Another believe it or not story

13 02 2018

Skepticism alert! Whenever we see a report from the military dictatorship claiming it has busted political opponents with bombs, we are necessarily skeptical.

The most recent report in the Bangkok Post demands skepticism.

For one thing, the sudden “discovery” of a cache of bombs comes at a time when the junta is under great pressure, with the Deputy Dictator’s watch scandal, protesters appearing on several fronts and delays to (rigged) elections. Finding a “threat” just now is ever so convenient.

Then there’s a whole bunch of “coincidences” that seem just too lucky by half.

Pol Capt Somphot Suebwongsakon, duty investigator at Pak Kret police station said that the discovery of explosives was reported about 8.30pm on Monday evening by a condo cleaner who just happened to be working late.

This woman was cleaning the room for a new tenant. It was getting a new tenant because the existing tenant Kritchapol Poolsil, 53, a former soldier from Yala, who had rented the room for at least five years, “had not paid the rent,  electricity or water bills for so long the owner found a new tenant to replace him.

Police “found an untidy room with items scattered around it, including a bag sitting in one corner. The room appeared to have been unused for a long time.”

Inside that bag the police found an M26 grenade. They also located “four homemade ping-pong bombs, two small pipe bombs and more than 20 giant firecrackers.” More incriminating “evidence,” seen in television coverage, was a bunch of red shirts.

Then a remarkable bit of luck: “Around 10pm, police spotted a man walking in the direction of the room being searched suddenly turn back and walked away. When police followed him he began to run away.” After a very long time, Kritchapol suddenly showed up at his apartment!

Kritchapol was immediately “confessed” that the bombs were his and that he was “working for fugitive Wuthipong ‘Kotee’ Kochathamakun, a leader of a group of hard-line members of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) who is wanted for lese majeste.”

We had long believed that Thai commandos had abducted Ko Tee in Laos and “disappeared” him.

All in all this was a huge coincidence of luck for the regime!

It could all be true, but it just seems so unbelievable. An d the coincidences seem too convenient, just as The Dictator fumes about Thaksin and Yingluck and activists he identifies operating with “impure purposes,” seeking “to create conflicts, mistrust or unrest…”.

The junta has regularly  come up with arms and bomb finds, all linked to “red shirts.” Usually these finds just melt away after political advantage has been made.

Finding allegedly red shirt bombs associated with a (missing) republican opponent just seems really very convenient for the military dictatorship.





The hunt for dissidents

21 12 2017

Almost a month ago PPT posted on potential trouble for Thai dissidents in Cambodia. At the time, we noted that the military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by red shirt dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

In a sign that Thailand continues to pressure Laos on this, the two nations have seen defense minister agree “to increase bilateral cooperation against people threatening the other’s security…”. As much as Thailand’s military dictatorship might bleat about cross border trafficking, the primary aim of this “cooperation” is to get red shirts back from Laos and jail them in Thailand. In a human rights climate where authoritarians have a political picnic, this trade in dissidents is likely to expand.

Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Minister for Time, General Prawit Wongsuwan and Lao Defense Minister Chansamone Chanyalath met in Vientiane and “discussed improving cooperation on overall security issues and agreed to seriously increase cooperation against illicit drugs and ‘groups of people who threaten the security‘ of either country…”.

They agreed they “would take serious action against people threatening the other’s security, and exchange intelligence reports for the purpose.”

That’s bad news for the dissidents currently based in Laos.





Trouble for dissidents

30 11 2017

The military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by having to deal with dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

However, it is Cambodia that has been a safe haven for many red shirts and has challenged the junta, who have been suspicious of Hun Sen as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

Now it seems that the junta may have an opening. The Phnom Penh Post reports that

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday raised the spectre of Thailand deporting members of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled the country….

Hun Sen declared that “Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should … ‘chase’ those people ‘staying in Bangkok’, in an apparent reference to ex-CNRP members who have fled.”

As Hun Sen destroys his opponents he will be keen to see those in Thailand deported. He is likely to be willing to make deals with Thailand’s military junta.





Supreme Court confirms double standards

31 08 2017

The only standards promoted by Thailand judiciary are double standards. This has been demonstrated time and again, and most especially since the illegal 2014 military coup. (Illegal because it was unconstitutional, but ruled legal by the courts.)

Who was that who stated this?

There is no tyranny more cruel than that which is perpetrated under color of the laws and in the name of justice—when, so to speak, one is drawn down and drowned by means of the very plank which should have borne him up and saved his life.

Montesquieu was writing in the 18th century and of martial Rome, but his view matches Thailand, where a kid can be murdered by the Army and it doesn’t get to court and that Army can operate on foreign soil and enforce the disappearance of a regime enemy, presumably murdered. It is a country where even mild or hinted criticism of the regime or The Dictator warrants a sedition charge. It is a regime where opposition politicians get decades in jail for “malfeasance” where The Dictator is protected by a “law” that allows him to do anything he wants with no fear of the law.

Shooting red shirts

We could go on and on but to the point of this post. Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have been, in the words of Prachatai, “whitewashed” on their role in ordering two violent military crackdowns on red shirts in 2010, leaving around a hundred people dead and thousands injured.

We at PPT are not at all surprised by this. After all, all the Supreme Court was doing was confirming the double standards established by the lower courts and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

As if to confirm how warped Thailand’s judiciary has become, on 9 June 2017, the very same Supreme Court “accepted a lawsuit against Tharit Pengdit, former director-general of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), and three other persons” for bringing murder charges against the ruling elite’s stooges.

An AP photo from the Telegraph: Protesters surround the coffins used for the bodies of red shirts killed in clashes with troops.





Further updated: Reporting Yingluck’s disappearance

27 08 2017

The military dictatorship states that it did “not allow former premier Yingluck Shinawatra to flee the country…”. It makes this statement due to the widespread view that her no-show at court and her reported flight could have only been possible with junta support. Hence, a deal was done.

Newspapers have been widely reporting that Yingluck is in Dubai. The Bangkok Post quotes an anonymous source from the Puea Thai Party: “We heard that she went to Cambodia and then Singapore from where she flew to Dubai. She has arrived safely and is there now…”.

As far as we can tell from the newspapers, this has yet to be confirmed and Yingluck has not been seen on Facebook or in the media since last Wednesday or Thursday.

The specific threat to the regime over Yingluck’s disappearance comes from the yellowists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (usually said to be “former” but still meeting and demanding).

PAD “is demanding that the government investigate the escape of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and severely punish any state officials who helped her flee the country.” It declared that “Yingluck’s escape reflected a failure on the part of security authorities, leading to speculation that the failure was allowed to happen.”

Like others, PAD:

… pointed out that Ms Yingluck for months had been closely shadowed by soldiers, to the point where she complained on social media about privacy violations. They noted that Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan] on Feb 29 last year had said soldiers were needed to provide protection for Ms Yingluck and to help maintain peace and order in a politically tense time.

One of the junta’s deputy spokesmen, said “the Foreign Ministry was taking steps to revoke the ex-premier’s passport.”

Significantly, he also “said there was no official confirmation of Yingluck’s whereabouts…” or, it has to be said, that she has actually left Thailand. That said, her relatives have expressed no alarm, but have not said where she is. That lack of alarm suggests she has not gone the way of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee, who seems to have been disappeared.

Then there are the assessments of what it all means. Hong Kong’s The Standard expresses it this way:

Yingluck Shinawatra’s escape from Thailand ahead of a court verdict that was expected to land her in jail for up to 10 years will tilt the country’s politics back in favor of the Bangkok establishment….

They mean the winners are the “military, technocrats, old power cliques, and the well-connected in business.”

That newspaper refers to Yingluck’s “escape,” using the inverted commas. It argues about motives:

Instead of letting the woman become a heroine of the masses that her family had dominated for so long, Yingluck can now be portrayed as a coward betrayer of her supporters, and her Pheu Thai party can be reduced to political insignificance.

It is added that The Dictator is “probably grinning from ear to ear” at her “escape.”

While The Standard editorial thinks Yingluck took “flight to Dubai via Singapore aboard a private jet to join her brother [Thaksin Shinawatra],” its observes that the junta seemed to deliberately muddy the waters:

Comments made by the junta after Yingluck’s flight … were extraordinary. For [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] ordered border security be stepped up. Number 2 [General] Prawit Wongsuwan said Yingluck had gone to Cambodia, while a naval source asserted she had escaped by sea…. All seemed to have been said to increase confusion to protect those involved.

Now the junta will have the opportunity to discredit Yingluck as a “fugitive,” just like her brother.

Update 1: Al Jazeera has a useful discussion of the current political condition. In this report, Peua Thai’s Sean Boonpracong “confirms” she has left Thailand, as have several other party sources.

Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya is adamant that there was “collusion between Yingluck and the military authorities…”. It was, he says, a “political decision.” It is “political expediency” and “convenient to both sides, adding its “convenient to everyone.”

Update 2: The junta has now “Thaksinified” Yingluck, seeking to revoke her Thai passports, with The Dictator declaring her “a fugitive after fleeing judgement in her rice scheme trial…”. General Prayuth continued to “explain” that an “investigation … into how she could have left the country.” The Dictator “blamed previous criticism that security authorities were crowding Ms Yingluck. Concerns over human rights had led to the present problem…”.

We were not aware that “human rights” were ever a concern for the regime.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit claimed “that authorities had followed Ms Yingluck closely. She was able to disappear because she had many vehicles.” That seems a lame “excuse” that his critics will find unconvincing.





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.