Updated: Royalist plotting

19 09 2019

Among others, Khaosod noted the “report” that was “seen on PM [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s desk during a parliament session on Wednesday” when he did not respond to his unconstitutional oath.

That official document is apparently titled “Network Plotting to Destroy the Nation…”. Initially, “Government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat said the report was compiled by officials who work on ‘national security issues,’ but declined to elaborate, saying the content is ‘classified’.”

Khaosod observed that the “report’s cover photo appears to show the aftermath of a recent bomb attack in Bangkok.”

The Bangkok Post has more detail, translating the report’s title as “network of elements sabotaging the nation…”. Its anonymous “source within the government” disclosed that the report was “prepared for a briefing by intelligence and security agencies,” with “the elements” claimed to be “sabotaging the nation” are “political figures whose acts are deemed to offend the high institution of the monarchy.”

In other words, as has been since the period leading up to the 2006 military coup, the royalist military and its supporters are concocting yet another “plot” against the monarchy. This follows concoctions like the Finland Plot and the infamous anti-monarchy “plot” and “diagram” under the royalist military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has confirmed that it “has information about a network…”.

As the Post observes, no names have been mentioned, but Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong “had previously mentioned some groups which he believed intended to harm the country…” and referred to “a movement which was trying to provoke a civil war between ‘pro-democracy’ and ‘pro-junta’ factions.” He was essentially attacking the Future Forward Party.

And it was only a few days ago that the Criminal Court ruled that ultra-royalist prince Chulcherm Yugala, who declared the Future Forward Party dangerous republicans “seeking to overthrow the monarchy,” had not libeled that party.

Quite obviously, the military, its ISOC – an “intelligence” agency – and the regime is going to use the monarchy against democratic and parliamentary opposition.

Such plotting by the regime may be dismissed as the musings of old generals who crave power and serve the ruling class.

However, such maniacal plotting in the military and probably in the palace has real and terrible consequences such as military coups, lese majeste, jailings, bashing of opponents, enforced disappearance and torture and murder.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Even in recent days, the family of victims of such accusations have been harassed by the regime thought police. Kanya Theerawut, the mother of missing political refugee Siam Theerawut, disclosed “that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department [a useless part of the Ministry of Justice] … told her not to take her son’s case to the UN, as it could ruin the country’s image.” We think the regime has done plenty to ruin Thailand’s image. She was also “visited and questioned by Special Branch officers…”, which is a standard regime means of intimidation.

It is the royalist plotting that is most intense and most deranged. It is also hugely expensive. This regime plotting is far more dangerous than anti-monarchists.

Update: A reader points out that the report on the political harassment of Kanya came just a couple of days after Shawn Crispin at Asia Times erroneously claimed: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. Like the reader, we are confused as to why a journalist would want to whitewash the current regime’s political repression.





Quid pro quo?

7 09 2019

The International Federation for Human Rights has called on Thailand to “immediately investigate the disappearance of Od Sayavong, a Lao activist seeking asylum…”. It is stated:

“Od sought refuge in Thailand but the country has become increasingly unsafe for asylum seekers. Thai authorities must immediately determine Od’s fate or whereabouts and the government must adopt measures that guarantee the rights of asylum seekers in accordance with international standards,” said Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Vice-President.
Od Sayavong, a 34-year-old activist from Savannaket Province, Laos, was last seen by one of his co-workers at around 5:30pm on 26 August 2019 at the house the two of them shared with two other co-workers in Bangkok’s Bueng Kum District. Around that time, Od left the house and was expected to join the two other co-workers for dinner later that evening at a restaurant in Bueng Kum District, where Od worked as a cook. At 6:34pm, a Facebook message was sent from Od’s account to one of the two co-workers, who were both already at the restaurant, to ask him to “cook rice” and wait for him. This was the last time Od was believed to have been heard from. Od did not return to the house that night. The following day, at 5:03pm, one of Od’s co-workers attempted to call him but Od’s phone was out of service. A message sent by the same co-worker to Od through the messaging app LINE at 5:06pm went unanswered and was never marked as having been read. Od’s cell phone appears to have remained out of service since the evening of 27 August 2019.

Od had been awaiting resettlement to a third country since the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok registered him as a person of concern in December 2017.

“Od may be the latest casualty of increased cooperation between the government of Thailand and its regional counterparts to crack down on their respective dissidents in exile. The international community should strongly condemn this seemingly coordinated form of repression that leads to further shrinking space for civil society in the region,” said Vanida Thephsouvanh, LMHR [Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) ] President….

In Thailand, Od Sayavong has been involved in political activism and other activities promoting respect for human rights and democratic principles in Laos since at least 2015. Od has been a member of “Free Lao”, an informal group of Lao migrant workers and activists based in Bangkok and neighboring provinces that advocates for human rights and democracy in Laos. The group focuses on organizing human rights workshops and meetings, and participating in occasional small peaceful protests outside the Lao embassy and the United Nations headquarters in Bangkok.

We wonder if this is a political quid pro quo for Lao assistance in getting rid of Thai anti-junta and anti-monarchy activists. If this is the case, it is not just deeply disturbing but very odd in that Od was a Lao royalist:

On the evening of 15 March 2019, Od posted on his Facebook page a photo of himself in front of the United Nations headquarters in Bangkok wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with an image of a three-headed white elephant standing on a five-level pedestal – the official flag of Laos from 1952 until the fall of the royal government in 1975. The Lao government has outlawed this flag and its display has frequently angered Vientiane.

In the past Thai royalists often aligned with Lao royalists, but it seems that such alliances are out the political window when dealing with dissidents.





Updated: Murder, impunity

4 09 2019

PPT has only mentioned the enforced disappearance of Karen rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen twice.

Clipped from Khaosod

One post came soon after his “disappearance” after being detained in Kaeng Krachan National Park by park officials on bogus charges. The post noted that Billy’s “disappearance” came after he filed a lawsuit that accused Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park, suggesting that state officials were (again) solving “problems” by enforced disappearance. (We have seen this again recently with the murder and disappearance of several anti-monarchy activists.)

Several years ago the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.”

Two years after our first post, we noted a Human Rights Watch communication that observed that:

Thailand signed the Convention against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012 but has not ratified the treaty. The penal code still does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense. Thai authorities have yet to satisfactorily resolve any of the 64 enforced disappearance cases reported by Human Rights Watch, including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004 and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee Rakchongcharoen, known as “Billy,” in April 2014.

As usual, the official “investigation” was hopeless. However, on Tuesday, the Department of Special Investigation announced that it had found and identified “bone fragments of a Karen community rights activist [Billy] missing since 2014…”. The bone fragment DNA, said to “match those of his mother,” were “found in May inside a 200-liter oil tank submerged in water near a suspension bridge inside Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province…. The tank that was found was burnt. The bones were also burnt…”. (This raises the specter of the Red Drum murders.)

This discovery came after Billy’s relatives “filed a request with the Phetchaburi Provincial Court to have Porlajee declared legally dead on 27 August…”.

Will anyone be brought to justice? Probably not. Impunity remains the norm for murderous officials, police and military.

Update: Sounding odd indeed, in the Bangkok Post, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, “who was among the last people to see the late Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen before he disappeared five years ago” has decided to publicly question the “DNA test that led authorities to conclude the Karen rights activist was murdered.” Speculation on why he might do this is warranted, but the ex-chief was quick to say that “he had nothing to do with Porlajee’s disappearance and death.”





Updated: Targeting anti-monarchists

11 08 2019

A few days ago AFP reported (and here too) on the travails of the anti-monarchist, anti-junta and pro-democracy band Faiyen, living in self-exile in Laos. As is well-known, most of the other high-profile anti-monarchists who were in Laos have fled, been forcibly disappeared or murdered.

 

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Because of this, the band members live in fear and regularly receive threats. “Taking turns to keep watch at their hideout in Laos … ‘Faiyen’ believe they are on a hit-list like eight fellow dissidents who have already disappeared.” Singer Yammy states: “There’s not a single night that we can sleep. A dog’s howl gives us the chills…”.

She adds: “All the firebrand activists have gone, disappeared…. We are the last targets.”

For a time, Faiyen members could stream their political commentary and music: “We could say what we want … but then the hunting started…”. A tearful Yammy worried: “There might be no tomorrow…”. The group “now fear time is running out for them … and are seeking asylum in a European country.”

While Thailand’s royalists and regime will cheer the success of the murders and disappearances – in quieting anti-monarchism – let’s hope that a country with real laws and protection for human rights decides to receive them.

Helpfully, in following Faiyen’s situation, the Thai Alliance for Human Rights has a List of English-language articles on the Faiyen Band during the #SaveFaiyen Campaign. While at that site, it is also worth reading the spine-chilling account of the enforced disappearance in 1954 of Haji Sulong and its resonance with the torture, murder and disappearance of anti-monarchy activists in Laos.

Update: Thankfully, the band members are now in France.





“New” regime tramples rights

3 08 2019

A few days ago this statement was posted by Human Rights Watch. We reproduce it in full:

Thailand: New Government Disregards Rights
Policy Statement Fails to Address Major Concerns

(New York) – The new Thai government’s policy statement fails to provide a pathway for restoring respect for human rights after five years of military rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha will present the policy statement for his second term in office on July 25-26, 2019.“Prime Minister Prayuth’s second term is starting with the same blanket disregard for human rights that characterized his first term,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “His policy statement contains no language whatsoever addressing the serious problems under repressive military rule since the 2014 coup. Whatever hopes that the new government would bring about human rights reforms and advance democratic, civilian rule suffered a serious setback with the failure to include any commitments in the policy statement.”

Prayuth’s 40-page policy statement, which was submitted to the parliament speaker on July 19, does not discuss human rights issues in the country. It does not even discuss Prayuth’s own “national human rights agenda,” which he released in February 2018 with much fanfare.

Key civil and political rights problems that need to be addressed by the new government include:

Impunity for Human Rights Violations

As chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, Prayuth wielded power from 2014-2019 unhindered by administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations. While the NCPO disbanded after the new government took office, the constitution that took effect in 2017 protects junta members and anyone acting on the junta’s orders from being held accountable for human rights violations committed during military rule. And no redress is available for victims of those rights violations.

Restrictions on Freedom of Expression

The NCPO prosecuted hundreds of activists, journalists, politicians, and dissidents for peacefully expressing their views, on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and insulting the monarchy. During Prayuth’s first term, the junta frequently used these overbroad laws to arbitrarily punish and silence critics. Under the new government, the military retains the power to summon anyone deemed to have criticized the government or the monarchy, question them without the presence of a lawyer, and compel them to promise to end their criticism to gain release.

Protection of Human Rights Defenders

A climate of fear persists among rights activists and critics of the government. Even those who fled Thailand to escape political persecution are not safe. At least three Thai political activists have been forcibly disappeared in Laos. Two others have been killed. Another three Thai political activists returned by Vietnam to Thailand have also been missing.

Successive governments have disregarded Thailand’s obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders and organizations can carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Against the backdrop of a recent string of brutal attacks targeting prominent pro-democracy activists and dissidents, the government has yet to develop a credible policy to better protect them. Thai authorities have not seriously investigated these attacks, and instead repeatedly told activists and dissidents to give up political activity in exchange for state protection.

During his first term, Prayuth frequently stated that Thailand would act to end so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), which are used by government agencies and private companies to intimidate and silence those reporting human rights violations. However, these cases continue, frequently as criminal defamation cases. Prayuth’s policy statement makes no mention of Thailand’s much advertised commitment to promote business practices compatible with human rights standards.

The policy statement also does not address the urgent need to revamp the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. The United Nations Human Rights Council has downgraded the commission because of its substandard selection process for commissioners and its lack of political independence. Revisions to the law adopted during Prayuth’s first term further weakened the commission and transformed it into a de facto government mouthpiece.

Enforced Disappearance, Torture, Violence, and Abuses in Southern Border Provinces

Since January 2004, more than 90 percent of the 6,800 people killed in the ongoing armed conflict in Thailand’s southern border provinces have been civilians from both ethnic Malay Muslim and ethnic Thai Buddhist communities. Although the insurgents have committed egregious abuses, rights violations by Thai security forces have greatly exacerbated the situation.

Thai authorities regularly failed to conduct serious and credible inquiries into torture allegations and enforced disappearances. Military detention, which lacks effective safeguards against abuse, occurs regularly during government counterinsurgency operations in the southern border provinces. Successive Thai governments have failed to prosecute security personnel responsible for torture, unlawful killings, and other serious human rights violations against ethnic Malay Muslims. In many cases, Thai authorities provided financial compensation to the victims or their families in exchange for their agreement not to speak out or file criminal cases against officials. Despite these concerns, Prayuth’s policy statement does not address human rights problems in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

International Obligations

Prayuth’s policy statement only vaguely mentions the importance of Thailand meeting its international obligations. The junta did little to promote Thailand’s adherence to the core international human rights treaties. Although Thailand signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2012, it has yet to ratify the treaty and Thailand’s penal code does not recognize enforced disappearance. Thailand also does not have a law that criminalizes torture, as required by the Convention against Torture, which it ratified in 2007. The junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly suddenly suspended its consideration of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill in February 2017, and the government has not set a new time frame for reconsidering the bill. Prayuth’s policy statement does not include this law among legislation to be urgently introduced by the government.

“Thailand’s foreign friends should not let the recent elections become an excuse for ignoring the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” Adams said. “There should be no rush to return to business as usual without securing serious commitments and corresponding action from the new government to respect human rights.”





Still using monarchy

16 07 2019

As is to be expected, anti-democrats and ultra-royalists continue to make use of monarchy for their own political purposes and benefit.

Conservatives have for some time been warned off using lese majeste, the current king apparently believing that it does him damage and that it has not been effective in silencing all critics – murders and enforced disappearances have worked a treat.

But the conservatives have found other means of using the monarchy against political opponents. Khaosod reports that serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, “filed the royal defamation complaint against Future Forward Party’s Pannika Wanich in June,” but that is not all it seems. In fact, the complaint is not lese majeste but a complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. He wants “Pannika removed from office, on allegations that Pannika mocked the late King Bhumibol in a 2010 graduation photo.”

The newspaper reports that the NACC, which seldom seriously investigated complaints against the military junta, seems to be actively pursuing the case.

Monarchy remains a useful tool for anti-democrats and ultra-royalists in defeating political opponent.





No change on repression

21 06 2019

While some media still delude themselves and readers that the junta’s “election” was about “returning to democracy,” The Diplomat has a story that shows that things haven’t changed and may be getting worse:

Weeks after the March election, the plainclothes officers that had become a familiar sight on college campuses under military rule were back at Ubon Ratchathani University in Thailand’s northeast.

“Things should have changed. But they came with an identical message” to five years ago, said political scientist Titipol Phakdeewanich about a second visit from the special branch police last week. “They were quite confident they could keep politicians in check. But they are very worried about universities and students.”

As the story observes, “[h]eavy-handed responses to even the mildest of criticism have been a defining feature of a junta that routinely threatened and prosecuted opponents…” since its illegal 2014 military coup.

As academic Titipol puts it: “Nothing has changed. But now Thailand is whitewashed by an election…”.

Is it getting worse? We think it is, with the mad rightists unleashed by the junta. Most noticeable is the use of lese majeste as a way to damage and repress.

Future Forward’s spokesperson, Pannika Wanich is one target, accused her of lese majeste. She says: “It’s a witch hunt. Progressive politicians have frequently been accused of being anti-monarchy…”. It is also the yellow-shirted tactic that is used against democrats or anyone considered too pro-Thaksin. Future Forward has scared the bejesus out of the political dinosaurs and the ruling class.

After the assault (clipped from Matichon)

The story also points out rising “systematic violence,” including murders and enforced disappearances.

It cites Anon Chawalawan from iLaw, who says: “We are seeing rising numbers of violent attacks against democracy activists, often by masked attackers, since the election. But there have been no arrests…”.

One recent case is Sirawith Seritiwat (left).

No arrests. Probably because these are officially-sanctioned thugs.