Ji Ungpakorn on the NHRC

4 04 2010

Ji Ungpakorn has emailed this out:

Thai Human Rights Commission justifies use of force against peaceful protest

Dr Tajing Siripanit, a commissioner from the Thai National Human Rights Commission, stated on NBT television at 13.30 on 4th April 2010, that the military-backed Government “would be justified in using force” against the peaceful pro-democracy Red Shirt protestors “because they were disrupting shopping” in the centre of Bangkok. In fact, the Red Shirts are not blocking the pedestrian entrances to any shopping centres.

Previously, the National Human Rights Commission remained quiet about the fascist-PAD blockade of the international airports in 2008 and the 2006 military coup. They have remained silent about the use of lese majeste against Government critics and they are silent on the censorship of the media. Many members of the National Human Rights Commission are PAD supporters.

This is an example of what the Red Shirts mean when they say that the “independent bodies” are staffed by military junta appointees. This is why we need immediate fresh elections and the abolition of the military Constitution.

Most Thai NGOs who repeatedly called for the democratically elected Peoples Power (Red Shirt) Government to use restraint against the PAD protestors in 2008, have remained silent during the present government’s threats to use force against Red Shirt protestors who are maintaining peaceful protests in the streets. They have also supported the military-backed Government’s refusal to call immediate fresh elections. Some NGOs have said that local community rights issues need to be sorted out first before elections, as though community rights and Democracy have nothing to do with each other! Amnesty International in Thailand has PAD supporters on its staff and so AI has refused to take up lese majeste prisoners as prisoners of conscience.

Samak and human rights

24 11 2009

Samak Sundaravej passed away and the obituaries are dissecting his past and noting that he was a complex political figure. PPT doesn’t plan to add too much to those discussions. Samak was one of Thailand’s old guard who was able to stay on the scene and politically relevant because many basic features of Thai politics remained unchanged. In other words, because the political environment changed relatively slowly, the political dinosaurs have been able to adapt and even thrive.

Samak was an anti-communist rightist who spared little time for human rights. That’s pretty much true. His period as Minister of the Interior under the palace’s prime minister Thanin Kraivixien (still a member of the king’s Privy Council) in 1976-77 was one of the most repressive in the modern era. Samak had hundreds of alleged leftists arrested and his tactics led to many fleeing Thailand or joining the CPT in the jungle.

Earlier, he had a critical role in the events that resulted in the massacre of students at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976. Samak is seen to have encouraged ousted dictator Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn to return to Thailand, setting off demonstrations that led to the Thammasat massacre. At the time, Samak was a close associate of Queen Sirikit and Samak claimed that the king wanted Thanom to return. When the royal family showed up to welcome Thanom on his return, Samak’s claims were vindicated.

More than this, Samak organized anti-government rightists to bring down the government and contributed to the extremist actions that led to horrendous events. Samak continued to deny the Thammasat massacre until the end.

Another rogue of this period, Chamlong Srimuang, whose role in the 1976 events is far murkier, has commented on Samak’s passing. In the Nation (25 November 2009: “Samak never knew I voted for him: Chamlong”), Chamlong says that things that show another side of Samak.

Chamlong says he used to vote for Samak when he was a “young-blood politician…”. In other words, when Samak was a hard-core rightist anti-communist. They became enemies as time went on. Chamlong explains that Samak “didn’t like the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect that much and I happened to be one of its members.” They also clashed over abortion rights when Chamlong was secretary-general to then Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda. Samak want a “liberalisation of abortion” whereas the fundamentalist Chamlong mobilized to kill the bill. And, Chamlong explains that Samak was not prepared to be at Prem’s beck and call. So not all bad.

That animosity between Prem and Samak was reinvigorated when Thaksin Shinawatra nominated Samak to lead the People’s Power Party following the 2006 military-palace coup and the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai Party and banning of its leading members. That bitter rivalry eventually saw Samak ousted on very minor charges essentially trumped up by courts that sort every means to defeat the “Thaksin regime.”

Like so many of the dinosaurs that continue to stride the political stage, Samak’s longevity had much to do with the conservatism fostered by the weight of authoritarian and undemocratic institutions like the monarchy, bureaucracy and military. Until that hold is broken, human rights in Thailand are doomed to more dark days.

Update: Ji Ungpakorn has a comment here and here.

Ji Ungpakorn on royalist frothing and fuming

10 11 2009

Yellow Shirt Royalist Froth at the Mouth and Fume at Taksin

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

[Yet again accused of lese majeste, PPT reproduces, in full, Ji Ungpakorn’s latest piece from his Red Siam blog (which is where the accusers claim the lese majeste appeared.]

Quite frankly, my feelings after reading Taksin’s interview with The Times was that he was prostrating himself unnecessarily in front of the Thai royal family and especially the nasty Crown Prince, whom Taksin sees as a shining light for the future. But Taksin is and always has been a royalist, so that was in keeping with his position. As one who wishes to see a republic in Thailand and an end to the corrupt and undemocratic practices of the royalists, I think that Taksin is trying to lead the Red Shirts into a nasty compromise.

Yet the total disregard for truth embodied in the Abhisit government and their semi-fascist PAD allies, means that an interview where Taksin grovels to the Royals can be distorted into “insulting the Monarchy”. The government have tried to block The Times interview transcript and have threatened the Thai media with lese majeste charges if they publish anything about the interview. No doubt this is so that Abhisit and his mates can tell lies without anyone being able to access the original transcript. A bunch of idiots have even made a complaint to the police, demanding that they charge Taksin and me with lese majeste. I am now starting to collect lese majeste accusations like people collect stamps. The only difference is that stamps are sometimes worth something. In the unlikely event that either of us were ever brought to trial in Thailand, the trial would be held in secret to complete the stitch-up. That is how Da Torpedo and Suwicha Takor got long jail sentences.

The Royalists are also frothing at the mouth like mad dogs over Taksin’s friendship with the rather unsavoury Cambodian PM, Hun Sen. What do they expect? The PAD and the Democrats started their anti-Cambodian campaign a few years back when they wanted to whip up ultra nationalist sentiment over an ancient Khmer temple, which clearly belongs to Cambodia. They didn’t give a damn about Cambodia. They just wanted another excuse to attack the Taksin government. No doubt they would love a war with Thailand’s neighbour, so long as none of them or their relatives had to go and die for a bunch of lies.

The present Thai government run by Oxford educated Abhisit and his cronies, and the Thai elite establishment, are instinctive liars and incompetent fools. They would be a joke if they weren’t so vicious and dangerous. That comes as no surprise. But what about the Thai intellectual establishment, the NGOs and the mainstream media? They will remain quite again or froth at the mouth along with their PAD friends. For them, they must believe that the King will live for ever. Therefore we can’t discuss the succession or perhaps a change to a democratic republic. For them we can’t live in peace with Cambodians either. Suriyasai and other PAD extremists think that Thailand is in danger of becoming a colony of Cambodia. What planet do they live on? But there is silence from the supposed educated sectors of Civil Society on this. Perhaps they are all brain-dead?

Don’t judge Thailand by the bunch of crooks that run the country. Don’t judge Thailand by the pseudo intellectuals who inhabit the universities and NGOs. There are millions of decent and principled citizens in the Red Shirt movement. Thailand will only become democratic and civilised if these ordinary folk take political power.

Giles Ungpakorn on NGOs, ASEAN and cretinism

25 10 2009

Reproduced in full by PPT:

“Lobby Cretinism” of NGOs over the ASEAN Human Rights Commission

Giles Ungpakorn

The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) is made up of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Singapore, which all have authoritarian sates. It also includes the semi-democratic Malaysia, along with the Philippines and Indonesia, which are more or less democratic. Would anyone expect a gathering of government leaders from these countries to set up a genuine Human Rights Commission?

Apparently, some NGOs from the region did think so. They got snubbed. Not only did the governments decided to appoint the Human Rights Commissioners themselves, they also refused to meet with half the NGO delegates, and allowed only Dr Surichai Wangaeo of Chulalongkorn University to speak on behalf of the NGO delegation.

Who is Dr Surichai? He supported the 2006 military coup in Thailand and was an appointee to the military junta’s parliament. The Thai NGO team that was involved in so-called “civil society” discussions also included people who supported the military coup.

The Inaugural Ceremony of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights was kicked off by a speech from Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the present military installed government. Abhisit’s government has presided over some of the most draconian censorship seen in Thailand for 40 years, along with the use of an Internal Security law which curtails the right to peaceful protest. His government has imprisoned political opponents under the lese majeste law and it was also responsible for shooting pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok last April. In addition, Abhisit’s Democrat Party has set up a paramilitary Blue Shirt gang to commit acts of violence against government opponents. Yet in his speech, addressed to the King, who wasn’t actually present, he unashamedly said things like: “Human rights is an important component of our people’s lives, and it is important for the people-based community we plan to build.” For the members of civil society, he had this to say: “you should rest assured that you now have a new partner with whom to work.” These lies are no longer shocking, since Abhisit has lied about most of his government policies and about the use of lese majeste.

How could NGO activists go along with all this nonsense? Are they stupid or just plain dishonest opportunists? Or have they been blinded by their lack of politics?

The “lobby NGOs” like to claim that they represent “Civil Society”, despite never being elected by anyone. Some are even against elections and voting. They forget that Civil Society can only increase the democratic space and defend rights if it is organised into mass social movements, which act against authoritarian governments and elite vested interests. Instead of trying to talk to government leaders, it would be better to concentrate energy and resources in building such mass movements or supporting movements which already exist, such as the Red Shirts in Thailand and oppositional movements in other ASEAN countries.

Any Human Rights Commission worth its salt must be totally separate and independent from governments and must have the courage to condemn all violations of freedom. The Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong is one good example among many.

After the “collapse of Communism”, much of the NGO movement turned its back on “politics” and the primacy of mass movements and political parties in the 1980s. Instead they embraced “lobby politics” and/or Community Anarchism. Despite the apparent contradiction between lobby politics, which leads NGOs to cooperate with the state, and state-rejecting Community Anarchism, the two go together. This is because they reject any confrontation or competition with the state. Lobbyists cooperate with the state, while Community Anarchists hope to ignore it. They both reject building a big picture political analysis. That is why they can deliberately ignore the fact that most ASEAN countries are run by dictatorships.

Instead of building mass movements or political parties, the NGOs concentrated on single-issue campaigns as part of their attempt to avoid confrontation with the state. They prefer trying to gain invitations to enter the corridors of power, rather than getting rid of elite power. This method of working also dove-tails with grant applications from international funding bodies. It leads to a de-politicisation of the movement.

On Climate Change, the NGOs which met in Bangkok also ignored the fact that governments were unelected. They tried to suck-up to local governments by using a nationalist agenda to blame only the West for Climate Change. This lets local elites off the hook. It also makes alliance-building with movements in the West more difficult. Activists in Europe and the U.S.A. are well aware that Western nations should shoulder the majority of the burden, but the issue is how to tackle the profit-driven market system which destroys the planet and creates great inequalities.

ASEAN countries need to invest more in improving the lives of citizens. The rich need to be taxed and military budgets slashed in order to fund such projects. We need modern technology under real democratic control, in order to build solar power station, wind turbines, electrified public transport and efficient housing. On this important point, the NGOs meeting in Thailand were silent, preferring to suggest some kind of de-industrialisation along the lines of the King’s reactionary “Sufficiency Economy”.

The era of NGOs being radical forces in society is long over. For activists who wish to build a better society, the time has come to reassess the past and find a better alternative form of struggle. For those only interested in a career, just stay put and hope the funding doesn’t dry up.

Ji Ungpakorn on 6 October, 19 September, and the monarchy in politics

5 10 2009

Ji Ungpakorn, in exile in England since earlier this year, has posted a new article on his blog comparing the conditions and legacies of the 6 October 1976 massacre and the 19 September 2006 coup.

Ji argues that while there are important differences between the two events, “Both the 6th October and the 19th September were actions which destroyed Democracy because the conservative elites felt that “too much Democracy” would lead to “too much equality.”” Both events “claimed legitimacy from the King” and involved questioning of the monarchy.

PPT would add further that both events led to the heightened and deep criminalization of the mere mention, let alone serious questioning, of the monarchy. This signals that continued serious questioning is needed.

Read the entire article here: 5 October 2009, “Comparing the 6th October 1976 and the 19th September 2006”

C.J. Hinke on lese majeste

21 09 2009

Rehabilitation and the politics of prison

Anyone who has read anything about Thai prisons will readily acknowledge that their purpose is political. After visiting inmates at Bang Kwang, providing food and books and DVDs to prisoners I never met before, I am convinced that all prisoners are political prisoners.

Prisons serve only to warehouse citizens, not only in Thailand but in most countries. For the period of imprisonment, those particular prisoners cannot commit their crime again and serve as a social reminder to others who have no wish to join them.

I quote Winston Churchill: “Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization.” Ah, Winnie, you old Commie!

So let’s not talk about Khun Darunee “realising her mistakes and correcting them”; that’s not the way prison sentences work–there’s nor “Sorry” or “Get out of gaol free” cards. It’s 18 years inside if a prisoner is not paroled following two-thirds of their sentence.

Darunee has every legal and human right to apply for a Royal pardon and I have every confidence she would receive one. However, her political views on the monarchy may preclude her application on principle. If she will not apply to Nai Luang on humanitarian principles, this should not prevent her release on humanitarian grounds. Should Thais be exempt from practicing simple Buddhist humanity towards others?

Similarly, it is doubtful Ajarn Ji will ever be allowed to return to Thailand a free man, even under successive changes of government.

Are these people so dangerous to our society? Or is Thailand afraid that some grain of truth they express may strike a resonant chord in other citizens who will then become convinced against the monarchy and foment a Republican revolution? Thailand as Republican domino?!?

If any reader thinks this is even a remote possibility, you must live in a different Thailand than mine!

Ji’s exile and Darunee’s 18 years belie any pretence of free expression in our beloved Thailand.

Ji on the 2006 coup anniversary

16 09 2009

PPT reprints here an article by Ji Ungpakorn. We do this because his sites and commentary are often blocked in Thailand.

The 19th September coup, three years on

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

On the 19th September 2006, the Thai army staged a coup toppling the elected government of Taksin Shinawat. Soldiers sported yellow royal ribbons and the military junta claimed that they were staging the coup to protect “Democracy with the King as the Head of State”. They certainly were not protecting Democracy, but most Thais believed that this was indeed a “Royal Coup”. The coup came after mass street demonstrations against the elected government by the royalist and conservative “Peoples Alliance for Democracy” (PAD), where many PAD members and leaders of the so-called Democrat Party had called for the King to sack the elected Prime Minister and appoint another one. Later, the yellow-shirted PAD took on a semi-fascist nature, using extreme nationalism and having its own armed guard. They used violence on the streets of Bangkok.

It was always an exaggeration to claim that “all Thais revere the King” or that “the Monarchy has held the country together for decades”. Statements like that glossed over the level of coercion surrounding public attitudes to the Monarchy, the real deep tensions in society and the serious lack of power, courage and character shown by this King throughout his reign. Never the less, there was a short period of 20 years after the mid 1980s when the Monarchy was very popular. This was more to do with the weakness of any opposition and the level of promotion that the institution received, rather than any “ancient or natural” love for the King among Thais. Yet, it was enough to convince most Thais that Monarchism was deeply embedded in society. The present crisis has shattered all these illusions. Since the coup, the royalists have been promoting the King’s “Sufficiency Economy” ideology, which argues against redistribution of wealth. At the same time, Budget Bureau documents, show that the public purse spent more than 6 billion baht on the Monarchy in 2008, mainly for the Royal Household Bureau (more than 2 billion), royal overseas visits (500 million), Royal Thai Aid-De-Camp Department (over 400 million) and the rest being for security by the police and army. This figure did not include the cost of the new royal plane fleet, which amounted to 3.65 billion baht.

Some commentators, who ought to know better, however, go to great lengths in supporting illusions about the Monarchy. Benjamin Zawacki, South-east Asia researcher for Amnesty International, making a disgraceful comment on an 18 year jail sentence given to a Red Shirt activist for making a speech against the Monarchy, said that “you have an institution here ( the Monarchy) that has played an important role in the protection of human rights in Thailand. We can see why the monarchy needs to be protected” (by lese majeste laws). There is absolutely no evidence that the King has ever protected human rights. In fact, the opposite is true. Just look at what happened on 6th October 1976. The statement is not surprising, however, since the Amnesty International office in Thailand is closely associated with the semi-fascist PAD.

Immediately after the coup in 2006, there was no mass response by the millions of citizens who had repeatedly voted for Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) government. But a small group of activists, who called themselves “the 19th September Network Against the Coup” did stage a protest and continued to organise repeated protests. I was one of those people who protested against the coup. But we were not supporters of Taksin’s TRT and were critical of his gross human rights abuses in the South and in the War on Drugs. Since then, the destruction of democracy by the conservative elites has continued relentlessly and has stimulated the growth of a grass-roots pro-democracy movement called the “Red Shirts”. It has long become necessary to take sides. That is why I joined the Red Shirts in November 2008.

After writing a new pro-military Constitution and using the courts to dissolve Taksin’s TRT party, the military junta who staged the 2006 coup, held fresh elections in 2007. This was won by the Peoples’ Power Party (PPP), a new party set up by TRT politicians. Again the election results were ignored. The conservative courts, violent protests by the PAD, including the shutting down of the international airports, plus the behind scenes activity of the army, eventually resulted in an undemocratic government with Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the Prime Minister in December 2009. Thailand took further steps backwards with the introduction of draconian censorship, the use of lese majeste laws against pro-democracy activists, and the creation by the government, of the armed paramilitary gang called the “Blue Shirts”. The Blue Shirts are thought to be soldiers out of uniform. They are controlled by government politicians such as Newin Chitchorp and Sutep Teuksuban. The reason for the creation of the Blue Shirts is that PAD is beyond control of the government and hence there are attempts to limit its power. Never the less, the Foreign Minister is a PAD supporter and he took part in the illegal airport occupation.

The Red Shirts have continued to evolve. Mass meetings of ordinary people, numbering hundreds of thousands, were held in sports stadiums in Bangkok. The movement was initially built by former TRT politicians, but it quickly evolved into a grass-roots movement with branches in most communities throughout the country and even abroad. There are local educational groups, community radio stations and websites.

In April 2009, for the fourth time in forty years, troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok. Some months later, a tape recording of a cabinet meeting was leaked to the public. Prime Minister Abhistit was caught on tape urging the military to create a situation in which they could shoot the Red Shirt protestors. Each time the army have shot unarmed protestors in Thailand, the aim has been the same: to protect the interests of the conservative elites who have run the country for the past 70 years. This time, the protestors were Red Shirts, and at least two people died and hundreds more were injured, some seriously. Since then, Abhisit’s military backed government has repeatedly used “internal security” as an excuse to prevent legitimate street protests. They have declared what amounts to “Martial Law” in Bangkok over the next few days.

Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party was modernising and this is why the conservatives hated it. For the first time in decades, a party gained mass support from the poor because it believed that the poor were not a burden. They argued that the poor should be “stake-holders” rather than surfs. These “populist” policies were developed after the 1997 Asian economic crisis and were a result of widespread consultations in society. This was no Socialist party, but a party of big business committed to free-market policies at a Macro and Global level, and Keynesian policies at village or grass-roots level. When the party came to power in 2001, the banks had stopped lending and there was an urgent need to stimulate the economy. It represented the modernising interests of an important faction of the capitalist class.

The major forces behind the 19th September coup were anti-democratic groups in the military and civilian elite, disgruntled business leaders, middle class reactionaries and neo-liberal intellectuals and politicians. The coup was also supported by the Monarchy and the majority of the NGO movement. What all these groups had in common was contempt for the poor. For the neo-liberals, “too much democracy” gave “too much” power to the poor electorate and encouraged governments to “over-spend” on welfare. The intellectuals and NGO activists believed that Thailand was divided between the “enlightened middle-classes who understood democracy” and the “ignorant rural and urban poor” who were trapped in a “patron-client system”. There was a belief that Taksin cheated in elections, mainly by “tricking or buying the ignorant rural poor”. This was a convenient justification for ignoring the wishes of 16 million people. There was no evidence for any serious electoral fraud which would have changed the clear majority which TRT gained in many elections.

Taksin has often been wrongly accused of being against the Monarchy. In fact he is a royalist. He opposes people like myself who are republicans. His government promoted the King’s 60 anniversary celebrations and started the North Korean-style “Yellow Shirt Mania”. But Taksin lost out to the conservatives in his attempt to use the Monarchy for his own legitimacy.

Taksin is also accused of corruption. His sale of Shin Corp shares, without paying tax, was certainly “moral corruption”, but quite legal. The military and the courts have had 3 years to come up with evidence of his corruption, but have only managed to convict him on a technicality in one instance. Perhaps a thorough-going anti-corruption campaign might unearth widespread corruption among all the elites, especially the military and the conservatives and even those involved in the King’s “Sufficiency Economy” programme?

Much damage has been done to Thai society by the conservative elites and the coup. They may manage to cling on to their power and wealth for some time, but millions of pro-democracy Thais are no longer willing to compromise and accept anything less than real democracy where the army and the monarchy are kept out of politics. Many, like myself, would now like to see a republic and a whole-sale dismissal of the top generals and judges. The King will die soon and his son is universally hated and despised. But the elites, whose real power lies in the hands of the army, will still try desperately to promote and use the Monarchy for their own ends. We can only hope that their dreams will soon crumble to dust.

Pravit on Darunee and the whitewashing the 2006 coup

1 09 2009

At Prachatai (1 September 2009), Pravit Rojanaphruk has this article “There She Was: Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul on The New York Times” about reaction to the harsh sentencing of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul. A couple of points from the story.

First, readers should note Pravit’s self-censorship when citing the New York Times article on Darunee. All that is left out is the word “supported” in “The three-judge panel ruled that even though she did not mention the king or queen by name in the speech, she had insinuated that they supported the coup.” This is interesting, for as PPT pointed out in an earlier post, journalists made this point about palace support right after the coup. In fact, there is plenty of journalistic and academic comment on this support from that period.

This comment on support for the coup is one of the reasons for the lese majeste charges against Ji Ungpakorn. In his book A Coup for the Rich, which Ji says is an academic analysis, it is stated: “The major forces behind the 19th September [2006] coup were antidemocratic groups in the military and civilian elite, disgruntled business leaders and neo-liberal intellectuals and politicians. The coup was also supported by the Monarchy.” Why Ji was singled out for stating the obvious is unclear except for the fact that he was politically active in opposing the 2006 coup.

In other words, the palace, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, various other official agencies and the courts are recruited into a campaign to wipe out all references to the monarchy’s support for the coup. A whitewashing of history that is practically impossible, but an enforcement of a particular political position in Thailand.

Second, Pravit mentions the controversy over the attempt to have Yale University Press drop the Paul Handley book, The King Never Smiles, before its publication. For more details of this tawdry little affair, conducted by the Thaksin Shinawatra government and led by Bowornsak Uwanno, there is an account in an academic paper about the book in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, available here.

IFEX on Darunee’s lese majeste sentence

30 08 2009

The International Freedom of Expression eXchange has an article on the 18 year sentence given to Darunee Charnchoensilpakul.

Unfortunately, the article carries misleading information when it states: “The law implicitly allows academic discussions on the role of the monarchy in society.” This is simply not true, at least under the current government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Democrat Party. This is seen in the case of academic Ji Ungpakorn. Additionally, academic discussions of the monarchy have been remarkably limited and publications self-censored, banned and prevented from circulating.

The article also states that the Thai Criminal Code, “bans any malicious remark against the King, the Queen, the heirs and the Regent.” This is also misleading. “Malice” usually has two meanings:(i) a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another; and (ii) an intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse. Under the Thai law, the crime is assessed as applying to: “anyone who defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the crown prince or the regent” (Article 112 of the Thai penal code). This does not have to involve malice.

PPT is also not conviced by the IFEX linking of lese majeste as being “considered a security threat, [and] hence the prison term that can go up to 15 years.” The emphasis on “national security” has not been constant. However, to link national security and sentencing is wrong. The current government has made much of the national security angle.

It is certainly correct to observe that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva … said he would look into the enforcement of this law to prevent any abuses. The problem is, and the IFEX report is sadly lacking on this, that he said this but did exactly nothing. He lied about the cases against Chiranuch Premchaiporn and Chotisak Onsoong, which despite Abhisit’s assurances, remain active.

PPT expects more of human rights defenders like IFEX.

As usual, Amnesty International Thailand continues its silence. Hopefully the international chapters will at least acknowledge Darunee’s sentencing as a gross violation of human rights.

Ji Ungpakorn on PAD and unions

16 08 2009

Following up on emails he sent to friends and supporters a couple of weeks ago, Ji Ungpakorn now has an article in Australia’s Green Left Weekly (15 August 2009: “Unions should not support Thai fascists”)attacking the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the international unions supporting it.

Ji points out that a little while ago the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) general secretary David Cockroft issued a letter addressed to the Thai government in support of three trade unionists who were said to be facing possible charges for PAD’s siege of the international airport and the domestic airport at Don Muang last year.

Ji describes PAD as a coalition of interests that included “NGO, trade union and social movement leaders” but that “moved sharply to the right, becoming fanatical royalists…”. He adds that some “PAD members have fascist tendencies. Last year, PAD members wrecked Government House and blocked the international airports. Behind them were the army and the palace.” He says that PAD leaders “aim … to reduce the voting power of the electorate in order to protect the conservative elites running Thailand.”

While the ITF apparently quickly removed their statement in support of PAD following negative reactions from readers and members (see here and here), the source of their support for PAD relates to the fact that one of PAD’s leaders, Somsak Kosaisook, remains an adviser to the State Railways Union of Thailand (SRUT), having been its president, and represents the SRUT at the ITF Asia/Pacific Railway Workers’ Section (see the document here).

On union matters, some time ago PPT reported that the struggle against Triumph and its union-busting activities in the region. Readers may find the update at Prachatai of some use, as the workers continue to struggle against the company.

Update: Letters from various unions supporting PAD can be found here.

Unions should not support Thai fascists

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