Updated: Defining the junta by its double standards

21 02 2018

One of the defining characteristics of this military regime has been its double standards.

While the temporary cessation of the planned coal-fired power station in the south is good news for the environment and represents a victory of sorts for the local villagers and supporting activists, this outcome demonstrates the regime’s embedded double standards.

The Dictator has urged “calm after the government decided to put the contentious projects on hold.” Not that long ago, the junta was arresting anti-coal protesters. These protesters have by and large been junta supporters. The junta’s actions against them were a serious splintering of the pro-junta and anti-democrat side.

It may be coincidental, but as the pressure has mounted on the junta from activists it identifies as opponents, the pressure on the anti-coal activists has gone and the junta is bending over backwards to be seen to be meeting their demands and end their Bangkok protest that has lasted more than three weeks.

Indeed, the most recent concession has been to order a fresh environmental impact assessment and to drop all law suits (well, “suspend” the legal actions).

That backdown by the junta was made politically symbolic when Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan sat on the sidewalk with protesters after a court refused a police request to ban the assembly.

The political outcome was the protesters packed up and returned to their homes in the south.

Such a harmonious outcome is impossible when it comes to pro-election activists. The double standards are obvious. One side can protest for weeks. The other side sees police charges.

A second set of double standards is within the junta itself. As everyone knows, the Deputy Dictator has been caught out flashing luxury watches all over the place. Despite the case having been taken on by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, it has all gone quiet. The Dictator has refused to abandon his old boss and elder military brother.

Rather, he’s supported Gen Prawit. When Totrakul Yomnak, chairman of a junta sub-committee against corruption, a puppet committee, sent Gen Prayuth Chan-och “a letter expressing concern about the watch scandal,”and imploring the military “prime minister to take action and show his determination to address graft, which he [Prayuth] has declared a top priority.”

Prayuth “lashed out” and said leave it to the (quiet, compromised and slow) NACC.

Double standards define the regime.

Update: We have noticed on social media a strong rumor that Totrakul is said to have been told by “someone” to attack Prayuth. We haven’t seen anyone naming a name, but the assumption seems to be that the old meddler Gen Prem Tinsulanonda is the one. He’s long talked about corruption as a threat to the nation. If there is a Prem-initiated move against Prayuth, we can’t wait to see who is anointed to replace The Dictator.

Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, making our point point on double standards on protesters, the military has filed charges against six participants in a pro-election rally at Chiang Mai University “for violating the junta’s ban on public assembly.” The six face up to six months in prison and fine up to 10,000 baht.

They did, anti-coal protesters didn’t. This six face court, the anti-coal protesters met a minister who came to them. The picture is crystal clear.





Using the monarchy for repression

1 02 2018

We saw it on social media yesterday, but wanted to wait for the news report before posting, thinking that a new junta legal manipulation might have been a hoax as it is so bizarre.

Khaosod reports that the military dictatorship has had 39 pro-democracy activists charged with “protesting too close to royal property.”

The report adds:

It was the first known use of that provision by the junta, which has relied on its 2014 ban on political gatherings to quash dissent in the name of maintaining order. The prosecution relies on Article 7 of an assembly act passed by junta-appointed legislators that bars any gatherings within 150 meters of a royal palace. If found guilty, the 39 activists face up to six months in jail and fines of 10,000 baht.

The protesters had assembled on the Skywalk outside the MBK Center. The allegation is that the protesters were within 150 meters of the Sra Pathum Palace.

As the report points out, the junta is, of course, acting on double standards: “[a]cross town on Thursday, dozens gathered to wave signs in support of junta deputy leader Prawit Wongsuwan directly in front of the Grand Palace without report of any arrests.”

The junta’s looking increasingly frazzled. Using the monarchy for these political charges means that it is willing to engender more confrontation and conflict in order to preserve its power.





The Dictator’s “human rights”

27 01 2018

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thinks it can “refute” Human Rights Watch report on the dire situation of human rights under the military junta.

Junta toadies at the Ministry declare that the HRW report “generally contains sweeping and ungrounded allegations as well as politically biased accusations. Like last year’s report, the narrative missed the prevailing facts on the ground and intentionally ignored progresses, positive developments and efforts undertaken by the Thai Government.” They mean the military dictatorship.

The Ministry seems particularly miffed that HRW has not accepted junta propaganda:

In fact, since last year, the Foreign Ministry has set up a regular channel to interact with a number of civil society organizations, including HRW in Thailand. At the meetings, representatives from National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) as well as agencies concerned participated and sincerely exchanged views and information. Regrettably, information provided at those meetings which can readily clarify many points raised in the report have not found its way to HRW writers who may sit elsewhere across the world drafting the report, ignoring once again positive developments on the ground. Worse, in reality, it is more often than not disregarded.

The idea the Ministry toadies are purveying is that HRW doesn’t understand Thailand because it is not “on the ground” and its writers “sit elsewhere.” This is nonsense, but the minions are promoting Thai-ism.

And it is a Thai-ism that is promoted as a form of human rights. Presumably only Thais of the appropriate political color will recognize Thai-style human rights in a developing Thai-style democracy.

Then the Ministry propagandists provide instances of the military dictatorship’s promotion of human rights:

The new Constitution of 2017, which passed national referendum at 61% approval rate in August 2016, reaffirms Thailand’s human rights commitment by underlining the principles of equal rights and protection under the law, non-discrimination, prohibition of torture, and freedom of religious beliefs, among others. It also upholds the rule of law, stipulates the administration of justice and the provision of legal assistance to ensure better access to justice for all.

Need we say that the referendum was neither free nor fair? Should we point out that the regime banned any campaigning against the referendum? Should we add that some people are still in court and charged with offenses meted out to them for even reporting and observing opposition to the junta’s constitution? Is it necessary to point out that “on the ground”there is discrimination, torture by police and military and that the rule of law is a hastily cobbled together sham and joke underpinned by double standards? Is it necessary to observe that freedom of expression and assembly are highly and bluntly repressed?

The Ministry is right that cases previously before the “Military Court have all been transferred under the Judicial Court of Justice, if committed on or after 12 September 2016.” But that last phrase is important as military courts continue to hear cases from before that date. Military courts are often held in secret and are a travesty of justice.

The Ministry claims that:

… under the instruction of the Prime Minister, the Committee to Receive Complaints and Investigate Allegations of Torture and Enforced Disappearance was established in June 2017 with the mandates to receive complaints, perform fact finding, provide assistance and remedies, and protect the rights of people affected by acts of torture or enforced disappearance.

But it just doesn’t happen.The military repeatedly rounds up individuals and spirits them away. Even if this is only for a few days, it is a practice that reeks of despotism.

Worse than enforced disappearance is extrajudicial murder. The sad case of Chaiyapoom Pasae is just one where the military, involved in the murder, conceals evidence. We probably don’t need to mention the many cases of military recruits and serving junior soldiers being beaten, tortured and killed. For the military and the junta, such things are “normal.”

The toadies then talk about the “enactment of the National Human Rights Commission Act.” The NHRC is dismissed by most observers as a now meaningless institution.

We could go on and on, but let’s just observe that the junta and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually condone human rights abuses and that their record is deplorable. For an accurate account of the junta’s human rights abuses in 2017, supported with numerous examples, read the HRW report.





Sulak, lese majeste and double standards

26 01 2018

Two prominent intellectuals, both aged, have been in the news of late. The different paths of their cases say something more about the double standards operating in the justice system.

The first is Sulak Sivaraksa, and we have posted on his case, here and here. Sulak has recently been reported as “explaining” his actions on his most recent lese majeste case and how the charge came to be dropped.

He has written that he “had no other choice but to petition the King to encourage the junta to end a prosecution against him for lèse majesté.” He refers to something he calls “royal grace” being involved. What he seems to mean is that the king told the junta “to end the lawsuit…”. This is not the first time that the palace has been involved in dropping charges against Sulak. The publicity his cases have generated are damaging for the throne although, as a reader who was involved tells us, the palace liked to let it be known that it was lenient because Sulak was a little mad.

The junta initially ignored or rejected pleas, many of them international, leaving Sulak “no choice but to ask Rama X for help.”

Sulak, who has previously taken a partisan approach to the law, claiming that the law should be used against those who do not have the interests of the monarchy at heart, this time “urged the junta to release those convicted under Article 112 during the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign.” But not the new king’s reign? Odd, as we thought he had supported Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

On the day he was acquitted, Sulak told media that, “I believe the barami (glory) of the King protected me. The King did so many things behind the scenes. In my case, if not for [the King’s] barami, I would not be freed, because the Prime Minister is a jerk and is someone who never thinks of doing anything courageous. He is scared. If not for royal barami, my case would never end.”

Bottom line: he got off. We would like to see other lese majeste victims treated in this manner.

The second is Charnvit Kasetsiri, a former rector of Thammasat University and a long-term junta critic. Police have issued a summons for “sharing a fake news report about a purse of Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s wife.”

On 23 January, police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division summoned Charnvit Kasetsiri to report to police today. As the report explains, “Charnvit was accused of disseminating forged computer data likely to cause damage to a third party, a violation the Computer Crimes Act. If found guilty, he will face up to five years in jail, a fine of up to 100,00 baht, or both.”

The accusation involves a social media discussion that saw Naraporn Chan-ocha accused of carrying a two-million-bath Hermes handbag, “while it is, in fact, a product of Thailand’s Royal Folk Arts And Crafts Centre and costs no more than 10,000 baht.”

Bottom line: The junta can lie its pants off (think election dates) but sharing a post (later corrected) about The Dictator’s wife is a crime.

We think the charges against Charnvit should be dropped too. Will they be dropped or is this just another effort to silence critics (of the “wrong” kind)?

The justice system now operates with double standards at the core of its feudal-like operations.





Warping “law”

25 12 2017

Reader will have noticed that PPT has had to use inverted commas for rather a lot of words used in Thailand where the meaning is not as it seems, This includes such seemingly important words as election when that “election” is manipulated for a particular outcome and justice where “justice” is actually injustice.

We have also long been critical of various aspects of the “justice” system as being feudal, subject to double standards and political manipulation.

Of course, our longest criticisms have been of the lese majeste law, which has long been (mis)used. Since the 2006 military coup this misuse has become farcical. By this we mean that the use of the law has been as a tool for palace and military regime in ways that have been increasingly absurd, feudal and, in fact and in law, lawless.

One aspect of this lawless use of the lese majeste law has been in the application of the law to figures not covered by the law.

A recent article, “Who is an ‘Heir(-Apparent)?’: An old issue that is still new today” by Metta Wongwat examines how the law has been used to “protect” Princess Sirindhorn. As explained,

the scope of the royal persons protected by the law has a … problematic interpretation, despite the fact that the law clearly specifies only four positions, namely, the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent and the Regent.

The article includes some cases not previously known to PPT. The article examines the proceedings of these cases and the decisions made by the courts.

These cases are worth reading for the efforts judges make to consider Sirindhorn and “heir apparent.”

In one case, in 2004, while the prosecutor initially lodged a defamation case, an initial court decision elevated the case to lese majeste with a banal Royal Institute dictionary definition being used and further interpreted. At that time, the higher courts rejected this interpretation and dismissed the lese majeste charge.

In a second case, the court seems to consider any defamation against any royal to constitute lese majeste. While the Royal Household Bureau responded to a court request stating that, in 2010, only then Prince Vajiralongkorn was heir apparent, as the case included other royals covered by the law, lese majeste stuck.

A third case involves a man accused defaming Princess Sirindhorn while in  private conversation with a friend. The case was initially dropped, but following the 2014 coup, the case was tried in 2014. The Provincial Court of Thanyaburi and Appeals Court dismissed the charge because the offense did not constitute lese majeste. The public prosecutor is appealing the case.

The fourth case demonstrates the manipulation of the law that has been definitional of the military junta’s misuse of lese majeste. Four were accused of misusing Sirindhorn’s name for profit. Two of the defendants were pressured to plead guilty to lese majeste and they were promptly jailed.

The other two defendants remain imprisoned challenging the charge. The two who pleaded guilty have been released, being “rewarded” for not challenging the court and the misused charge.

The lawyers for the still detained men have repeatedly run into illegal brick walls. They sought documents and testimony from the case heard in the Thanyaburi Provincial Court. In a surreal decision, the court ruled that the royal letter didn’t appear to exist, despite the lawyers citing the correspondence number of the Royal Household Bureau. The testimony from the investigating officer to the Thanyaburi Court was also ruled out with the court saying it would “not cross the line…”. It is clear that “the line” is real investigation and proper justice.

When the lawyers then found that the Council of State’s website had a “publicly displayed … consultation letter from the Royal Police Department in 1989, that [stated] the Crown Prince is the only heir-apparent,” they asked the court to issue a summons for the document. Surprisingly, the court did seek the document from the Council of State.

The response of the Council of State was to remove the document from its website and made it secret, saying that the “document is classified state information and its release could cause damage.” This Council is one of Thailand’s most important legal institutions. but is prepared to break and bend the law to allow courts to make decisions that flout the law.

The lese majeste law is warped by such manipulation while warping the whole justice system.





The “justice” system

14 12 2017

We at PPT have long posted on the injustices, illegal actions and double standards of the justice system. Usually our posts on this topic have to do with the manipulation of the lese majeste law for political ends. Sometimes we have posted on the other “legal” means that the junta has used to jail and silence those it considers political opponents,  or “dangerous” for the “reputation” of the military.

In this post, however, we look at the unexplained treatment of a suspect charged with “participation in premeditated murder, attempted murder and fatal bombing” that resulted in the death of 20 and injuries for 120 at the Erawan Shrine in 2015.

These charges did not prevent the “Bangkok Military Court on Wednesday released Wanna Suasan, the Thai suspect in the 2015 Erawan Shrine bombing, on bail of 1 million baht on the condition she remains in the country” and doesn’t tamper with evidence or witnesses.

This is is stark contrast to lese majeste cases where almost no one gets bail from the courts. Clearly, in the justice system, being accused of insulting a royal, a dead king, a dead king’s dog or a historical royal figure counts for far more than premeditated murder and terrorism. The justice system operates as a feudal institution.

As an important aside, recall that one of the reasons for the EU capitulation on Thailand was this:

The Council notes the decision of the Thai military leadership to phase out the practice of prosecuting civilians before military courts for a number of offences since 12 September 2016, including for offences against internal security and lèse majesté offences. The Council urges the Thai authorities not to prosecute civilians before military courts including for lèse majesté offences committed before 12 September 2016.

Naturally enough, the junta can simply ignore human rights issues and continues to use military courts. The “out” for the EU seems to be the date it notes.





Naughty Democrat Party and rubber rats

18 11 2017

The military regime has has warned the Democrat Party to behave itself.

The dictatorship considers that its (former?) political allies has been using “the plight of rubber planters, who are facing hard times given falling prices of the commodity, for political gain.”

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd warned against “lambasting” the regime, and declared the “Democrat Party could have helped by giving useful advice on how to help rubber farmers.”

The farmers are from the Democrat Party’s stronghold in the south, and the Party has complained about the regime’s failure “to shore up rubber prices, and for violating freedom of expression by summoning leaders of a rubber farmer network for ‘attitude adjustment’ at military camps last weekend” when the farm leaders threatened a demonstration.

The junta’s spokesman lied when he “insisted the government [he means junta] has never barred people from expressing opinions or voicing proposals about the issue.” He said those detained faced “no threats or abuses…”. They were simply detained for “re-education.”

It prevented “a large group of rubber farmers from travelling from the southern provinces to Bangkok…”.

He was absolutely truthful when he stated: “No rallies or gatherings should be carried out…”.

The Democrat Party is usually supportive of the military regime, but fearing a military political party and needing to shore up its political base, “deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul said that summoning leaders to military camps was not the right approach.”

She declared the junta ineffective “in dealing with crop prices. It should stop sweeping the rubbish under the carpet because it is not constructive to do so…”.

Former Democrat MP Watchara Petthong said the junta’s “penchant to summon critics for attitude adjustment in military camps was a threat to people’s rights and freedom of expression.” Of course, when it is red shirts or anti-coup activists he tends to ignore the repression. We call that double standards.