1976 in the news

7 10 2021

The Bangkok Post reported on the memorial rally, but little more. On that memorial event it noted:

Little has changed in the 45 years since students and activists were massacred by the military and rightwing radicals at Thammasat University….

This point was made by speakers when activists and members of the victims’ families gathered on Wednesday at the memorial at Thammasat University….

The Thalufah group said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that they would never forget the events of Oct 6 1976, and said violent means were unacceptable nowdays.

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said students continued to fight for democracy 45 years later, with the country still divided with no political solution to the problem.

Despite the efforts of the state and especially the bureaucracy, military and monarchy, the events of 1976 have never been forgotten. The state’s success has been in preventing any meaningful investigation, covering up the events, and in providing impunity for the murderers who stalked the students at Thammasat and for several years after. Yet another effort is being made to rectify this, although the International Criminal Court is a high hurdle.

Kudos to Thai Examiner for its several reports on 6 October 1976. It did much better than most of the mainstream media. We are especially grateful for their interview with Sutham Saengprathum who was Secretary-General of the National Student Center of Thailand in 1976. As we recall it – correct us if our collective memory is faulty – Sutham was jailed as a political prisoner for a long period, and there was an international campaign for his release.

We especially like hearing from other students of the period as much of the “heavy lifting” on 1976 has been done in English by Thongchai Winichakul. See recent efforts here and here. Without other voices in English accounts, 1976 risks becoming Thongchai’s 1976. His major contribution is Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok, available from Library Genesis.


Outcome of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

16 05 2016

Justice Ministry permanent secretary and junta mouthpiece  Charnchao Chaiyanukit is reported in the Bangkok Post, justifying the junta’s rotten human rights record and its pathetic performace before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

He is reported as saying that Thailand had “accepted 181 out of 249 recommendations, while 68 were noted for further consideration.” He explained that “[s]ome of the recommendations Thailand needs to consider include limits on rights that would affect national security, the lese majeste law, amendments to the Computer Crime Act and the ending of death row and the use of the military court against citizens.” He added that a “meeting will be held between state authorities and cabinet members to put forward the 68 recommendations following which the cabinet will be asked to make comments on each.”

In other words, the junta is going to reject recommendations in all of these areas. Yet a perusal of the 68 recommendations that have effectively been rejected is, in fact, defining of the military junta. We list some of these:

Twelve recommendations relate to the abolition of the death penalty. Thailand has not officially executed anyone since 2009, but the military regime is unlikely to accede to the abolition. Many die in extrajudicial killings by the military and police.

Three recommendations relate to conventions on Genocide, International Criminal Court and Rome Statute. Thailand under a military regime that came to power trampling the bodies of civilian protesters is not about to allow itself to be subject to international scrutiny on these matters.

Four recommendations variously called on the junta to comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and put an immediate end to the use of arbitrary detention. The Czech Republic and New Zealand makes several recommendations for the end of the practice of forced detention of dissenters in the “re-education camps” and “attitude adjustment” and recommended the government investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment associated with such detentions. New Zealand wants all those arrested in such circumstances to “have access to justice and a fair trial…”. The military junta uses arbitrary detention on almost a daily basis so is never going to agree to this recommendation. As all PPT readers know, “re-education” and “attitude adjustment” are critical elements of the junta’s regime and so these recommendations will be ignored.

Canada recommends that the junta “[c]reate an independent body to investigate all torture allegations…”. As torture is a standard operating procedure in the military and police, this recommendation will be rejected.

Two recommendations relate to ILO Conventions that have not been ratified by Thailand. Workers’ rights are not on the junta’s agenda. The military has long repressed labor and considers that the subordinate classes should know their position.

Four recommendations directly address the junta’s restrictions on freedoms and its manipulation of law. Australia recommends the “[r]epeal all orders of the National Council for Peace and Order that are inconsistent with its international human rights obligations.” The USA directs attention to the referendum law and its restrictions. The Netherlands recommends the junta “[r]estore the protection of civil and political rights by ensuring that the Constitution meets Thailand’s international human rights obligations and end the present prosecution of civilians in military courts.” Each of these recommendations restricts the junta’s capacity to act arbitrarily and so will be rejected.

Botswana, Brazil, Finland, Italy and the UK specifically addressed freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and called for all legislation affecting freedom of expression to be “compatible and implemented in line with Thailand’s international obligations…”. This will be rejected, perhaps with pathetic claims about the cultural content of the junta’s repression.

Norway recommended that the junta “[p]ropose concrete dates for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of association and assembly respectively…”. The junta doesn’t want international scrutiny, so this recommendation will be ditched.

Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay and the USA all called for an end the prosecution of civilians in military courts. Not only did the junta’s representatives lie about this central element of its regime before the Human Rights Council, but the junta has already “explained” that it will continue to put civilian opponents in military courts before unqualified military judges.

Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Spain and the US called for abolition or reform of the lese majeste law. Several of these states and Sweden also demanded the end of or reform to the computer crimes, public assembly, slander and defamation laws. There is no chance that the royalist junta, managing succession, will do anything along such lines.

For those interested in the review’s draft report and lists of recommendations, this is available at the UPR Extranet (https://extranet.ohchr.org/sites/upr/Sessions/25session/Thailand/Pages/default.aspx) logging in [username:  hrc extranet (with space); password: 1session]. We include a PDF of the report A.HRC.WG.6.25.L.13 – After adoption here.

UDD strategy

6 01 2013

The Red Shirt blog reports on the announcement of the official United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship strategy for 2013. Four points are listed and each “means to challenge a different consequence of the 2006 coup and its aftermath.” They are:



1. The UDD “will prioritize its ongoing struggle for amnesty for political prisoners. UDD leader Tida Tawornseth called on the government to issue an amnesty decree within the next two months.” Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn spoke of “anger and frustration among Red Shirts who expected more action from the Pheu Thai administration.”

2. The “fight for justice and an end to state violence  in Thailand.” The “UDD believes that granting the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to open a preliminary investigation would help ensure a fair process for all.” While welcoming legal actions against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, the UDD noted that “their criminal responsibility is shared by high ranking military officers who have avoided any scrutiny from the Thai judiciary.”

3. Constitutional reform. “The UDD is unwavering in its conviction that the government must proceed with a third reading of the charter amendment bill.”

4. The UDD “will continue to appeal to new members to join in the battle for democracy. Political schools will be opened throughout the year to help local leaders advance a common strategy which adheres to the fundamental principles of democratic practice and non-violence.”

Pressuring Prayuth

28 11 2012

In recent posts, PPT has commented on the ongoing political struggles that have seen the continuing use of the judicial weapon.

The Bangkok Post reports that one of the few attempts to make state officials and politicians responsible for murderous attacks on political opponents is pressuring not a few of those involved in the bloody events of April and May 2010.

It reports that “Foreign Ministry officials will meet state agencies on Thursday to discuss whether Thailand should accept International Criminal Court jurisdiction over clashes between red-shirt protesters and security forces in April-May 2010.” Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul is bringing together yesterday “officials from the Justice Ministry, the Council of State, Attorney-General’s Office, the National Police Office, and the Department of Special Investigation.”

Surapong says that if these agencies are receptive, a cabinet resolution for ICC jurisdiction will be proposed. That scares the pants of quite a few, including Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Another story at the Bangkok Post refers to Prayuth’s “opposition to the possibility of the International Criminal Court (ICC) having jurisdiction over the 2010 clashes…”. Prayuth would prefer the impunity that has long reigned for state murderers, especially those claiming to act for the monarchy or in protecting “national security.”

Prayuth was clear: “Don’t seek the intervention of outside powers…. What is happening is messy.” By “messy,” he seems to mean that real justice might prevail. He raised the possibility of joining with the unDemocrat Party in arguing that going to the ICC would be unconstitutional and talked about national pride.

Prayuth also stated that if any cases in the local courts brought against the military over the 2010 protest deaths “the army would appeal…”.

The loud-mouthed general then stated that the “military was the country’s mechanism to solve its own problems.” This is a classic statement of the military’s superiority. While Prayuth adds that the “military had to perform its duty in line with the law and the constitution…” it is evident that the military considers itself above law and constitution (as evidenced by repeated coups).

UDD on Pitak Siam

25 11 2012

At the Red Shirts blog, there is a report of a post-rally news conference by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leadership.

It reports that the “leadership urged Thai people to stand united behind Thailand’s democratically elected government and push forward with amending the constitution, achieving justice for the victims of 2010, and granting amnesty to political prisoners of all stripes.”

They pointed to the small turn out of just 20,000 “as proof that the Thai people do not support the extreme right-wing movement and its stated mission of ousting the current Pheu Thai government.”

The leadership urged continuing caution as the struggle with royalist anti-democrats will continue. It also urged Pitak SIam to adopt the democratic system.

The leadership “stressed that the government must issue a declaration granting the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over the violence in April-May 2010, in order to bring justice for the victims and their families.”

They also demanded that the government “must have a Constitution by the people, for the people, that would strengthen democracy in Thailand rather than undermine the power of elected officials.” And, they:

urged the government to declare amnesty for all political prisoners in Thailand, no matter what “colour”, with the exception of political leaders. These acts will enable Thailand to move forward and develop as a country.

 These all seem like sensible demands and urgings.

Zawacki v. Amsterdam

21 11 2012

PPT missed the first article in this exchange in The Nation, by former Amnesty International researcher and long time opponent of adequate action on lese majeste Benjamin Zawacki. Zawacki now seems to haunt Thai politics from the International Development Law Office. We did see the response by red shirt lawyer Robert Amsterdam, and so tracked back to Zawacki’s piece in The Nation.

We can only summarize the exchange. Zawacki, long biased towards royalist and yellow shirt politics, argues that “having the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate deadly events in Thailand’s recent history, has taken an unintended if undeniable positive turn.” Indeed, we agree that the red shirt pressure to have the ICC investigate the crackdowns by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government in April and May 2010 is undeniably positive.

However, his claim that “the ICC debate in Thailand has occupied a small corner of its seven-year and ongoing political crisis, with both sides issuing ill-informed threats of the Court’s involvement to exact political revenge for electoral, judicial and extra-legal defeats,” suggests that he has been asleep at the wheel and is unable to distinguish a serious proposal to the ICC by the red shirt lawyers and the fake response by the Democrat Party. He seems to think that the current red shirt action was spurred by the Democrat Party’s fakery. Maybe he’s been on holiday between jobs or sleeping.

His aim is to dismiss the case by the red shirts, which has received ICC attention and to laud the complaint by the Democrat Party on the war on drugs, despite the fact that the Democrat Party has done none of the required legal work to process a claim at the ICC in any meaningful way.

In other words, Zawacki continues his biased and politicized interventions.

Amsterdam’s response is clear and concise, showing that “Zawacki is ill-informed on the purpose, procedure, precedent and policy of accepting ICC jurisdiction.” Going through each of these points, Amsterdam concludes:

Finally, Zawacki misconstrues the policy of accepting ICC jurisdiction. The point is not to launch a political vendetta against [former prime minister] Abhisit Vejjajiva, [former prime minister] Thaksin [S]hinawatra or anyone else. Rather the goal is to pursue justice wherever it may lead. Strong evidence has been presented to the ICC that the killing and wounding of civilian demonstrators in 2010 was systematically planned by Thai authorities. If so, they were crimes against humanity. In contrast, no such evidence concerning the 2003 anti-drug campaign has been presented to the ICC.

If Zawacki wishes to dismiss genuine investigations of the well-documented allegations of crimes against humanity in Bangkok in 2010 as a mere political ploy, then he has not heard the pleas of the families of the victims. Their tears cry out for justice. Not only justice for their loved ones, but justice so that the Thai cycle of recurrent massacres, followed by impunity, will finally be brought to an end.

One can only ponder why Zawacki does the work of the Democrat Party when that Party is so lazy and vindictive. His long silences on censorship and the use of draconian laws during that party’s time in power suggest a long connection between Zawacki and the Democrat Party royalists.

ICC in Bangkok VI

6 11 2012

Yellowish op-ed writer and former editor at the Bangkok Post Veera Prateepchaikul weighs in on the topic of the International Criminal Court, with a little less of the screeching and volume of the Post’s recent editorial. Yet his claims are no less biased and contrived.

His first claim seems to be that “this just part of an orchestrated plot by the Pheu Thai Party to discredit Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ahead of the censure debate scheduled at the end of the month?” Yes, that’s right, the International Criminal Court must be a part of the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra clique. Veera is being deliberately misleading, knowing full well that Robert Amsterdam took the case to the ICC in late October 2010 in a preliminary filing, and follow-ed up with a second detailed report, visits to the ICC by red shirts and a supplemental action in August 2012. In other words, Veera is deliberately misleading by insinuating that a legal action begun more than two years ago is related to a censure debate today.

When the first action was filed, as now, a Bangkok Post editorial made the claim that the “hope to indict Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court is a shocking misuse of the justice system.” Not much has changed at the Post.

Then Veera tries to make the case for the yellow-shirted, mostly unelected senators, stating: “[Foreign Minister] Surapong or the government cannot act alone in allowing the ICC to have jurisdiction over a legal case in Thailand without prior endorsement from the parliament because Thailand is yet to ratify the treaty that established the ICC.” Actually, Section 190 of the constitution, claimed relevant by the senators, refers specifically to “a peace treaty, armistice and other treaties with other countries or international organisations,” so Veera seems to make the case that if it ain’t a treaty yet, then this section is not much help (although we might expect a politicized and corrupt Constitutional Court to interpret this otherwise).

But Veera’s main claim is this: “The big question mark is why does Thailand need the ICC to investigate and deliberate the political violence in 2010 while the Thai judicial system is still functioning effectively?” Why would any reasonable person conclude that the Thai judicial system functions effectively? Veera seems to admit that the dissolving of several pro-Thaksin parties might represent a bias but then makes the claim that this “does not mean that the justice system is biased or has failed to function properly.” We guess he means that it works pretty well for the royalist rich and powerful, for “protecting” the monarchy and in granting impunity to the state’s murderers. By any reasonable definition, it is a failed system.

ICC in Bangkok V

6 11 2012

Guess which English-language newspaper is opposed to the International Criminal Court having jurisdiction on the 2010 events that saw more than 90 killed, mostly red shirt protesters, and some 2,000 injured, also mostly red shirts?

Yes, too easy. Of course, it is the Bangkok Post. As we have pointed out several times of late, this newspaper has been stoic in its bias in support of the Democrat Party and of former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In an editorial, the Post shouts loudly that Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul’s consideration of granting the ICC jurisdiction in investigating the crackdowns in 2010 is hopelessly flawed.

It begins with a claim that the minister “has broken both the spirit and the letter of international relations in his proposal…” and adds that ICC jurisdiction “violates the underpinnings of Thai law, including the constitution.” It doesn’t explain how this is so. Rather, the Post splutters and fumes for several paragraphs of outrage.

It charges that Surapong “has been taken in by the most radical members of the red shirts” and barks that the “idea of calling on the ICC came from extremists in the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).” These “extremists” are said to have received “ridiculous advice” by their lawyer Robert Amsterdam.

Ignoring these bleatings, the claim that the “ICC has no right, nor even the intention, to operate in a country where the law functions and citizens have legal recourse” seems remarkable when the ICC has visited Thailand as a result if the UDD petition.

The Post then looks pathetic when it claims that it “is offensive to most Thais even to suggest that the ICC is somehow superior to Thai justice…”. PPT guesses that many Thais see much of the Thai justice system as flawed, biased and corrupt. Thankfully, the ICC maintains much higher standards.

For no good reason, the Post editorial finds the idea of charging Abhisit “is a horrifying charge…. It is humourless and humiliating.”  The Post seems to think that the ICC only deals in crimes involving  “tens of thousands of defenceless people…”; perhaps the outraged writer should consider the case of William Samoei Ruto of Kenya (the ICC case is here), and then blather less about “overwrought exaggeration,” “lunacy” and “slanderous misrepresentation.”

The Post seems unable to fathom the gravity of the crimes of 2010 and sounds like it is merely protecting one of its own.

Just for interest, the Stock Exchange of Thailand lists directors of Post Publishing as including the following supporters of the Democrat Party: M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula, Suthikiati Chirathivat, Chartsiri Sophonpanich and Supakorn Vejjajiva.


ICC in Bangkok IV

5 11 2012

Guess which group of senators is opposed to the International Criminal Court having jurisdiction on the 2010 events that saw more than 90 killed, mostly red shirt protesters, and some 2,000 injured, also mostly red shirts?

Yes, too easy. Of course, it is the mostly unelected and deeply yellow lot who are mostly appointed to stymie the actions of a popular government. The Bangkok Post reports that Senate deputy speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai “said the foreign minister should not take the matter into his own hands. He should take it before parliament for a debate as required by Section 190 of the constitution…”.

These are essentially the same demon-seed senators we posted on a couple of weeks ago, who were then shouting about Section 190 in association with the rice pledging scheme.

Their foundation is in the so-called Group of 40, mostly unelected senators and a few of their brethren, all stridently anti-Thaksin Shinawatra (and opposed to the present government). The military junta’s 2007 constitution was blatant in its anti-democratic sections that included ensuring that the Senate would be representative of the interests of the conservative elite, whether their preferred party was elected or not. It seems that the decidedly yellow-shirted senators have again been activated in an effort to challenge the government on one of its core election promises, now being implemented.

Surachai reckons that judicial power is “one of the three sovereign powers of the country,” and hence the ICC would infringe on this. Naturally, Surachai is concerned to protect the Democrat Party and its leaders from investigation and the remarkably politicized courts from scrutiny.

And so it is that Senator Paiboon Nitiwan, a member of the  Group of 40, says his group will again petition the Constitutional Court if the foreign minister “issues an announcement accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction in this case.” The Constitutional Court is the corrupt kangaroo court that protects the conservative elite and the monarchy.

Ji on ICC and Puea Thai government

4 11 2012

Ji Ungpakorn has circulated his take on the ICC visit to Bangkok. We reproduce it as received from a reader:

Don’t hold your breath that the Pua Thai Government will accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Millions of Red Shirts would like to see the military generals and Democrat Party politicians brought to court for ordering the shooting of un-armed pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010. But this government is unlikely to pass a simple cabinet resolution to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court on this matter. This would allow the prosecution of those who committed such state crimes. The reason why it is unlikely to happen is because:

1. The Government and Taksin have made an agreement with the military from when Pua Thai won a landslide victory in the July 2011 elections. Previous to this, General Prayut, head of the army, had been extremely hostile to Pau Thai. This explains why today Pua Thai and the UDD Red Shirt leaders never again mention the role of the military in killing demonstrators. They just talk about Democrat politicians like former Prime Minister Abhisit. This fits with what Taksin has stated. He claims that the political crisis was only a confrontation between him and the Democrat Party.

2. If the Government accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court on the issue of state killings in 2010, the military would be investigated. Importantly, it would also open the door to future investigations by the ICC into Taksin’s role in state crimes at Takbai in 2004 and the extra-judicial killings in the War on Drugs while he was Prime Minister.

3. Taksin and the Pua Thai government need to create an image that they are “doing something” about those who shot the Red Shirts. But although this is partly because of rank and file Red Shirt pressure, it also serves the purpose of being a bargaining chip with the military in order for them to give the green light for Taksin’s return to Thailand. They are also acting out another “play” to show that they are doing something by trying to charge Abhisit at the ICC abroad, on account that he holds dual British-Thai citizenship. This only applies to Abhisit and not the army generals. It is also unlikely to succeed.

4. Pua Thai and Taksin are part of the Thai ruling class. Two factions of this class have been in violent dispute with each other. But they are united in not wanting to improve the standards of human rights in the country and not wanting any state crimes, from 1973 to today, investigated. They are united also on not reforming lèse majesté and on the need to use the King for their own differing interests.

I would so like to be proved wrong on all this. I would love to see the state criminals brought to justice, the political prisoners released, lèse majesté repealed and myself and others would like to return to Thailand. But this dream can only be made into reality if progressive Red Shirts organise a political party independent of Pua Thai and the UDD leadership.

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