With 3 updates: Violence and double standards I

15 02 2021

There has been some banter about students, protesters and violence, mainly on social media. For example, Cod Satrusayang has an op-ed at Thai Enquirer stating:

On Saturday, student protesters confronted police officers in front of the Bangkok City Shrine. Led by vocational students and the We Volunteer protest guards, the protesters hurled rocks and homemade firecrackers at the police.

The police responded with batons, mass charges, and mass arrests. The security officials were indiscriminate in their response – infamously beating high school students, volunteer medics, and journalists in their bid to get to the agitators.

There was no excuse for the action of the police that night. Numerous “international norms” were violated by the security operations.

But there was no excuse for the student guards to needlessly confront and provoke the officers either….

There has been an increasing and alarming tendency in recent weeks by protesters to resort to violence or threaten violence in their confrontations with the police.

Is this reasonable? Should protesters simply remain punching bags and targets for arrest and jails? And is it reasonable to compare “student guards” tactics with those of heavily armed and aggressive police and military, including the use of plainclothes officers on the student side, provoking and arresting?

The protesters “reiterated its peaceful stance but said protesters had a right to retaliate against violence by authorities.”

Even the conservative royalist commentator Veera Prateepchaikul refers to Saturday as involving “a minor scuffle during in which stones, smoke bombs and firecrackers were hurled at the police by the protesters.” Did such a “minor scuffle” need a violent response? Should a volunteer medic have been attacked, kicked, beaten and arrested? These are, of course, rhetorical questions.

Others have been more willing to question the imbalance of power. For example, the Rural Doctor Society demanded “an explanation and legal action against the officers involved [in the beating of the volunteer], saying it was a violation of human rights.” Why is it that mainstream media aren’t showing some of the truly violent police responses?

Pravit Rojanaphruk has posted a considerable amount of it on Facebook, but none of it has yet appeared at his newspaper. Why does Cod post a link to video of a few rocks being thrown, most of them not even reaching the main police line, but nothing of consequence about police violence?Newspapers report 20-25 police officers injured but say little about protesters, some of who have been dragged off to a secret prison.

Double standards? We think so.

Prachatai has a report worth reading. It is balanced, covers the whole event and is a useful account of the ways that the authorities provoke and how protesters respond.

Update 1: Khaosod finally has some updates posted. One report is of the top Bangkok cop saying “a police officer was behaving properly when he shot live rounds over the weekend in a bid to fend off a crowd of pro-democracy protesters.” Of course he does. But, the same cops have charged the volunteer health worker they beat to unconsciousness and arrested at the same rally. The charge is that he breached the virus emergency decree. The cops really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Double standards? You bet!

Update 2: Further to our point above about the inequalities in comparing protesters and state authorities, Prachatai has a useful report on the events of the rally and confrontations, with numerous examples of “crowd control police carrying firearms,” contradicting claims by “Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra, the Metropolitan Police Chief, that the police did not use tear gas or rubber bullets against protesters on 13 February.”

Update 3: For a video showing the large numbers of military/police infiltrators and “third hands,” look at this video at Facebook.





HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

When you are near the bottom, going deeper requires particular skills in dark arts.

Human Rights Watch has recently released its World Report 2021. The summary on Thailand makes for depressing reading, even after more than six years of military junta and now a barely distinguishable post-junta regime.

The full report on Thailand begins:

Thailand faced a serious human rights crisis in 2020. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s government imposed restrictions on civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, arbitrarily arrested democracy activists, engineered the dissolution of a major opposition political party on politically motivated grounds, and enforced a nationwide state of emergency, using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext.

And the rest of the report is pretty much a litany of repression. There’s discussion of the State of Emergency, restrictions on freedom of expression, torture, enforced disappearance, impunity on state-sponsored rights violations, the persecution of human rights defenders, a continuation of human rights violations in the south, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and more. Surprisingly, there’s only a paragraph on lese majeste, which is now the regime’s main weapon in silencing dissent.

Readers of PPT will know all of the sordid details of the regime’s efforts to stifle criticism, but read the report to be reminded of how dark things have remained despite the rigged election and the existence of a parliament. The latter has, in 2020, been pretty much supine as the regime has used its ill-gotten majority and its unelected Senate to stifle the parliaments scrutiny of the regime.





With 3 updates: Voice TV shut down (but not quite)

20 10 2020

While not unexpected, the regime has decided to shut down media broadcasting about and in support of the demonstrators. The first victim is Voice TV.

The government claims “a court backed its order to close down ‘all platforms’ of … [Voice] TV channel…”. Ministry of Digital Economy and Society Deputy Permanent Secretary Putchong Ntethaisong “said Voice TV must now shut down all of its broadcasts, whether on air or social media, due to violations of the emergency decree.”

He added that “the court is also deliberating on the shutdown order for three other media sites: The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai.”

Putchong went on to accuse “Voice TV and three other media agencies of spreading information that could cause unrest in the country, which is banned under the Severe State of Emergency imposed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha…”. Of course, by “spreading information,” the regime means news that for several nights via YouTube has been a largely uninterrupted and without much editorial comment.

The regime does not want people to see what’s happening. Worse, it could be that it wants to prevent the broadcast of any further state crackdown.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes The Dictator:

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Prayut said that a much-reported gag order on some news agencies were to prevent the spread of “fake news” which has exacerbated the conflict within the country.

Prayut said the order was necessary to maintain peace.

“Any agency that has to be shut down will be shut down as according to the continuous police procedures and I am not violating anyone’s rights,” he said.

“My job is to prevent any harm done on the country and to stop the efforts to incite unrest and create a rift within the society,” he said.

Of course, he’s lying. There’s been no “fake news” that we have seen, except from the likes of Nation TV. And, he’s violating everyone’s rights to protect himself, the king and his regime.

Update 2: Voice TV continues to broadcast, vowing to defy the military-backed regime.

Update 3: The broadcaster continued last evening, with several live broadcasts from spots where protesters congregated. In one of these, a vigorous statement of commitment to the promotion of democracy was a message to the regime.





HRW on arrests

20 08 2020

Human Rights Watch has issued a note on some of the recent arrests of political activists:

Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists
Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists Authorities Disregard Own Pledge to Allow Dissent

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release prominent pro-democracy activists arbitrarily detained for their role in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today. On August 19, 2020, Thai police separately arrested Arnon Nampha, Baramee Chairat, Suwanna Tanlek, and Korakot Saengyenphan, charged them with sedition and other offenses, and jailed them.

“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release Arnon and other detained activists.”

Police arrested Arnon, a defense lawyer with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, outside the Bangkok Criminal Court after he finished his day’s cases. He was charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with an intent to cause violence, violating the ban on public gatherings, and other criminal offenses related to his involvement in a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on August 3. At the protest, he wore a Harry Potter costume and publicly demanded reforms to bring Thailand’s monarchy into conformance with democratic constitutional principles. The police detained him at the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok.

Three other activists – including Baramee from the Assembly of the Poor in Bangkok, Suwanna from the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot from the Democracy Restoration Group – also face sedition and other charges similar to those brought against Arnon. They have been detained at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

The police previously arrested Arnon on similar charges together with another pro-democracy activist, Panupong Jadnok, on August 7. A week later, on August 14, the police arrested a well-known student leader, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, bringing similar accusations.

These six activists are among 31 people whom the police were purportedly seeking to arrest for speaking onstage at a protest sponsored by the Free Youth Movement in Bangkok on July 18. Since the Free Youth Movement held that peaceful protest in front of the Democracy Monument demanding democracy, political reforms, and respect for human rights, youth-led protests by various groups have spread across in Thailand. The largest protest was in Bangkok on August 16, with more than 20,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, respect for freedom of expression, and reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb the current monarch’s powers.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied that he ordered the police to arrest the activists and has maintained his pledge to listen to the youth protests. “There has been no order from the prime minister to target those activists,” General Prayuth said during a media interview on August 15. “The police simply use their own judgment and carry out their duty to uphold the law. In the current situation all sides should be reasonable and listen [to each other]. We need to avoid provocation and confrontation.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

Government repression has intensified in Thailand over the past five months as the authorities used state of emergency powers assumed by the government to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government protests and harass pro-democracy activists.

International pressure is urgently needed to press the Thai government to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests, and release those arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said.

“The United Nations and concerned governments should speak out publicly against the rolling political repression in Thailand,” Adams said. “Thai youth are increasingly demanding real progress toward democracy and the rule of law so they can freely express their visions for the future of the country.”





Squashing anti-monarchy sentiment

19 08 2020

As mentioned in an update to our previous post, we considered the “light touch” by the regime to be a ruse. And so it is.

The Bangkok Post reports that “[a]rrest warrants have been issued for six activists who took part in a demonstration at which students issued a 10-point call for reform of the monarchy last week…”. This refers to the rally at Thammasat.

It seems that the charges are not about the demands for the reform of the monarchy but “for breaching internal security and measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus as well as computer crimes.”

Police “explained”:

Pathum Thani police chief Pol Maj Gen Chayut Marayat said on Wednesday the Thanya Buri Court approved the arrest warrants on Friday after police had conducted an investigation following complaints registered at Klong Luang police station.

Pol Maj Gen Chayut did not give details on who filed the charges with the police. Other charges can be filed against them later if police have evidence….

In addition, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who sent a video into the rally, is also causing the authorities worries:

The Ministry of Digital Economy will file a complaint against exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun for creating a Facebook group deemed critical of the monarchy, ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told Reuters. The group, called Royalist Marketplace, has more than one million members.

“We have filed a request to Facebook to delete the entire group, but the platform hasn’t been cooperative,” Mr Putchapong said. “So the ministry is now going to use the Computer Crime Act.”

Expect more as the regime seeks to squash anti-monarchy sentiment.





Political arrests I

7 08 2020

The challenge posed to the regime (and monarchy) by the student- and democracy activist-led has been met by an expected crackdown.

Most readers will know by now, as reported by Prachatai, that:

Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Jadnok are now under arrest on sedition charges under Section 116 [sedition] of the Criminal Code and for violating the Emergency Decree after they took part in the mass protest on 18 July.

Recall that when last extending its emergency decree, the regime took time to explain that it was not to be used for preventing protest. That was a lie.

Arrested at about 2 pm on 7 August, the warrant:

… accuses Anon of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code; of organizing an assembly of ten or more people and threatening to cause violence or a breach of peace under Section 215 of the Criminal Code; violating the Emergency Decree, which bans large gatherings; obstructing the public way without permission under Section 385 of the Criminal Code; violating Section 19 of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country Act; and of using loudspeaker without permission under the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act.

Panupong was arrested at about 3 pm. at Ramkhamhaeng University. He is “a Rayong-based student activist who previously face harassment from the authorities after he attempted to hold up a protest sign during … Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Rayong last month…”.

Depending on the report read, it is clear that this is a wider crackdown, with the police going after somewhere between 7 and 31 protesters, with “[s]tudent activist Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak said on the phone he was informed by his lawyer that he was among the wanted list.”

As is usual in such cases, the police ignore law and constitution:

At 17.40, both Panupong and Anon are being taken to the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road. TLHR [Thai Lawyers for Human Rights] said that, if both are detained and are unable to post bail in time, they will be send to prison.

TLHR also reported that the inquiry officer at the Samranrat Police Station has forced Panupong to sign a statement without waiting for his lawyer to arrive. He was then taken to court without his lawyer.

They appeared before the court outside court hours, considered an unlawful act.

Move Forward party MPs reportedly attended the Criminal Court and were said to be “using their positions as security to post bail for the pair.” However, as a political act, both men withdrew their bail requests. Arnon explained:

“The dictator is using the judicial process as a tool in shutting the people up. Being granted bail with the condition of being prohibited from protesting or raising questions about the monarchy is something we cannot accept.

“I am willing to sacrifice my freedom to stand by my principles. I ask all of you to come out and fight for our goals. Don’t waste your time on freeing Anon. Use your time to fight for the goals we are fighting for.

I believe in my friends who are outside.

In the latter, he was referring to the crowds assembled outside the court and at the Bangkhen police station.

Panupong explained why he withdrew his bail request:

“When the law becomes a tool for the dictatorship, it probably is time for the people who fight for democracy. I ask you to stand and keep fighting with the strength of your beliefs. When I get my freedom, I will be fighting and I won’t back down.”

At about 10 pm, the Criminal Court decided that it would “not accept the temporary detention request for Anon … and Panupong … as the request was submitted outside of working hours and ordered the officers to bring them in for detention again within 48 hours.”

According to reports, this meant that the police could not hold the two men. Again, the police ignored the law and detained them overnight, planning to return them to the Criminal Court in the morning.

Clipped from Prachatai

Protesters unsuccessfully tried to block the forcible transfer of Arnon and Panupong and crowds grew outside the police station where they were detained.





Seeking to strangle protest I

4 08 2020

A couple of reports in Prachatai, both drawing on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, show how the regime is seeking to snuff out youth-led protest. We will have two posts on these reports.

According to TLHR, “there have been at least 75 announcements about plans to organize a protest and public activity in 44 provinces across the country to support the Free Youth group’s demands.”

It states that:

the rise of protests and political expressions in public has prompted interventions from state officials who tracked down, harassed, and suppressed protest leaders and participants in many places. Out of at least 76 planned activities, five could not be organized….

It notes the measures used by the authorities to harass and repress:

  • Before protests, officials including the police, Special Branch officers track down students and others “seeking information.” An aim of this is to gather intelligence and it is also meant o show that the authorities “know” who is involved, “warning, suppressing, and intimidating protest organizers, participants, and other related parties…”. In several cases, “plainclothes officers reportedly threatened to take some protest organizers to a police station without an official warrant.” This is meant to intimidate and demonstrate the state’s power while collecting intelligence.
  • At the protests, “state officials put up posters, handed out pamphlets, or made announcements using an amplifier to threaten the protestors that their activities might constitute a violation of the law.” In addition, police “take photos of the demonstrations.” They “target specific individuals during these recent flash mob rallies and tended to take pictures of those holding protest signs…”. In several cases, “military officers and officials from the Internal Security Operations Command in some provinces attended the protests to observe and record the activities.”
  • The authorities seek “to obstruct protestors in some provinces from using their intended venues by blocking them from those areas and causing them to move their activities elsewhere.”
  • Despite earlier claims/lies by Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council that the emergency decree was not to “ban gatherings [he said] to prove our sincere intention for disease control,” the authorities have regularly used the decree against protesters. TLHR reports that: “Four university students who gave speeches during the #ChiangMaiWillNotTakeThisAnyMoreToo activity … were summonsed to Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station to acknowledge their charges under the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act.”
  • At protests, “authorities [have] … confiscated … protest signs during the demonstration. In some cases, they arrested the protestors, put their information in an ‘interrogative record,’ and seized the signs…”.
  • After protests and rallies, police and military have trailed “some protestors backed to their home, especially those who held up protest signs.” They tell the protestors to stop using the signs when they are considered to be “sensitive” – meaning being about the monarchy. Usually these officials “recorded the protestors’ personal information and took their photos.”
  • At schools and universities, administrators “took the lead to undertake measures for suppressing and threatening their students.” Several institutions “prevented the student protestors from using their campus ground as a protest venue and ordered their students to refrain from organizing or participating in a public assembly.” Schools and universities have also “prohibited their students from participating in any rally.” Administrators also collaborate with the authorities, [illegally] providing them with the personal information of their students.

TLHR concludes:

The attempts to suppress, pressure, and intimidate protestors constitute an attack on peaceful expressions of opinions and unarmed demonstrations, which are the rights enshrined in the 2017 Constitution. Several of these attempts had no legal basis; they merely exploited people’s gaps in knowledge to undermine the power of free expressions.





Updated: Army and regime

22 07 2020

A small group of activists “held a rally outside the Royal Thai Army headquarters on Monday…”. They were protesting against a comment by former deputy spokeswoman Col Nusra Vorapatratorn, who described the weekend’s anti-government protesters as naive and ignorant.

In the middle of this controversy it was reported that the struggling economy was to be further burdened by Army spending on the comfort of its top brass, with plans to buy a new Gulfstream business jet “worth 1.34 billion baht in the 2021 fiscal year…”. It will transport the VIPs. We doubt it can easily get to Munich.

Meanwhile, the military-backed regime says it is considering having the weekend’s protest leaders “charged under the Emergency Decree, communicable diseases laws, and traffic violations.” It is reported that the “Saturday protest was monitored by Special Branch Bureau police, Technology Crime Suppression Division police, and police officers…”.

Consideration is also being given to lese majeste-like charges. As Khaosod reports, “conservative and pro-government figures in recent days have accused the student-led protests as republican movement attempting to overthrow the monarchy – a backlash against the signs and placards seen at the protest that reference the [r]oyal [f]amily.”

Of course, the regime claims that extending the emergency decree has nothing to do with politics…. when it has everything to do with its politics and its domination.

Update: We were amused to read the reason given fro extending the emergency decree:

CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said the extension was necessary because the novel coronavirus was still spreading worldwide and Thailand was allowing in foreign visitors and easing lockdowns on business and activities that pose high risks of disease transmission.

If this is correct, then Thailand will have an emergency decree in place for months to come. Or, read another way, the regime is engaging in high risk activity that could easily be left alone.





Odd stuff

10 07 2020

A reader reckoned it was odd that PPT has been ignoring the ructions in the Palang Pracharath Party. While we have linked to a couple of stories on this, our view has been much as the Thai Enquirer has it:

The former party leader of Thailand’s ruling party and three other senior officials resigned from the party on Thursday signalling a possible cabinet shake up and the consolidation of power by the army wing of the ruling party.

We’d just add that it has always been a military-backed party. Recall that it was formed to allow Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his military junta to stay in power following a rigged election. The plan is to have the military pulling the string for up to 20 years.

On that 20 year period that The Dictator once called this “national reform.” It was a long-term plan to keep the military in politics and the monarchy in place.

Perhaps because the regime seems to feel it remains in control, as the Bangkok Post reports, no one seems particularly interested, demonstrated when a “Lower House sitting on national reform was cancelled yesterday for the lack of quorum.” The meeting was meant to “discuss progress on reform plans, which require a report and debate in parliament every three months.”  mainly because the .

For some grasping at “democratic” straws, see Prachatai.

Finally, the regime has ditched the ridiculous lie that the American general and his entourage had quarantined for 14 days prior to arrival in Thailand. Rather, it has sought to downplay the obvious double standards.

The Bangkok Post reports that:

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said the delegation … would not be quarantined because health officials were confident of controlling any disease they may have….

Taweesilp added:

Thai officials who accompanied the visitors would also not have to be quarantined for 14 days subsequently, because they knew well how to protect themselves, kept a distance from the visitors, and had experience gained in handling returnees who arrived by plane….

Funny statement when Taweesilp has carved out those accompanying the US military delegation and those meeting with it. We don’t recall Gen Prayuth or Gen Apirat Kongsompong “handling returnees.” There are still glaring double standards at work, most especially when the regime maintains an emergency decree.

Rounding out a series of cockeyed reports, Gen Apirat is reported to have “insisted the US did not ask to use Thailand as a place to build a base.” He warned: “Don’t stir up issues that might create conflict in the region…”. Tell us more!





Updated: Heard it before, again and again

27 06 2020

A few reports in the last day or two carry the smell of regime deja vu.

One involves the execrable Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam. It says that the junta’s legal hireling is pondering virus “crisis” alternatives to the emergency decree. Heard it before. Almost the same headline and story popped up a month ago. Ho hum. No local transmission for more than a month, borders more or less closed. But the emergency decree maintained. As in May, Wissanu will need to concoct a “legal” plan for the military-backed regime to continue its suppression of its opponents.

A second report relates to the 2014 killing of Karen activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen. It says the “Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has pledged to look into a decision by prosecutors to drop serious charges against four park officials suspected of being involved in the [murder]…”. Heard it before. It was back in January that state prosecutors “dropped the murder charges against Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, and three others accused…”. Instead, they “decided to recommend indicting them only for failing to hand over the Karen activist to police after he was arrested in April 2014…”. It was never made entirely clear why the charges were dropped, but suspicions were raised of interventions from higher-ups. Not long after, the DSI boss resigned. It remains to be seen if the new boss can overcome the pressure for impunity to be maintained.

Party time for Boss (clipped from The Daily Mail)

Then there’s the ongoing saga of one of Thailand’s richest – fugitive Red Bull heir Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya – escaping justice. Vorayuth, driving his Ferrari, “hit and killed a motorcycle policeman in the early morning of Sept 3, 2012 on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok.” Heard it before. After the driving his car over the policeman and dragging his body for a period under the car, Vorayuth his behind the gates of the family mansion. Forensic police concluded he was driving at 177 kilometres per hour. He may have been drunk and/or drugged up at the time.

He “then delayed hearing the charges seven times.  It was not until April 27, 2017, that prosecutors finally charged him with reckless driving causing death and failing to help a crash victim. He fled on a private plane two days before he was due to face the charges.” Since then he’s been pictured as he partied. We suspect that for some of the time he’s been in Thailand.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has now ruled that a couple of policemen are guilty of minor negligence charges for delaying the case, failing to prosecute some charges and failing to seek warrants for Boss’s arrest. Most observers might conclude that the family’s wealth and power would have “contributed” to these failures. How policeman can be so uncaring of a brother officer, killed on the job, beggars belief. In the end, none of the policemen may face any action at all as it is their supervisors who decide on disciplinary action. They only have to delay another 7 years for Boss to avoid all charges; that’s when the statute of limitations expire. Wealth and power should help there as well.

Update: As predicted, the “disciplining” of the cops was almost nothing: “Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen said all the officers had been placed on probation on March 31, except for Pol Col Wiladon, who had to serve a three-day detention instead. The two other convicted policemen retired before the punishment order was issued at the end of March and the order was not retrospective, he said.” These cops are only serious about keeping the money flowing through their system.