Stupidity, crime and impunity

24 03 2017

Wasant Techawongtham is former News Editor at the Bangkok Post. He has an interesting op-ed in that newspaper on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae.

He states that the young lad:

… must have been really stupid. He was a local Lahu boy. He knew where the military had set up their semi-permanent checkpoint. He had with him 2,800 tablets of ya ba, a knife and a hand grenade — all stuff that could put him in jail.

Yet he allowed himself to be driven through the checkpoint and expected to get away with it.

Not many op-eds in the military dictatorship’s Orwellian kingdom use irony like this. He continues: “Or maybe he wasn’t so stupid but was just unlucky to run into a group of overly aggressive soldiers.”

Then there’s this:

Another extra-judicial killing in the same vicinity as Chaiyapoom was killed has gone unnoticed and unreported until now.

Just a month earlier, a 33-year-old Lahu man, suspected of drug dealing, was gunned down by soldiers from the same unit involved in Chaiyapoom’s death. At the scene of his death, he was photographed holding a hand grenade of a similar type that was found by Chaiyapoom’s side.

Fancy that! What a surprise! Well, no, it isn’t.

It is the military and police who are trained in glorious stupidity. They are trained in violence, propaganda, crime (their crime) and lying. They are trained to come up with ludicrous “stories” to cover their crimes. They are trained to expect impunity for murders and torture committed for authoritarian regimes and in the name of protecting the monarchy. That “loyalty” allows them to enrich themselves and expect impunity for all their crimes, for the state and personal crimes.

And the military story just gets more and more stunning. These dolts have been gradually overlaying a story that gets darker and darker. Having earlier stated that they “knew” Chaiyapoom was involved with drugs, the “army has revealed the Lahu activist who was fatally shot by a soldier last Friday in Chiang Mai was involved in the drug trade for more than a year.”

They now claim a different story at the scene of the killing:

Based on the footage of a CCTV camera at the scene, soldiers who checked the vehicle were not armed, Lt Gen Vijak said, adding they simply questioned the men inside the car and checked their identification cards.

As the suspects were acting suspiciously, the soldiers asked them to get out of the vehicle, he said, adding that one of them fled and tried to fight, prompting another armed security team to respond.

No mention of CCTV was made previously, no one else has seen it, and the nature of the stop is now changed too. And the “knife” seems to have “disappeared” from the story.

When asked how he believed the activist [Chaiyapoom] managed to procure the grenade, Lt Gen Vijak said similar Chinese-made devices can be found along the Thai border.

Or maybe it was recycled by  the military.

But here’s the thing. Even if the kid was the “stupid” and brazen “drug dealer” that the military asserts, this does not justify his killing. But this is the (in)justice system at its worst.





Lies and impunity

22 03 2017

The story about the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae gets more unlikely by the day. Of course, it was never a “likely” story, we are just emphasizing that its getting ragged and ridiculous. Ragged and ridiculous is a standard strategy used by the police and military when they murder citizens and need a cover story, no matter how ridiculous.

In our last post, we quoted some dopey police spokesman claiming that Chaiyapoom “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.” This official version of the story was supported by a junta spokesman.

The story has now changed as the military dissembles. Reacting to massive criticism on social media, The Dictator has ordered a “probe” into the death. By whom, we are just not sure, but we would guess its those with impunity seeking to grant impunity to their minion murderers.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan weighed in. He knows what happened:

… he had received a report from Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, which said officials had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade that was found at the scene.

“What can they do? The officials also fear dying,” Prawit said, when told the suspect was a youth activist.

That’s pretty clear. Meanwhile,

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the case would be handled in accordance with legal procedures, adding that officials involved in the operation had to give testimony justifying their actions and police would proceed with their investigation, he said.

As we have said many times recently, there is no justice in Thailand and legal procedures are ways to grant impunity.

Winthai knows what happened:

“If the relatives [of Chaiyapoom] have doubts over the investigation and the case, they can have lawyers raise inquiries during the investigation and court trial,” Winthai said. “The army is ready to make the case clear and give justice to all.”

If only the poor in Thailand could afford to buy the “justice” the rich purchase. If only the poor had an institutional system that worked for them rather than the murderous thugs working for the military dictatorship.

The military’s report states a soldier is charged with something or other, but there are no details. The report says this:

Soldiers stopped, searched and found 2,800 methamphetamine pills in a car in which Chaiyapoom and his friend were riding. The soldiers took the two into custody, but Chaiyapoom broke away and was about to throw a grenade at the troops, prompting the soldier to shoot.

According to Col Winthai in an earlier report on Monday, the soldier fired a single shot to kill Chaiyapoom, and no other troops fired.

Col Winthai, who knows what happened, “told reporters the shooting was in self-defence.”

This is different from the original claims. The boy did not throw a grenade.

But there’s more. Prachatai reports that there are other witnesses:

in an interview that Thai PBS broadcasted on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said several other civilians saw the incident, adding that three gunshots were heard before Chaiyapoom was killed. “Many villagers saw that he was dragged out of the car and beaten. [A soldier] put a foot on his face and fired two shots to intimidate him. When [Chaiyapoom] broke free from the beating and ran, the soldier shot him. They did not allow the villagers to approach the site,” the Thai PBS quoted the anonymous witness as saying.

Based on previous experience, it is likely that the military thugs will be hunting down these witnesses to silence them or, perhaps, charge them with something.

This is how military dictatorships operate.





Going after kids III

21 03 2017

Along with the alleged “assassination plot” or perhaps it is multiple “plots,” against Thailand’s dictator, another unbelievable event has unfolded with the killing of a young Lahu boy by soldiers.

No one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event. Their story is bizarre, the only credible witness is in their custody and the “investigation” of the killing is being conducted by the people who did the killing.

The Bangkok Post reports on what it says is an “extrajudicial killing.”

The police have “insisted …[the] Lahu activist … was linked to drug trafficking…”. They also claim that the killing “was carried out in self-defence.” As we said in our earlier post, this really does sound like a report from the 1970s or perhaps from the War on Drugs earlier this century.

A police spokesman has claimed that Chaiyapoom Pasae “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.”

This is the official spokesman making this claim of nothing untoward when there is meant to be an “investigation” into the events. It is pretty clear where that “investigation” is going.

Locals have called for a broader probe into the killing. They say “they don’t believe the [young] man was embroiled in drug smuggling and that he was an activist dedicated to local causes.”

Experienced in cleaning up such messes and managing official impunity, the police claim that they “found” some “2,800 methamphetamine pills hidden in a car.

Pongnai Saengtala, the driver of the car that Chaiyapoom was in, they say, was being “detained” when Chaiyapoom “ran away.” You can already see that this is is either concocted or that the soldiers and police involved were incompetent dimwits. If Chaiyapoom was a “suspect,” why wasn’t he under guard?

The next claim is equally suspicious: “A soldier chased Chaiyapoom, who turned and threw a hand grenade at the soldier, forcing him to shoot Chaiyapoom. It is not clear where the grenade came from.” That shooting was “only one shot…”.

There’s no story about the grenade going off. In fact, it is being “examined” in the “investigation.” The claim must be that Chaiyapoom threw the grenade as if it was a rock. Earlier versions had him with a knife and a grenade. Believable?

Now, cleaning up, the cops will “trace the source of the drugs that were found in the car…”. We suspect a real “investigation” wouldn’t have to go far to locate that source. As is widely known, the police regularly plant “evidence.”

Yet what they do is “investigate” his family and they will charge the driver and make a deal for a “confession” and for incriminating Chaiyapoom. That’s the pattern of these things.

Of course, the junta is on-side with cops and soldiers:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The military’s death toll of civilians murdered climbs by one more.





Going after kids II

19 03 2017

A tragic report at Prachatai sounds like something from the 1960s or 1970s. It reports that:

On 17 March 2017, soldiers and other security officers of Pha Muang Task Force deployed at a checkpoint in Mueang Na Subdistrict of Chiang Dao District in Chiang Mai Province summarily killed Chaiyaphum Pasea, a 17-year-old Lahu ethnic minority.

The soldiers claimed that they found certain amount of amphetamine in the car Chaiyaphum was sitting in and that he was resisting the authorities to arrest him by pulling out a knife before running into a bush.

The security officers added that when they found the suspect in the bush he was about to throw a bomb at the soldiers, so they shot him.

The only civilian witness to these events is in custody (and in grave danger). The report explains Chaiyaphum’s background:

The killing of Chaiyaphum raised many questions because he was an active youth activist who participating in many events to promote the rights of ethnic minorities in Northern Thailand.

On 15 March, he was among the 19 youth representatives of ethnic minorities who attended a youth activist forum organised by the National Institute for Child and Family Development in Bangkok.

He was also awarded a prize at the 16th Thai Short Film and Video Festival for a short film called ‘Belt and Comb’ and several of his short documentaries were broadcasted on Thai PBS.

The late activist is also a gifted song writer who composed ethnic folk songs about his communities.

This does not sound much like a drug-taking, knife wielding bomb thrower to us. Like probably every one else, we cannot help bu think that this is just one more murder by the military state. Expect military denials, even more ridiculous stories and claims by them and impunity for the murderers.





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!





2016 State Department human rights report

5 03 2017

PPT thinks that human rights are probably not going to be anywhere near the top or even the middle of what passes for President Trump’s foreign policy agenda. So the US State Department’s 2016 report on human rights might be the last that tries to be a comprehensive review as seen from the United States.

The country report for Thailand is pretty much as expected, although the State Department does regularly under-report on human rights violations in Thailand and does so in a rather glib manner. Here’s some clips from some 60+ pages:

Reports continued, although less than in previous years, that security forces at times used excessive and lethal force against criminal suspects and committed or were involved in extrajudicial, arbitrary, and unlawful killings….

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and legal entities reported police and military officers sometimes tortured and beat suspects to obtain confessions, and newspapers reported numerous cases of citizens accusing police and other security officers of brutality….

In fact, torture is standard practice.

The military government held some civilian suspects at military detention facilities….

NCPO Order 2/2558 grants the military authority to detain persons without charge or trial for up to seven days. Military officials frequently invoked this authority. According to OHCHR the military government summoned, arrested, and detained approximately 1,500 persons since the 2014 coup. Prior to releasing detainees, military authorities often required them to sign documents affirming they were treated well, would refrain from political activity, and would seek authorization prior to travel outside the local area. According to human rights groups, authorities often denied access to detainees by family members and attorneys. Military authorities threatened those who failed to respond to summonses with prison and seizure of assets….

Emergency decree provisions make it very difficult to challenge a detention before a court. Under the decree detainees have access to legal counsel, but there was no assurance of prompt access to counsel or family members, nor were there transparent safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees. Moreover, the decree effectively provides broadly based immunity from criminal, civil, and disciplinary liability for officials acting under its provisions….

The law gives military forces authority over civilian institutions, including police, regarding the maintenance of public order. NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”…

Procedures for investigating suspicious deaths, including deaths occurring in police custody, require a prosecutor, forensic pathologist, and local administrator to participate in the investigation and that, in most cases, family members have legal representation at the inquests. Authorities often failed to follow these procedures. Families rarely took advantage of a provision of law that allows them to sue police for criminal action during arrests….

Human rights groups remained concerned about the NCPO’s influence on independent judicial processes, particularly the practice of prosecuting some civilians in military courts….

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. On September 12, the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. At the time of the order, the NCPO explained that approximately 500 pending civilian cases would continue in military courts, as would any other cases in which the alleged crimes were committed before September 12. According to government and NGO sources, from May 2014 to May, military courts initiated at least 1,546 cases against civilians involving at least 1,811 persons, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste, defaming or insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Military courts do not provide the same legal protections for civilian defendants as do civilian criminal courts. Military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights outlined by the interim constitution or the 2016 constitution to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal.

The NCPO routinely detained those who expressed political views (see section 1.d.). As of March the Department of Corrections reported there were 103 persons detained or imprisoned in the country under lese majeste laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy (see section 2.a.). Human rights groups claimed the prosecutions and convictions of several lese majeste offenders were politically motivated….

Yes, that’s as far as the State Department is willing to go. Sadly deficient and spineless.

The NCPO enforced limits on free speech and expression using a variety of regulations and criminal provisions….

The NCPO also invoked criminal sedition statutes to restrict political speech….

Senior government officials routinely made statements critical of media. Media operators also complained of harassment and monitoring….

The government continued to restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and censored online content….

The NCPO intervened to disrupt academic discussions on college campuses, intimidated scholars, and arrested student leaders critical of the coup. Universities also practiced self-censorship….

The military government continued the process of revising secondary and primary school textbooks and increased instruction on patriotic themes….

Invoking authority under Article 44 of the interim constitution, coup leaders prohibited political gatherings of five or more persons and penalized persons supporting any political gatherings….

The interim constitution set the framework for the adoption of a new constitution but did not provide citizens the ability to choose their government peacefully….

There have been no elections since the 2014 coup….

The interim constitution did not contain provisions providing for the right of freedom of association or the right to bargain collectively….

There’s a lot more. Despite the State Department’s reticence and dull tone, it is a sad read.





Money for nothing III

1 03 2017

Remember that case of the big liquor and beer firm ThaiBev paying the Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Sanit Mahathavorn a 50,000 baht a month advisor’s fee?

Well, we are now told it never happened! Just like magic, the allegation and even the policeman’s self-declaration is gone! Poof!

The Bangkok Post reports that Sanit “claims there was a ‘mistake’ in his asset declaration and insists he has never worked as an adviser for the alcoholic drink giant, Thai Beverage Plc…”. And that’s according to Thailand’s Office of the Ombudsman.

When you are a top cop it must be difficult to keep track of all the ill-gotten gains. There’s just so much of it.

Oh, and it wasn’t his declaration. “Pol Lt Gen Sanit claimed his asset declaration submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) contained a ‘mistake’ because he did not prepare it himself, which caused a misunderstanding among his staff.”

And guess what? The company supports him! “In fact, Pol Lt Gen Sanit claimed he has never done the job in question, an assertion now backed up by the beverage giant itself.”

Whew! We are so pleased that’s all sorted out. We just wonder what Sanit’s next magic trick will be. It is such a wonderful performance. And to have the country’s richest as a supporting act is just so, well, revealing!

We imagine that any documents pertaining to the non-position and non-salary are now non-documents.

Seriously, Sanit and his business buddies must think the Thai public a bunch of dolts if they think that such a ridiculous, cobbled together nonsense can be believed. But what these crooks do know is that they expect impunity.