Murder and the failure of the justice system

11 08 2018

In our first post on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017, we made several points. We began by saying no one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event.

The junta immediately defended the soldiers who shot the young man:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The courts have decided that the military shot Chaiyaphoom, but no more than this.

The police initially insisted that Lahu activist Chaiyaphoom was linked to drug trafficking. They also stated, immediately, that the killing was in self-defense. They claimed Chaiyapoom was shot after he tried to attack the soldier with a hand grenade while fleeing. Another version of the police story also had him threatening the soldier with a knife. It later emerged that the military used exactly  the same “defense” in a case a month earlier and at the very same military checkpoint.

The story became more bizarre when it emerged that in neither case did the “grenade” explode! It was being alleged that the two used the grenade like throwing a rock.

You’d think the story could be better than this if you were concocting it. But these officials and the military are so sure of their impunity that they can come up with ludicrous, improbable and dumb excuses and just get away with it.

Immediately after Chaiyaphoom’s one-shot death, the police insisted there was no foul play.” And they also claimed that a large number of meth pills were “found” in the car that Chaiyaphoom allegedly ran from. Shut the door, close the books and go home. There’s nothing to see or investigate.

Locals were aghast and knew there was a cover up. When the military suddenly showed up in villages and strong-armed potential witnesses and a few who spoke out, it was clear there was a cover-up.

More covering up followed. The Army boss Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart said his men “had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade…”. Deputy Dictator Prawit Wongsuwan said much the same.

Local witnesses of the shooting told a different story. They were soon silent, no doubt intimidated.

By the end of March, the military and police had refused to release CCTV footage of the killing. Third Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the military had sent CCTV evidence to the police.

Gen Chalermchai also “stated that he had already watched the CCTV recording of the scene. He said the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all questions.’ Releasing the footage might lead to confusion in the investigation process and arguments among society.”

Then in mid-April it was reported that the generals were lying:

Pol Col Mongkhon Samphawaphon revealed to BBC Thai that the police have not received CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

The police submitted a request to the military for the footage. However, the military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.

Intimidation continued.

In mid-May 2017, it was reported that police had received the CCTV video. The police stated that they had “spent a week unable to view critical footage because they didn’t have a computer with the necessary software to watch it.”

Then, almost six months after Chaiyapoom was killed and over five months after the military first stated it had handed the CCTV footage to police investigators, a lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family said he was concerned about the CCTV footage which was prime evidence. He said he did not know whether the military has given the footage to prosecutor.

Later still, the CCTV video remained “unavailable”:

Although the trial in the killing of ethnic Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae began over seven months ago, the court has not yet received the Army’s CCTV footage, critical evidence which recorded soldiers shooting the activist.

According to Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, the Army had already sent the CCTV hard disk to the police, but the file cannot be opened. The lawyer said that he would ask the court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.

As court proceedings continued, it was reported:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

In June 2018, a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on Chaiyapoom’s killing was delivered, concluding that “the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

Again, Chaiyaphoom’s lawyer and family petitioned the Army to reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain. The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men.

Now it is reported – some 17 months after the extrajudicial killing – the Army would have the public believe that there is no footage. That’s what they have now told the family.

This is breathtakingly dumb. Those generals, then, were simply lying. They cannot be believed on anything at all. They are scoundrels of the lowest order.

More importantly, they may have engaged in malfeasance justifying legal proceedings against them.

Now it is claimed the tape was erased. It is claimed it was never there having been erased to create space on the tape/disk for additional recording.

So what did the generals view? Porn perhaps? Family holiday videos? Blank screens? We think not. We actually think the generals did not lie. Rather, they saw the events, realized it was incriminating its troops of an extrajudicial murder, and after hiding the evidence, it has now been erased.

That’s a criminal act. The Bangkok Post’s editorial doesn’t say anything about that, but says this:

Thailand has been unable to hold state officials accountable for extrajudicial killings, torture or forced disappearances due to a flawed and biased justice process.

The missing footage once again will prevent the justice system from fulfilling its mission of getting to the bottom of yet another mysterious killing.

Its time to say that the justice system under the military dictatorship is incapable of delivering anything resembling justice.





Dumber than a bag of hammers II

7 06 2018

We at PPT have been critical of the justice system because it has been politicized, practiced double standards and enforced injustice. The system that runs from police to prosecutors to courts includes many nodes where the rich can pay bribes to avoid courts, charges and jail. The regime uses it to maintain impunity and to repress and jail political opponents. They make use of the lese majeste, sedition and other political laws and decrees.

The junta has worked hard to “cleanse” the so-called justice system of the “politically unreliable.” While the judiciary has long been a nest of royalists, the junta has re-made it as a bunch of clueless political automatons. That may be something of an exaggeration as some professionals remain at various courts, but it is essentially a judiciary that does as it is expected.

The result of the junta’s interventions is that the judiciary is looking as dumb as a bag of hammers. We say this based on two reports of the dumbest court ruling we have seen for some time. One report is in The Nation and another at Prachatai. They report on a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017.

The court “concluded that the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

How dumb can a court get? Or how politicized and corrupt can it be? Seriously? Everyone involved knew that the boy was killed by the military. The military has said it shot him. The media reported it. Witnesses said it.

So the court, after 14 months of the judicial system’s “investigations,” concludes the obvious and known. It concludes what was never in dispute.

An astute reader might say that this is just a part of a longer process. Yet, as we know from such “investigations” into the 2010 military murder of red shirts that such decisions can be an endpoint.

So this court didn’t just rule that a military bullet killed Chaiyapoom, it refused to confirm anything else. The court did not rule the killing illegal.

In essence, it has granted impunity for the military’s shooter and his commanders.

The court “refused to consider the argument made by Chaiyaphum’s relatives which claims that the activist neither possessed drugs or hand grenades nor attempted to stab the authorities as the army had accused him of doing.”

In response, the judge stated that “the court was only asked to find the cause of his death.” That is, of course, a reflection of what the police “investigated,” what the military brass and junta demanded and what the prosecutors did. It is a failure of the judicial system and shows that this judge is a little more than a dopey processing terminal for the military.

Lahu Chiang Mai Group president and Chaiyapoom’s mentor, Maitree Chamroensuksakul, said “he could not have imagined that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court would simply announce results that the public already knew.” He added: “I am disappointed, frankly speaking. In fact, one year should have been long enough to nail down the culprit…”.

Now that the court has confirmed what everyone knew, after 14 months of hidden evidence and intimidation of witnesses and others, its report will go “to a public prosecutor who will decide whether the soldier who killed Chaiyaphum will be indicted or not.”

More delays, intimidation, suppression of evidence and political interference will follow.

And, if the prosecutors decide to press charges, the case will probably be heard in a military court, where justice is almost never served and proceedings will likely be secret.

The family can file a civil suit, but that is the system’s way of ensuring that there will be likely be delays of years in hearing the case.

Again, “Chaiyaphum’s lawyer and family have also petitioned the Royal Thai Army to publicly reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain.” The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men. Early on, when the military was justifying its actions, “there were widespread reports that video footage of the incident existed and that several military figures, including Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart, had already watched it.”

Cover-ups go right to the top in the impunity that the murderous military enjoys.

That’s why it is now “said the footage did not include what had happened at the time Chaiyapoom was shot.” How convenient that footage once claimed to vindicate the military is now said to not show anything at all about the case. Clearly the military leadership is full of scoundrels and liars. They can get away with murder, again and again.

The Prachatai report includes a timeline of the military’s role and intimidation, the judicial system’s failures and the stonewalling. But there’s much, much more to be learned in this case and the similar case of a Lahu killed a little while before Chaiyapoom, where the military used exactly the same “excuse” for the killing.

Judges overseeing dumb decisions for a murderous military are not dumb themselves. They are just doing their “duty” in protecting the state’s older brothers and enforcing the required impunity.





Pandering to the murderous military II

28 05 2018

This is the second of our two posts on how the military dictatorship and the military itself enjoy impunity and why the junta maintains the military boot on Thailand’s collective throat.

Bangkok Post military groupie-cum-reporter Wassana Nanuam writes about Third Region Army commander Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop. It begins with a discussion of this loudmouth general’s querulous and insensitive comments about the extrajudicial murder of young Lahu rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae.

Yet the way this is handled is, frankly, disgusting.

The idiot general reckons he “had no idea he would still be answering questions … a full year after the incident occurred on March 17 last year.” Saying that he would have killed the kid with a weapon set to automatic fire says much about this thug.

But never mind, Lt Gen Vijak is a big deal in drug trafficking in the north. Wassana says he “leads active suppression squads against the heavy proliferation of drug smuggling…”, implying that killing alleged drug smugglers is to be applauded.

Wassana repeats all of the military’s unverified, unlikely and unbelievable claims about the murder of Chaiyaphum. She says nary a word about the fact that the military has suppressed evidence, harassed witnesses and threatened witnesses. She can use quotation marks and say “alleged,” but she’s effectively speaking for them when she’s silent on facts about the case.

This likely encourages the military to kill more people.

When she concludes with anecdotes about the Vijak opening restaurants (is that legal when he’s a serving officer?) and dishing up food for friends, she’s bleaching his and the military’s dirty laundry. The journalistic ethics of such stuff must surely be questioned.





Weekend reads

1 04 2018

We are still kind of catching up from our downtime a weeks or so ago, and want to recommend some interesting material for our readers. Hopefully our military censors/blockers will also learn something from these stories.

At the Bangkok Post: The Cambridge Analytica/SCL Group story is belatedly addressed for Thailand – we commented about 10 days ago – but adds little to the story, although there seems an attempt to diminish the possible role of the Democrat Party even though the only Thai cited is Chuan Leekpai. If there were links between the Democrat Party and/or its government and SCL, look to the party’s Anglophiles for the connecting points.

On the extrajudicial killings at Prachatai: Yiamyut Sutthichaya writes that  “March 17th marked the first anniversary of the death of the young Lahu activist, Chaiyaphum ‘Cha-ou’ Pasae. He was shot dead by a soldier…”. As far as we can tell, nothing sensible has happened on this case since day 1. It has been a cover-up. Read the account, weep for Chaiyapoom and weep for Thailand under the junta’s boot. This is a case of official corruption far more egregious than the Deputy Dictator’s watch saga. The latter interests the middle class who seem to care little for rural kids murdered by military thugs.

“No conspiracy”: The Dictator says he’s stuck to the “roadmap” and there’s no conspiracy to further delay the junta’s promised election. Everyone knows this is a mountain of buffalo manure, but The Dictator keeps saying it. No one believes him – no one – and Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post calls him out. While at the Post, go and read the stir caused for the junta when Thaksin suggests that Puea Thai will do well when an election comes along. That’s also what the polls say, including the junta’s own polling. That’s also why the junta is splashing taxpayer funds about, seeking to buy supporters.

Insidious Internal Security Act: In talking with political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Kritsada Subpawanthanakun reminds us that the the Internal Security Act has now been around for 10 years. A tool wielded mainly through ISOC, it is used to undermine political opponents of Thailand’s establishment. This is highlighted by the fact that the current law was implemented by Gen Surayud Chulanont’s government, put in place by a military junta and borrowing Surayud from the Privy Council. The links between ISOC and the palace are long, deep and nasty.

For more on ISOC: Nutcha Tantivitayapitak writes of “ISOC’s cultural mission” in “the ideological promotion process of ‘nation-religion-monarchy’ by the security agencies…, especially after the enforcement of the 2008 Internal Security Act. Security agencies such as ISOC, which has power over civilian agencies, moved forward in ideological indoctrination through cultural tools.”





An injustice regime

21 03 2018

Justice is not a particular forte of military dictatorships. For Thailand’s variety, the emphasis is on law applied in a politicized manner and double standards, topped off with notions that the powerful should expect impunity.

A particularly egregious case, extended now over a year of mostly silence and some lies, is the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers. PPT has regularly posted on the “investigations,” which amount to almost nothing more than cover up and lies. Such a non-response/cover-up by the authorities can be considered an admission of guilt without saying those words.

We were heartened to see both an op-ed and an editorial in the Bangkok Post recently, both drawing attention to this most obvious example of the regime’s misuse of deadly force and the military’s ingrained expectation of impunity.

As the op-ed by Paritta Wangkiat states:

We know that a bullet fired at his chest killed him. But the rest of the story has been mixed with conflicting accounts. The mystery behind his death stands as a stark reminder of how hard it is for minority and ethnic groups to obtain justice in the Land of Smiles.

Of course, it is far more than this. Any one outside the economic and political elite cannot be assured of anything approaching justice in Thailand.

In this case, there was some hope that CCTV footage would reveal the truth. Sadly and defining of impunity, we learn:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year. The next is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. It’s likely that the case will draw to a conclusion very soon.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

This screams cover up.

The editorial notes that “Chaiyaphum’s family … have complained of state intimidation during the investigation into the activist’s death.” It is the police, military and other authorities who intimidate.

The editorial is right to say: “The military is obliged to handle the case fairly and refrain — or abandon — any attempts at a cover-up, as this would taint the nation’s image. The slain activist and his family deserve justice, which is long overdue.”

Right, but all too weak. We can’t think of many cases involving the military and its use of murderous force that have ever been handled “fairly.”





Media awards

27 01 2018

Amnesty International Thailand recently held an event, reported by Prachatai, that was “organised out of respect for the role of the media in observing human rights principles and creating human rights awareness in our society.” AI made awards “to outstanding reports relating to human rights and humanity in general.”

In an interesting and important set of reports, two caught PPT’s attention.

For the print media, First Prize was awarded to Paritta Wangkiat who was writing for the Bangkok Post for its article “Too Little, Too Late for Lahu Traumatized by Youth’s Killing.” This report highlighted the still unresolved extrajudicial slaying of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers. As far as we are aware, the military continues to conceal evidence and cover-up on this tragic case. Paritta’s report is online and can be read here.

In the category of online media, joint First Prizes were awarded to the101.world for “Anwar, Pattani and the River full of Crocodiles” and Prachatai for “Sex and Love in Thailand’s Male Prisons.” The latter story was reported by Taweesak Kerdpoka.

On 29 January, Taweesak is due to appear before the Ratchaburi Provincial Court when it will announce its verdict in the case of Taweesak and four activists “accused of allegedly violating the Referendum Act by giving moral support to villagers in Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi Province in the case of the activists, and by reporting on the incident by the Prachatai journalist.” By taking this “legal” action, the junta effectively made reporting opposition to its draft constitution illegal.

The media in Thailand has a rather checkered history on human rights, but these two young journalists have done outstanding work. The junta prefers obedience.





Justice warped

26 12 2017

It has been a considerable time since PPT has seen any reporting on the court case on the killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae. We think the last report we posted on was back in September.

Then the Bangkok Post was pointing to the case being in the courts but that the events of the killing had been muddied by the authorities, with junta cabinet ministers defending the soldier who gunned down Chaiyapoom. The “evidence” the junta’s officials and the military claimed to have was hidden, unavailable or concocted and the long-promised and much discussed CCTV footage of the shooting had not been released to the courts.

Junta “investigations” were stagnant cover ups and the case risked disappearing into thin air, the state’s usual way of maintaining impunity for its illegal acts.

In a brief update, seven months into the court case, Prachatai confirms the ongoing cover-up.

Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, said that the “evidence submitted by the Army … is unusable…”. This claim relates to the continuing failure to provide the CCTV footage. The Army mumbled something about having provided it to the police but that the latter being unable to open the file.

The lawyer is now required to get the “court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.”

What will be the next excuse? This case is one more that displays the warping the justice system.