Fear and repression

10 08 2017

Part of the fear that consumes the military junta is self-created by its fear of the Shinawatra clan. Seeking to punish Yingluck as a way of also damaging Thaksin’s popularity and wealth has come to be viewed as vindictive. Clearly, the fear that has developed over the pending verdict means the military dictatorship has doubled-down on repression.

The police bullying of van drivers for transporting Yingluck supporters is one petty example of this deep fear of responses to the outcome of the trial.

The concocted treason/sedition charges against two Puea Thai Party politicians and a critical journalist are another example. And, we can’t help feeling that the enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is related to the junta’s efforts to shut down criticism and opposition before the Yingluck verdict.

Likewise, it is no repressive coincidence that the junta puppets at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has banned the red shirt Peace TV for a month.

The military regime has now declared that it “will not lift its restrictions on political activities any time soon owing to the unstable state of Thai politics and the number of pending lawsuits against politicians…”.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan “explained” that only he and The Dictator can decide on when Thais can participate in political activities (unless they are a junta political ally). He paternalistic statement was: “Wait until I feel happy [with the situation] and I will see to it the restrictions are lifted…”. He cited a “number of important legal cases that are passing through the justice system which could have a destabilising impact on society and politics.”

He went on to warn that “security” would be tightened for Yingluck’s next court appearance.

It is as if the junta knows the court’s decision and is seeking to prevent any response by Yingluck supporters.





Ko Tee dead?

8 08 2017

Following reports of Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s enforced disappearance in Laos there has been little information available. However, reports in the media and on social media make two points that are at odds with each other.

The military dictatorship states that it has heard nothing from Lao authorities to confirm anything about the case. That’s according to General Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council. Then Thawip said “he personally believes that Wutthipong is still in hiding.” In fact, such claims by the authorities are common following enforced disappearances.

The diverging social media account is that Ko Tee is dead: “Photos purportedly of Wutthipong’s body have gone viral on social media.”

It is incumbent on the Lao government to investigate the matter, but it is doubtful that the secretive regime there will make any statement.





Incessant double standards

7 08 2017

In his weekly column at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson looks at the double standards that define the military dictatorship’s (in)justice system.

In it, he mentions national deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week that “he has their transport dead to rights. He captured 21 taxi and van drivers who drove the fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.” He suggests this action was vindictive and petty.

He turns to lese majeste:

On Thursday, the first witness hearing was held in the case of The Regime vs Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka Pai Dao Din. The prosecutors call him “that man who liked a Facebook post”.

Which he did, of course. He fully admits it and it’s there on the BBCThai.com website if you need prove it. The “like” was for a biographical news report. It’s a report on which 3,000 other people in Thailand clicked like — but aren’t being prosecuted for lese majeste and computer crime with 30 years of free room and board at state expense in the balance.

As others have, he compares this with the situation of hugely wealthy and influential Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya:

That’s a double standard [Pai’s case]. But the pursuit and persecu… we always get that word wrong, the prosecution of Pai is in stark, massive contrast to the case of a playboy and bon vivant from a family with 10 dollar billionaires. The chase doesn’t even rise to the description of trivial pursuit.

In just a few more days, the rich guy’s case expires. Cop dead, run over and his body dragged along the road by the expensive car, but never mind, attack rural students for being a political activist.

Dawson could have gone on and on.

What of those accused of lese majeste and sentenced for “crimes” against royal personages not covered by the law? Then there are the political activists picked off by junta using lese majeste charges.

Then there are those sent to jail, like Jatuporn Promphan, for defamation of leading anti-democrats, while anti-democrats defaming their opponents remain free. Then there are those who are slapped with sedition charges for pointing out some of junta’s failures (of which there are many).

What of those identified as opponents who are prevented from meeting when “allies” like the members and leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy can. And we hardly need to mention the jailing of red shirts for all manner of “crimes” while PAD leaders walk free.

And then there are the double standards when it comes to corruption. The junta is considered squeaky clean, always. “Evil politicians” are always considered corrupt.

Finally, for this post, there is impunity, which is the grossest of double standards. Who stole the 1932 plaque? No investigations permitted. Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder has disappeared into official silence, so that usually means impunity via cover-up by simply ignoring it as a case against soldiers. The enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is unlikely to be mentioned much at all as the military junta quietly congratulates itself on a “job” well done. It seems a bit like the murder of Kattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng by a sniper in 2010.

Not only is the junta operating with double standards, its sanctions the murder of its opponents. Meanwhile, the justice system in Thailand is broken.





HRW on Ko Tee’s “disappearance”

2 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s apparent forced abduction.

While the military dictatorship in Bangkok continuing its Sgt. Schultz “explanation,” HRW has called on the “Lao authorities … [to] urgently investigate the abduction of an exiled Thai activist … Ko Tee…. Eyewitnesses stated that a group of unknown armed assailants abducted him in Vientiane on July 29, 2017, raising grave concerns for his safety.”

Providing more details, HRW’s account is that:

On July 29, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene. According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai. The incident was reported to Lao authorities in Vientiane.

It calls on the Lao authorities:

The Lao government needs to move quickly to ascertain the facts and publicly report their findings, including an assessment of Wuthipong’s whereabouts and who might be responsible for this crime that was so boldly carried out in its own capital city.

Lao authorities should mount a serious effort to find Wuthipong if he is still in Laos, and take immediate steps to prosecute any persons in Laos who were involved in this abduction.

It remains unclear who abducted Ko Tee.

We can guess that the military dictatorship in Bangkok would be involved in some way. We also know that enforced disappearance is not unknown in Laos. We also know that the Thai military regime has allowed other security forces – in several cases from China – to abduct dissidents from Thailand. We might also consider this action as a typical action of Thailand’s dictatorship, seeking to silence critics by attacking one as a special example.





Punishment

29 07 2017

The military junta and its minions have been hard at work in recent days, punishing people it sees as political opponents or threats to the royalist-tycoon military regime and its plans for control into the future. All of this political “work” has been around the period of the first birthday “celebration” for King Vajiralongkorn, which seems appropriate, in the reign of fear and threat.

The junta just hates it when the lower classes complain, especially when they are in areas considered politically suspect, like the northeast. So its obedient servants have charged and now prosecuted seven women who have been campaigning against a mining concession extension for Tungkum Co Ltd, a gold mine operator in Loei province. The seven are Phonthip Hongchai, Ranong Kongsaen, Wiron Ruchichaiwat, Suphat Khunna, Bunraeng Sithong, Mon Khunna, and Lamphloen Rueangrit.

Somyos and his money

The Tungkum Company has had significant regime support and the junta see the villagers as having support from anti-regime activists. The case goes back a long way, with the company supported by the usually wealthy (never explained or investigated) former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers opposing mining and environmental degradation.

The women involved are now charged with “breaking the public assembly law and intimidating public officials.” The so-called act of “intimidation” involved “leading more than 100 people to gather in front of Wang Saphung District Administration Office on 16 November 2016 while officials were holding a meeting…” that was to rubber stamp the company’s application.

Business elites and the junta don’t want these little people getting out of hand, especially women (we say more on this below).

In a similar case, the junta’s bureaucratic thugs and something still referred to as the “Supreme Court” – better called the military’s civilian sentencing machine – has sentenced a husband and wife to six months in jail “for trespassing on protected land six years ago.” The court seems quite deranged in its “thinking” sentencing the elderly Den Khamlae and his wife Suphab Khamlae. Deranged in that Den has been missing since April 2016, believed to have been forcibly disappeared by the same authorities that charged him and his wife.

Den’s case goes back to 1985, when “his Chaiyaphum farmland was taken by the government. They were promised land to use elsewhere, but Den and his neighbors later found the area designated for them was already occupied.” His crime is that he wouldn’t bow down to the “authorities,” and with the junta in power, these thugs decided to get rid of him. Suphab’s “crime” seems to have been her campaign to learn what has happened to her husband. As the linked article explains, “Suphab, who has campaigned about forced disappearances since Den’s disappearance, will immediately go to prison.” Campaigning against the royalist-tycoon-bureaucratic state is not just a “crime,” but the dictators are angered by the uppity lower classes and especially those who don’t accept their “place” in the hierarchy.

The court babbled something about Den being “convicted” because he is not proven dead. We can only hope that there are sufficient horrid and vicious ghosts from the disappeared who will haunt these morons in robes for in this life and the next.

The popular Yingluck

Then there are the political punishments meted out to those the junta considers as challenging its right to rule and dictate.

The most obvious example of this is Yingluck Shinawatra. Early in the week, she made the mistake of complaining about the junta’s minions acting against her in ways that she considered foul. Worse (for her), she had a social media exchange with The Dictator. The result has been the sudden revelation that National Anti-Corruption Commission, which essentially works at the behest of the military dictatorship, has 11 other cases against Yingluck that it is “investigating.”

The junta has been keen to punish Yingluck for several reasons and not least because she remains popular. In this instance, though, it seems to us that the junta is punishing Yingluck for speaking up for herself. The Dictator has a habit of punishing those who pick a fight with him but in this case it is also clear that the strong misogynist ideology of the royalist political elite is playing out. The Dictator thinks “that woman” should “know her place.” He’s “teaching” her to know her submissive place. Of course, other royalist lads have derided Yingluck for being a woman in their man’s world.

Finally, at least for today, there’s the is the arrest warrant for Watana Muangsook. It seems that Watana, “a Pheu Thai Party key figure and former commerce minister, and two other suspects on suspicion of provoking rebellion…”. Did we read that right? “Rebellion”? That seems to be how the men who control most of Thailand’s legal weapons view the prospect of hundreds turning out to “support” Yingluck when she’s next in the (kangaroo) court. The junta is giving the impression that its is so frightened that it is suffering collective and premature incontinence.

In this “case,” the so-called “suspects were found to have been inciting people to come to a gathering planned for Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down a ruling in the rice-pledging case in which former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is charged with dereliction of duty…”. The junta reckons this alleged “incitement” can be “deemed a violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code,” meaning sedition!

In Watana’s case, his “sedition” appears to be challenging The Dictator: “In a series of messages posted on his Facebook page from July 19 to July 26, Mr Watana criticised the government and urged members of the public to come out to support Ms Yingluck, also on Aug 1 when she is due to verbally present her final statement in the rice-pledging case to the court…”.

In response, “Watana said on Thursday he has never posted any message urging Ms Yingluck’s supporters to turn up at the court.” So his “crime” would seem to be his violation of the dictum that allows no arguing with The Dictator.





With 3 updates: Lese majeste arrests in stolen democracy plaque case

3 05 2017

We recently posted on the abductions conducted by the military dictatorship’s official thugs.  That post mentioned that the military had detained, incommunicado, two political dissidents.

One was human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul who has been critical of the military dictatorship and the lese majeste law. The other was Danai (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a political dissident from Chiang Mai, initially reported to be accused of Facebook messages critical of the military junta.

Those abductions have now morphed into lese majeste cases against these two and four others.

According to a report at Prachatai, the Criminal Court has permitted the detention of “six people accused of royal defamation for sharing a Facebook post from an academic who the junta has blacklisted.” That was said to be Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

When the “ban” on contact with Somsak, Andrew MacGregor Marshall and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, many scoffed that enforcing the ban was likely illegal and difficult to enforce.

But legalities and formalities have never been a barrier to the lawless military dictatorship.

So it is that, on 3 May 2017, Bangkok’s Criminal Court “granted police custody over six people accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.” Those six were abducted “by police and military officers across different parts of the nation in late April.”

Apart from Prawet and Danai, the ” identities of the four other detainees remain unknown.”

Prachatai states that lawyer Arnon Nampa says “the six are accused of lèse majesté for sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque posted by Somsak Jeamteerasakul, an academic currently living in self-imposed exile in France.”

Arnon says that “Prawet is also accused of Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the sedition law.”

The twinning of sedition and lese majeste tell us that the military dictatorship is determined to prevent any criticism of the king for his presumed role in the theft of the plaque.

The court allowed an initial “custody period of 12 days with the possibility of renewal by the court.”

The notion of “possibility” is banal; we all know that the royalist courts want quick convictions but are prepared to do whatever the junta wants and will keep people in jail as long as necessary to get “confessions.” When there is no “confession,” cases drag on as a form of torture.

No investigations, let alone arrests, have occurred for the theft and vandalism of the 1932 plaque. Rather, the junta has covered up and silenced questions. They are the best “confessions” we have seen in this case.

What’s next for feudal Thailand? Public executions and anti-royalist’s heads on stakes in front of the palace?

Update 1: PPT rewrote bits of the account above for initial poor expression and the omission of Somsak’s name in one place. No changes were made to the known facts and allegations in the case.

Update 2: An AFP story has more on this case. It says that Prawet faces “a maximum 150 years in prison after he was charged with a record ten counts of royal defamation…”.

On Wednesday afternoon Prawet “appeared in court charged with ten counts of royal defamation and a separate charge of sedition.”

Each account of lese majeste carries a maximum of 15 years in jail. That’s 150 years. The sedition charge can add another seven years in jail.

The report states that “[t]en royal defamation charges is the most anyone has ever faced in Thailand since the law become increasingly used.” (This means since the 2006 military coup, and especially since the 2014 military seizure of state power.)

The report also adds that “[i]t is not known what Prawet said or wrote. However media inside Thailand must heavily self-censor when reporting on the monarchy, including repeating any content deemed defamatory.”

Update 3: The Bangkok Post has reported these cases and adds further details. It states that Prawet faces 10 separate counts of lese majeste and three separate counts of sedition. That means he potentially gets 171 years in a royal jail.

The reports states that the normally outspoken “spokesman for the military government said he was unable to comment on the case.” That’s because it involves the king and not just in the usual way. Here the king seems to have been connected to the original crime (the un-investigated theft).

Prawet, who is “accused of posting 10 messages insulting the monarch and three messages with content believed to instigate social disorder,” continues to be detained “incommunicado at the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok, a facility the military uses as a temporary prison.”

Prawet has denied the allegations. So has Danai “but the details of [his] alleged wrongdoings were not outlined in the police submission…”. The secrecy is a part of the Thai (in)justice system and raises questions about the legality of his detention (not that the junta is ever worried about law and legality).

The report also reveals that three other suspects “admitted they shared messages of Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul on Facebook pages, which concern the controversial disappearance of the 1932 Siamese Revolution plaque from the Royal Plaza…. The other suspect denied the accusations.”





The Dictator and the media means repression

3 05 2017

There’s been a spate of reporting saying the military dictatorship was prepared to “compromise” on the controversial media control bill.

For example, the Bangkok Post stated that “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) Monday endorsed a controversial media bill after making changes to two controversial issues in an apparent attempt to ease pressure from the press and critics.”

The Post reported that the revisions meant the “contentious plan to license individual journalists was dropped. However, journalists would be required to obtain certificates from their respective media companies.” Whatever that means.

It also reported that “the much-criticised 15-member national media profession council, which would include permanent secretaries from the PM’s Office and Culture Ministry, state representatives will serve on it during the five-year transitional period.” Again, this could end up meaning whatever the junta wants it to mean.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post responded to this move, basically saying the whole bill should be flushed down the nearest drain.

Thailand’s Chaplinesque Hynkel, The Great Dictator, known more widely as General Prayuth Chan-ocha, even prattled about having ” a forum to hear the views of members of the media on the controversial media bill…”. But this is window dressing. The Dictator stated: “”Don’t worry. All issues of concern will be jointly discussed. The bill has both positives and negatives…”. Whatever one thinks of this verbal manure, Prayuth wants control and limits on the media.

At the same time that he was babbling to the media, he was also criticizing the Navy for giving too much information to the media, claiming that “no other country has ever had to disclose this much information about military hardware procurement as Thailand just did.” This is just a lie. But the point is, Prayuth wants secrets kept so that his people can do what they want.

Then there’s the abduction of critics. No one may speak ill of the junta.

Bigger than this, though, is the desire to control the history that Thais know, not to mention the protection of a new palace regime of toadies and other supplicants in the service of a king who simply can’t be trusted.

We have speculated that the king is responsible for the removal of the 1932 commemorative plaque. So when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) decided to hold a panel discussion on the stolen plaque, the dictatorship had a political heart attack.

The result was that on 3 May , the “FCCT announced on its Facebook page that it had received orders from the police to cancel [the] panel discussion…. The police advised that the order came from so-called ‘relevant officials’ who perceived the seminar as a threat to national security.”

The national security threat is presumably an admission that the king had the plaque stolen.

The FCCT went on to say that it “regrets to announce that the panel discussion ‘Memories of 1932: The Mystery of Thailand’s Missing Plaque’, … has been cancelled. The decision was made after the FCCT received a letter from the Lumpini Police asking for the event to be called off, after the police were contacted, they say, by ‘relevant officials’…”.

It added: “The FCCT has been given to understand that this cancellation is on the orders of the NCPO, and we have no choice but to comply.”

That’s the junta’s position: the media cannot be free because it and the palace has many secrets that may not be revealed to anyone, least of all the media. If anyone reports on these secrets, they risk years in jail or even the king’s private lock up.