Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

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.”

The Dictator’s law

5 02 2016

Article 44 has been extensively used by the military dictatorship since the end of the martial law on 1 April 2015. It was immediately criticized by a range of commentators, law lecturers, activist groups and even the National Human Right Commission for allocating General Prayuth Chan-ocha absolute power.

Reuters reports that critics complain that The Dictator “is relying increasingly on a security measure [Article 44] dubbed ‘the dictator’s law’ to push through unpopular policies and kickstart stalled reforms…”.

Prayuth has used Article 44 for all manner of things: to remove seven officials from a government health promotion foundation, fast-tracking projects ranging from power stations to special economic zones, for detaining scores of opponents, breaking up meetings and seminars, “reforming” air transport and the fishing industry and more.

According to iLaw, Prayuth has used Article 44 more than 50 times since the 2014 military coup, “and increasingly so since the middle of last year…”.

Reuters says that Colonel Winthai Suvaree, the junta’s loudmouth, says The Dictator is “using Article 44 more often to get things done more quickly, before an election promised for 2017, to the advantage of all.” The cagey colonel declares: “There is limited time left to govern and reform the country…. All orders have benefited the people.”

A Western diplomat observes that: “The junta feels that it came in on a platform of reform and very little has been reformed…. So they have used Article 44 to…show they are reformers.”

In fact, it shows they are military men with few clues about public administration and the use of Article 44 proves their power and their incompetence.

Naturally, the reprehensible and failed academic Panitan Wattanayagorn, again “a senior government adviser,” seeks to deny that “reforms had stalled and said Prayuth and his team had laid ‘complicated’ groundwork for lasting change.” As you’d expect from a rightist anti-democrat in the pay of the military, Panitan declares that: “They [the junta] see a real opportunity to move the country forward…”.

Remarkably, Reuters quotes Panitan, then ignores him and his statements, declaring that “reforms appear stalled, [and] the economy is a major worry.” Perhaps they should stop asking for this lugnut‘s paid opinion.

Whatever way it is looked at, the use of Article 44 is a statement of political failure. The military junta stays in power because it has guns and can threaten with impunity. It is incapable of administering anything that requires actions more complex than torture, commission payments and murder.

Democrat Party promotes anti-democratic charter

9 09 2015

In the fallout from the dumping of the draft charter, one of the telling responses has come from the royalist Democrat Party and its tainted leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

At The Nation it is reported that the “inclusion of the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee … in the draft charter was the main reason the Democrat Party rejected the draft…”. We are told that this is due to a fear that “it would stir conflict in society…”. Abhisit had made this point earlier.

Soracha Weerachartwattana, a former Democrat MP for Samut Prakan province, “added that another reason for the party having rejected the draft was that the current interim charter did not allow for any amendment to the draft. This could have caused more problems in the future…”.

At the same time, Abhisit “had clearly said most of the content of the constitution was acceptable. He fully supported the provisions on anti-corruption measures, the creation of an anti-corruption mechanism and the legal punishment related to the issue.”

In other words, Abhisit supported anti-democratic provisions such as unelected senators, ridiculously complicated voting systems, the empowering of unelected officials and more.

This approach is not that distinct from The Dictator’s views. General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared “that content of the draft constitution voted down by the National Reform Council would help guide the new round of charter drafting.” While Prayuth says that “some NRC members thought it was not democratic,” we have doubts because these “democrats” all seem to have military uniforms.

Prayuth then sounded Abhisit-like, or vice-versa, stating:

People believe that the country faces a major threat and this needs to be handled, so those concerned must find ways to tackle it….

At first, I also thought that it would certainly pass the NRC vote….

For me, I never said anything to the media as I would accept any result, but if it really passed with a new conflict arising, whether or not it was worth reconsidering. There was nothing about my staying in power as people have allowed me to stay because they have confidence in me.

Neither The Dictator nor the Democrat Party make democratic sense.

Also at The Nation, iLaw, a rights group advocating legal reform, declared the whole draft “vague and downright impractical…” and declared the NRC a failure. It claims the NRC “proposed the creation of 100 new government agencies, provided 505 vague legislative proposals and presented a reform timeframe that extends until 2032.”

Updated: The chill of lese majeste

5 09 2013

Readers may have seen a story at Prachatai about an attempt by iLaw (Internet Dialogue on Law Reform), Bioscope Magazine and Movie Audience Network to organize a film competition meant to defy the 2007 Film and Video Act that maintains censorship for ill-defined and conservative reasons such as undermining “public order and morality” and threatening “national security and the honour of Thailand”.

Challenging the law and the boundaries sounded like a great idea. Yet the organisers have found themselves censoring three of the shortlisted films from public viewing. Why? “They said they feared being slapped with a lese majeste lawsuit.”

Such a draconian law has a chilling impact on creativity, expression and free thought.

Update: The Nation has published an update to its earlier story on the film competition. Organizers explained:

“The rules were that [the films] should challenge censorship without breaking the law. But how can we avoid facing a [lese majeste] charge? There’s nothing we can do to stop that…”.

Legal experts “had examined the films” and “believed the films did not breach the lese majeste laws – but anyone could file a lese majeste police complaint and both the organisers and the film-maker might have to spend time fighting it in the court.”

Heinrich Boll resources on media reform and democratization

25 01 2011

Last month, PPT posted about a recent report by iLaw about internet censorship and the ongoing constriction of speech in Thailand. The iLaw report was produced in conjunction with the Media for Democracy program of the Southeast Asia office of Heinrich Boll Stiftung.

PPT recently perused the Heinrich Boll website, and discovered a number of recent (second half of 2010) resources of interest:

Viva media freedom!

Analysis of court-ordered censorship

12 12 2010

Prachatai posts a report from iLaw on court-ordered censorship, with more detailed graphs and charts at the iLaw site (you will need a Facebook login to download). The basic data are that there have been 117 court orders to block access to 74,686 URLs.

It is unclear how many sites/URLs are blocked without court orders, including by the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, and through self-censorship. For example, PPT has been blocked and there has never been any information that this is by court order. If anyone knows’ inform us.

This is highly relevant:

…[I]n 2007 there was one court order to block 2 URLs. In 2008, there were 13 court orders to block 2,071 URLs. In 2009, there were 64 orders to block 28,705 URLs. And in 2010, there were 39 court orders to block 43,908 URLs. Altogether within three years after the enforcement of the CCA, there have been 117 court orders to block access to 74,686 URLs.

The reasons of the order for the blocking of websites can be ranked as follows: 1) lèse majesté content (57,330 URLs); 2) pornographic content (16,740 URLs); 3) information about abortion (357 URLs); 4) content related to gambling (246 URLs); 5) other reasons such as blasphemy, phishing/pharming (making fake websites), and even websites with content seeing the government differently on issues related to the dispersal of protesters thus were deemed to create chaos and division within the public.

Read the report and look at the statistics. Consider how this Abhisit Vejjajiva government continues to disingenuously claim that it has a free media. Here is Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya shouting that Thailand is open and freedom of the press “is second to none in the world!” Here is the Foreign Ministry doing the same. And see Abhisit’s claims that “Thailand has plenty of space for opposition opinion. Indeed, ‘much, much more space than we’ve seen for quite some time…’.”