatuporn Promphan asking: “Are they trying to provoke the red shirts to take to the streets so that they will stage a coup again?”

As we have said previously, we think there is something in this. Silencing critics is a “win” for the regime. An excuse to avoid an election via, say, a national government, would be a bonus that lese majeste, red shirts and border clashes would justify.





Using lese majeste to repress opposition

15 04 2011

Most reasonable observers – and here we must obviously exclude the U.S.’s State Department – would consider that the current political regime nominally led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the royalist Democrat Party has “achieved” more than any previous government in its use of lese majeste as a tool for political repression.

After all, this government has used lese majeste charges against more political opponents than any previous administration. It even eclipses the former rightist and royalist regime led by Privy Councilor Thanin Kraivixien.

But apparently this dubious record as one of the most politically repressive civilian regimes ever in Thailand is insufficient. The Bangkok Post reports that the regime has decided to use lese majeste even more vigorously.

As PPT has noted previously, this has a lot to do with the regime’s huge effort to prevent voters re-electing the party they hate, the Puea Thai Party. Part of this corrupt process must necessarily involve efforts to censor opposition media.

As a result, the “Internal Security Operations Command is taking a closer look at community radio stations and websites broadcasting and publishing content which could be deemed offensive to the monarchy.”

PPT expects nothing less from this royalist regime as it is desperate to stay in power.

The Post report states that “Isoc’s 6th Operation Centre, which has responsibility for promoting royal projects, has been instructed to strengthen monitoring work.” It is expected to coordinate with police.

And who is behind this? None other that Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also heads ISOC. Prayuth is clearly worried that the red shirt/Puea Thai Party opposition has a real chance of victory. And following the Army’s failure to adequately rig the election in 2007, Prayuth is taking no chances this time.

It is stated that: “Legal action has been taken against lese majeste offenders in several forms but Isoc can’t reveal the details…”. PPT understands that this includes processing older cases and seeking the arrest of those charged as long ago as 2008.

Responding to Thaksin Shinawatra’s call to stop using the monarchy for political purposes, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has upped the stakes, (again) accusing Thaksin of challenging the monarchy. He also attacked red shirt leaders.

Suthep “insisted yesterday that Jatuporn Prompan, a Puea Thai MP and red shirt leader, had made inappropriate remarks about the monarchy at a recent red shirt rally.”

The message is clear. The regime is using every weapon it has in its formidable arsenal. While lese majeste may seem a bit “mad dog” and potentially highly divisive, it is also a “last gasp” win-at-any-cost strategy, a bit like closing down the airports in 2008.

We believe that the royalists will not tolerate any election loss this time. If they believe they will lose, they may even stymie an election.





HRW on Thailand in 2010

28 01 2011

PPT is somewhat late on getting to the latest Human Rights Watch report on Thailand. In looking at the report and the media release, we wonder what is going on at HRW, for they appear to come from two very different organizations.

The press statement begins with a statement that the “government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand failed to fulfill its pledges to hold human rights abusers accountable in 2010…”. It is added that: “Human rights in Thailand suffered a sharp and broad reverse in 2010.” This is incontestable.

The statement points out that:

the government used emergency powers to hold dissidents and critics without trial in unofficial places of detention and repeatedly failed to provide exact information about those held and their whereabouts…. Freedom of expression was a casualty of a far-reaching government censorship campaign that shut down thousands of websites and dozens of community radio stations, TV and satellite broadcasts, and publications….

During and after the anti-government protests, the Thai authorities responded with excessive force to violence committed by militant elements in the anti-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)….

This HRW press release goes on to criticize the government’s failure to conduct an adequate and independent investigation into the violence of April and May 2010 and the lack of cooperation in investigations that have taken place, the political use of the emergency decree by CRES and its arbitrary use of emergency powers to harass political opponents. It adds: “… CRES also used emergency powers to hold some suspects without charge for extended periods in unofficial detention facilities, where there are inadequate safeguards against possible abuse in custody.” More worrying still is the National Human Rights Commission report “that many UDD detainees had experienced torture and forcible interrogations, arbitrary arrest and detention, and overcrowded detention facilities.

The press release continues by mentioning the government’s “rolling crackdown on peaceful political expression,” noting the “enforced to shut down more than 1,000 websites, a satellite television station, online television channels, publications, and more than 40 community radio stations, most of which are considered to be closely aligned with the UDD.”

Of course, it also notes that political use of the Computer Crimes Act and lese majeste to censor and “persecute dissidents.”

The press release also mentions the “chronic problems with police and security operations that use abusive tactics…. Officers responsible for horrendous misconduct have rarely faced punishment” and this is especially the case in the south.

As has been said many times, this government’s “human rights rhetoric in international forums is matched by action on the ground.”

But then this is the HRW country summary in the organization’s World Report 2011. This report does mention all of the human rights abuses noted in the press statement and singles out an “abusive anti-narcotics policy,” violence and human rights abuses in the south,
and justifiably makes the case on the Abhisit government’s abuse of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant workers. Also covered are the abusive use of the emergency decree and powers of detention and the repression of media freedom and freedom of expression.

What concerns PPT in the report is the wholly one-sided account of the political violence of April-May 2010. HRW’s account may as well have been penned by Thailand’s acting government spokesman. Whoever is responsible for this account has failed to acknowledge the state’s responsibility in orchestrating violence against protesters and in so doing HRW appears to exonerate the state’s violence. It also manages to slip in yellow-hued accounts of events and speculation about “hardliners” and “moderates” within the UDD and the role of so-called black shirts in the UDD. At least the report does concede that the “military deployed snipers to shoot anyone who breached ‘no-go’  zones [actually termed live-fire zones].

HRW should be ashamed and concerned that it has allowed its report to be tainted by speculation and politically-driven accounts of the violence that diminishes the state’s role in the deadly events. It should examine the disparity between its press release and its account of political violence. As PPT repeatedly said at the time when pro-government sources made similar claims, if observers look at the body count its is clear which groups were targeted, and it was not state forces.