Further updated: Against the junta and its draft charter

23 05 2016

Khaosod has a good report on yesterday’s protest that was held on the 2nd anniversary of the 2014 military coup, with pictures and links to video. The report states that “[s]everal hundred people marched from Thammasat University to Bangkok’s Democracy Monument…”.

The march to the monument was led by the Neo-New Democracy Movement.No campaign

With police and undercover officers everywhere, “the event was also monitored by staff of local and international right groups such as iLaw, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.”

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch observed: “In this climate of fear, where the junta has been putting hundreds and hundreds of people into military tribunals, detaining them for their dissent opinion…. The fact that hundreds showed up today is a positive sign for people to realize the aspiration for the return to democratic rule.”

He is right to note that “Democracy is not dead in Thailand…. It takes root among the people.”

A mock referendum rejected the military’s draft constitution.

While this demonstration is all that Sunai says, as a reader reminds us, a people’s constitution would undercut the military’s draft. Alternatives to the military’s domination and suffocation are necessary.

Update 1: Fixed some typos and a missing line above.

Update 2: Prachatai reports on the rally and march. This story includes a number of images of the rally. The last photo appears to shows some conflict. The story states that “a group of around 20 pro-junta people shouted to the rally participants ‘the NCPO is not a dictatorship, get out! you all’.” It is added that”[n]o serious physical skirmishes between the two groups has been reported.” On social media, there are photos of the “pro-coup” group and some of its individuals circulating. It seems that the group was “sponsored.”





Thailand’s human rights lies

12 05 2016

As readers know, Thailand’s human rights record was examined by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.

The Nation reports that the delegation sent by the military dictatorship “came under severe criticism over the human rights situation in the country with international delegates of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) raising serious concerns in Geneva yesterday.”

The junta’s delegation led by Justice Ministry permanent secretary Chanchao Chaiyanukij who is reported to have “toed the official line in responding to the questions and recommendations made by the UNHRC members, saying the junta needed to ‘limit’ people’s rights and freedom to maintain peace, law and order during the transition period.”

We are not sure he could explain what the “transition” was leading to, although political scientist Prajak Kongkirati has done this at Prachatai.

In a litany of falsehoods, Chanchao “told the UN yesterday that his government would take recommendations from the members in accordance with the capacity to implement. Thailand fully respected human rights but in the context of local circumstances, norms, and culture…”.

Thailand’s military dictatorship has no respect for human rights at all, no matter what the definition.

We know that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha knows nothing of human rights. He has stated his own uneducated and bizarre conception of human rights. The claim of domestic norms and culture is an excuse for nepotism, corruption, murder, torture and abuse. Think of the military’s culture and norms.

Many delegates asked pointed questions: the delegate from Greece called for an end martial law and the use of military courts; US representatives “raised a number of concerns over the role of the military court, the restriction of people’s freedom in the referendum law, the lese majeste law, freedom of expression, and Article 44 of the interim constitution;”and Britain’s delegate asked similar questions and asked “what plan the Thai government [meaning the junta] had to end the prosecution of civilians by the military court and their detention in military facilities.”

The junta has no plans for anything other than continued repression.

Remarkably, the junta sent a “judge from the military court … [as] a part of the Thai delegation” to concoct and fabricate the junta’s case. This military thug “explained” the “need” to prosecute in a military court “civilians who commit serious crimes with war weapons, disobey the junta’s orders or are accused of lese majeste.”

This is horse manure as all these “crimes” were conducted under civilian courts in the past.

The “judge” also “explained” that “defendants in the military court have their right to appoint lawyers and seek bail.”

As everyone knows, this is not always the case, with people being abducted by the military and held incommunicado and often without access to lawyers.

When the so-called judge claims that defendants “have all the rights for a fair trail in accordance with international standards,” any reasonable person knows this is a lie. As the junta stated early after it illegally seized power, military courts are used to plow under rights and to get quick convictions.

The Foreign Ministry also sent along a toady official to “explain” that the “lese majeste law was badly needed for Thailand to protect the monarchy.” 

She is not reported as explaining why the monarchy, always claimed to be “loved” and “revered,” needs “protection” that has harsher sentencing than in most murder cases. We guess it is the same tired and ridiculous claims about the monarchy being “special” for Thailand and unlike monarchies almost everywhere except in other hard authoritarian and absolutist regimes.

Her “explanation” for Article 44, which allows The Dictator to do anything that takes his fancy, seemed to rely on some cockeyed notion that the use of such draconian, unjust and capricious law is “not new in Thai political history…”. That bizarre claim was followed with yet another junta lie: “it was exercised with caution.” It has been used for all kinds of things, with “caution” thrown to the wind.

Thais should be embarrassed by this pathetic performance by a regime that lacks sense, credibility and seems unable to even think about its international performance.

Puea Thai Party member and former minister Chaturon Chaisaeng agreed, stating that “the UPR report on Thailand was the most embarrassing one, as it placed the country in the international spotlight for human rights violations.” He says “Thailand not only failed to pass the test at the UN session, the country also became a laughing stock…”. He’s right.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch “slammed Thailand’s responses in the UPR regarding the use of a military court to try civilian cases. He said it was false and insincere.” He’s right too.

He called out one lie: “The [junta’s] representatives said that only a small number of civilians had been tried before the military court. Sunai said, in fact, at least 1,000 civilians had been tried by the military court…”.

As well as “lies,” it was “hypocrisy” that was a common description of the military junta’s approach to the UN.





More on Patnaree’s case

9 05 2016

As the lese majeste arrest of Patnaree Chankij, mother of student activist Sirawith Seritiwat, began to be criticized domestically and internationally, the military junta decided to respond.

The Bangkok Post reported that the junta’s thugs insisted that “there is solid evidence behind the arrest of an anti-coup activist’s mother, despite information circulating online suggesting there is little to support a lese majeste charge.” At least some of that information was from the police charge sheet, which suggested a fit-up and hostage taking.

In order to justify its actions, a junta “legal officer” was sent out to “explain” that the charge against Patnaree “as based on evidence which investigators were not willing to divulge to the media.”

That “legal officer” also found it necessary to declare that the “authorities had not intimidated witnesses or used illegal means to obtain their evidence.”

Based on these statements, the junta’s track record and its lack of transparency, reasonable people can assume that the regime has concocted charges and has used intimidation and illegal means to gain evidence.”

Meanwhile, international outrage was apparent. Social media lit up. The international media reported the event in deservedly incredulous terms. Human Rights Watch stated:

“The Thai junta has sunk to a new low by charging an activist’s mother under the ‘insulting the monarchy’ law, which has been systematically abused to silence critics,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting someone for her vague response to a Facebook message is just the junta’s latest outrageous twist of the lese majeste law.”…

“In the name of protecting the monarchy, the junta is tightening a chokehold on free expression and heightening a climate of fear across Thailand,” Adams said. “The arbitrary enforcement of the lese majeste law against an activist’s mother is yet another example of Thailand’s blatant contempt of its human rights obligations.”

The junta initially seemed unperturbed, sending goons to search “the family home of Mr Sirawith, confiscating two computer CPUs, as they attempt to widen the lese majeste probe into his mother and several other suspects.” The impression is that the junta has decided to smash the little remaining activist opposition to its mandates.

General Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council “warned the activists Sunday not to break the law or the regime’s orders, saying they could face legal action.” He also “criticised attempts to bring in international organisations to put pressure on the government, saying the charges against the suspects including Ms Patnaree were based on evidence.”

We assume that this is the evidence that no one can see.

Parroting his boss, he demanded that “foreign groups study Thai laws to understand the fact that authorities were only enforcing the law.”

What he doesn’t get is that “foreign groups” are unlikely to be dolts who will not see that the law the general refers to is the junta’s law, designed to be selectively used against political opponents.

Suddenly, however, the situation turned. The military court, which hours earlier reportedly refused bail and extended detention, granted bail.

The Post states that this might have something to do with “pressure on a Thai delegation set to defend the country’s human rights records in Geneva on Wednesday.” We posted on this earlier. There may be something to this, although we are sure that





We have power, you lose again and again

3 04 2016

The junta can do anything it wants. It is lawless.

It can suddenly decide on a “second” referendum question. Not satisfied with the draft charter and the power it allocates to the military, the junta has decided that it won’t ask just, Do you support our charter, Yes/No, but will add this one: Should senators jointly vote with MPs in choosing a prime minister, Yes/No.

One of the junta’s paid servants claimed this would allow “Senators can help screen out not-so-good or not-so-intelligent persons. At the same time, they can help support a good prime minister who in the past was usually not elected or toppled by street protests so he can steer reform and national strategy without the need to take to the streets, which may eventually lead to a coup…”.

What he means, translated out of juntaspeak is: “Senators selected by the military and other members of the elite are more intelligent than anybody who might have the people’s support. On this basis, the senate can reject the people’s voice and select an unelected premier, probably from the military brass or even the junta, who can run the country so that elections don’t matter and are just a performance so the rest of the world can be fooled by a fascist regime.”

The junta can do anything it wants. It is lawless.

It can ban all discussion of the charter so that no one can hear about it. Book Re:public, a Chiang Mai bookstore and cafe organized a seminar, “Reading Constitution as Literature and Art.” The 33rd Military Circle promptly banned it. They did this in between collecting thousands of red bowls.

The junta can do anything it wants. It is lawless.

It can exempt coal-fired power stations from public scrutiny and from environmental laws. All 29 coal-fired power plants are now free of city planning laws so they can pollute at will and, more importantly for the generals’ wallets, plants in Songkhla and Krabi provinces can go ahead despite considerable local opposition.

Sunai Phasuk , senior Thai researcher at Human Rights Watch, has joined with us in declaring the military regime rogue. Well, they are our words, not his. He said the military junta has passed the point where its promised Aug 7 referendum on the draft charter can be considered free and fair. He is quoted: “There’s no element to ensure a democratic and open space for a meaningful referendum. Every action of the junta indicates that the military wants this to be a one-sided [plebiscite] to encourage an approval [of the draft charter].

The charter is a military invention. It is a device to embed authoritarianism and plutocracy. The referendum for the junta’s charter is illegitimate. Thailand’s military state is a rogue state.





Embedding the military state

31 03 2016

In recent times, academics have written about Thailand’s Deep State and about a parallel state and monarchized military. They haven’t been writing of the military state, which by all recent reports is what the military junta is now seeking to achieve.

Establishing a military state involves a militarization of the state. Uniforms, hierarchical order, laws that make the military prominent in civil affairs, the use of military courts, military privilege, the subordination and/or partnership of the military with other classes and government dominated by military leaders.

Once the preserve of banana republics and fascist regimes, the military state looks increasingly like the state arrangement preferred for Thailand’s post-succession state. It is also useful for establishing the (anti-)law framework of authoritarianism that the junta hope is marked by a resounding “victory” for its ridiculous charter. That the charter may be approved in a bogus “referendum” will be used by the junta to justify its military state.

Yet it would be wrong to understand the referendum and charter as the end product of the 2014 coup. In fact, it is looking increasingly like a sideshow in a broader embedding of the military in society.

One of the scariest stories ever published in the Bangkok Post is about this process. It reports that “[s]oldiers from the rank of sub-lieutenant and up have been given police powers to summons, arrest and detain suspects in a wide range of crimes including extortion, labour abuse and human trafficking, and will also be allowed to search property without a warrant…. [T]hey are authorised to search any place, seize assets, suspend financial transactions and ban suspects from travelling.”

In addition, “soldiers would also act as interrogators and they were taking the crime suppression role because there were not enough police to tackle crime.”

These sweeping powers replace the police in a range of criminal areas. Everyone should be worried. Such powers, once given are difficult to remove, and draconian power feeds the military’s addictions to repression, murder and corruption.

Self-appointed military dictator and prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha issued these draconian powers for “preventing and suppressing certain crimes that pose a danger to public order and peace or could sabotage the economy, society and the nation.” It is sure to be used for targeting political opponents and are quite obviously a preparation for possible mass arrests around the referendum over the draft charter.

The rule of law is dead under Thailand’s military state. Law becomes what the military wants it to be.

Another Bangkok Post story states that “[h]uman rights advocates have slammed the regime’s decision to give soldiers powers, on par with police, to deal with crime, which they say could lead to unrestrained actions and abuse of power.” Such voices will be ignored. Worse, the military state may well expunge such voices.

Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk identified a “trend by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [he means the junta] to enforce unchecked powers with total impunity…”. He added that this was “very alarming … especially since the NCPO does not tolerate any form of scrutiny or criticism.”

Like us, he names the outcome: “It reaffirms that Thailand has become a military state … as many tasks are being transferred into the hands of soldiers…”.

Yaowalak Anuphan, director of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights stated: “The NCPO is returning us to the dark ages…”.

It is far worse than that.





No Human Rights to Watch

28 01 2016

Thailand’s human rights are not just trampled upon by the military and their boots, but are simply outside the mindset of the military junta and its leaders. They do not neglect or infringe on human rights but do not comprehend the idea of human rights. Every action by this censorious and thuggish regime speak to their incapacity to comprehend notions of universal rights such as freedom of expression. The military in Thailand maintains torture, enforced disappearance and murder with impunity. So hierarchical is the military and so inhabited by persons trained to toady before their bosses and betters that any notion of human rights is alien.

Human Rights Watch has just released its annual report, which includes a country chapter on Thailand. Nothing unexpected at all in the dismal report on Thailand under the military dictatorship. HRW’s press release is reproduced below:

Thailand’s military junta tightened its grip on power and severely repressed fundamental rights in the past year, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016. Public pledges by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to respect human rights and return the country to elected civilian rule went unfulfilled.

Human Rights WatchIn the 659-page World Report 2016, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.

“Under military rule, Thailand’s human rights crisis has gone from bad to worse, and there seems to be no end in sight,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The junta is jailing and prosecuting dissenters, barring public protests, censoring the media, and restricting critical political speech.”

The NCPO, led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, has committed human rights violations with total impunity since the May 2014 coup, disregarding concerns raised by the United Nations, human rights groups, and many foreign governments. On March 31, 2015, nationwide enforcement of the Martial Law Act of 1914 was replaced with section 44 of the interim constitution, which absolves those acting on behalf of the NCPO of all legal liability. In November 2015, the junta proposed that a new constitution being drafted should guarantee blanket amnesty for the use of military force to “protect national security.”

The date promised by the NCPO to hold elections to return to civilian rule continued to slide, making the timing wholly uncertain. Meanwhile, the junta continued to ban political activity and peaceful public gatherings, carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and disregarded serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in military custody. At least 27 people were charged with sedition for criticizing military rule and violating the junta’s ban on public assembly. During the year, the NCPO increased its use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians, mostly political dissidents and alleged offenders of the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) laws.

The junta forced the cancellation of at least 60 events, seminars, and academic panels on the political situation and human rights in 2015, including a report launch by Human Rights Watch, because it deemed the events a threat to stability and national security.

The junta made frequent use of Thailand’s draconian laws against criticizing the monarchy. At least 56 lese majeste cases have been brought since the coup, mostly for online commentary. Military courts have imposed harsh sentences. In August, the Bangkok Military Court sentenced Pongsak Sriboonpeng to 60 years in prison for his alleged lese majeste Facebook postings (later reduced to 30 years when he pleaded guilty). It was the longest recorded sentence for lese majeste in Thailand’s history.

Prayut has frequently stated that soldiers should not be condemned for any loss of life they caused during the 2010 political confrontations in Bangkok. To date, not a single member of the Thai security forces has been criminally prosecuted for serious rights abuses related to counterinsurgency operations in Thailand’s southern Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces.

The government defied pleas from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and several foreign governments and violated the international prohibition against forcible return (refoulement) of refugees and asylum seekers to countries where they faced likely persecution. The most egregious instances included the deportation of two Chinese activists to China in November, and the deportation of 109 ethnic Uighurs to China in July.

“Respect for human rights in Thailand is going down the drain,” Adams said. “The international community urgently needs to press the junta to reverse course, end repression, respect fundamental rights, and fulfill its pledges to return to democratic civilian rule.”





Updated: Investigate abduction, drop charges

23 01 2016

As Thailand’s military dictatorship thumbs its nose at international norms and laws and embeds repression, Human Rights Watch has demanded that the military junta “urgently investigate the abduction and alleged beating and mistreatment of prominent student activist Sirawith Seritiwat by army soldiers” and should “drop charges against peaceful critics and end the military trial of civilians.

That all makes sense to us at PPT, but it will mean little to the military junta and The Dictator. HRW knows this, stating:

“The abduction and apparent mistreatment of a prominent student activist is further glaring evidence that wanton violations of human rights are the norm under the NCPO’s military dictatorship in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “What’s even worse is Gen. Prayut brushed off international concerns and condemnation, and appeared to tolerate the abusive treatment Sirawith received by emphasizing the military could ‘use any measure’ to carry out an arrest.”

The extent to which Thailand under the junta has moved to embed authoritarianism, HRW notes that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has not only refused to investigate this abduction but claimed that his military thugs can use “any measures to arrest Sirawith.” HRW quotes The Dictator:

Officials acted on an arrest warrant. He [Sirawith] violated the Public Assembly Bill and the NCPO’s order [Order Number 3/2558, which bans public assembly and political activity] … Officials could use any measures to arrest him. The arrest doesn’t have to happen in front of camera, which could then trigger a protest … Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time? … No one is allowed to oppose [the NCPO]. I dare you to try to oppose [the NCPO] … I don’t care what the international community would think about this. I will send officials to explain to foreign embassies. I am not afraid of them. I will tell them to understand that this is Thailand and we are enforcing Thai laws.

HRW makes quite a few reasonable observations about the decline of rights and freedoms under the junta and its flagrant abuse of international law.

HRW has support in a similar call from the United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) that has urged the “military to drop all charges against 11 student activists arrested for violating a ban on political gatherings.” Laurent Meillan, the acting OHCHR regional representative, states: “The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and opinion are fundamental rights and should never be regarded as a serious criminal offence…. We urge the authorities to drop all charges against the students.”

It should not be forgotten that these students are charged because the military junta will not countenance public scrutiny of its projects; in this case, Corruption Park. So far, it has successfully covered up on claims of corruption and managed to have the media lose sight of the case. These students keep it alive, so thuggish repression is deemed necessary.

This junta remains uninterested in human rights, seeing them as a Western plot against the monarchy and junta, and is determined to return Thailand to its dark ages of military repression, aligning its practices with some of the world’s most abusive regimes.

Update: A reader points out that there is a kind of answer to The Dictator available. When he asks: “Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time?”, the well-known historian Nidhi Eowsriwong has a useful essay that can be seen as a riposte. It is his “When Orders Become Law.”








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