Remembering the dead and disappeared

17 05 2020

Prachatai memorializes the first anniversary of the day “Siam Theerawut went missing after being extradited from Vietnam along with other 2 self-exiled activists,” Chucheep Chiwasut (Uncle Sanam Luang) and Kritsana Tubthai.

There has been no news of the three since they were disappeared, reportedly after being handed over to Thailand. According to Prachatai, Siam’s family have contacted “the Thai Crime Suppression Division, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and the Vietnamese Embassy” but have received no useful information. An official brickwall is suggestive of the involvement of high-level persons. In Thailand, this pattern inevitably means military, monarchy and regime.

Why? “Siam fled the country at the age of 29 at some point after the 2014 military coup when all Article 112-related cases [lese majeste] were revived. In 2018, the authorities alleged that he was involved with the Thai Federation group, an anti-monarchy group.”

Prachatai includes a timeline, which we reproduce in full:

  • 5 December 2018 The Thai Federation group invite their followers to wear black shirts with the group’s symbol in Bangkok and other provinces. Many were later prosecuted.
  • 7 December 2018 Deputy PM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan welcomes the Lao Minister of Defence, General Chansamone Chanyalath and discusses the issue of Thai political exiles in Lao. Chansamone admitted that there was a movement on the Lao side but it had few people. The Thai Federation group operated through radio programmes. The Ministry of National Defence would deal with it, but the movement was nothing to worry about since they could do nothing.
  • 12 December 2018 In Lao, Surachai Danwattananusorn (Sae Dan), another famous self-exiled political activist, goes missing along with other 2 activists; Kraidet Leulerd, or Kasalong, and Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana. The Thai exiles acknowledged that they would have to lay low whenever the Thai and Lao authorities talk about cooperation. But Surachai did not.
  • 13 December 2018 Thai PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha visits the Lao President in Vientiane.
  • 26-29 December 2018 2 bodies are washed ashore alongside the Maekhong River. DNA tests identify them as Kraidet and Chatchan. The internal organs had been removed and replaced with cement and the faces were mutilated. Surachai’s whereabouts remain unknown until now.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

  • 8 May 2019 The Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR) based in the United States reports that Siam, Chucheep and Kritsana were arrested some time earlier and deported from Vietnam .
  • 9 May 2019 Siam’s relatives file a missing person report. The Crime Suppression Division do not accept the report as there is no arrest report.
  • 10 May 2019 Siam’s relatives file a request with the Crime Suppression Division Commander to be informed about Siam’s arrest. Human Right Watch and Amnesty International issue statements calling on the Thai authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Siam, Chucheep and Kritsana.
  • 13 May 2019 Siam’s family and friends go to the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand to call on the Vietnamese authorities to address the disappearance. They also file petitions with the National Human Rights Commission and the European Union.
  • 14 May 2019 Siam’s family and friends go to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok to give information regarding Siam. They also urge the OHCHR to help finding him.
  • 16 July 2019 Siam’s sister says that the Thai Embassy in Hanoi has asked the Vietnamese authorities about the entry of Siam and his colleagues into Vietnam. However, the authorities did not have any information.
  • 8 August 2019 Thai political activists in Europe gather at the Thai Embassy in Paris holding photos of 10 Thai activists who had either gone missing or been killed since 2016.
  • 12 September 2019 Siam’s mother says at the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) told her not to take her son’s case to the UN as it could damage the country’s image.
  • 10 October 2019 Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife, files a petition with the Royal Thai Police Commander to investigate the disappearance of Surachai and other activists.
  • 12 March 2020 Siam’s portrait is exhibited in the “For Those Who Died Trying” exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, along with other cases of disappearance.

We have the impression that the regime and palace figured that enforced disappearances and murders would fill anti-monarchists with fear and resolve the “problem.” Apparently not.





The missing and the exiled

19 02 2020

Prachatai has had some excellent reports in recent days. This post draws attention to its “Post-Coup Overview on Exiles.”

Clipped from Prachatai

The article details the missing:

at least 8 of these refugees have disappeared for no known reason, even though they were living in other countries. These are: Ittipon Sukpaen aka DJ Sunho; Wuthipong Kachathamakul aka Ko Tee; Surachai Danwattananusorn aka Surachai Sae Dan, revolutionary and underground radio programme presenter; Chatchan Bubphawan aka Comrade Phuchana; Kraidej Luelert aka Comrade Kasalong; Chucheep Chivasut (Uncle Sanam Luang); Siam Theerawut; and Kritsana Tupthai.





Defining 2019

1 01 2020

Several recent topics, actions and reports have defined 2019 under the junta, its military-backed “elected” government and the ever more powerful monarchy:

Law for the rich and powerful

Suchanee Cloitre (clipped from LePetitJournal.com)

Reporters Without Borders has condemned a “draconian two-year jail sentence that Thai journalist Suchanee Cloitre … received for allegedly defaming an agribusiness company [Thammakaset] in … Lop Buri in a tweet more than three years ago…”.

This is the maximum sentence given and its for an old tweet in an old case, where the journalist for Voice TV told the truth – the company was treating its workers as if they were slaves.

Her tweet was about a court “ordering Thammakaset to compensate 14 migrant workers who had been forced to work up to 20 hours a day on the company’s chicken farms while being paid less than the minimum wage and no overtime.”

When she referred to “slave labour,” the company sued.

In criminal defamation cases, truth is irrelevant. These cases flutter about like confetti as the rich and powerful use their law to silence critics. This includes the current regime. The media is so cowed by such cases that almost no one is prepared to tell the truth.

Going backwards

Khaosod reports on yet another effort directed by King Vajiralongkorn to erase all symbols of the 1932 revolution. This is the latest in a string of secret, then semi-secret and now brazenly open efforts by the palace to de-memorialize 1932 and replace it with symbols of the monarchy.

History is being re-constructed as we watch.

In this instance, memorials to two leaders of the 1932 revolution – Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram – “are due to be removed from public view…” at a military base in Lopburi.

Apparently, the statues will be sent to a museum. We fear they will be destroyed.

It is no surprise that the statues will be replaced by “a new statue depicting the late King Bhumibol…”. No one will be permitted to contest the palace’s actions. A military spokesman stated that the two statues were “commoner statues [and] have to make way for the new [royal] statue…”.

In addition, the military base which “bears the name of Phahol Pholphayuhasena, will also be renamed to King Bhumibol Base per an instruction from the current monarch…”.

When will Thais stand up for their history?

Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

An op-ed writer in Manila has bought the monarchist nonsense piled high in Thailand. He seems to believe that Thailand is “stabilized” by a “revered” monarchy.

Vajiralongkorn hopes this monarchism infects the citizens of Thailand to facilitate his reign, rule and grasping.

So far, he’s getting his way. And the king seems very intent on getting his way: land, money, laws, constitution, wives (who come and go) and much more. The more he gets the more he wants.

The missing … and “protecting” monarchy and regime

Vajiralongkorn and his henchmen in the military seem to have gotten his way on disappearing some of his opponents – probably meant as a “message” to anyone who dares speak against the monarchy. They should not be forgotten.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

When they are not being murdered, political opponents are bashed .It is this regime of fear seems to have replaced the use of lese majeste.

Clipped from VOA News

We feel that this strategy has been devised by the palace in an effort to maintain both monarchy and military-backed government.

Regime gangsters

All of this “protection” serves monarchy and regime well (at least for the moment).

After manufacturing an election “victory,” the razor-thin majority that allowed the military junta to steal government, it has protected ministers and members who are needed to maintain the huge, unwieldy and Election Commission manufactured coalition.

Perhaps the best example of protection is deputy minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted heroin smuggler. He also flaunts fake university degrees. But he’s not just a political fixer for the government’s Palang Pracharath Party who is being protected. He claims connections to the top.

When under arrest in Australia, he “told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand, had been an army spy…, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general.” That’s how it works in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

Then there’s Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt and her father. Her recent case of acquiring and using land that is supposed to be for poor farmers and/or national park seems unlikely to go anywhere as a cover up goes on.

The only thing keeping the issue in the cowed media is her father’s penchant for hit-and-run driving and mad media conferences, filled with lies. Once he’s quiet, watch Pareena squeeze out of her own problems. The regime prefers no criticism of it or its MPs.

Again, the rich and powerful can get away with murder (probably literally in Thammanat’s case), heroin smuggling, theft and other misdemeanors.

Make overs for the evil

Perhaps the weirdest of all news reports in late 2019 was when local “anti-corruption agencies awarded the Thai army for having the highest score on transparency and integrity among government agencies at an event held to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day on Dec 9. It scored 97.96 points out of 100.” Weird, unbelievable and very silly. However, the point is the whitewashing. The powerful seem to relish whitewashing almost as much as it relishes ill-gotten gains.

Eating the state

Corruption is a bit old-hat these days as there are plenty of ways to feed at the breast of the private sector as it exploits the state and Thai taxpayers.

We couldn’t help noticing that on 15 December it was reported: “Airports of Thailand (AoT) is likely to scrap bidding to run duty-free pick-up counters at Don Mueang airport after only one company [King Power] expressed interest in the contest.” Of course, AoT didn’t. A few days later it was reported that the “board of Airports of Thailand Plc has awarded a 10.5-year duty-free concession at Don Mueang airport to King Power Duty Free Co, which offered a yearly 1.5-billion-baht minimum return…”. King Power, the current monopoly duty free store at all airports now has new 10-year contracts for all those airports.

There must be many in various military and state offices – right to the top – who will benefit from these new contracts.

Somehow we doubt that 2020 will be better than 2019.





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.