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When the Australian Government became aware of the situation, we ensured the red notice was rescinded as soon as possible.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.





Updated: “It is completely rigged”

20 12 2018

There’s been a lot of commentary on the junta’s “election.”

Reuters has an interesting commentary on the junta’s election. It begins with a rather weak claim that “many hope the vote will return Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to democracy.” The rest of the story appears to demolish the idea that there is any reason for hope.

It notes that “critics say the junta has taken several steps to remain in power after the vote, casting doubt on how credible the poll will be.”

The usually conservative commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak, not often seen as an overly critical observer states:

We have seen a systematic manipulation and distortion of the electoral process, of the will of the people, starting from the constitution…. The reason this (election) has a crooked feel more than others is because it pretends to be democratic, clean and fair when it is completely rigged….

He’s right.

Other critics add that the “regime has tried to influence everything from electoral boundaries in favor of pro-junta parties and hand-picking the entire upper house of parliament, down to plans to re-design ballot papers to remove party names and symbols attached to candidates – which will be likely to confuse voters.” [It seems the junta may have backed down on the latter.]

Reuters is clear about Palang Pracharath: “Prime Minister [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha has made his long-term political ambitions clear, even going so far as to set up a party with four cabinet ministers, the Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).”

Khaosod reports that the junta is getting worried about Reuter-like observations that show the “election” is meant to be a sham. There’s a bit of backwards and forwarding on “observers, although the Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seems to have knocked that notion back again. He prefers to emphasize that the military and police will monitor “security” for the election. Will they also engage in electoral fraud for the junta?

Veteran election observer Pongsak Chanon ridiculed Foreign Minister and junta slitherer Don Pramudwinai and his “suggestion” that “foreign diplomats and embassy staff” can “monitor” the election. Pongsak pointed out the obvious: they can’t; they aren’t trained; and its not their job.

Worried about its election being seen as a fraud, the Election Commission is reported at Khaosod as being permitted to “kill … a proposal to strip them [ballots] of party logos and names following widespread opposition and ridicule.” The notion that the EC is “independent” was done damage in even “making” this “decision.” An official said the EC “voted unanimously to drop the plan…”. Makes no sense, really. It was the EC that claimed the “idea” as theirs. Now every single one of them dumps their bright idea. How on earth can anyone believe anything from this bunch of dolts.

Meanwhile, as the National News Bureau reports the junta’s Pracharath schemes for farmers continue to expand. Pracharat = Palang Pracharath = using the state’s agencies to rig the election.

Update: The EC continues to struggle under the junta’s yoke. One reader suggests that there is a struggle going on, with the EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong trying to have his agency be allowed to do something of its job without the continual interference by the junta. We have no idea. All we see is a junta that is lame, cowed and dutiful and which operates with zero transparency. The most recent kerfuffle is the ongoing election observer stuff. Now Ittiporn says, ” international observers were welcome to monitor the upcoming election, provided they follow procedures and respect the law.” He says “that this practice has been common since 2003, when the EC allowed foreigners to observe the voting.” We are not at all sure which election was observed in 2003…. There was one in 2001 and another in 2004. Maybe the conversion from Thai dates to Western dates has stumped the EC or reporters. Better hope they can count accurately when the election comes around. Anyway, Prawit would seem to be the boss in this, and he says the junta can do without international observers.





Election Commission smacked down

16 12 2018

Yesterday it was reported that Election Commission President Ittiporn Boonpracong stated that while “briefing representatives from embassies and international agencies about the February 24 election at the Foreign Ministry,” several of the diplomats “raised questions about the election process, including … whether the poll will have any international observers.”

Ittiporn stated to the media that “the EC welcomed foreign observers, provided they did not show up in large numbers as the agency may not have the capacity to host them all.”

This was surprising given that only a month ago Foreign Minister and junta slitherer Don Pramudwinai rejected any notion that the junta’s rigged election could be observed by foreigners.

The EU had challenged this position.

That the EC should also challenge that position suggested that there might be a microscopic element of EC independence. Of course, that was a wrong.

Ministry has welcomed the idea of allowing embassy staff to observe the general election but not non-residents or foreign organisations.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai has smacked the EC down and pulled the leash tight, declaring that the EC has been told that:

the government allows staff at embassies in the country to help monitor the poll but we don’t think non-residents or foreign organisations should take part since it would be viewed as bringing in outsiders….

Don, speaking for the military dictatorship engaged in scurrilous commentary and false comparisons:

Why would we want outsiders to scrutinise the process so they can find faults with it? Developed countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore don’t have outsiders keeping watch on their internal affairs.

He added that the military dictatorship feared that:

If we allow them [foreigners] in, it shows Thailand still has problems. Do we want to see our country as chaotic or do we believe we can handle the situation by ourselves? Although we have a coup-installed government, we can handle it [the poll] by ourselves….

Essentially, the junta wants no independent observation of its rigged election and any ballot day cheating it may engage in.

Where’s the EC in all of this. Quite obviously, it counts for nothing and has been told to stay in its subordinate position.





The EU election challenge

9 11 2018

It was less than a week ago that PPT posted on Foreign Minister and junta slitherer Don Pramudwinai rejecting suggestions that the junta’s rigged election could be observed by foreigners.

We considered Don’s rejection of foreign election observers as confirming the military junta’s willingness to engage in massive election fraud.

Don has now rejected foreign election observers several times. Only a day after his latest rejection, it becomes clear why he’s been so agitated.

The Election Commission has “revealed that the European Union has proposed to send an army of observers to monitor the polling expected in February next year.” The EC said the “EU wants to send as many as 200-400 observers to monitor the election nation-wide.”

As the EC said, such a “huge number of poll observers proposed by EU is unprecedented…”.

The EC “has yet to formally consider the request,” but they seem to have consulted their political masters in the junta and Don is fretting.

Of course, having foreign observers is nothing new. Even the EC calls it “a normal practice.”