Never ending “emergency”

30 10 2021

On Friday, “[s]tudent activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Seksit Yaemsanguansak filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court … against the Prime Minister and the military commander-in-chief to repeal emergency decree order 15 on the grounds that the ban on public gatherings unlawfully limits people’s rights and freedoms.”

The petitioners rightly state that “the ban, which was ostensibly imposed to prohibit unnecessary gatherings that risk the spread of disease during the pandemic, has been used instead to limit freedom of expression and assembly.”

Hundreds have been charged.

Panusaya observed that:

while the Emergency Decree has been repeatedly used to end pro-democracy protests, pro-establishment groups have been allowed to hold their gatherings without interference from the authorities. She noted that although pro-democracy protesters have always been peaceful, their protests have been blocked by means such as razor wire and shipping containers, which are not listed as part of the legal protocol.

“The country is reopening in three days. Why are you still prohibiting us from gathering? If you reopen the country, there will be gatherings all over the country. People will come out to live their lives normally, so we think that there is no reason to continue banning gatherings,” Panusaya said.

The activists petitioned the court to “impose a temporary injunction suspending the ban ahead of the protest this Sunday, 31 October, at the Ratchaprasong Intersection.” The court, however, quickly dismissed the request “on the ground that the 31 October protest still risk spreading disease and the order is still needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19…”. Nothing else could really be expected of the regime’s courts.

At about the same time, in the Royal Gazette, the regime “issued a fresh order banning rallies and activities deemed at risk of spreading Covid-19 across the country ahead of the kingdom’s upcoming reopening to international travellers.” The order takes effect on Monday and “was issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree and signed by Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, chief of defence forces, in his capacity as the person responsible for solving security emergencies.”

Tourism trumps freedom of expression.

We at PPT have lost track of how long the regime has been operating with emergency powers, but it seems that it has been pretty much since it seized power in 2014. Since then, the country has been defined as in a state of emergency so that the regime can bolster its position and repress political activists.


21 12 2010

Following up on PPT’s post yesterday regarding the end of emergency rule and the start of new semi-emergency rule under the Internal Security Act, the Bangkok Post reports that the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations has been replaced by a new centre for monitoring internal security.

The Posts states that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said a “security situation monitoring centre will be set up to replace the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation when the cabinet lifts the emergency decree…”. In case this was missed in the headline, it is repeated: “Suthep, who oversees national security, said the CRES would be automatically disbanded when the decree is  lifted. The security situation monitoring centre would replace it.”

Nothing changes when so much is at stake for the establishment.

With a major update: ISA replaces emergency decree

20 12 2010

Anyone who read the unaccountably long interview with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the Asia Times Online last week (see Bangkok Pundit’s commentary here), where the PM declares himself the savior of the parliamentary system, might have noticed this:

ATol: Your government is expected to lift soon a state of emergency over Bangkok and three surrounding provinces. How did you and your securocrats arrive at this diminished threat assessment?

Abhisit: Well two things. As far as demonstrations and gatherings are concerned, over the last few months they have been peaceful. People who have led these movements have been more cooperative with security officers and government officials so that we haven’t had any clashes or incidents. Secondly, people who were directly involved with the more violent acts, some have been arrested and detained, and there appears to be less movements on that front. So that’s basically it.

That’s basically it. Back to “normal.”

Meanwhile, in an NPR report, Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd the spokesman for the military’s Center for Resolution of the Emergency Situation, which will soon be disbanded when the emergency decree goes, “says the demonstrators have been law-abiding and the decree can soon be lifted.” He adds: “The lifting of the decree will be like a New Year’s present to the Thai people…. It will reassure them that our nation is returning to normal.”

Just for good measure, the mendacious Colonel Sansern adds: “I can categorically deny that the army has killed or hurt any Red Shirts or protesters, including the Japanese journalist…”. Abhisit is not so adamant in his interview, but seems keen to avoid even discussing the possibility that the military might have murdered protesters.

On the emergency decree, in place since April, recall that Abhisit has long held that it didn’t impact ordinary people. In the interview he says that

Even the case of demonstrations, we talk about the emergency decree, the “draconian” Internal Security Law. It’s nothing more than the laws now being applied in Britain and France not allowing people to have demonstrations, or staying overnight and blocking roads and so on.

He also observes: “the emergency decree, in principle, doesn’t really move much beyond what is already in the criminal code…”.

PPT doesn’t recall Britain or France implementing laws that create institutions where the military takes political decisions and can establish free fire zones in major cities. Have we missed something or is Abhisit living in a dream world? His point, however, seems to be to restate his view that emergency rule and Internal Security Act are not draconian but “normal.”

If his comments were taken seriously, then the obvious question is why has the government and the military needed emergency rule at all and why do they insist on immediately replacing it with the ISA. The Bangkok Post has reported that Abhisit has confirmed that the ISA will be back in place from the moment the emergency decree is lifted.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said “preparations had been put in place after the state of emergency is revoked…. [He] said the government will use the ISA and civil law to maintain peace and order instead.”

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said “security agencies had met and laid down a plan to cope with the situation after the emergency decree is lifted. Police would be the main force for peace-keeping operations with support from military police from the three armed forces under the overall supervision of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc).” He added: “If the situation turns violent again, the government would have to consider reinstating the emergency decree…”.

The underlying discourse is that the military remains critical to the maintenance and embedding of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. “Normal” has new meaning’s under the Abhisit regime; even the Bangkok Post’s website headline: “Little Real Change” tells us Abhisit is again being untruthful.

Update: The Bangkok Post has another story on the lifting of the emergency decree and its replacement by the ISA. It says that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva wants to restore the country’s image in the face of intense domestic and international pressure…”. That means lifting the emergency but the sleight of hand that replaces it with the ISA.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is CRES director, said: “The internal security law will be enforced, with measures starting from soft to heavy being used…”. The military will continue to work with police. Army boss and ISOC deputy director General Prayuth Chan-ocha said “the internal security law must be imposed to replace the decree.”

Under the ISA, the military still has “sweeping powers under the ISA similar to those guaranteed under emergency rule. Section 15 of the ISA authorised the military to declare an entire province, or parts, “security areas” where the military had full authority. The ISA empowered security officers to detain suspects for seven days without charge. Emergency rule allowed them to hold suspects for up to 30 days.”

Prayuth also “said he was also still concerned about websites deemed offensive to the monarchy.” That probably means that we can expect an enhanced use of the computer crimes and lese majeste laws.

With a major update: Reneging on the emergency decree and DSI reports

15 12 2010

PPT is falling behind on posting as events in Thailand heat up or at least speed up. Two important trends deserve brief mention and readers can follow-up on these via the links we provide.

The first is the earlier report that the emergency decree in Bangkok and areas close by was going to rescinded after many months. That seems to still be the case. However, the forces of a hierarchical, authoritarian kind in the military and related places seem unhappy with this. Recent reports, however, suggest that getting rid of emergency rule means instituting the Internal Security Act. In the Bangkok Post it is reported that the “Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation and the army are seeking the imposition of the Internal Security Act when the emergency decree is lifted in Bangkok and its surrounding provinces.”

The report points out that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva motivation for ending emergency rule is that he “wants to restore the country’s image in the face of intense domestic and international pressure…”. However CRES and the military want no change in Bangkok. In fact, “Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, as the CRES director, and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), would propose that if the emergency decree is lifted before the New Year then it be replaced by the ISA so officers operating under the security law would be given legal immunity.” The ISA also “empowers security officers to detain suspects for seven days without charge. The emergency decree allows authorities up to 30 days to hold suspects for questioning.”

What’s the big threat? Easy: “Gen Prayuth is said to be more concerned about which law would be used to close websites deemed offensive to the monarchy after the emergency decree is lifted.” So the emergency decree has really been about protecting the monarchy.

The second issue relates to the leaked reports said to be from the Department of Special Investigation. MCOT News reports that after first admitting that the leaks were from DSI reports (see Update 2, here), DSI chief Tharit Pengdit has now decided that “the integrity of his agency’s investigative documents relating to the case of a Japanese photo journalist killed during the confrontation between government troops and anti-government Red Shirt protesters in April, asserting that they were not leaked as earlier claimed by a key protest leader.” That’s Jatuporn Promphan as well as by Reuters.

Tharit now insists that “the documents that Mr Jatuporn had referred to, as seen in media, carried significantly different information from those of the DSI.” And he’s alos said that DSI will never release all of its results.

Startlingly, Tharit stated that after 8 months, the “investigation on the death of Mr Hiroyuki [Muramoto] … is still at the first step which is an autopsy by local police.” How it that even conceivable? It seems because DSI now claims that this case and all of those at Wat Pathum Wanaram have been  “sent back to National Police Bureau to conduct the autopsy…”. Read our recent post on the disappeared to get a feeling for police work that is meant to guarantee immunity and impunity for the state’s killers.

Update: Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has never believed these nasty stories about red shirts being killed by the army….  This from Prachatai: Prayuth “dismissed Jatuporn’s allegations that the army was involved in killing red shirts, saying that he paid no attention to it and had never believed anything Jatuporn said. Let the justice process deal with the issue of the deaths of red shirts, and the army will not explain anything.” Hmm. Wasn’t it Prayuth who was in charge of the operations at Pan Fah Bridge and at Rajaprasong that resulted in all the deaths and injuries? Didn’t he give the orders on “free fire zones” and snipers?

Prayuth was apparently responding to Jatuporn’s claims to the media, as reported in the Bangkok Post. Jatuporn stated that: “Five soldiers from the Special Warfare Centre in Lop Buri have confessed to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) that they fired shots into the grounds of Wat Pathumwanaram from the Bangkok Mass Transit rail track on May 19…”. He went on to “dare… Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, and army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to make public the testimony given to the DSI by the five soldiers.” Jatuporn also claimed that there “had been attempts by influential figures in the government and the military to interfere in the DSI investigation…”.


Suthachai and Somyos, again

20 08 2010

PPT readers will recall that we posted several times on the cases of Chulalongkorn University professor Suthachai Yimprasert and red shirt activist and journalist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, both arrested and held without charge for varying lengths of time under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s emergency decree. We posted on Suthachai’s release here and there are several links to earlier posts there. We posted on Somyos here, here, here, here and here.

Readers might have thought that these cases would have been finished. However, as The Nation reports that is not so. Nang Lerng police have reportedly recommended that both men be charged with violations of emergency rule. The case is the same one that had them arrested in May: “In their report submitted for prosecution review, police said history lecturer Suthachai Yimprasert and journalist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk had violated the state of emergency by leading a public assembly of more than five people ‘with the aim to incite disturbances’. The incident happened on May 21 at the office of the Ban Lek Thi 111 Foundation, set up by 111 banned Thai Rak Thai Party executives. The two suspects are accused of trying to rally people to act in defiance of the authorities in the face of the violent end of the red-shirt rally, which took place on May 19. Public prosecutors are expected to decide whether to indict and try the two on October 28.”

Of course, as PPT has pointed out previously, there is a massive double standard at work, for the People’s Alliance for Democracy has been permitted to rally several times despite the existence of emergency rule. Even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva attended and spoke at one of these rallies. But, then, as Deputy Prime Suthep Thaugsuban has helpfully pointed out, regime allies like PAD are treated with a different standard.

We cited Suthep as saying that failing to arrest demonstrators led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy was not a double standard because Suthep had “checked with the authorities and was informed that they had properly complied with the laws when dealing with the PAD-led protesters.” Suthep added: “that although the yellow-shirt protesters violated the rally ban in Bangkok, they had not yet violated four prohibitions, including obstructing traffic.”

The main point seems to be that red shirts are banned and attacked under the emergency decree while government supporters can do as they please. As we have said before, doubles standards are the regime’s only standards.

Jaran on reconciliation

19 08 2010

Jaran Ditapichai, a former National Human Rights Commissioner and leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, has issued the following statement, dated 19 August 2010, on the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s “reconciliation” program:

National Reconciliation and Reform: All Talk and No Action

Three months after the Army’s crackdown on May 19th, 2010 which caused 91 deaths and almost 2,000 injured, Prime Minister Abhisit  Vejjajiva has not yet come to terms with the fact that his soldiers killed people.

His government still hunts Red Shirts all over the country ,during the  3 rd month  several  people were arrested. The Emergency Decree is still in effect in 7 provinces including Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakarn, and Pathum Thani.  The  attorney  indicted  seven leaders and 12  associate of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) of the  terrorism  and the  criminal court has not released them on bail. Provincial criminal courts have sentenced some red shirts from 6 months to 2 years in jail. All the while those [from the People’s Alliance for Democracy] who seized the Prime Minister’s office in 2007 have been allowed bail and those who close Suwannaphum Airport suspects have not been prosecuted. The government continues to shut the sole station that belong to the Red [shirt]s, 32 community radios, 5 journals and magazines, and 36 internet media outlets.

Concerning the national reconciliation plan of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, his  five committtees  of political/media reform are composed of persons who are former PM Thaksin’s known enemies and enemies of Red Shirts people.  It is unfortunate the Truth and Reconciliation Committee began its work with public hearings of the incident instead of interviewing the victims  and the Army in its initial step and to date they have had discussions and have not issued any report. The Committee for Study the amendment of the  … Constitution agreed almost with every articles of  2007 Constitution which is not democratic.

There is no dispute that Thailand must move beyond violence and work toward reconciliation. But reconciliation begins with the restoration of the fundamental rights and human rights of the people.  What this government has done so far is giving a lip service to the principle they explain to the international media or to the diplomatic communities and does the opposites.

On the other side, I would like to assure that during the last 3 months the Thai people who love freedom and the Red Shirts are resisting the government’s continued violation of human rights. The Red Shirt movement has recovered rapidly and continues to fight in the political arena. There are variety of Sunday political activities which are attracting more attention by the public.  Some Red Shirts are formulating new political ideals and strategies because they believe the old way will not lead them to victory.   They’re determined to fight for real democracy and justice by all means possible because they have clear ideas who they are fighting against.

However, for immediate resolution, the Criminal Courts should release all UDD leaders and their associates on bail. The government must deal with the political and legal double-standards, most particularly the failure to move forward with prosecution of the Yellow Shirt leadership who presumably violated laws in 2008. Also, the government must stop censoring and blocking all opposition media. Finally, Prime Minister Abhisit should declare amnesty, dissolve the Parliament, and call for general elections on November 14.

Because of the massacre which took place three months ago  and  the present  aristocratic  government  in Thailand  affect not only this region but to the rest of the world. Therefore, we ask for moral and political support from international communities.

PAD rallies, law and double standards

28 07 2010

PPT mentioned the People’s Alliance for Democracy-organized rally yesterday in an earlier post. Not only was such a rally in breach of the emergency rule, but the PAD leadership was called in for tea with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and several other Democrat Party leaders.

One might cheer their capacity to challenge the emergency decree. But this would be a voiceless cheer because PAD knows from May that their rallies are protected by the police, military and government. Only the opposition is busted, with even individual red shirts have tried this and been arrested.

Now The Nation reports that PAD leaders have been given even more time to answer summonses on charges related to the airport occupation back in 2008. They now have until 26 August. This is as the same time that the Department of Special Investigation has stated that the terrorism charges against red shirt leaders can go ahead.

PPT is getting bored by the double standards exhibited by the Abhisit regime. It is a daily even hourly parade of double standards that is normalized practice.

Human rights a horror story

25 07 2010

Reading just the Bangkok Post as a bit of relaxation turned into a horror story for PPT on Sunday. There are just too many articles that call into question human rights in Thailand, in the past but especially under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Earlier today we posted on one of the these stories, but as PPT ploughed through more of the paper, jaw dropping, we found it all a bit much. For interested readers, here are the articles we refer to, in no particular order:

1) In its report on the Constituency 6 by-election, the Post manages to not mention that Puea Thai Party candidate Korkaew Pikulthong is in jail, has been prevented from campaigning and even from making a recorded message available to potential voters. The latter restriction imposed by the supposedly independent Election Commission. Preventing voters from gaining electoral information is a crime in many places. In Thailand, where censorship reigns it seems normal.

2) We can’t find it on the Post site to link to it, but the inside front cover has a series of stories by Alan Dawson who correctly points out that: censorship has run wild under the current government; the premier’s image as a human rights man is in need of revision, that the DSI is failing and that the military is riddled with corruption. Okay, he doesn’t use those words, but the meaning is clear.

3) Vitit Muntarbhorn is a professor of law at Chulalongkorn University has an opinion piece on the national human rights plan. Yes, there was one, and a new one was recently launched. It was launched by none other than Prime Minister Abhisit. To cut the whole sorry tale short, nothing much was achieved on the first plan and the prospects for the second appear even more dismal.

4) In the entertainment gossip column called “Mae Moo,” there is a story reflective of the ongoing political struggle, the political use of lese majeste and distasteful yellow-shirted antics. The story is of personal attacks, lies and human rights abuses. It is a sorry tale.

Actor Kowit Wattanakul and his actress daughter Mintita “Mint” Wattanakul have had to speak out to defend themselves against accusations that they are disloyal to the king. Accusing someone of such a “crime” is an abuse of human rights because it almost guarantees police investigation and can cripple a career, as has been seen in another recent case. Kowit says he and his daughter “have been through a media maelstrom since the inaugural Nataraja (performing arts) awards in May, when reports accused the pair of refusing to partake in the royalist grandeur of the occasion.” Recall that yellow shirt supporter Pongpat Wachirabanjong was accused of lese majeste for a speech at the same awards.

Kowit stands accused of having “walked out of a nationalistic speech by yellow shirt director Pongpat … while Mint [is accused of having] refused to sing her part of a song commissioned by Her Majesty the Queen.” When monarchy-loving yellow shirts made these (false) accusations, the reaction was immediate. “Mint was dropped from a soap opera in which she had been acting for months. She was also yanked from another production due to start filming the next day.” They were attacked on “webboards, with Thais [PPT: not sure why the collective noun is used here] accusing them of supporting the red shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship – painted by their yellow shirt rivals as being against the monarchy.”

Both were essentially forced to come out and declare their loyalty and explain what had happened. The Post seems to be at least a little supportive, “explaining” the events. It’s a pity that no one, anywhere in government, including the human rights plan launcher (see above), has the guts to denounce such scurrilous and gutless behaviour. PPT surmises that, secretly, Abhisit and his buddies really do enjoy seeing the “other side” squirm, even when they aren’t in chains. Every forced claim of loyalty is imagined to be a victory for the past-its-use-by-date institution and its conservative and right-wing supporters.

5) Sort of related, the comedy – or smart-arse – column (or whatever it is) by a lad named Andrew Biggs, who gets his celebrity from speaking Thai reasonably well gets one thing right when he comments on the penalties for speaking out against those higher up the social scale (think nai-phrai perhaps?). Commenting on the Withawat Thaokhamlue Academy Fantasia television talent show case, he says: “the higher you are, the more your opinion and status is revered and thus those below you are rude and unacceptable if they complain about you. Even our esteemed prime minister, drilled about freedom of expression during his extensive UK schooling, is still Thai enough to understand this. When asked about Mark’s right to free speech, he replied, as if he were riding a fun park carousel, that Mark has the right to say what he feels but then again he is young, and he should be careful of his words, and as a young person he shouldn’t really be slamming older people, and he is a celebrity, and thus a role model for youth, and … and … Okay we get the picture. Shut up Mark, and respect your elders.” And “betters!”

But where Biggs gets totally balls-up is when he makes ludicrous comments about freedoms. He acknowledges Thailand’s lack of freedoms, but then says: “Young Mark has committed an offence in Thailand; he exercised free speech. I announce this fact not to vent my outrage _ I’m more outraged True Visions considers 12 vocally-challenged Thai teenagers entertainment _ but rather to tell you, dear reader, that the Mark incident serves as a reminder that we don’t have freedom of speech in Thailand. But we still get along just fine.

There it is. Biggs becomes Thai and says “we” are “fine.” But what of the implications of this? Of human rights? Well, Biggs goes on to observe: “Despite frequent claims of Thailand’s democracy and freedoms, it’s not quite the way it is portrayed. Again I must stop here and say this doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. I’m only saying traditionally in Thai society there’s hasn’t been freedom of speech per se. Rather, you have the freedom to say what you like as long as the person on the social strata directly above you isn’t offended by it.” Yeah, right. If you are at the bottom of the heap, you can’t say a thing.

At least Biggs gets back on track when he admits: “The big rumour is that Mark wrote something disparaging about the monarchy on his Facebook page as well, something he vehemently denies. Thais will tell you that’s the real reason he got the boot.” We’ll stop there, without adding Biggs’s final silly remark.

6) And a sad corrective to conclude on. A while ago PPT decided to have a stab at how many political prisoners were being held in Thailand. Ancient lawyer Thongbai Thongpao, who once had a great human rights record, but is now sullied by his support for all kinds of military and government nonsense points out our error. In his article, he points out that there are 500 held in the South under emergency rule there.

PPT stands corrected. Add those in, and we estimate that Thailand now has 1,500 political prisoners. Hopefully foreign and international organizations join with progressive Thai human rights groups in demanding that political prisoners be released immediately and in condemning the Abhisit regime’s failure to uphold basic human rights.

So much for the long and pleasant Sundays of leisurely reading the paper…. Now it’s a horror story.

Letter from Jaran Ditapichai

22 07 2010

PPT has received this letter from Jaran Ditapichai, and wishes to post it to make it as widely available as possible:

July 19,2010

Dear Friends of Human Rights and Democracy,

On the two month anniversary of the Army’s crackdown, I Jaran
Ditapichai, a UDD leader, and a former National  Human Right
Commissioner of  Thailand would like to thank all the persons and
organizations such as the Asian Human Rights Commission, Human right
Watch, Amnesty International, International Crisis Groups,
International Committee of Jurist  and others for their universal
condemnation of the Thai Government’s handling of the dispersal in
April and May where 90 deaths and over 1900 persons were injured.

While Thai Government present a new reconciliation plan to heal the
scar of the dispersal to the world, UDD leaders such as Vira
Musikapong, Nattawut Saikuer, Kokaew Pikulthong, Nisit Sintupai, Weng
Tojirakarn, Kwanchai Praipana, Vipootalaeng Patanaphumthai   and Jenk
Dokjik,  are still being detained after arrest and face the legal
double standard by not receiving bail as compare to those who seized
Suwannaphum Airport during 2007 who were allowed bailed after arrest.
And still there are over 300 of UDD provincial leaders arrested with
800 arrest warrants on notice nationwide.

For the past 2 months, the situation in Thailand has not improved but
it is getting worse.  The Government still abuse its power by using
its legal proceeding to continue the Emergency rule for three more
months. They arrest  those with different political point of view by
freezing over 106 persons of their asset and invite 83 Thais to audit
their financial transaction. At the same time, the Government was
criticized by deceiving the world  by creating 5  committtees of
political-media-reconciliation and reforms  which are composing by
the persons  who are PM Thaksin’s enemies and enemies of  red shirts

By doing such actions, it is impossible to reduce tension in the
current political arena. At the mean time, Thais are still resisting
the government’s continuation of Emergency Decree with seminars,
discussion and declaration to stop the government’s violation of human

Besides, during the past 2 months, there are report of violent
incidents such as bombings which, regardless of who did them, show
that as long as Government use deceit, law, and Emergency Rule to
destroy the Reds and democratic groups, these type of situation will
happen and  cause more violence. To lessen it, Abhisit must suspend
Emergency Decree, bring back the previous reconciliation plan by
dissolve Parliament, hold general election  on Nov 14 which all
international communities’ had previously support. Then there will be
a true reconciliation in Thailand.


Jaran Ditapichai

Reading the military’s political dominance

21 07 2010

There are several items that caught PPT’s eye in the Bangkok Post today. All are indicative of the decline of politics under the Abhisit Vejjajiva military-civilian regime.

The first was in a story about the Constituency 6 election. In it, the Post reports the results of a Police Special Branch poll of voting intention. Why on earth is the Special Branch doing this? Are they trying to influence voters? Another sign of the throwback regime that is running Thailand’s politics in a manner that reflects the deepest, darkest days of the Cold War and military dominance.

Related in the sense that it shows how powerful the military have become is a second article that focuses on the failure to lift emergency rule in most provinces that still suffer this undemocratic intrusion on politics and daily lives. In it, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence General Apichart Penkitti is quoted as saying that he “believes the political activities of the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts still pose a threat…”. Apparently the general is worried about a birthday party for the absent Thaksin Shinawatra.

Now the last time PPT looked, Puea Thai was a legal political party. But the leading military bureaucrat now labels their political activities a threat. It is all downhill from here. Next they’ll want to ban Puea Thai after dissolving its two predecessor parties. Maybe the Department of Special Investigation will start crashing birthday parties in search of evil opponents of the regime and so-called Democrat Party?

The same article mentions that the army is “seeking 60 million baht from the central budget to support the work of security guards for the prime minister and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban amid rumours about an assassination plot.” This rumor has been around for a considerable time, but there is still no accounting of how much money CRES and the government are spending protecting themselves.

A third story, linked to the lack of transparency on military spending is the account of the army “seeking approval to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it has yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered three years ago.” Apparently, “army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to spend his forces’ leftover funds for this year on 121 APCs from the Ukraine, which has yet to deliver the 96 vehicles ordered in 2007.” The APCs haven’t been delivered because the motors overheat and seize. So they are useless, but they order more. And Anupong wants the whole thing done before he retires. A retirement fund perhaps? If so, its 4.6 billion baht, making the non-flying and deflated 350 million baht zeppelin seem like small change.

It is all a bit too obvious and too depressing. Thailand is in a vortex of actions and interests that are at once a Cold War throwback but also something new, where the military has a civilian front. That seems to have been the lesson of failure of more or less direct military rule after the 2006 coup: get the civilians to be the front men and women and have them run down the rat hole of authoritarianism, censorship, repression and corruption.

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