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.





NYT and the military’s charter

7 08 2016

The New York Times wonders why a “new constitution that it [the junta] casts as an essential step toward restoring democracy” has seen the junta block “opponents from campaigning against the measure, banned election monitors and restricted news coverage of the referendum.”

It notes that “critics” say the proposed constitution will “extend the military’s influence for years to come.”

We doubt that the “vote will be the first major test of the military’s standing with the public, as much a referendum on the legitimacy of military rule as on the draft constitution” as the NYT suggests.It might have been if the event had been free and fair.

Its wasn’t, for “no matter the outcome, the junta will remain in control until it decides to hand power back to an elected government.” Even then, the military and other unelected bodies will control parliament’s actions. Military-controlled democracy is no democracy.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, points to more than 100 arrests for referendum-related “offences.” He says: “This referendum is not legitimate…. This is a redo of a military coup, using fear and intimidation to force Thai people to grant an extension of their control of power.”

Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to the junta declared himself in support of repression: “the public did not need an election campaign that could lead to more strife. Voters can decide by studying the 105-page document…”.

He’s always been a dedicated military pawn and lies about the draft. Almost no one has seen it or read it. It beats PPT why the NYT even speaks with such a dick. Perhaps only to get the expected quotes.

But he does drone: “The section on the parliamentary system [reducing its representativeness]  is quite new in many regards…. It’s an attempt to control and regulate the politicians.”

That’s true. The military and its supporters and acolytes like Panitan hate the idea that the people should freely choose their representatives in a competitive political situation they do not control.

The International Federation for Human Rights is quoted:

The draft charter creates undemocratic institutions, weakens the power of future elected governments and is likely to fuel political instability…. If approved, the charter will allow the military and its proxies to tighten their grip on power and cement their influence in political affairs.

That’s true. The aim is to retain royalist authoritarianism.





Updated: Thailand rejected at the UN

29 06 2016

Kazakstan does not look very much like a democratic polity. Yet it is not a military dictatorship. As the Bangkok Post has it, Kazakstan “easily defeated Thailand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, with just 55 countries backing Thailand against 138 for Kazakhstan.”

Junta supporters have pointed to the 55 and drawn some cockeyed notion about support for the regime, but that glass isn’t even half full.

Earlier, some of Thailand’s diplomats were quoted as declaring that “[m]ilitary-ruled Thailand stands a ‘good chance’ over oil-rich Kazakhstan…”. We couldn’t help wondering if these were the same shoppers diplomats who lied to the UN Human Rights Council. That these diplomats reckoned it was “a 50:50 draw, but we stand a good chance as we have secured support from Washington among others…” is another example of how the junta’s Thailand is Bizarro World, where its inhabitants are in some kind of delusional state or parallel political universe.

We also wondered if The Dictator’s self-described diatribe to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might have sunk a very leaky Thai ship in the UN.

In the end, the “second-round voting wasn’t close.”

For more background on this event, see Kavi Chongkittavorn’s propaganda-like piece in support if the junta’s bid for the UNSC seat and the opposition of Human Rights Watch and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) opposition.

Update: Despite all of the junta hype before the devastating defeat, and in the face of statements that the “Thai bid delegation, comprising former Asean secretary-general [and Democrat Party stalwart] Surin Pitsuwan and other retired ambassadors, had been optimistic about winning the race,…” Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has commented that: “We had anticipated that…. Never mind. Next time.” Prawit sounds as if he will still be around “next time” in 2017-18. Meanwhile, according to the same Bangkok Post report states that the “Pheu Thai Party claimed Wednesday the country spent more than 600 million baht in a campaign leading up to Thailand’s defeat in the race for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).”