Waiting and waiting for the NACC do something … anything

13 06 2018

At the risk of being mischievously accused by The Dictator and his Deputy Dictator of having “doctored” a photo – we haven’t – and causing panic – it won’t – we ask again about news of the Deputy Dictator’s case.

We at PPT know that asking is enough to cause him a loss of face and great anger, but the case looks so much like a cover-up that we must ask.

We have been scouring the news to find what the National Anti-Corruption Commission has decided on Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s jewelry and luxury watch case.

Our search has come up with nothing.

It seems that the NACC is just hoping that the whole scam of millions of baht of “borrowed” watches just goes away with time. That’s an old strategy used to provide impunity to the corrupt high personages in Thailand. Well, those who are on the “right” side.

The NACC has been compromised and hopeless on its boss’s case from the beginning.

Will it ever make a decision on this case? Even a bad one? While it may hope that it will never have to, it should not be permitted to provide impunity for corrupt “good” people while using the law to harass and repress its opponents.

Dumber than a bag of hammers II

7 06 2018

We at PPT have been critical of the justice system because it has been politicized, practiced double standards and enforced injustice. The system that runs from police to prosecutors to courts includes many nodes where the rich can pay bribes to avoid courts, charges and jail. The regime uses it to maintain impunity and to repress and jail political opponents. They make use of the lese majeste, sedition and other political laws and decrees.

The junta has worked hard to “cleanse” the so-called justice system of the “politically unreliable.” While the judiciary has long been a nest of royalists, the junta has re-made it as a bunch of clueless political automatons. That may be something of an exaggeration as some professionals remain at various courts, but it is essentially a judiciary that does as it is expected.

The result of the junta’s interventions is that the judiciary is looking as dumb as a bag of hammers. We say this based on two reports of the dumbest court ruling we have seen for some time. One report is in The Nation and another at Prachatai. They report on a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017.

The court “concluded that the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

How dumb can a court get? Or how politicized and corrupt can it be? Seriously? Everyone involved knew that the boy was killed by the military. The military has said it shot him. The media reported it. Witnesses said it.

So the court, after 14 months of the judicial system’s “investigations,” concludes the obvious and known. It concludes what was never in dispute.

An astute reader might say that this is just a part of a longer process. Yet, as we know from such “investigations” into the 2010 military murder of red shirts that such decisions can be an endpoint.

So this court didn’t just rule that a military bullet killed Chaiyapoom, it refused to confirm anything else. The court did not rule the killing illegal.

In essence, it has granted impunity for the military’s shooter and his commanders.

The court “refused to consider the argument made by Chaiyaphum’s relatives which claims that the activist neither possessed drugs or hand grenades nor attempted to stab the authorities as the army had accused him of doing.”

In response, the judge stated that “the court was only asked to find the cause of his death.” That is, of course, a reflection of what the police “investigated,” what the military brass and junta demanded and what the prosecutors did. It is a failure of the judicial system and shows that this judge is a little more than a dopey processing terminal for the military.

Lahu Chiang Mai Group president and Chaiyapoom’s mentor, Maitree Chamroensuksakul, said “he could not have imagined that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court would simply announce results that the public already knew.” He added: “I am disappointed, frankly speaking. In fact, one year should have been long enough to nail down the culprit…”.

Now that the court has confirmed what everyone knew, after 14 months of hidden evidence and intimidation of witnesses and others, its report will go “to a public prosecutor who will decide whether the soldier who killed Chaiyaphum will be indicted or not.”

More delays, intimidation, suppression of evidence and political interference will follow.

And, if the prosecutors decide to press charges, the case will probably be heard in a military court, where justice is almost never served and proceedings will likely be secret.

The family can file a civil suit, but that is the system’s way of ensuring that there will be likely be delays of years in hearing the case.

Again, “Chaiyaphum’s lawyer and family have also petitioned the Royal Thai Army to publicly reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain.” The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men. Early on, when the military was justifying its actions, “there were widespread reports that video footage of the incident existed and that several military figures, including Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart, had already watched it.”

Cover-ups go right to the top in the impunity that the murderous military enjoys.

That’s why it is now “said the footage did not include what had happened at the time Chaiyapoom was shot.” How convenient that footage once claimed to vindicate the military is now said to not show anything at all about the case. Clearly the military leadership is full of scoundrels and liars. They can get away with murder, again and again.

The Prachatai report includes a timeline of the military’s role and intimidation, the judicial system’s failures and the stonewalling. But there’s much, much more to be learned in this case and the similar case of a Lahu killed a little while before Chaiyapoom, where the military used exactly the same “excuse” for the killing.

Judges overseeing dumb decisions for a murderous military are not dumb themselves. They are just doing their “duty” in protecting the state’s older brothers and enforcing the required impunity.

Pandering to the murderous military I

28 05 2018

Two reports in two newspapers and on two seemingly different topics show how the military dictatorship is let off the hook, enjoys impunity and why it continues to maintain the military boot on Thailand’s collective throat.

In this post we look at a report from The Nation. It is from a rather good series that newspaper has had on assessing the impact of the military coup four years on. We’ll look at a fawning report in the Bangkok Post in another post, later today.

The Dictator is soon to head off to Europe “on high-profile trip with business deals high on agenda.”

The general, at the head of a military dictatorship, is in the process of rigging elections to be held sometime in the future, making them unfree and unfair. He has blood on his hands from the murderous crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2010. He has throttled political debate and has wielded draconian laws and junta decrees for his regime’s advantage. But never mind, some of the governments of the EU are dead keen to make business deals.

Sure, they will argue that its best to be open and encourage democratization (by which they seem to mean the junta’s rigged election). That’s cow manure and they should know better or at least speak truthfully.

The report’s opening paragraph explains the junta’s reasons for the visit: Premier Prayuth Chan-ocha:

wants to use his planned trip to Europe next month to raise his international profile as the junta inner circle has seen a softening in the stance of western countries on democratisation to enhance economic engagement with Thailand.”

That says much about the EU and the military dictatorship.

Prayuth is said to be “planning a high-profile visit to France, Germany and the United Kingdom…”. These are all the places that currently get mentioned in the international media as bastions of liberal democracy in a sea of dictators, populists and demagogues. It seems they are far less than they seem, willingly dealing with dictators and complicit in their tyranny.

Here’s another bit of the report that says much about the EU and the military dictatorship:

The EU is desperate to improve its relations with military-ruled Thailand, as it is losing economic opportunities to other competitors such as China, which never makes ideological choices, a senior diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

We can agree on the need for anonymity for the “desperation” is self-diagnosed and the symptoms – Chinese dominance – is something of a beat-up if the actual outcomes of China-Thailand dealing is considered.

It is the military dictatorship that will benefit: “The EU trip … would be a strong confidence boost for the PM amid the changing international political landscape.” It is simply an extension of The Dictator’s electoral campaigning in the provinces! The EU is to be complicit in election rigging.

Political impunity challenged

15 05 2018

One of the factors that encourage generals to overthrow governments is that the perpetrators of successful putsches always declare their actions (retrospectively) legal. Once the coup leaders are finally seen off, that immunity and impunity is never challenged.

Watana Muangsook, a Puea Thai Party politician, is challenging this.

On Monday Watana called for “the prosecution of coup-makers after the next election.”

Saying the 2014 military coup led by Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan had caused “severe damage to the country and wasted a lot of state budget while causing the most suffering to the people.”

Watana blamed the damage on “inefficient management by retired military officers who want to have power but lack intelligence.”

None of that sounds exactly like holding them responsible for the coup itself, until Watana adds: “The goal is to prevent anyone from using the armed forces to destroy democracy again. More importantly, coup-makers must be punished for causing damage to the country…”.

This is the beginning of a discussion that needs to be held. Such discussions, however, will be muted for fear that they will cause the generals to hold on and prevent any challenge to their impunity.

Watana is right when he states that: “Dictators must be brought to court…”.

Impunity, intimidation and murder

6 05 2018

The statement below is reproduced in full. It refers to the sad and covered-up murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers.

Even for Thailand under its military dictatorship, this account is a shocking set of events. It confirms the manner in which the authorities can literally get away with murder while harassing others, jailing them without grounds, for revenge or to silence, and worse.

+ – + – + – + – + –

Joint Statement by Protection International (PI) and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) on Acquittal of Nawa Chaoue, Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender, Co-Founder of Save Lahu Group

02 May  2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand, on 24th April 2018, at about 3:30 pm community leaders from Save Lahu, Protection International (PI) and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) witnessed the Acquittal of Nawa Choue, caretaker to Chaiyaphum Pasae, Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defender and co-founder of the Save Lahu Movement. This positive outcome closes a series of false accusations and 331 days of incarceration for seeking justice for the killing of Chaiyaphum and for defending human rights.

Nawa Chaoue is the co-founder of Save Lahu group, caretaker of Chaiyaphum Pasae, and sister-in-law of Maitree Chamroensuksakul – Lahu indigenous human rights defender. She is also a member of the Lahu Youth Protectors Group and Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT).

Mr. Chaiyaphum Pasae, the Lahu Human Rights Defender who was shot dead by military officials in March 17, 2017, comes from that same village. Nawa and Maitree Chamroensuksakul were mentors of Chaiyaphum Pasae.

On 29th May 2017, the house of Human Rights Defender Maitree Chamroensuksakul was raided by police while he was returning from a meeting with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, during an academic visit in Bangkok on 26th and 27th May 2017. The raid took place during an alleged anti-drug operation in Ban Kong Phak Ping (Muang Na Sub-District), in the Chiang Dao district of Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai province.

Nawai Police station and the Committee on Narcotics Control (Narcotics Control Board) intervened in the siege and search. During the search they reportedly did not find any narcotics. They were looking for Maitree, who was not at his house during the raid. They then arrested Nawa, a mentor to Chaiyaphum, and Chanthana Pasae. Both women were indicted for drug possession.

The authorities accused Nawa of being complicit to the alleged drug-related offences and for supplying drugs to Chaiyaphum on 17th March, two days before he was shot by military personnel. Nawa was in jail at the Chiang Mai Correctional Institution since 29th May 2017 where she was incarcerated for 331 days until her acquittal on 24th April 2018. The Court set bail in the amount of 2 Million Thai Baht as a security deposit. Her family immediately applied for bail and the Justice Fund on 18th July, 2017, and was granted the 2 Million Baht from the Fund in November 2017. However, her request for bail was denied by the court.  Despite the setback of being denied bail the organisers consider it an achievement to have accessed the amount of  Two Million Thai Baht from the Justice Fund for her bail, because it is still a substantial amount accessed by an indigenous woman facing these charges. The organisers also see this as a partial response to our earlier recommendations in the Shadow Report for Thailand to the CEDAW 2017 to ensure access to justice by rural and indigenous women in Thailand.

Since the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyaphum Nawa was highly visible in the call for justice led by Maitree. She has led and participated in activities for Chaiyaphum by: (1) reporting the death threats received by Maitree at the Police Station with the National Human Rights Commission; (2) coordinating visits by The National Human Rights commission of Thailand, Protection International and other human rights organizations; (3) organising the commemoration “60 Days after the Death of Chaiyaphum Pasae”. This solidarity event was held under heavy surveillance on 16th May 2017. It is believed that she is being held solely as a result of her family ties with human rights defenders Mr Maitree Chamroensuksakul and Mr Chaiyaphum Pasae.

The extrajudicial killing of Chaiyaphum, the harassment of  Maitree and the false charges against Nawa are evidence of how Human Rights Defenders are persecuted for the legitimate defense of human rights in Thailand. Rural, Indigenous and Women Human Rights Defenders are also among the poorest and most criminalised in Thai society. When they raise their voice in calling for justice and defending ethnic minority rights, they are harassed,  threatened, criminalised and perennially exposed to risks to their lives by state and non-state actors.

Lahu is an indigenous group in the border between North of Thailand and Myanmar. Thailand categorises them as one of the Hill Tribe groups. Offences related to possession and usage of drugs are common allegations against many hill tribe people living in the Thai-Burmese border area and this includes community based Human Rights Defenders. There is documentation of military officers using anti-drug operations to legitimise attacks on activists who expose and speak against violations by the military and other security personnel.

Mindful of the continued persecution of Human Rights Defenders in Thailand, Protection International and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development urge the Thai authorities to:

  • Urge the Public Prosecutor to not appeal on her case and instead ensure full and adequate compensation to Nawa Choue for damages and human rights violations to her during the 331 days she was incarcerated on false charges.  Compensation should include financial compensation for the legal fee, lost livelihood and income during the period of her incarceration, and ‘public apology’ from the relevant authorities.
  • Immediately cease harassment   and intimidation against  community Human Rights Defenders like Maitree and Nawa  and other indigenous peoples HRDs in Save Lahu who diligently seek justice and stand for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Respect and deliver the commitments made by the Thailand Government to uphold international standards of human rights, specifically the work of U.N. Special Procedures by ensuring an open invitation to the mandate holders; and immediately accepting any pending country visit requests from them.
  • Adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and other Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory to.
  • Increase the capacity and budget of Justice Fund Office, and prioritise Human Rights Defenders in Thailand in accessing the Justice Funds as they perennially face judicial harassment and criminalisation for legitimate human rights work.
  • Adhere to the General Recommendation (CEDAW/C/GC/33 of 2015) on Women’s Access to Justice that looks into issues of justiciability, availability, accessibility, good-quality, provision of remedies and accountability of justice systems; discriminatory laws, procedures and practices that is of concern to rural and indigenous women HRDs too.

Updated: A sorry story of military repression

24 04 2018

We all know that Thailand is under the military boot. The US State Department’s 2017 human rights report is now out and chronicles some aspects of the natur of military repression. We summarize and quote some parts of the report below. A general statement worth considering is this:

In addition to limitations on civil liberties imposed by the NCPO, the other most significant human rights issues included: excessive use of force by government security forces, including harassing or abusing criminal suspects, detainees, and prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detention by government authorities; abuses by government security forces confronting the continuing ethnic Malay-Muslim insurgency in the southernmost provinces…; corruption; sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons.

As the report notes:

Numerous NCPO decrees limiting civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, remained in effect during the year. NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which replaced martial law in March 2015, grants the military government sweeping power to curb “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability.”

The military junta continues to detain civilians in military prisons. Some prisoners are still shackled in heavy chains.

Impunity and torture are mentioned several times as a major issue. This is important when it is noted that the number of “suspects” killed by authorities doubled in 2017.

Approximately 2,000 persons have been summoned, arrested and detained by the regime, including academics, journalists, politicians and activists. There are also “numerous reports of security forces harassing citizens who publicly criticized the military government.” Frighteningly,

NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March 2016, 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.”

Too often detainees are prevented from having legal representation and are refused bail.

The use of military courts continues:

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. In September 2016 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. According to the Judge Advocate General’s Office, military courts initiated 1,886 cases involving at least 2,408 civilian defendants since the May 2014 coup, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives. As of October approximately 369 civilian cases involving up to 450 individual defendants remained pending before military courts.

On lese majeste, the reports cites the Department of Corrections that says “there were 135 persons detained or imprisoned…”.

Censorship by the junta is extensive, with the regime having “restricted content deemed critical of or threatening to it [national security and the monarchy], and media widely practiced self-censorship.” It is added that the junta “continued to restrict or disrupt access to the internet and routinely censored online content. There were reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.” In dealing with opponents and silencing them, the junta has used sedition charges.

Restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression are extensive against those it deems political activists. This repression extends to the arts and academy:

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…. In June [2017] soldiers removed artwork from two Bangkok galleries exhibiting work depicting the 2010 military crackdown on protesters, which authorities deemed a threat to public order and national reconciliation.

It is a sorry story.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a timely editorial on torture in Thailand. Usually it is the police and military accused and guilty. This time it is the Corrections Department, which runs almost all of Thailand’s prisons. All these officials are cut from the same cloth.

An injustice regime

21 03 2018

Justice is not a particular forte of military dictatorships. For Thailand’s variety, the emphasis is on law applied in a politicized manner and double standards, topped off with notions that the powerful should expect impunity.

A particularly egregious case, extended now over a year of mostly silence and some lies, is the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers. PPT has regularly posted on the “investigations,” which amount to almost nothing more than cover up and lies. Such a non-response/cover-up by the authorities can be considered an admission of guilt without saying those words.

We were heartened to see both an op-ed and an editorial in the Bangkok Post recently, both drawing attention to this most obvious example of the regime’s misuse of deadly force and the military’s ingrained expectation of impunity.

As the op-ed by Paritta Wangkiat states:

We know that a bullet fired at his chest killed him. But the rest of the story has been mixed with conflicting accounts. The mystery behind his death stands as a stark reminder of how hard it is for minority and ethnic groups to obtain justice in the Land of Smiles.

Of course, it is far more than this. Any one outside the economic and political elite cannot be assured of anything approaching justice in Thailand.

In this case, there was some hope that CCTV footage would reveal the truth. Sadly and defining of impunity, we learn:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year. The next is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. It’s likely that the case will draw to a conclusion very soon.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

This screams cover up.

The editorial notes that “Chaiyaphum’s family … have complained of state intimidation during the investigation into the activist’s death.” It is the police, military and other authorities who intimidate.

The editorial is right to say: “The military is obliged to handle the case fairly and refrain — or abandon — any attempts at a cover-up, as this would taint the nation’s image. The slain activist and his family deserve justice, which is long overdue.”

Right, but all too weak. We can’t think of many cases involving the military and its use of murderous force that have ever been handled “fairly.”