2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.





Updated: Yingluck and Boonsong

26 08 2017

While a lot of the media attention has been on Yingluck Shinawatra’s no-show at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions verdict day, the related sentencing of her former colleague Boonsong Teriyapirom to 42 years in jail and his former deputy Poom Sarapol to 36 years in the so-called government-to-government rice sales case deserves attention too.

Earlier, the former commerce minister said he would “respect the court’s decision which ever way it went.” It went the way that everyone had expected and he and his deputy were found guilty. So were a score of others. As Prachatai reports it:

The two were accused of violating the 1999 Anti-price Collusion Act for helping Chinese companies that did not represent the Chinese government to obtain the government-to-government rice export deals with Yingluck’s administration.

The court also sentenced Manas Soiploy, a former director-general of the Department of Foreign Trade, to 40 years of imprisonment and his deputy Tikhumporn Natvaratat to 32 years in jail for involvement in the deals.

Akharaphong Theepwatchara, former director of the department’s Rice Trade Administration Bureau, was sentenced to 24 years while Apichart Chansakulporn, the executive of Siam Indica Co Ltd., the rice exporter company, got 48 years imprisonment.

The court also demanded Siam Indica to pay 16.9 billion baht damage to the Ministry of Finance.

Eight of the total of 28 accused were acquitted while the rest got jail term and were ordered to pay damages in accordance to the proportion of their involvement in the rice deal.

Perhaps Yingluck got wind of these horrendously long sentences and decided that she was likely to get the maximum sentence in her case (10 years and a large fine), and to seek other climes (although officials claim there is no record of her leaving the country).

Khaosod explains some of the courts decision and the case:

The Supreme Court said the four government-to-government deals made in 2011 and 2012 were made with state companies in Chinese provinces which were not authorized to represent Beijing. The deals allowed them to buy rice from Thailand at below-market prices.

Evidence later showed that Siam Indica resold the rice back into the domestic market. They were accused of violating two anti-corruption statutes: the 1999 Price Rigging in Public Sector Contract Bidding and a 1999 anti-corruption law called the Organic Act on Counter Corruption.

In September 2016, the Anti-Money Laundering Office ordered over 7 billion baht in assets seized from Siam Indica, Apichart and his network after they were indicted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Apichart was known to have close ties to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A previous firm he led won the right to sell rice from a rice-pledging program under Thaksin’s administration.

Yet, the deals done were not that easily explained. As the Bangkok Post tells it, the court decided:

… in the past G-to-G rice sales to China had been done through China National Cereals, Oil and Foodstuff Import Export Corporation (Cofco).

But the rice sales panel chaired by Poom during the Yingluck Shinawatra government changed the G-to-G definition to include sales to other state enterprises and use ex-factory prices instead….

Poom later approved two sales contracts for 5.2 million tonnes with two Chinese provincial state enterprises not authorised by Beijing. Boonsong later took over as chairman of the panel and signed another two contracts to sell another 2.4 million tonnes.

All in all, the four contracts causes damages of around 17 billion baht, the statement said.

The ruling said there were irregularities involving the four contracts.

“Payments were made in cashier cheques. Buyers could resell the grain to a third country. The contracts were amended to change the rice types and amounts without bargaining to ensure the changes were in the best interest of the country.

“After the sales, payments were made in hundreds of cashier cheques in the country and an authorised Thai company took delivery of the grain and sold it to local rice traders without shipping it to China or other countries,” the statement said.

“Mr Poom, Mr Boonsong, Mr Apichart and others brought the two provincial state enterprises to buy rice from the Foreign Trade Department, saying they were authorised by Beijing, at low prices without competition.

“When rice market price fell, the enterprises did not take delivery as specified in the contracts. Instead, they asked to change the contracts so they could buy the same type of grain at lower prices,” the ruling said.

For those interested, historical rice prices are here, suggesting that, in the court’s reckoning, the damage done was not the total amount of the deals done, but that the reduced prices were the issue for the court. Losing money may be poor business and poor state business, but the sentences are mammoth.

The media’s interest now naturally turns to Yingluck’s whereabouts.

At Khaosod, Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk said “he was still trying to piece together the reason for her no-show.” He was unsure why Yingluck would flee. As he says:

“We still try to understand the situation here since she had fought for more than two years and there was no sign that she would not show up in the last minute,” Sunai said. “I want to see an official statement from Pheu Thai Party or the UDD, so the people are told what’s going on.”

He added:

this will intensify the disharmony as Yingluck’s supporters see her as the victim of an unjust trial, while the opposite side sees Yingluck as the sister who follows her brother’s footstep. The two sides will never reconcile.

Another commentator, Jessada Denduangboripant, mused:

“In reality, there have been many negotiations between Yingluck and the government as well as those backing the government because if she’s found innocent the government would lose face while if she’s imprisoned, there’s a risk of an uprising. The way out is to let her leave the country, which is not easy without some assistance. Jessada said. “They think it’s win-win for both. Yingluck may have to flee but at least she is free abroad. The government may be criticized for being lax. Those who lose the most are the people who have been lured into supporting (her). This is also not good for democracy.”

Political activist Rangsiman Rome, also wondered about a win-win: “I cannot really tell who gains and who loses, but I want to give your readers a question: Did Yingluck secretly negotiate with the NCPO?..”.

One rumor is that the junta created a win-win situation telling her she would be jailed. It offered her an avenue to flee and promised an election if she left.

Yellow shirts are disappointed that Yingluck wasn’t locked up and complain that she is “just like her brother.” But they also complain that the regime has let her “escape.”

The Dictator and Deputy Dictator believed she had fled. But they did not rule out that she was in hiding in the country. They “ordered security authorities to check border crossings and search for former prime minister Yingluck…”. General Prayuth Chan-ocha questioned her “bravery.”

While rumors swirl of her taking a boat, crossing the Cambodian border and flying to Singapore, CNN reports an anonymous Puea Thai Party source as saying Yingluck has joined Thaksin in Dubai.

Update: While PPT prefers to wait for Yingluck to emerge and say what she has done and where she is, some reports deserve attention. For example, The Nation reports an unnamed “security source” who claims “Yingluck went to Koh Chang in the eastern seaboard province of Trat and flew in a helicopter to Phnom Penh, from where she reportedly took a chartered plane to Singapore. She was accompanied by a senior state official who helped facilitate her departure without having to pass proper immigration process…”.

Added to this, the report cites another unnamed source in the Puea Thai Party: “It’s impossible she left without the military’s green light.”

Meanwhile, “Yingluck’s mobile phone signals were detected as coming from her house in Bangkok’s Bueng Kum area, according to a police source.” If they can track her phone it seems unlikely they allowed her to wander off overseas unattended.





Junta repression deepens II

16 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on the charging of five academics and attendees at the International Conference on Thai Studies.

We can only wonder if the foreign academics who attended will mobilize to protest this new low by the junta.

The keynote speakers should be the first and loudest voices: Katherine Bowie, Duncan McCargo, Thonchai Winichakul and Michael Herzfeld. After all, they made very particular and careful decisions to attend amid some calls for a boycott because the junta has been repressive of academics in Thailand (not their yellow-shirted friends and allies, of course).

Here’s the HRW statement:

Thai authorities should immediately drop charges against a prominent academic and four conference participants for violating the military junta’s ban on public assembly at a conference at Chiang Mai University in July 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The International Conference on Thai Studies included discussions and other activities that the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta deemed critical of military rule.

Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, who faces up to one year in prison if convicted, is scheduled to report to police in Chiang Mai province on August 23. Four conference attendees – Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam – have been charged for the same offense for holding posters saying “An academic forum is not a military barrack” to protest the military’s surveillance of participants during the July 15-18 conference. None are currently in custody.

“Government censorship and military surveillance have no place at an academic conference,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “By prosecuting a conference organizer and participants, the Thai junta is showing the world its utter contempt for academic freedom and other liberties.”

Since taking power after the May 2014 coup, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has asserted that the airing of differences in political opinions could undermine social stability. Thai authorities have frequently forced the cancellation of community meetings, academic panels, issue seminars, and public forums on political matters, and especially issues related to dissent towards NCPO policies or the state of human rights in Thailand.Frequently, these repressive interventions are based on the NCPO’s ban on public gatherings of more than five people, and orders outlawing public criticisms of any aspect of military rule. The junta views people who repeatedly express dissenting views and opinions, or show support for the deposed civilian government, as posing a threat to national security, and frequently arrests and prosecutes them under various laws.

Over the past three years, thousands of activists, politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders have been arrested and taken to military camps across Thailand for hostile interrogation aimed at stamping out dissident views and compelling a change in their political attitudes. Many of these cases took place in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand, the hometown of former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

Most of those released from these interrogations, which the NCPO calls “attitude adjustment” programs, are forced to sign a written agreement that state they will cease making political comments, stop their involvement in political activities, or not undertake any actions to oppose military rule. Failure to comply with these written agreements can result in being detained again, or charged with the crime of disobeying the NCPO’s orders, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party, protects the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly. The UN committee that oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Thailand has also ratified, has advised governments that academic freedom, as an element of the right to education, includes: “the liberty of individuals to express freely opinions about the institution or system in which they work, to fulfill their functions without discrimination or fear of repression by the State or any other actor, to participate in professional or representative academic bodies, and to enjoy all the internationally recognized human rights applicable to other individuals in the same jurisdiction.”

“Academics worldwide should call for the trumped-up charges against Professor Chayan and the four conference attendees to be dropped immediately,” Adams said. “Thailand faces a dim future if speech is censored, academic criticism is punished, and political discussions are banned even inside a university.”





HRW on Ko Tee’s “disappearance”

2 08 2017

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

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

Providing more details, HRW’s account is that:

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

It calls on the Lao authorities:

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

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

It remains unclear who abducted Ko Tee.

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





Rehearsing lies

9 03 2017

A story at Khaosod tells much about the military dictatorship that currently rules Thailand by dint of military boot and Article 44.

The story reports Pitikarn Sithidej, who works for the little known Rights and Liberty Protection Department in the Ministry of “Justice.” (We gave up looking for it on the Ministry website, which is a tangled mess.) We imagine they don’t have much work to do.

Pitikarn proudly declares that “Thailand is ‘fully prepared’ to defend its record and obligations on human rights next week when they are discussed in Geneva before the United Nations…”.

Others have also defended the undefendable and usually it has been the skilled liars from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have led the teams defending torture, lese majeste, political repression, enforced disappearance, the murderous military, impunity, military courts, massive censorship, restricting speech and assembly, rule by decree and martial law, and many more.

Apparently, on Monday and Tuesday next week, in Geneva, “an 18-member body of independent experts chosen by UN member states will review Thailand’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In fact, this is an open-and-shut case. The junta simply doesn’t defend civil and political rights; it mangles them.

Still, perhaps thinking that the rest of the world is moving in Thailand’s direction, the Rights and Liberty Protection Department’s Pitikarn says it has been rehearsing responses: “We have staged a question-and-answer drill and anticipate what questions will be asked by the committee. We are fully prepared, and our report will be based on the facts…”.

Facts? We get it, she really means “junta lies.”

Oddly, although perhaps part of the “rehearsing,” Pitikarn appeared at a forum with Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch. He revealed that “his organization would focus on the use of Article 44 under the military’s interim constitution, which he said has widely undermined human rights and lacks any accountability. ”

He added: “All [international human rights] obligations can be discarded by Article 44 and many times it’s been used to violate rights…”.

Sunai also said HRW “will call next week … for the military government to abolish it to demonstrate its commitment to restoring democracy.”

Seriously? Just that? That’s the best HRW can come up with? Square that with National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit saying: “There must be an assurance they will not sue those speaking in Geneva.”

Yes, those going to speak at Geneva – apart from the official bearers of rehearsed junta lies – are already fearful!





Lese majeste and the collapse of human rights

23 02 2017

Amnesty International joins Human Rights Watch in declaring human rights at a new low in the military dictatorship’s Thailand.

AI’s overview of the past year in royalist Thailand states:

The military authorities further restricted human rights. Peaceful political dissent, whether through speech or protests, and acts perceived as critical of the monarchy were punished or banned. Politicians, activists and human rights defenders faced criminal investigations and prosecutions for, among other things, campaigning against a proposed Constitution and reporting on state abuses. Many civilians were tried in military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread. Community land rights activists faced arrest, prosecution and violence for opposing development projects and advocating for the rights of communities.

Read the sorry story here.

As if to confirm the human rights decrepitude of the junta’s human rights record, the Bangkok Post reports that Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (or Pai), accused of lese majeste for circulating a BBC story somehow deemed critical of Thailand’s king, was again refused bail.

The report states that Pai’s “family and lawyers … vowed to keep on appealing to secure bail for the 25-year-old after their seventh request was rejected by a court.”

The junta’s court reportedly “took less than 20 minutes in considering [the bail] … petition and again ruled it would not allow temporary release for Mr Jatupat…”.

That denial of bail “came even though the lawyers increased the surety from 400,000 cash to 700,000 baht and had prominent social critic Sulak Sivaraksa as a second bail guarantor, apart from Mr Jatupat’s father, Wiboon Boonpattararaksa.” The application included “letters [guarantees] from academics and people with credibility which confirmed Mr Jatupat would not flee the trial or do anything of concern.” This included senior academics like Gothom Arya and former National Human Rights commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara.

The court denied and dismissed “the defence lawyer’s argument that there is no point in detaining Jatuphat further because the case’s investigation process is already completed, the court reasoned that the suspect could try to interfere with evidence or jump bail if he is released.”

Pai is being framed by the military junta because he is identified as a troublesome anti-junta activist and his fate and jailing is considered by royalist and military thugs as a way to threaten and silence others.

His case is not unique, but Pai’s travails do show (again) how the royalist junta denies rights and destroys the rule of law. Its also indicates (again) that the courts have no independence and that the courts are partners in human rights abuse in Thailand.

In essence and in fact, lese majeste is a law that underpins dictatorship and domination in Thailand.





More snooping

12 08 2016

Reuters reports on a “new scheme that would allow Thai police to intercept telephone calls in national security cases has been put forward to cabinet for approval…”.

Under the military dictatorship, everyone knows that this means essentially two arenas of “national security” will be emphasized: protecting the junta and protecting the decrepit monarchy.

The report states that the taps would be for “criminal, national security, royal insult and transnational crime cases but not political cases…”.

That’s utter nonsense as the junta makes political cases about sedition and national security. This is simply about creating a Nazi-ified Thailand.

The police will gain the “authority to wiretap communication by amending a 1934 Criminal Procedure Code…”. We suspect they already do this illegally.

 

Under the proposed new “rules,” the police “will have to ask court permission,” but that’s a snip under the military dictatorship and its supplicant judiciary.

 

Sunai Phasuk oft Human Rights Watch, called the idea “disturbing.” He adds that the “idea is very disturbing, given Thai authorities’ reckless and arbitrary use of security charges…”.

We’d call the “innovation” not so much “disturbing” as “normal” for a fascist regime.