The Dictator and his Election Commission

2 02 2019

The Nation recently had a story that provided remarkable evidence of the Election Commission’s subservience to the military junta.

The EC has announced that The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “can still hold mobile Cabinet meetings despite political parties and members of the public saying it gives him an unfair advantage in the election.” More to the point, despite the fact that he is a prime ministerial candidate for his devil party, Palang Pracharath.

One of the junta’s puppets at the EC, deputy secretary-general Nat Laosisavakul said that  the General, “in his capacity as premier, can continue performing his public administration duties, including holding mobile Cabinet meetings in different provinces.”

As every single person in Thailand knows, these meetings have been nothing more than campaign stops for the devil party. Even the EC admits this:

Given the blurred line between working on a field trip and conducting an electoral campaign, Nat admitted that there was a matter of ethical appropriateness to be considered.

Ethics? He’s talking about Thailand’s military! Ethics is a foreign and incomprehensible word for these murderous bastards.

But what of The Dictators’ weekly harangues on television? Apparently, the EC “remains unsure about what decision it should make in relation to Prayut’s weekly television address.”

We guess they are waiting for Gen Prayuth to instruct them.

Really, this is pathetic and so blatant that we wonder if the EC shouldn’t just be folded into the ISOC.

To find out what the EC should be doing, “Nat met with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam … to discuss the roles and responsibilities of state servants during the upcoming election. It was speculated that the two might also discuss what Prayut could or could not do when he becomes an official electoral candidate.”

We guess he can do whatever he tells the EC he wants to do.

The junta’s election is the junta’s election. It is their election to do whatever they want.





The king’s forces and their X-men

20 01 2019

The noise level on the king’s failure to sign the royal decree that is required for an election is beginning to increase. Much of the increased volume seems to have to involve the military.

An AP report on last week’s Armed Forces Day parade has Army Commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong making what is said to be “routine exhortations of loyalty to the king and the country.” It might be “routine” but the times are anything but routine and Gen Apirat is the king’s man.

His “routine” speech could have been made in 1885: “We will sacrifice our physical and mental strength to protect the country and revere the king, and look after the people…”. Royalist, paternal and completely ignoring government.

The report also recalls that it has been Gen Apirat threatening those demanding an election date.

This is important given that the military seems to have (re-)mobilized groups to oppose the pro-election activists.

On this, the Bangkok Post reports that pro-election activists were “denounced” by “students” at Ramkhamhaeng University. Some of the pro-election activists were fearful and backed away, while others moved the rally to Thammasat University from the area of the Democracy Monument.

A group calling itself “Unity Before Elections was attempting to organise a rival demonstration in a bid to silence…” the pro-election activists.

Groups with military links, the “Council of Ramkhamhaeng University Students and the Network of Ramkhamhaeng Students Protecting the Institution [monarchy] and the People” demanded that the pro-election activists cease “fomenting conflict…”.

Invoking the monarchy, Kittipong Thaenkhun, described as being president of the Council, said pro-election activism was wrong “as the country prepares for the coronation of Rama X…”. He added that: “Imposing a deadline for the royal decree to come out…” was “inappropriate.”

Another Bangkok Post report says the group’s statement declared that “no one should be trying to stir unrest as the country was about to witness a very important royal ceremony — the coronation…”. It added that the “royal decree was the prerogative of … the King and it was highly inappropriate for anyone to demand to know when the decree would be issued.”

Khaosod reports that “[i]t is unclear who’s behind the group.”

However, pro-election protest leader Sirawith Seritiwat said he “believes the counter-protesters are agent provocateurs organized by the military to incite violence.” He linked them to the Internal Security Operation Command.

The Unity before Election group is led by Pansuwan Na Kaew, “a former leader of a faction supporting the People’s Democratic Reform Committee…”.

These self-proclaimed X-men are doing the military’s work.





All that corruption

7 11 2018

We were interested in a couple of recent stories about corruption and the implications of conflicts of interest.

One was the story about an odd admission of corruption and drug dealing in the military’s Internal Security Operations Command. In it, “Army chief Apirat Kongsompong vows to dismiss Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) officers found guilty of drug offences.” Grumbling that anti-drugs campaigns were failing, the new Army boss stated:

There is a need to also look at the command, which is a key agency in the state’s anti-drug campaign, and find flaws in the implementation of drug busting measures, for which some Isoc officers are to blame.

That’s quite an admission not least because ISOC has a role in fighting corruption. Based on Gen Apirat’s sudden revelation, that role is a bit like putting Billy Bunter in control of a bakery.

But what really caused us confusion is the fact that ISOC is critical for the stealing for the junta’s “election.” Does this mean that Gen Apirat is working against the junta?

A second story relates to the indigestion of state officials regarding the so-called controversy about a new regulation announced by hopeless puppet National Anti-Corruption Commission “that requires senior civil servants to declare their assets and liabilities…”.

It is well-known that senior civil servants are generally on the take, so we can understand their fright. But, then again, the NACC doesn’t go after unusually rich so long as they are loyal to the junta. Just think of all those self-declared unusually rich in the National Legislative Assembly or the Deputy Dictator and all his luxury watches.

The thing that caught PPT’s eye was the note that the “immediate concern is that university council members affected by the new rule are set to quit their jobs…”. It seems that universities “fear it will lead to university council members leaving their positions in droves.”

Why’s that? It is revealed that “[m]any people from the private sector sit on university councils and are reluctant to declare their assets.”

Okay, that makes sense. Of course, unlike the self-declaring unusually wealthy, business people don’t want anyone to know how wealthy they are, how much tax they avoid and how many bribes they pay for police, military and civil servants.





When the military is on top XXVIII

5 10 2018

The junta and the Army have inserted themselves into a land dispute. that goes back years and decades.

In the middle of a public meeting and seminar, discussing “unjust land expropriations within three Eastern Economic Corridor provinces,” [that’s the junta’s big plan] being held at Tambon Yothaka, local affected people, land rights activists and the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists found their meeting invaded by “military personnel from Infantry Division 11, high-ranking officers of Chachoengsao Provincial Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc) and the NCPO.” That’s the junta.

The Army “had notified local people beforehand,” but as the troops descended, the “seminar was suddenly paused and then taken over by the commander of Infantry Division 11 and the NCPO representative in Chachoengsao, Maj-General Worayuth Kaewwiboonphan, along with the deputy director of Chachoengsao Isoc, Maj-General Panit Siriphala.”

The land dispute is between between the residents of Tambon Yothaka in Chachoengsao’s Bang Nam Priew district and the state and military.

Explaining the intervention, Maj-Gen Worayuth said the troops were deployed “to broker a peaceful resolution to the conflict over 4,000 rai of land in four villages in Tambon Yothaka between the members of old communities and the rightful land owner, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN).”

Maj-Gen Worayuth went on to “explain” that there was no “land-grabbing … by wealthy investors for industrial expansion within the EEC provinces” but an effort by the Navy to use the land. He said the Navy agreed to rent lad to the farmers once they gave it back.

He pointed out that despite the Navy having secured the rights to revoke rental agreements on the disputed land, the NCPO and the Army had negotiated with the Navy that the affected tenants be allowed to continue leasing 300 rai of land. He therefore “asked” locals “to refrain from arranging public gatherings and organising protests over the … issue.” Most especially, they should not rally in Bangkok.

Apparently, the Navy purchased 4000 rai of land back about 1948 and people have used it ever since. It isn’t clear in the report who paid for the land back then.

Locals rejected Maj-Gen Worayuth’s call and demanded that the Navy negotiate with them. They have been ordered to vacate the land.

This is how Thailand “works” under a military dictatorship.





Getting things wrong

1 10 2018

A Reuters report at Euronews is so misleadingly wrong that it must be corrected.

We can’t necessarily blame Reuters for the headline, “New army chief takes over as Thailand prepares for return of civilian rule,” but the notion that the military dictatorship’s rigged election is meant to be a return to civilian rule is nonsensical. Even if there’s a small chance that a non-junta supporting party might win the junta’s “election,” The Dictator and his men intend the “election” to continue the military’s dominance of politics.

It is true that General Apirat Kongsompong, the new Army boss is “a staunchly royalist general” but it is utterly misleading to suggest that he “will oversee a return to barracks to make way for a civilian government after nearly five years of military rule.”

Nothing could be further from reality. The military dictatorship has established and embedded a parallel military administration that operates at every level of government, with ISOC taking the lead. No civilian administrator from Bangkok all the way down to the village is able to make a decision without military consent. The militarization of the Thai government is complete. The idea of the military “returning to the barracks” is ludicrous.

It is true that King Vajiralongkorn “appears to have a smooth relationship with the generals running the country.” And, Paul Chambers is probably right to say that, under Apirat, the “army will likely become even closer to the monarchy.” While the junta may have been surprised by the king’s assertiveness, it has pandered to his desires. In the unlikely event that there is a non-junta supporting government, the king’s strong relationship with the military will make independent government impossible.





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.