Not Chinese whispers

5 09 2021

The Chinese often vow that they never intervene in the domestic politics of another country. But they seem unable to meet their self-mandated rule. In recent days, the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok “issued a statement, accusing some individuals and organizations in Thailand of attempting to discredit the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine…”. The statement claimed this was “harmful to the good wishes of China to support Thai people in the fight against the pandemic.”

In a Facebook post on Friday, the spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said: “Every dose of the Chinese vaccine represents the genuine friendship of the Chinese government and people toward the Thai government and the Thai people…”.

China was mainly carping about Thai politicians and activists.

The regime’s response was a marvel. So rapid was the response that it might have been coordinated with the Chinese. If not, the words were almost the same. None other than Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai “expressed concern that criticism of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for political benefits could affect the relationship between Thailand and China.” Opposition MPs were chastised.

He was supported by the director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Opas Karnkawinpong. Opas sounded like a regime mouthpiece when he “said the China-made Sinovac vaccine has helped Thailand control the pandemic since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak last year, when the world was facing a vaccine shortage crisis due to huge demand and inadequate supply.”

We wonder what the Chinese think about the debate over Chinese-made Antigen Test Kits (ATKs), some two million of which are being delivered?

Dr Witoon Danwiboon, managing director of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, has been engaged in sniping with doctors and others about a kit that doesn’t have US approval over worries about accuracy. Never mind, the regime’s Thai Food and Drug Administration has approved it. The Chinese company that makesthe SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Tests, Beijing Lepu Medical Technology, touts its effectiveness and accuracy.

What caught our attention was the World Medical Alliance, “the company authorised to purchase 8.5 million kits for the government,” threatening. Siriya Thepcharoen, described as “an executive with the World Medical Alliance,” said: “We will file legal action against any person devaluing our product with fake information.” As far as we can tell, Siriya’s experience is in real estate.

But the idea of piling in for profit is well established.





Official human rights nonsense

17 08 2021

Thanks to a reader for pointing out a recent op-ed by academic Mark S. Cogan at the Southeast Asia Globe.

“Thailand’s human rights narrative runs contrary to reality, even at the UN” has the following sub-header:

Despite cases of lèse-majesté piling up and pro-democracy protesters facing serious charges like sedition, Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review later this year will most likely be as inconsequential as previous UN human rights inspections.

Thailand is due to have its human rights record examined in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in n November. This is Thailand’s third UPR. Cogan states that:

Back in February, in preparation for this upcoming human rights review, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai gave remarks during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, noting that Thailand would “recommit to our common core values in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

He adds that Don’s perspective has little to do with human rights as practiced in the country. In fact:

[p]ublic statements on Thailand’s human rights contributions often boast about the kingdom’s accomplishments…. But these … often mask Thailand’s true record on the ground – a record stained by draconian measures to cripple individual freedom of expression, curb press freedom, and silence regime critics.

Don’s “remarks” were meant “to ensure that the narrative on human rights was crystal clear to the UN – there were no human rights challenges in Thailand…”.

He and other Thai diplomats have almost Pavlovian retorts to any challenges, pointing to the “perceived failure to understand what it means to be Thai, [a] … lack of familiarity with the situation on the ground, or the more nationalistic refrain that highlights Thailand’s unique status as a country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonised.”

Cogan recounts a meeting between Don and three UN officials after the 2014 coup where he went to great lengths “trying to ensure that the trio also understood Thai culture and tradition, the Foreign Minister paused and remarked: “Actually, in summary, Thailand has one of the best human rights records in all of Southeast Asia.” He then “corrected himself and said: ‘No, no, no, Thailand has the best human rights record in Asia’.”

Not even Don believes such nonsense.

Lese majeste is of especial concern. Cogan notes that:

… for its second cycle UPR in 2016, the Thai government compared its lèse majesté law (Article 112) as comparable to libel law for commoners, adding that it is “not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression or academic freedom” and it was implemented in “accordance with due legal process and those convicted are entitled to receive royal pardon”.

It is troubling to PPT that several human rights protectors and the media in Thailand now regularly refer to lese majeste as “royal defamation,” which seems to accept the authoritarians’ narrative. We say, call it by its name.

Lese majeste has seen hundreds locked up, including for Article 112 convictions that don’t even fit the law. As Cogan reminds us, “… Prawet Praphanukul, a human rights lawyer, [was]… locked up in prison after being held at the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok…”. He spent 16 months in prison on lese majeste and sedition charges and when he was finally sentenced, the lese majeste charge was simply not mentioned, probably because, at that time, the erratic king was trying to minimize political damage.

Famously, Prawet bravely rejected the royalist courts. When he appeared in court in 2017 he stunned the court by stating: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.” Prawet added that he would not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Clipped from Prachatai

More recently, Cogan reports, various UN experts were deeply alarmed over the harsh sentence of Anchan Preelerd, a 60-year old former Thai civil servant. She was given a 43-year sentence. In fact, she was sentenced to a mammoth 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because she finally agreed to plead guilty because she had already spent three years in prison pending her trial.

Yet the puppet-like Ministry of Foreign Affairs is straight-faced when it declares the lese majeste law is not “aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the exercise of academic freedom or debate about the monarchy as an institution.” It “went on to suggest once again that the law exists to “protect the dignity of royal families in a similar way a libel law does for any Thai citizen.” That’s buffalo manure, and every single Thai knows this.

Cogan concludes: “Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review, because of its predetermined narrative about its own human rights record, will most likely be as inconsequential as its previous UPR.” Sadly, he’s right. In the years since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s human rights situation has deteriorated into a dark age.





fidh appeal

14 08 2021
The following is an appeal by Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture:

THA 002 / 0821 / OBS 083
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
August 12, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of eight pro-democracy activists, namely: Anon Nampa, prominent human rights lawyer; Parit ChiwarakNutchanon PairojSirichai Natueng, Thammasat University student activists; Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Ratsadon Mutelu member; Panupong Chadnok, Eastern Youth for Democracy member; Thatchapong Kaedam, Free Youth member; and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, Dao Din member….

On August 9, 2021, police officers arrested Anon Nampa after he surrendered himself to the Pathumwan police station in Bangkok after learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Mr. Anon was charged with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and the Emergency Decree for his participation in a peaceful protest on August 3, 2021, in Central Bangkok. During the protest, Mr. Anon made a speech in which he reiterated the pro-democracy movement’s call for the reform of the Thai monarchy.

On August 10, 2021, police denied Anon Nampa’s bail request arguing that he would present a high risk of re-offending, if released. After spending two nights in custody at the Pathumwan police station, on August 11, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court approved the police’s request detention for Mr. Anon and denied him bail. The court argued Mr. Anon was accused of a serious offence, had breached previous bail conditions, and was likely to re-offend, if released. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Anon was being detained at Bangkok’s Central Special Treatment Centre, where he was undergoing COVID-19 testing and a 14-day quarantine. The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time that Mr. Anon faces charges under Article 112 and, if convicted in all the “lèse-majesté” cases pending against him, he could be sentenced to a total of 195 years in jail. Earlier this year, Mr. Anon was detained for 113 days on charges under Article 112. Similarly, Messrs. Parit and Panupong were detained for 92 and 85 days, respectively, on lèse-majesté charges. Mr. Parit was conditionally released on May 11, 2021, and Messrs. Anon and Panupong on June 1, 2021.

The Observatory notes with concern that between November 24, 2020 and August 9, 2021, 116 individuals, including Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and many other human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”).

On August 8, 2021, Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, and Phromsorn Weerathamjaree were arrested in front of the Police Headquarters in Bangkok in connection with their participation in a peaceful protest on August 2, 2021, in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters in Pathumthani Province. Protesters had gathered to demand the release of 32 fellow activists who had been arrested and detained in connection with another protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau in Bangkok earlier the same day. Later on August 8, 2021, Messrs. Parit, Nutchanon, Sirichai, and Phromsorn were taken into custody to the Khlong 5 police station and then to the the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters in Pathumthani Province.

On August 9, 2021, Panupong Chadnok and Thatchapong Kaedam were arrested after they reported themselves at the Khlong 5 police station in Pathumthani Province in relation to the August 2, 2021 protest. All six pro-democracy activists were charged with violating Article 215 of the Criminal Code (“leading an illegal assembly of more than 10 people” ), the Emergency Decree, and the Communicable Diseases Act. Three other protesters who accompanied Messrs.Panupong and Thatchapong at the Khlong 5 police station were also arrested and detained.

On August 9, 2021, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court approved the temporary detention request for Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Panupong Chadnok, and Thatchapong Kaeda and denied them bail on the grounds that they acted without considering the society’s safety, peace, and order during the COVID-19 pandemic and that they would likely commit the same offenses if released. The six activists were then taken to the Rangsit Temporary Prison in Pathumthani Province, where they remained detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal for a quarantine period of 21 days after which they would be transferred to the Thanyaburi Prison.

On August 9, 2021, police arrested Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa after he surrendered himself at the Thung Song Hong police station in Bangkok. Mr. Jatuphat was charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Article 215 of the Criminal Code, in connection with a protest held in front of the Thung Song Hong police station on August 3, 2021. Mr. Jatuphat, who was detained at Bangkok’s Central Special Treatment Centre at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, had no access to a lawyer until the afternoon of August 10, 2021.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of the eight above-mentioned human rights defenders, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the eight human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok,Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Thatchapong Kaedam, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
· Gen Apirut Kongsompong, Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th

· Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
· Mr. Prakairat Tanteerawong, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: Prakairatana@nhrc.or.th/ Prakairatanao@yahoo.com
· H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.





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.








%d bloggers like this: