Prayuth fumes, wants attention

8 09 2017

Most readers will have seen the story of The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s temper tantrum when a survey by King Prajadhipok Institute claimed that “former premier Thaksin Shinawatra had a higher credibility rating while in office than Prayut has now.”

The Dictator’s notoriously short fuse was lit and he exploded.

The data and the details of the survey are not all that interesting except for a military dictatorship thinking about how it might manufacture an “election” where its people, not Thaksin’s, “win.”

What is interesting are The Dictator’s comments on Thaksin and (the still missing) Yingluck.

Prayuth lambasted the media: “I am so over him. But you [the media], you’re not. And you keep reporting [news] about him…”.

He went on to say that he was “over” Yingluck as well. He reckons they all create “conflict.” He blamed the media for political conflict: “He asked whether the media was trying to provoke the people again.”

He then began to lie, saying “he just wanted justice to prevail.” Anyone who watches Thailand’s politics knows that, under the junta, its justice is no justice at all. It is all double standards and impunity.

What he apparently means is that his junta is now using the judiciary as its main weapon deployed against Thaksin and Yingluck. He thundered: “Do you get that there are wrongdoings there? Please report so…”.

“Clearly upset,” Prayuth demanded that the media forget the conflicts of domestic politics and focus on good stories about his regime. And, more importantly, he wanted the media to focus on him:

“Don’t think that I do not follow your [the media] work. I always do. But I only read what matters and I skip the nonsense,” Prayut said.

Before leaving he added: “I want to know why you never asked whether I’m tired, whether I will be back, where I have been. But don’t ask me now. It’s too late. I’m back here and the first thing I get is these questions. It’s you that never get over them.”

Such childish egotism seems definitional of the psychology of dictators:

They see themselves as “very special” people, deserving of admiration and, consequently, have difficulty empathizing with the feelings and needs of others … Not only do dictators commonly show a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity,” they also tend to behave with a vindictiveness often observed in narcissistic personality disorder.





Incessant double standards

7 08 2017

In his weekly column at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson looks at the double standards that define the military dictatorship’s (in)justice system.

In it, he mentions national deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week that “he has their transport dead to rights. He captured 21 taxi and van drivers who drove the fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.” He suggests this action was vindictive and petty.

He turns to lese majeste:

On Thursday, the first witness hearing was held in the case of The Regime vs Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka Pai Dao Din. The prosecutors call him “that man who liked a Facebook post”.

Which he did, of course. He fully admits it and it’s there on the BBCThai.com website if you need prove it. The “like” was for a biographical news report. It’s a report on which 3,000 other people in Thailand clicked like — but aren’t being prosecuted for lese majeste and computer crime with 30 years of free room and board at state expense in the balance.

As others have, he compares this with the situation of hugely wealthy and influential Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya:

That’s a double standard [Pai’s case]. But the pursuit and persecu… we always get that word wrong, the prosecution of Pai is in stark, massive contrast to the case of a playboy and bon vivant from a family with 10 dollar billionaires. The chase doesn’t even rise to the description of trivial pursuit.

In just a few more days, the rich guy’s case expires. Cop dead, run over and his body dragged along the road by the expensive car, but never mind, attack rural students for being a political activist.

Dawson could have gone on and on.

What of those accused of lese majeste and sentenced for “crimes” against royal personages not covered by the law? Then there are the political activists picked off by junta using lese majeste charges.

Then there are those sent to jail, like Jatuporn Promphan, for defamation of leading anti-democrats, while anti-democrats defaming their opponents remain free. Then there are those who are slapped with sedition charges for pointing out some of junta’s failures (of which there are many).

What of those identified as opponents who are prevented from meeting when “allies” like the members and leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy can. And we hardly need to mention the jailing of red shirts for all manner of “crimes” while PAD leaders walk free.

And then there are the double standards when it comes to corruption. The junta is considered squeaky clean, always. “Evil politicians” are always considered corrupt.

Finally, for this post, there is impunity, which is the grossest of double standards. Who stole the 1932 plaque? No investigations permitted. Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder has disappeared into official silence, so that usually means impunity via cover-up by simply ignoring it as a case against soldiers. The enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is unlikely to be mentioned much at all as the military junta quietly congratulates itself on a “job” well done. It seems a bit like the murder of Kattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng by a sniper in 2010.

Not only is the junta operating with double standards, its sanctions the murder of its opponents. Meanwhile, the justice system in Thailand is broken.





When the military is on top VI

10 06 2017

It is a while since we used this headline. Yet an editorial in the Bangkok Post draws us back to it.

That editorial is about a hot social media story about a traffic jam in Khon Kaen. The editorial states:

the wedding of Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri and his bride, a young woman from a wealthy family in Khon Kaen, on June 8 has drawn numerous complaints, mostly from commuters.

This was because part of the busy Mittraphap Highway was sealed in order to pave the way for the groom’s traditional procession in which a groom and his entourage make their way to the bride’s house to propose formally. The convoy reportedly resulted in heavy traffic congestion as it took place during rush hour. The tailback was said to have stretched over 10km and this caused an online uproar over the past few days.

The editorial doesn’t seem to mind this. After all, it is “traditional.” And, they want “to be fair” to the groom and his wealthy bride.

What gets the editorial’s author hot under the collar is:

the reaction from Col Winthai Suvaree, the spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order, in his dire attempt to defend the groom, is unacceptable. Without properly investigating the matter, he simply denied the highway was partially closed for the groom’s procession. Col Winthai said the congestion occurred because there were so many guests who arrived in their own cars and it so happened that some of them had no choice but to park their vehicles along the road.

That is not the truth.

It isn’t true, and the editorial got irate:

The regime spokesman seemed to ignore the suggestion that authorities should look into the matter and probe why such a request [to close part of the highway] by state personnel was accommodated.

As the regime spokesman, we expect Col Winthai to carefully check information before making any statement. We also expect him to stick to the facts. The spokesman may have acted out of goodwill and dismissed the allegations, thinking the problem is trivial. But that can hurt his credibility.

The wedding case shows we have to question Col Winthai’s “no problem” attitude. It may bring into question whether anything he says in the future is truth or propaganda.

That’s where our headline comes in. It is propaganda that Colonel Winthai is hired to propagate. It is a military dictatorship.

That point is made by op-ed writer Kong Rithdee. He explains clearly and emphatically that life is changed by military dictatorship.

Yet neither Post article makes what we think is a critical point, found in a story by Khaosod.

Lt Col Pitakpol Chusri or “Seh Pete” is the “commander of the junta’s provincial security wing.” He is a junta thug:

After the junta seized power in May 2014, Phitakphon’s unit imposed a curfew that forced all concerts to end before 1am. The ban led to protests from mor lam folk musicians who said their traditional performances last until early dawn.

Phitakphon was also the officer who filed royal defamation [lese majeste] charges against pro-democracy activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, or Pai Dao Din, for sharing a BBC Thai article about the king. Jatupat has been jailed since December.

As a senior military thug, Pitakpol can do more or less anything he wants. If you don’t like it, he can arrange for you to be jailed. That’s what happens when the military is on top.

That’s why the Rolls Royce corruption “investigations” disappear, that’s why senior military can accumulate huge wealth, that’s why no one can ask what happened to the 1932 plaque, that’s why torture is not investigated, that’s why deaths in custody are not properly investigated, that’s why soldiers can kill with impunity, that’s why referendum and elections can be fixed, that’s why civilian protesters can be murdered; that’s why weapons and human trafficking can thrive. It just goes on and on.





Updated: Guns and grenades II

5 06 2017

The military’s response to the guns and grenades arms trading events of recent days is interesting.

For a start, as The Nation reports, the “National Council for Peace and Order has instructed regional Army officers to investigate recent cases of weapon trafficking.”

Yes, that’s the military junta telling its minions to “investigate” itself. Military “investigating” military is the basis of these events. The military has long demanded this privilege, but in the current circumstances, where the military controls government, all ministries, and so much more, accusations of conflict of interest seem too limited. The military state suffocates everything. It is a military dictatorship.

Statements that Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, who is the junta’s “secretary,” “telling officers to get tough on criminals who tried to avoid detection by new methods such as using social media and couriers to transport drugs and weapons” misses the issue completely.

But that’s the point. Deflect criticism by focusing on methods, not the culture of impunity that has allowed virtually every senior military officer to become wealthy beyond their salaries. The military is built on the corruption that comes with its political interventions.

General Chalermchai is said to have “also expressed concern that the recent case suggested weapons trafficking in border areas was occurring and urged officers at border checkpoints to screen vehicles for illegal items without exception, including state-issued cars and civilian automobiles that display government stickers…”.

What he is saying is that he’s disappointed that this trafficking has hit the headlines. Such headlines have occurred regularly over the decades – back to the 1940s – and they go away and the trading goes back to “normal,” largely controlled by the military and police.

The point elsewhere response has also come from the jewel and gold encrusted Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan. He “ordered officers to pay special attention to the southern border provinces especially during the fasting month of Ramadan…”. No one has mentioned southerners in these cases, but the General seems to want false leads.

The response of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to the arrest of one of its officers with multiple war weapons is telling. Among other largely secret roles, ISOC is a specialist anti-democrat organization that arranges “third-hand” political interventions. It seems to want to create the impression that the soldier involved with the weapons was carrying a false ISOC ID card. They know that this excuse has worked previously.

And, there’s no more news about Vice Adm Rattana Wongsaroj’s role. He’s the marine commander for Trat and Chanthaburi provinces who reportedly rushed to the navy site where the officer found smuggling weapons was being held.

While on such matters, a footnote: what happened to all those corruption cases around Rolls Royce? No news? Is that really surprising to anyone?

Update: The military brass, keen to throw all and sundry off the scent, have made claims that weapons trafficking is by implicitly claiming their own innocence: “Military top brass on Tuesday vowed to suppress illicit arms trade by some low-ranking soldiers who have been involved in stealing and selling state weaponry online and across the border.” When one of those involved in recent cases is an ISOC intelligence officer, the scent should be leading to the top brass.





Contextualizing official murder

29 05 2017

Many readers will recall the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae and the failure of any serious investigation. There has been no serious investigation because there’s a cover-up.

In this context of an official cover-up and the efforts to ensure impunity for the soldiers and their officers who were involved, a recent report in the Bangkok Post deserves attention. It is sad and revealing. Most of all, it is a story of how the people are repressed and exploited.

Bits and pieces from the report can be quoted here, but do read it and weep for these people and for Thailand:

‘They pointed a gun at me,” Lana whispers into my ear.

She means military, police and officials and she’s talking both of an events in the past and a pattern of intimidation and exploitation.

In 2005, the gun was pointed at her by “them” to prevent her and other Lahu accessing their farmland in Ban Kong Phak Ping village in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district, just a few kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border. The altercation followed their discovery of young plants placed on the land as part of the authorities’ forestation project, which the Lahu were unaware of.

Violence is imprinted in her memory. Some local Lahu were reportedly beaten up by officials as suspected drug dealers.

Amid the intense drug suppression [Thaksin’s time], Lana was charged with resisting an operation to arrest two Lahu drug suspects in her village. Their house was raided but no drugs were discovered. The officials refused to back down despite the lack of evidence. They demanded Lana, who was widely respected in the local community, assist in the arrest.

After she refused to collaborate, she was arrested then imprisoned for nine months.

“We’ve fought for our rights for so long until we’re bored to fight and let it be.”

This conversation took place at a “gathering” on the spot where Lahu rights advocate Chaiyaphum Pasae, 17, was killed on the morning of March 17….

Many locals do not believe the Lahu youth [Chaiyapoom] was linked to drugs. But people in his village are watching the case from distance. It’s also not an issue that they speak about openly in their community despite the loss.

Chaiyaphum’s death heightens the fear the Lahu community have lived with after long years of discrimination….

Checkpoints [for drugs] became a common encounter during my daily drive with another journalist tracing the shadow of Chaiyaphum in Chiang Mai’s border towns. We passed the checkpoints easily.

But when it’s Saroj’s [a local’s] turn, he usually has to undergo a urine test despite this being a routine commute for him.

His 17-year-old nephew says he has been slapped in the face by a soldier. On another occasion, he was beaten and stamped on by military personnel although no drugs were found on him.

Four other Lahu I interviewed told me similar stories. They have all experienced violence themselves or have friends or family who have faced official violence.

“Life is already difficult for ethnic people who don’t have status here. They have no choice but to submit to fate. Would they [the military] do the same to suspects if they are not ethnic?” Saroj asks.

Remarkably, the authorities have poured mony into the area since Chaiyapoom was murdered. It might be hush money, it might be compensation, it might be an admission of guilt.

Aid has flooded into Chaiyaphum’s village. The state and military have dispatched resources to remedy the community’s loss. A new toilet was installed in mother’s house.

Trucks were seen delivering construction materials to the village to build facilities. Soon they will get water tanks and electricity lines. New social development projects will be slated for the village soon.

Local authorities visit the community to survey their problems and requirements. The chief of Chiang Dao district recently visited the village — some locals say he is the first chief to visit their community in a decade.

“This village has been neglected for so long. When the incident [Chaiyaphum’s killing] took place, we allocated a budget to assist the villagers because we don’t want them to be left behind,” says Chiang Dao district chief Sarawut Worapong.

…[T]he overwhelming military presence in the community has made some Lahu feel insecure, especially those close to Chaiyaphum or those who have experienced violence.

They claimed to have been photographed by military officials. Officials also took pictures of houses, claiming it was part of a survey to allocate aid.

A diagram of the drug network was shown to some community members which contained the names of their friends, in order to sow discord among the community.

Villagers are still seeking the truth behind Chaiyaphum’s death.

Atthachak Sattayanurak, an academic at Chiang Mai University, says the violence is a part of the authoritarianism that puts marginalised people vulnerable to abuse of power.

Especially when Thailand’s political environment is not conducive to democracy, vulnerable people like ethnic minorities are at the mercy of the state.

As she [Lana] keeps a faint smile when telling me her life story, I ask why she maintains such an expression.

“It’s just the way I am dealing with the problem. Actually, I’m scared.”





Contemptible justice system

10 05 2017

Readers will know that we have posted more than a few items that have shown and declared Thailand’s justice system an injustice system.

The police have long been corrupt thugs. But they are now worse than ever thanks to the fact that a military dictatorship condones impunity. They have to repay the military junta with loyalty. So when the biggest shot orders a piece of national history stolen as he wipes the “hard drive” of history, the cops do nothing, zilch. Loyalty demands no less.

The military is above the law. They literally get away with murder, with the latest case being that of Chaiyapoom Pasae. He was gunned down and now there’s nothing. It is all quiet. It’s probably just another cover up. We notice that the media has conveniently forgotten the case. Nothing happened, you can all go home. Witnesses intimidated, evidence withheld. Forget it.

The courts, positioned to have more power by a coterie of royalists, meddlers, constitution drafters and two juntas, is now a disgrace.

Lese majeste cases are just one example, where even the letter of the law is ignored as political opponents and others are shoved into jail for long sentences after secret trials, many in military courts. Cases are concocted, confessions forces and arrests made for political purposes.

Judges apply double standards as if they are the only standards and justice is not blind, but meted out with a view to vengeance and no consideration of the merits of cases. Of course, we are not necessarily pointing at every single case, but the politically significant ones. Thailand’s courts have become political courts.

Rather than detail the contemptible actions of the courts, we draw attention to an article by iLaw at Prachatai. It is certainly worth reading.





CCTV “failures”

20 04 2017

As the regime continues to feign a lack of knowledge of political and historical vandalism that saw the removal of the 1932 plaque, while it protects the new royalist plaque, the humble CCTV provides evidence of the links between the political past and present. But not how one might immediately think of it.

The political vandal responsible for the removal of the 1932 plaque will not be identified as the police refuse to investigate and the junta and its minions deny the significance of the plaque. In other words, the junta, the palace and assorted royalists have managed to expunge one more symbol of Thailand’s constitutional revolution.

Another reason no one will be identified is because “the 11 CCTV cameras that were situated at traffic lights around the Royal Plaza had been removed on March 31 when City Hall workers began work to improve traffic lights in the area.”

What an astonishing coincidence! Well, probably not, for as a Bangkok Post editorial observes:

what is more astonishing is that the 11 cameras were removed just days before the promulgation of the 2017 constitution by … the King which took place at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. With such a big event being eagerly watched by the entire nation and where leaders and prominent figures had gathered, the BMA [Bangkok Metropolitan Authority] still managed to remove the cameras.

Most unlikely indeed. When looking at the question of cover up or cock up, PPT would usually go for cock up, but not in this case. This shouts cover up.

The more so when additional information is provided by Khaosod. The report states: “a representative said City Hall did not order the cameras removed, but declined to say which agency was responsible.”

(There’s the fear again. You get the picture of how very threatening the vandal is.)

The BMA “explanation” gets even more laughable: “[an activist] asked how police could hope to investigate any potential crime that took place there without aid from the cameras. Yutthayapan [Meechai, secretary to Bangkok’s governor] replied that crimes are unlikely to happen there because of high presence of security officers about the Royal Plaza.”

So no reason to have the CCTV in the first place – clearly a case of malfeasance – and there are “security officers” who know exactly what went on there and who ordered the removal of the plaque.

We can be pretty sure that the cover up includes lying about the non-operation of the CCTV cameras.

Here, the CCTV cameras and their alleged non-operation allow the state to blur political visions, blur crimes and erase history.

This is not so different from the case of the extrajudicial killing of Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae about a month ago. That case has gone very quiet, and this also suggests a cover up and one that is likely to be successful simply because the junta (this time) wants it covered up.

Prachatai reports that “police have revealed that the military has not yet sent the CCTV footage of the crime scene to them.” We can guess why that is. Cover up. The “military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.” Cover up.

The police make a ludicrous claim that “the fact that the military is still withholding the footage will not affect the investigation” while everyone can guess that the CCTV footage is incriminating for the military involved and they demand impunity.

Then there’s the lies. In earlier reports, “3rd Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop … said then that the military had already sent the CCTV footage to the police and that the military had no authority to reveal evidence to the public without court permission.”

So it is the police or the general who is lying, but probably both as they collude.

Even without CCTV coverage, the picture in both cases is clear. Lies, collusion, cover up, impunity.