Updated: Tools

25 01 2021

There’s a slang term we heard recently, when a dope was referred to as a “tool.” We had to look it up and came up with this:

Someone who others normally refer to as a prick, dick, or schmuck.

Then there’s the version that is:

A guy with a hugely over-inflated ego, who in an attempt to get undue attention for himself, will act like a jackass, because, in his deluded state, he will think it’s going to make him look cool, or make others want to be like him….

Which brings us to Veera Prateepchaikul’s latest op-ed. Veera felt the need to boil over on the vaccine crisis. Veera, along with Somchai Jitsuchon, research director for inclusive development at the Thailand Development Research Institute, both defend the vaccine deal with the king’s company, Siam Bioscience.

Somchai said “he had come came across no evidence of Thailand paying too much, although he admitted he was no expert in the subject.” Somchai is an adviser to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a point not made by the Post. He did say “he did not know much about why Siam Bioscience Co was picked as local vaccine manufacturer for AstraZeneca,” but still defended the deal. You get the murky picture.

Veera, also no expert, and a sucker fish rather than an adviser, favored a more aggressive attack on Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit while posterior polishing the dead king.

After all that dirty work, Veera admitted that “Thanathorn raised a few valid questions about the vaccine deal between Siam Bioscience and Oxford-AstraZeneca,” which still haven’t been answered, but accused him of doing this “from the perspective of someone unaware of the background of the deal.” Now, this is an odd criticism when Thanathorn was raising questions about the secrecy and opacity of the deal.

Veera reckons Thanathorn “did not do his homework before talking publicly,” and essentially deserves a lese majeste charge or two.

Which brings us to Veera’s homework and here we don’t mean on how to polish royal ass while protecting your own. How’s Veera feeling about the Thai Enquirer report that “India offered to sell over 2 million doses of their AstraZeneca-licensed vaccine [but] was rejected by the Thai government…”?

How’s Veera feeling when he learns that:

According to sources within the Indian government, the offer to supply the same vaccine, at cost, to Thailand (up to 2 million doses initially) was also presented to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai but was rejected outright.

We don’t imagine that Don is an expert on vaccines either.

What does Veera think when he discovers: “The Ministry of Affairs … told Thai Enquirer that it was ‘better’ to get local vaccines ‘from the Ministry of Public Health or the vaccine institute’.” Which institute would that be?

How’s Veera going with political analyst Arun Saronchai’s comment?:

“I think you’re seeing this dogmatic and stubborn approach because there are people that stand to benefit from the government maintaining its course and insisting on locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccines and importing SinoVac vaccines.”

Of course, this leads back to Siam Bioscience and CP investment in the China shot.

How is that Veera’s royalist homework didn’t lead to this:

According to local news reports and whistleblower statements from inside the government, Thailand is set to pay up to 60 per cent more per dose for both the SinoVac vaccine and the Astrazeneca vaccine drawing criticisms of corruption and embezzlement from the opposition parties.

Meanwhile, confirming that lack of transparency, the erratic Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul responded to Thanathorn’s “call for the government to make public the contract signed between AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, the local vaccine-making factory, saying that was impossible as both parties were private companies, not organisations under the government.” So how’s the deal work then and why is the government defending it so vigorously. And so the circle is completed….

Update: Remarkably, the Post has published what looks like a paid-PR effort by Siam Bioscience, which reproduces the limited information provided at its website. Interestingly, the company explains its lack of preparedness and tells of “the deal”:

The mission to manufacture this COVID-19 vaccine is supported by the National Vaccine Institute, Ministry of Public Health, with a budget of almost 600 million baht, with an additional 100 million baht budgeted by Siam Cement Group (SCG). This will enable preparation of the manufacturing facilities and processes. In return for the government support, Siam Bioscience will procure the AstraZeneca vaccine with a value equivalent to the funding it receives and will give the vaccine to the Thai government to support vaccine availability to the public.

Clearly, the regime must now release the details of the agreements made as this statement raises all kinds of issues that cannot be resolved when transparency is not provided.





Foreign minister dissembles

12 06 2020

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is a tool. A tool of the junta when appointed. Yet he’s also a tool that enjoys the work he does for the junta/post-junta military-backed regime. The ministry he heads is a nest of elitists and royalists.

Recently, Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party and a spokesman of the House committee on legal affairs, justice and human rights, asked parliamentary questions about Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance. Rangsiman said: “The government isn’t paying any attention. Since Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha came to power, nine activists have disappeared. But the government has not given any explanation…”.

Don (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Foreign Minister Don’s dissembling response was execrable. He lied that “Wanchalearm bears little significance in terms of international and security affairs, so he should not be considered a threat to security.” He didn’t explain why the regime had been chasing him since the 2014 military coup.

Regarding Wanchalearm’s disappearance, Don said “Cambodia is investigating the matter and all the Thai government can do is to ask Cambodia to follow up on the case…. We cannot speculate as to his whereabouts until we receive an answer [from Cambodia]…”. Of course, this sidesteps the issue that it was most likely Thai operatives who grabbed the man – “Cambodian National Police spokesman Pol Lt Gen Chhay Kim Khoeun insisted Cambodian authorities did not arrest the activist…”. Don’s response also ignores the questions regarding all the other disappearances and murders. Nothing done on them, either.

Commenting on the same parliamentary exchange, the Thai Enquirer reports that Don also felt moved to comment on Article 112, the lese majeste law. He claimed “that people affected by the enforcement of Article 112 … was not a priority and the majority of people simply didn’t care about the law.”

Rangsiman responded: “If the Minister says that [Article 112] is not important, allow me to ask, why was #Cancel112 a top trend on twitter then?”

Reportedly, Don lied that “various international organizations are reporting this issue … just to attract attention and call[ed] out foreign journalists for creating fake news…”.

Don’s lese majeste comments are a part of a wider campaign to denigrate Wanchalerm. By linking him with anti-monarchists, the regime seeks to limit the support his case has gained – when lese majeste is alleged, not only do rabid royalists begin wagging their tails, but censorship/self-censorship restrict discussion.

We also think that such dissembling is an admission that monarchy is a central issue in not just Wanchalerm’s disappearance, but that of the eight others who have been disappeared or killed. When the authorities refuse to be involved, this is more like confirmation of these unspoken admissions.





Updated: “New” government

11 07 2019

King Vajiralongkorn has endorsed The Dictator’s cabinet list.

One of the “stories” is how, as expected, many of the junta’s henchman have transitioned into the “new” government:

Prayut will also double as Defence Minister, a key position currently held by General Prawit Wongsuwan, his deputy in the outgoing government.

Prawit will retain his position as a deputy prime minister and is expected to also be in charge of security affairs.

The new Cabinet also has eight other ministers who have worked with Prayut and Prawit in the current post-coup government: Somkid Jatusripitak, Wissanu Krea-ngam, General Chaichan Changmongkol, Uttama Savanayana, Don Pramudwinai, Suvit Maesincee, Sontirat Sontijirawong and General Anupong Paojinda.

But the biggest story is undoubtedly going to be about an army man and mafia figure, reported by AFP, 9 Sep 1998, and now being circulated in Thailand:

BANGKOK, Sept 9 (AFP) – Eighteen middle-ranking Thai military officers are being investigated for links to an international heroin trafficking operation, the supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces said Wednesday.

General Mongkol Ampornpisit said the officers had been re-admitted into the military in the past two years and the scandal, the latest in a series to rock the Thai military, had prompted him to order that all recently re-admitted officers have their backgrounds checked.

“I have submitted the names of all re-admitted officers for the last two years to have their criminal backgrounds checked with the police,” General Mongkol told reporters, without elaborating on the heroin trafficking allegations.

He said he hoped the move to vet officers would help contain one of the biggest scandals to hit the Thai military establishment in many years.

The revelation of the heroin investigation follows another scandal involving an army captain at the centre of a murder probe, who had previously served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking.

Mongkol conceded the military had been lax when re-admitting Captain Patchara Prompao into the armed forces after he was fired twice and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Patchara is now in detention awaiting trial in a civilian court after he surrendered to police on Monday to face charges that he raped and then beat a male academic to death.

In June, amid a drive was to make the armed forces more accountable, the government demanded the military disclose the contents of secret bank accounts they had been allowed to keep.

Earlier this year the armed forces were accused by opposition politicians of involvement in vast illegal logging operations in northern Thailand.

It is also Thammanat who was reported in 2016 as being among more than 6,000 “influential criminal figures” being targeted by the junta in a nationwide crackdown. Back then it was Gen Prawit who stated that “[s]tate officials, police and military officers found to be involved with ‘dark influences’ must also be dealt with…”. Gen Prawit was reportedly in charge of “suppressing influential criminal figures.”

At the time it was considered that the regime’s political opponents were being targeted, a claim Prawit denied. When asked about specific individuals on the list – “former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, and Capt Thammanat Prompao, a former close aide to Gen Trairong…” – Gen Prawit said “police will explain the offences they have allegedly committed.” He added that the two “might have done nothing wrong, but their aides might have…”. The report continued:

Gen Trairong, said to have close ties to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was among four people mentioned in a leaked document from the 1st Division, King’s Guard.

The three others named in the document are Karun Hosakul, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang district; Capt Thammanat Prompao, said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Gen Trairong and Capt Thammarat have denied the allegations.

In the same report, Gen Prayudh is reported as saying:

… those who break the law must be punished…. In the future, these people may support politicians. They must not be allowed to break the law and use weapons against people. Today, we must help to clear up the mess to make our country safe….

It seems that the once pro-Thaksin Thammanat has metamorphosed into a pro-junta man and the politicians he’s supporting are Prayuth’s and he’s now so trusted that he’s a deputy minister!





With 3 updates: No government

2 07 2019

It is now more than three months since Thailand’s voters went to the polls. There’s still no government in place and the military junta continues to rule.

It might have been thought that a strong performance by an elected opposition would be the main threat to the junta and its proposed government. Or it might have been felt that, once formed, a junta-backed government would be riven by conflicts within a coalition of almost 20 “parties.”

In fact, at the moment, the real “struggle” and threat to the junta’s formation of a government – assuming it wants one – is from within the party it formed, Palang Pracharath.

The details are murky but becoming public. The men who formed the party, funded it and went around hoovering up candidates for the junta are flexing their considerable muscle, blaming Party secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong for causing splits within the Party:

In the June 11 lineup, core Sam Mitr leader and party-list MP Suriya Jungrungreangkij was tipped to be the energy minister. Another core leader of the group, party-list MP Somsak Thepsutin, was promised the justice portfolio and group member Chai Nat MP Anucha Nakasai was to be a deputy finance minister.

But more changes were made later, reportedly to accommodate seats for the Chart Pattana Party, for Don Pramudwinai to continue as the foreign minister and to allow a team led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to control all key economic ministries. The changes resulted in Mr Suriya being moved to be industry minister while Mr Anucha’s name was no longer on the list.

Explosions are continuing. For the abnormally quiet Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, the result has been a groveling “apology” for being unable to form a cabinet and a government. His spokesman stated: “the Prime Minister will perform his duty to the best of his ability, even though there may be some problems in the party’s internal administration, as it is a newly formed party with members from many backgrounds.” It seems that the junta has failed on just about everything it has done, except for its political repression.

Where to now?

Update 1: The answer to that last question seems to come from Gen Prayuth when he appears to threaten another coup.

Update 2: Shaken by public criticism and probably military and junta unhappiness, two of the three amigos who put the Party together, now say they will be good and abide by Gen Prayuth’s decisions on his cabinet lineup. Let’s see if they got what they demanded as this statement should now allow a cabinet to be put in place. But, who knows? Others may now be upset and demanding.

Update 3: Khaosod has more on Gen Prayuth’s coup threat and the reaction to it.





Don and The Washington Post

12 06 2019

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is a junta clod, given to defending his bosses and his and their anti-democratic politics. He’s been at it again, belatedly rising to the bait at The Washington Post.

He is reported to have “dismissed an editorial piece run by the Washington Post which suggested the United States hold back on resuming diplomatic ties with Thailand…”.

Noting that despite Thailand having “been a major non-NATO ally of the United States since 2013,” the WP observed that “for five years, the country’s military has been denied U.S. aid because of the coup it carried out against a democratically elected government.” It argued against resuming full military cooperation: “The leader of the resulting junta, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has now managed to have himself installed as the prime minister of a nominally elected civilian government, and his regime and some in the Pentagon are hoping for a full restoration of relations. They shouldn’t get it.”

The small amount of military assistance that Thailand got before the 2014 coup was automatically “cutoff … as [a] consequence of a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that bars military cooperation with countries where an elected government has been ousted by a coup.” Observing that the “ban can be lifted if the State Department certifies there has been a restoration of civilian democratic rule.”

The WP then points out that “Prayuth’s confirmation as prime minister on Wednesday was less an exercise in democracy than a crude mockery of it. It followed a grossly unfair election campaign from which some opponents of the regime were banned and others were hounded with criminal charges.” It adds that the:

new constitution gave the military a huge advantage: an appointed, 250-seat upper house empowered to participate in the election of the prime minister together with the 500-seat lower house. Such is the unpopularity of the charmless Mr. Prayuth, however, that he almost lost anyway. After the March election, an opposition coalition appeared to have won a majority in the lower chamber, while the military’s party won fewer than the 126 seats it needed to confirm Mr. Prayuth.

The result was what the WP correctly identifies as:

… another orgy of ma­nipu­la­tion. First the election commission changed the rules for apportioning seats after the vote, with the result that the opposition lost its majority and 11 tiny parties were each awarded one seat. All promptly endorsed Mr. Prayuth, giving him — not by coincidence — the votes he needed. The regime picked up other support by having the courts disqualify some opposition members — including the most popular opposition leader. It reportedly offered bribes equivalent to millions of dollars to deputies to switch sides.

Given that Gen Prayuth now has a “fragile coalition of 19 parties,” the WP sees this is doing little more than “further empoweri[ng] the military and Thailand’s erratic king, who has been using Mr. Prayuth’s regime to persecute his enemies, several of whom have been murdered or abducted in neighboring Laos.”

Of course, with the Trump administration in the White House, it “has not hesitated to collaborate militarily with gross violators of human rights, such as the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” so it might be expected that it would easily cosy up with the illegitimate regime in Thailand. But the WP reckons that any “State Department certification that Thailand’s government now can be called civilian and democratic would trample a law Congress enacted precisely in order to deter what the Thai military has done.”

Weakening in its argument, the WP acknowledged that should “the administration wish… to restore some cooperation, it … should do so gradually and in exchange for tangible human rights concessions; and it should recognize that a return to democracy remains to be accomplished in Thailand.”

Don (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Don said what should be totally obvious, but that he, as a dedicated authoritarian forgets: “The editorial does not represent the US government’s official view…”. He went on to say that “several countries have congratulated Thailand on its return to democracy and for hosting the Asean Summit this month.” We have no idea how the two are related and we have to say that we have not read of such congratulatory messages.

Don then went full alt-Thai, saying “some foreign media outlets are often based on ‘biased’ information provided by opponents of the Thai government.” Such bogus claims are drawn straight from the conspiracy claims of yellow shirts and their foreign alt-media allies.





Further updated: Ministry jumps for the junta

9 04 2019

Many readers will have seen photos of the representatives of foreign embassies and other international organizations attending and observing the police reporting and charging of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The response from the junta has been to spur the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into action that is hugely damaging to the already battered reputation of both the junta and its “election.”

The MFA’s first jump was when spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks, pointing a crooked finger at Future Forward, “told the media on Sunday she had information claiming the international bodies had been invited to the event.”

We weren’t aware that MFA was an investigative agency, but, heck, anything’s possible these days when Thailand is at the bottom of the slippery slope.

Future Forward did indeed have contacts with embassies and the like, but so does every party, and the case against Thanathorn is so emblematic of a junta fix/stitch-up/frame-up, that these embassies and organizations just had to be interested.

Diplomats from “Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, as well as EU and UN human rights officials, went to the [police] station as observers.”

By Tuesday, junta foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, decided that his ministry should attempt the high jump.

Don declared that “the diplomats’ actions amount to ‘interfering‘ with Thailand’s justice system.” He stated that “foreign dignitaries are only allowed to observe legal proceedings involving their nationals, not Thais.” And he added: “This kind of incident has never happened in other countries, and it cannot happen [here]…”.

Then going for the whip, he further declared that:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will invite them for a discussion to ask for their cooperation and reach a mutual understanding to not let it happen again, because it’s against diplomatic principles.”

Over the past several decades, and most especially since the 2014 military coup, foreign diplomats have observed police and court procedures.

Don now says this is wrong and claims that they can only get information from the MFA alone. He went into a bit of a rant, declaring: “We will ask them to cooperate and not to do that again. It was against the diplomatic protocols of the United Nations…”.

We are not exactly sure which “protocols” Don is drawing on, but a bit of searching suggests he may not be entirely correct. For example, one document states that “it may be useful” for UN human rights observers “to notify the Government of the operation’s intent to send an observer to the proceeding.”

This may not be UN gospel, but it suggests that Don is manufacturing his response. And that action adds to the giant weight dragging Thailand down. MFA sunk below the pale long ago, defending all kinds of dictatorial practices, and continues to respond enthusiastically to the dictatorship.

It might also be noted that the MFA’s stand appears to coincided with a vitriolic set of attacks from anti-democrats and yellow shirts on the diplomatic observers. It is a little difficult to discern who is leading who here. But, then, there seems little space between the junta and the rising (again) anti-democrats.

Update 1: A story at The Nation muddies the story of the diplomats and Thanathorn. Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibhramanakul has stated that the diplomats did not attend “the interrogation” of the politician but “were invited to a briefing after the interrogation … finished.” Did Foreign Minister Don yelp before knowing the “facts”? Or is he still barking because he is part of the junta plot to bring down Thanathorn/steal the “election”?

Srivara said the 12 diplomats “began to ask many questions after the questioning of Thanathorn finished. Police then invited them to a briefing…”. He also showed documents to the diplomats. He adds: “They asked, we answered. No problems at all…”. Tell that to Don.

Update 2: Another story at The Nation states that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “yesterday summoned foreign envoys one by one to accuse their embassies of taking sides in Thai politics.” The Nation cites the aide memoir presented by MFA: “Regardless of the intention, the presence of embassies’ representatives at the police station, with such visibility and [with] the publicity it generated, was clearly an act of political significance, seen by the Thai public largely as a show of moral support for Mr Thanathorn…”. The response has been, in diplomatic terms, “interesting. The US Embassy told reporters that “attendance at legal prosecutions is standard practice.” The Embassy stated: “The US interest in this case, as in many other cases, is to observe the judicial process and obtain first-hand information about the handling of the case…”. In Thailand, and particularly under the junta, there have been so many “political” cases that foreign embassies have been run off their feet monitoring these.





Deliberate misunderstandings

8 02 2019

PPT has posted a couple of times mentioning dissembling by Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and head of immigration Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, known by his nickname as “Big Joke” on the Hakeem al-Araibi.

We now consider that their dissembling has become so determined that they are trying to deliberately mislead. For example, Big Joke is quoted in newspapers saying

he met Paul Robilliard, the Australian ambassador to Thailand on Wednesday and informed the latter about the fact that the requested extradition of Araibi to Bahrain is being considered in court.

According to Pol Lt Gen Surachate, Mr Robilliard had admitted to him that Australia did notify Thai immigration authorities about the Interpol “red notice” against Araibi, which led to his arrest.

The ambassador was very uncomfortable with the Araibi situation and he is therefore pressuring the Thai government to send Araibi back to Australia where he is recognised as a refugee, said Pol Lt Gen Surachate.

There’s so much wrong with this statement that it can only be Big Joke’s invention. According to information publicly available, Australian Ambassador to Thailand, Paul Robilliard, finished his posting in Thailand on 29 November 2018.

Here’s what the Australian Embassy officially says on this matter:

Due to misreporting on the matter, the Australian Government would like to clear up confusion regarding the Interpol Red Notice issued against Hakeem Alaraibi.

Australia never issued a red notice against Mr Alaraibi.

This red notice was issued by Bahrain on 8 November 2018, shortly before Mr Alaraibi travelled to Bangkok.

The red notice should never have been issued because of Mr Alaraibi’s status as a protected refugee. This was a breach of Interpol’s regulations.

The Australian Government was not initially aware of this, and in line with Interpol procedure notified Thailand of Mr Alaraibi’s travel.

When the Australian Government became aware of the situation, we ensured the red notice was rescinded as soon as possible. This happened on 30 November, only three days after Mr Alaraibi arrived in Bangkok.

Australia is reviewing our procedures so that this does not happen again.

The Australian Government has said unequivocally on many occasions that Hakeem Alaraibi should be returned to Australia, where he is a permanent resident with protected status, as soon as possible.

None of this is new information, and has been widely known and reported. Australian Ambassador-designate Allan McKinnon also said:

The Government of Bahrain knew very well that Hakeem al-Araibi lived in Australia since 2014. During these four years, the Bahraini Government did not attempt to ask Australia about Hakeem at all or to request to send him back to Bahrain

However, as soon as Hakeem and his wife travelled to Thailand for their honeymoon, the Government of Bahrain expedited its coordination with the Thai Government to have Hakeem arrested and commence extradition proceedings immediately.

The actions of the Bahraini Government have put Thailand in a very difficult position.

In particular, during what is an important year for the people and country of Thailand.

I reiterate once again that the Government of Australia would like Hakeem al-Araibi to be returned to Australia as soon as possible. He is a refugee and permanent resident of Australia.

Thai officials are deliberately creating misunderstandings to muddy the waters on this issue. Clearly, it is within Thailand’s jurisdiction to simply return Hakeem to Australia.





With 3 updates: Regime fails

5 02 2019

In the last few days there have been several events and announcements that point to failures by the military junta. They are among many regime failures since 2014.

First, the regime has failed on corruption. Of course, it came to power, like several past military regimes, to end corruption. As in the past, as now, this has not meant corruption by the military and regime itself.

Second, now shackling and dressing him in prison garb, the regime has failed to end the detention of Hakeem al-Araibi. A recognized refugee, for still unexplained reasons, Thailand is pandering to the monarchy in Bahrain in dealing with Hakeem. He would be a political prisoner in Bahrain, and that’s why he is a designated refugee. Thailand’s regime has failed to comply with international law. He’s now detailed for another few months in a Thai jail when he should be living freely in Australia.

Third, on political prisoners, activist and lese majeste detainee Jatupat Boonpattararaksa has had two charges of illegal assembly dropped by a military court. Similar charges against six other activists were also dropped. The court had no option as these charges became unenforceable several weeks ago. However, others continue to languish in prison on lese majeste and political assembly charges. The justice system under the junta has failed.

Update 1: The Hakeem al-Araibi case has become so bizarre for the regime that it is coming up with completely ridiculous stories to justify its inability to behave according to international norms and law.

First, there’s Thailand’s head of immigration Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, known by his real nickname, “Big Joke.” He’s dissembled on how Hakeem’s case is different from that of Rahaf Mohamed. It is, but his explanation is ridiculously daft. He says Hakeem’s case is different “because Hakeem had an arrest warrant out for him… [and] Hakeem was the subject of an extradition request…”. Of course, under international law, neither is legitimate. In other words, Thailand’s junta and its officials are acting for Bahrain, but not saying why they are doing this. Our guess is that they cannot say because the explanation leads to the king’s palace.

Second, the “Australian government … urged Thailand to exercise its legal discretion to free a refugee football player who lives and plays in Australia and told a Bangkok court that he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain.” Ridiculously and breaching international law, Thai foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, again stated that “Australia and Bahrain should resolve the issue in discussions between themselves…”. Minister Don seems to ignore the fact that it is Thailand that arrested Hakeem and now holds him. It is Thailand’s responsibility to make a correct and legal decision.

Such a ludicrous statement by a minister would be inexplicable for any normal administration. It is unbelievable that the Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has to point out that “Thailand’s office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand’s Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases. This was also confirmed by the prosecutor in the context of yesterday’s hearing…”.

Dressing and shackling Hakeem is a part of the junta’s effort to portray him as a criminal rather than a refugee. How much deeper can this regime dig itself into a royalist quagmire?

Update 2: And it gets worse for the junta. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said “he was ‘disturbed’ to see Araibi with shackles on his feet when he arrived at the Criminal Court on Monday.” Talking on national television, he added: “I thought that was very upsetting and I know it would have upset many Australians, and I respectfully reminded the Thai prime minister that Australians feel very strongly about this…”.

Update 3: A potential football boycott of Thailand has begun:

Football Federation Australia announced Wednesday it had scrapped the game against China, a scheduled warmup ahead of next month’s qualifiers for the Asian under-23 championships.





Monarchies, a refugee and erasing human rights II

29 01 2019

Thailand is coming under further international pressure on the case of footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, an accredited refugee in Australia, arrested and jailed in Thailand and threatened with extradition to the country he fled, Bahrain.

An Australian newspaper reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has written to The Dictator “emphasising the [Hakeem’s] case was a matter of importance to him personally, as well as the Australian government and the Australian people.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that the Asian Football Confederation has also appealed for Hakeem’s return to Australia, with Vice President Praful Patel writing:

I hereby respectfully request Your Excellency [he means Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha] to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr AI Araibi is returned safely to Australia, where he has been granted refugee status, at the earliest possible opportunity….

In a truly remarkable move, Thailand’s dictatorship has tried to make Hakeem’s arrest and detention in Thailand a matter for Australia and Bahrain. Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai stated “What I see as the most proper way is Australia and Bahrain should initiate dialogue [about it].”

What kind of foreign minister abrogates responsibility in such a hopeless, negligent and seemingly spineless manner? Arguably, his “suggestion” is in breach of international law and obligations.

Or is it that this case requires monarchy to monarchy decision-making? Social media has been pointed in discussing the differences between Hakeem, considered a political agitator and opposed to Bahrain’s monarchy, and the case of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who was quickly processed and moved on from Bangkok. Of course, monarchy-monarchy relations with Saudi Arabia have long been poor.





Updated: Monarchies, a refugee and erasing human rights I

29 01 2019

Yesterday we posted on the rising reach and power of the monarch. We can’t help wondering if we shouldn’t have also mentioned the sad case of former Bahraini footballer and refugee Hakeem al-Araibi.

His case has been the subject of considerable agitation in Australia, which had granted him refugee status. Of course, it was also the dullards at the Australian Federal Police, under the thumb of extreme right-wing Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, who informed counterparts in Thailand of Hakeem’s approved trip to Thailand for his honeymoon, despite an invalid Interpol red notice.

It is now more than two months since Hakeem was detained in Bangkok.

A photo from The Guardian

There’s been considerable pressure on the military dictatorship to return Hakeem to Australia. Most recently:

Craig Foster, former captain of the Australian national football team and human rights activist, called for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to respect Australia’s sovereignty and allow Hakeem to return to Australia, since he has already been given asylum by the Australian government. Foster noted that, currently, there is an international campaign calling for Hakeem’s release, since this is not a lawsuit, but is a case of refoulement, which violates international law and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), to which Thailand is a state party. Foster also called for FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to seek possible measures to boycott the Football Association of Thailand and Bahrain and to ban them from taking part in international competitions, since Hakeem is a refugee who is being held in prison unlawfully and unnecessarily. And if the Bahraini government asks for Hakeem to be returned to Bahrain, Foster called for FIFA to take part as an independent observer in all meetings related to Hakeem’s case.

Recently, FIFA:

… issued a letter to Gen Prayut, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, and Thai Minister for Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat, expressing their concern about Hakeem’s detention and possible extradition. FIFA called on Thailand to allow Hakeem to return to Australia.

FIFA also called for a meeting with Thai authorities.

Meanwhile, Nantana Sivakua, Thailand’s Ambassador to Australia, responded to Australian media saying: “there is an Interpol red notice against Hakeem, and the case needs to be processed according to extradition laws.”

Thailand has previously stated that extradition formalities would continue through until about mid-February.

The claims by the Ambassador were contradicted by Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, observed that:

the Interpol red notice has been lifted since Hakeem is a recognised refugee. Robertson also said that if a country that respects international law knew of Hakeem’s refugee status, he would be sent back to Australia. Torture is normal in Bahraini prisons, and extraditing Hakeem under a charge from a Bahraini court would be a violation of the UN Convention against Torture.

As far as we know, there is no extradition treaty between Thailand and Bahrain. In international law a state has no “obligation to surrender an alleged criminal to a foreign state, because one principle of sovereignty is that every state has legal authority over the people within its borders.” Most civilized states do not surrender those accused of political crimes.

It seems that it is only in recent days that Bahrain has “submitted documents for the extradition of Hakeem…”. The Bahrain government issued a statement that “confirmed it has submitted the formal extradition request.”

Remarkably, then, it seems that Thailand has detained Hakeem for two months without a red notice and without a formal extradition request. Or, as the Bangkok Post reports it, there was a “legally invalid Interpol Red Notice.”

HRW’s Robertson made another comment that brings this post back to its top line. He “called into question the circumstances of Hakeem’s arrest. He suspects that this is a political game between Thailand and Bahrain…”.

In our first post on Hakeem’s case, PPT noted that the reasons for Thailand’s strange actions on the case are: first, Bahrain, like Thailand, is a monarchy, one just a little more absolute than the rest; second, both Bahrain and Thailand are holding rigged elections, and both have been chummy since the 2014 coup; and third, Thailand maintains a fiction of not really recognizing refugees and has a sorry recent history of allowing other repressive regimes to pick up refugees in and from Thailand.

It seems to us that the case can only be understood if one focuses on the strong links between the palaces in both countries.

Update: Thai PBS reports that the “International Olympic Committee has joined FIFA and other supporters of former Bahraini national footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi in demanding the Thai government to free him from detention and allow him to return to Australia.” It is added that “Thailand’s IOC member, Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, had asked the Thai government ‘to find a solution based on basic human and humanitarian values’,” and that “IOC president Thomas Bach had personally discussed the situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mr Filippo Grandi.” For the purported love of monarchy, Thailand is risking more international disdain.