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.





Stealing an “election” IV

19 04 2018

A report at the Bangkok Post has more on the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) and its work to support the junta in stealing its own “election.”

The report states that ISOC “will step up its role over the next six months to make people understand about the upcoming election and ask them to support the polls.”

If they were telling the truth, they’d say support the junta’s preferred party/ies at the polls.

Army chief-of-staff Gen Natthapol Nakpanich, who is ISOC secretary-general added that state agencies must “raise awareness among the people about threats from distorted information spread by people with ill intentions, and drugs…”. We are not sure what drugs has to do with the “election,” but the vigilance will all be directed to political opponents.

An interesting twist to the story is the beginning of claims that the junta and ISOC will promote “an atmosphere of reconciliation …[and] a climate of justice and transparency so the election is accepted by all parties.”

The junta will claim that the election was free and fair but it can be neither as the whole process is already rigged.





Stealing an “election” I

16 04 2018

PPT has been posting on the military dictatorship’s efforts to manufacture an “election” victory since the junta and its lackeys in various councils, assemblies and committees began carrying out instructions on how to write the constitution for the military’s benefit and to the broader satisfaction of the royalists and other anti-democrats who supported the 2014 coup. These efforts at rigging the “election” – indeed, the whole political system – are becoming clearer by the day.

The Bangkok Post’s Alan Dawson write on how to steal an election. He writes of the rigging from last week alone:

Fabulous week for election thievery, last week was….

The stealth takeover of 80% of TV broadcasters took our breath away.

Not only does the government come away looking like the altruistic, fair-minded friend of both big business and the 70 million TV watchers but it got public applause for taking billions in taxpayer funds and handing it to digital TV owners claiming poverty. In return, digital TV newsrooms will broadcast what the regime wants, when the regime wants.

Remember when the broadcasters rebelled a few months ago at the “suggestions” by the Minister of Truth on how they should cover an up-country cabinet barnstorming. That won’t happen again.

There are those who don’t, won’t or can’t see the forces at work here, so let’s reduce the project scale.

Then there’s the fixing of supporters in various positions:

… giving the politician and sedition suspect Sakoltee (aka Sakol) Phattiyakul a job at the Bangkok City Hall. A truly hard-core supporter of Suthep Thaugsuban, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the coup regime, son of a leading 2006 coup general, Mr Sakoltee showed up two weeks ago to confirm his membership in the Democrat Party. That surprised a lot of people.

A lot more, though, were surprised at his metamorphosis from somewhat aimless anti-red politician to deputy governor of Bangkok. The Section 44-appointed governor, Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang, tossed four assistants under the bus to make way for Mr Sakoltee.

But insiders said the real force behind the lightning transfer was Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, accused of being Kingmaker Apparent of the 2019 election. He has been lining up politicians, political parties and now controls the single most powerful urban office in the country behind the outsider prime minister-to-be.

From inside City Hall, Mr Sakoltee has a unique look at political organising in Bangkok. Democrat Party deputy leader Nipit Intharasombat calls this direct, government interference in running the BMA.

But to calm things down, the Bangkok Post reports that, despite these frantic efforts, the army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart has lied stated that there’s no rigging going on involving his troops. He lied insisted “that the military is not using its resources and personnel to help the government score political points.”

Of course, the Army boss “also serves as secretary-general of the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta]…”, which means he’s obviously a liar a clear and obvious role for the military in the government. He lied declared “there was nothing political about the army’s campaign to publicise the government’s work in the provinces.”

He lied denied “that the army was mobilising to help Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gain the upper hand over political rivals as reports once again emerged of a pro-regime political party being formed to back Gen Prayut to return as prime minister in the next election expected [sic.] to be held in February next year.”

Gen Chalermchai babbled that “the army’s campaign is not aimed specifically at publicising the government’s Thai Niyom Yangyuen development programme, but for promoting projects aimed at restoring national unity as well as advertising the army’s activities such as military conscription.”

The army chief disembled: “It is a long-term strategy which I have conceived and I want it to continue over a span of five to 10 years. It is not merely for the sake of the Thai Niyom programme…”. He means the military is working to fully militarize the administration of the country, which is also the junta’s main objective. We know this because, among many other signals, the bellicose general stated that he is dispatching “teams of army personnel responsible for handling civilian affairs …[being] sent to meet local people, listen to their problems, explain what the government [military dictatorship] has done and find ways to improve [sic.] their livelihoods…”.

As we have previously posted, the general states that the military and junta are using the “Internal Security Operations Command …[working] with the army’s 35 military circles nationwide to finalise details regarding budget allocations and action plans that will suit the different natures of the problems facing each particular province…”.

It is all about rigging the “election.”





Military everywhere

5 04 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on a couple of useful accounts of ISOC. One of those recommended reads briefly commented on the way ISOC has insinuated itself into the legal system.

A report in The Nation confirms this. It states that the “Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) has made its collaboration with an anti-graft agency official, to bolster the country’s fight against corruption.”

General Boonchu Kerdchoke, who leads ISOC’s Inspector-General Division said: “We are going to back up what the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) still lacks…”.

PACC acting secretary-general Lt Colonel Korntip Daroj said: “with this MOU, our co-operation will run smoother… We also feel safer with the military backing our operations.”

No sensible person could possibly agree.

Helpfully Korntip reassured the public that people “should not worry that the collaboration would let military officials off the hook.”

No sensible person could possibly believe him.

These kinds of intervention show how assiduously the military junta has worked to militarize all aspects of Thai public life. Overturning this is going to be an exceptionally difficult task.