Waen gets bail

4 09 2018

When she was arrested by the military – in fact, abducted – on 11 March 2015, Nattatida Meewangpla, also known as Waen, was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military dictatorship of both terrorism and lese majeste.

On lese majeste, the Internal Security Operation Command alleged Nattatida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

While the other three “terrorism” suspects were released on bail in July 2017, the Bangkok Military Court kept Waen in jail on the lese majeste charge. Her lawyer implied that this charge was fabricated, alleging that the postings were made a week after she

Her lawyer argues that her devices were confiscated on her arrest on 11 March 2015, “but the alleged message was uploaded about a week later.” It is not unusual for the police and military to plant “evidence.”

Earlier posts at PPT are here, here, here, here and here.

The moderately good news is that the military court – meeting in secret – allowed bail, on a bond of 900,000 baht.





Lese majeste used by the junta to silence a witness

22 07 2018

When she was arrested, Nattatida Meewangpla was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military dictatorship of terrorism and lese majeste. She was abducted by the military on 17 March 2015 and held incommunicado for six days, then charged with “terrorism,” and was later with lese majeste.

Not so uncommon you might think. Especially since the 2014 coup, as the military wanted to crush all anti-monarchy speech and thought, lese majeste victims were usually dragged off by the junta’s uniformed thugs.

But the arrest and continued jailing of Nattathida was unusual. The lese majeste complaint was made by Internal Security Operation Command Col Wicharn Joddaeng, who claims Nattatida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one Line chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

Who knows if she did anything of the kind, but this charge was devised to have her jailed as quickly as possible as a threat to the military dictatorship. The threat she posed was as a witness to the murder of six individuals at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

More than three years later, still in jail and never allowed bail, Nattathida’s trial has begun. On 20 July 2018, a “first witness hearing was held behind closed door[s]…”.

Secret trials are not unusual for lese majeste, where laws and constitutions are regularly ignored, but in this case, the military wants nothing said in court to be public for fear that it may incriminate them.

The Bangkok Post’s editorial on her cases is a useful effort to get some media attention to this case of cruel incarceration and the military junta’s efforts to suppress evidence of its murderous work in 2010 under the direction of then military-backed premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, Army boss Gen Anupong Paojinda and the commander of troops Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha.

The Post describes Nattathida as “a key witness in the deaths of six people killed during the military’s dispersal of red-shirt protests in 2010…”.

The Post seems to get the date of her 2015 lese majeste charging wrong, but these charges and their details are murky, and meant to be. It reports:

Ms Nathathida was in March 2015 charged as a suspect linked to the blast and had been held in prison until July 24 last year when she was finally granted bail. But the police filed a lese majeste charge, an offence under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, against her on the same day resulting in immediate custody without bail.

The editorial notes that her “trial for another case involving a 2015 bombing at the Criminal Court is also moving at a snail’s pace,” describing the slow pace as “questionable.” It thinks the deliberate foot-dragging suggests the charges are based on shaky grounds. It adds:

The cases yet again raise doubts about the legitimacy of the prosecution of many politically-driven cases in the post-2014 coup era, especially lese majeste cases.

Her lawyer Winyat Chartmontri has told the media that “many witnesses, who are government officials, in the blast case had postponed court hearings several times resulting in the case being delayed.”

As the editorial noted, these “two cases not only kept her in jail but may also have reduced the credibility of her as a witness in court over the six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram near Ratchaprasong intersection.” More though, they prevent her testimony being heard.

Why is the military so concerned? As the Post observes:

In 2012, she testified at the South Bangkok Criminal Court as a paramedic volunteer stationed at the temple, giving a vivid account of how she saw from close range gunshots being fired from the Skytrain tracks where soldiers were on guard. She did not hear gunshots fired back by protesters, she said.

The editorial makes the mistake of believing that “criminal prosecution requires solid proof of both motive and the scale of damage their act could have caused,” but that is never the case when it comes to lese majeste. And, under the military dictatorship, the courts have generally acted as a tool of the regime, often ignoring law.

The Post knows this, limply proclaiming that “[l]aw enforcement officers should not overlook … universal legal rules when handling cases that could send someone to prison.” Yet in “politically motivated” cases under the military junta, law and procedure goes out the window.

In concluding, the editorial also mentions “that tragic day at Wat Pathum Wanaram,” noting that the courts are “supposed to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The problem with puppet law courts is that they work for the perpetrators.





The junta’s lock

20 07 2018

The military dictatorship has now had more than four years to lock-in its rule and its rules. In establishing control over the military, it has had longer.

Around the time of the 2006 military coup, royalist elements in the military, aligned with the palace directly or through privy councilors Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and Gen Surayud Chulanont, marked certain military officers as untrustworthy due to their perceived alliance with Thaksin Shinawatra. These officers were sidelined, stymied and seen out of the military, mostly through the efforts of four generals: Sonthi Boonyaratglin, Anupong Paojinda, Prayuth Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan. Sonthi was soon discarded as too weak but the others remain, ran the 2014 coup and now plot and plan for the continuation of military guided “democracy” into the future.

That planning for the future involves something that Gen Prem did for years on behalf of the palace: managing succession in the armed forces so that loyalists are on top. In this context. loyalty means to the palace and to the junta and its regime.

It has been known for quite some time that the chosen successor for Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart as Army chief is Gen Apirat Kongsompong. Apirat is a ruthless rightist who has vowed support to The Dictator and taken a leading role in suppressing red shirts and other political opponents.

Last year, when the new King Vajiralongkorn approved the military promotion list, it was widely assumed that Gen Apirat had the king’s approval as Vajiralongkorn takes a strong interest in what happens within the armed forces. However, in May this year, there was an unconfirmed report that Apirat may have fallen foul of the erratic king. Within a couple of months, however, an announcement in the Royal Gazette saw Gen Apirat granted special special status as a member of the king’s personal security unit. If Apirat had fallen foul of the king, he must have completed his penance and/or service with flying colors, at least in the king’s eyes.

This has been followed by Gen Apirat getting plenty of media attention as the Defense Council is scheduled to meet on 25 July to discuss promotions and appointments, with the meeting chaired by Gen Prawit. Interestingly, most of the media stories are almost exactly the same, suggesting that this is a strategic leak by the junta, paving the way for Apirat and acknowledging that the king’s approval has been given.

Apirat, a graduate from Class 20 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, and in the military’s feudal system, “belongs to the Wongthewan clique and not the powerful Burapa Phayak circles of elite commanders — of which Gen Prayut and his deputy Gen Prawit are members — [yet] he is one of the regime’s most trusted lieutenants.” He has pledged allegiance to The Dictator. His loyalty has been earlier tested in 2010 and his bosses appreciate Apirat’s willingness to shoot down civilian opponents.

If the junta does decide to hold its rigged election next year, Gen Apirat will be expected to use his 200,000 + soldiers, the Internal Security Operations Command and various other resources of the state to deliver the votes needed for the “election” to appear to have been won by the junta’s parties.





Beware talk of a “third hand”

20 05 2018

Just over a week ago PPT posted about several dire warnings made by the likes of National Security Council chief Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh who publicly worried that pro-election campaigners would resort to violence. That was about a rally on 22 May.

We at PPT wondered and worried about this warning. None of the many small protests by those involved in the anti-junta campaign had ever resulted in violence. Mostly they led to arrests and charges by the authorities acting to protect the military junta and The Dictator.

We wondered why the general made such a statement. Was he thinking of a “third hand”? As we said after an ISOC “warning,” along the same lines, ISOC has, in the past, often provided the “third hands.”

As another set of small rallies is held and looms, a Bangkok Post report states that police “have begun implementing stringent security measures to deter attempts to smuggle weapons into Bangkok ahead of the planned march by anti-regime groups on Tuesday…”.

In making such claims, even the usual blather about “intelligence reports” is missing. The police simply appear to be concocting plots. But to what end? Again, we worry about the “third hand” provided by the state. We have seen it too many times in the past.

This time it is Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul who talks of the need to “deter any attempts by a third party to stir up unrest during the demonstration…”.

The police general said “several hundred police officers are set to be deployed on Tuesday” when a 4-year anniversary of the 2014 coup rolls around.

For good measure, “Pol Gen Srivara has threatened legal action against the protesters if they march to Government House.”

In this context of threat, we are pleased to note that groups identifying themselves as civil society organizations have come together to launch today a “Public Assembly Observation and Documentation for Human Rights” monitoring coalition that will “monitor and document what happens at a public assembly using a human rights based approach.” Its operation are said to have begun on 19 May. Piyanut Kotsan, a spokesperson for the Public Assembly Observation and Documentation for Human Rights, explained:

the network has been banded together with an aim to streamline and justify the roles of observers making their roles distinct from those participating in a public assembly. They are there simply to document the realities utilizing human rights indicators and to practice their skills in observing a public assembly professionally.

The Network is likely to risk criticism by the junta and its thugs, used to impunity in their actions.





Still threatening

11 05 2018

As many in Thailand seek to draw “lessons” from the vote in Malaysia that has seemed to overturn 61 years of political dominance, and the royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim, Thailand’s military dictatorship makes noise about doubling down on repression for the maintenance of the forces of political dominance.

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post reported that National Security Council (NSC) chief Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh “warned pro-election campaigners against resorting to violence after they vowed to march on Government House on May 22.”

This is a dangerous warning. As far as anyone can determine, none of the many protests by those involved in the campaign has resulted in any violence whatsoever.

So why does the scary general at the head of a scary organization make such a statement? He even says he doesn’t believe “the demonstration will not spiral out of control.” Does he have information about a “third hand”? As we said less than a week ago, ISOC has made such claims, and they are a scary bunch too, skilled in political manipulation and provocation.

Gen Wanlop added that the activism is a waste of time. He said “the government is following its election roadmap” and that it is “impossible that the NCPO [junta] will step down since the council is a mechanism which supports the government’s administration…”. In fact, it is the mechanism of government.

Another Bangkok Post report has Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warning “pro-election protesters they will face tough legal action if they march on Government House…”.

He claimed “70 million people understand the government’s election roadmap,” implying the protesters were being stubborn and were out of touch with the vast majority, even deceptive. His men are, he says, “trying to find out who actually pulls the strings in this political movement.” That’s a code for saying that the mostly student-led protesters are Thaksin Shinawatra’s tools and of the groups around him. It is a claim the junta has repeatedly made.

Gen Prawit “warned that the group must revise their plans to hold the rally.” He also referred to “[t]his new political unrest” and implied a plot or conspiracy, saying the “unrest” has “suddenly erupted after a few people came out to say something…”.

Of course, “unrest,” even if manufactured by the junta, can be useful for the regime. It can use “unrest” to delay elections, to attack/charge/quieten the political burrs that get in and under the military bear’s coat and to demonstrate political will and capacity.

More than anything else, though, the military junta wants to show it is still threatening.





Beware of ISOC

4 05 2018

Since its inception, one of the main tasks of the Internal Security Operations Command has been disrupting political movements. It has done this by establishing its own “movements” of murderous rightists, and paramilitaries and not just in the past. It has also infiltrated genuine movements and groups to disrupt them. Yet another tactic has been to act as agents provocateurs, disrupting and often provoking violence.

So when ISOC spokesman Maj Gen Peerawat Sangthong tells the organizers of this weekend’s anti-military dictatorship rally that they must must watch for “third hands,” be very worried that ISOC is engaging in disruption.

ISOC says “security forces will be deployed to maintain peace and order,” but warns that “protest organisers must also ensure that no one with ill-intent infiltrate the gathering and instigate unrest…”. Maj Gen Peerawat warned rally organizers that they will be accountable should “anything untoward … transpire.”

That’s an ominous warning when it is most usually ISOC that is ill-intentioned and trained to be so.

The military mouthpiece repeated claims that are not supported by opinion polls that “people” feel “an urgent need for elections.”

Maj Gen Peerawat added that Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart’s policy is to make ISOC “an agency people believe they can rely on for help.” ISOC’s history and its fawning obeisance to the current dictatorship suggests that ISOC should be feared. It is a disrupting organization dedicated to anti-democracy. It often acts illegally. It should have been disbanded decades ago.





When the military is on top XXI

3 05 2018

A theme of our now long series of posts on When the Military is on Top has been the embedding of double standards. One set of rules for the junta and its partners and another for those not connected with the regime or its partners seem never-ending.

The latest example is related to land. Since it seized power the junta has emphasized “illegal” uses of “state” land. We use the inverted commas to mark the fact that some of this land was, several decades ago, allocated to state agencies, institutions and people as part of the military’s counterinsurgency operations.

So when the military becomes involved in expelling owners and smashing down resorts in areas like Khao Khor in Petchabun, one might ask how it is that the Royal Forest Department and the the Internal Security Operations Command co-operate now to “take legal action against all 135 mountainous resorts suspected of encroaching on a land plot in Khao Kho district within three months.”

No doubt some of these resorts are the plaything of the rich, but so much of the land in the area was allocated to farmers who were encouraged into the area after the battles with the communists there in the 1970s. That those farmers sold their land decades later is a reflection of ISOC’s 1970s policies never having recognized the property rights of the villagers it encouraged and even transported to the area.

The mistreatment of land protesters is reflective of similar processes that began decades ago as, also as part of a broad counter-communism policy, the state commodified land, allocated land and titles of various levels of tenure and then saw business people take advantage of this land market.

The Bangkok Post refers to the “temporary detention of land rights activists in Chiang Mai and Lamphun by security authorities [as] disgraceful.” While this is rightly seen as ” intimidation” by “soldiers and policemen were dispatched to deal with the growing disgruntlement of ordinary people who were merely trying to make their voices heard. But using force to shut people up is a barbaric tactic that will only intensify public displeasure against the military rulers,” the roots of the problems of land in the policies of previous military regimes should not be neglected.

The double standards are obvious when the judiciary’s luxury housing construction project in Chiang Mai is considered. Sanitsuda Ekachai makes the all too obvious points in her op-ed. As she says, representatives of the regime and the judiciary have loudly claimed that: “People and the forest can live together in harmony…”. But there are people and there are others.

The people who can live in harmony with forest are “good” people and the rest are the untrustworthy and the unworthy.