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.





All about The Dictator

29 06 2018

Last week the Deputy Dictator met with some political parties about the junta’s “election.”We understand that it is the first official meeting between the military junta and political parties since the day that it illegally seized power, ironically at the very same place it met the political parties back in 2014.

At the end of that meeting, a smiling Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who seems to enjoy legal impunity for all of his deeds, declared that the next meeting would be chaired by The Dictator himself. Apparently Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will find time for a sham meeting on the path to a rigged election.

Now, however, the Bangkok Post reports that the “next meeting between party politicians and the regime to discuss poll preparations will probably take place in September…”. “Preparations” seems to mean getting arrangements in place for the junta to have its party or parties to “win” the rigged election.

Gen Prayuth has said that not having another meeting for 2-3 months because the junta needs “time to study issues raised by the parties at the first meeting.” In fact, the junta needs more time and more work to ensure its preferred election outcome.

It seems Gen Prayuth also felt the need to again lie to the Thai people when he “gave his assurance the next election will be free, fair and proceed smoothly…”. A free and fair election is impossible under the rules concocted by the military dictatorship.

At the same time, Gen Prayuth warned of future delays to the highly elastic election “roadmap.” He said the junta is “monitoring the security situation and making the political climate conducive for organising the election,” adding: “We’re moving the country forward together. The situation must be stable…”.

He wasn’t explicit but he is saying that any “instability” would mean further delay. As we know, the military is the most likely source in creating political instability, usually using ISOC.

The military dictatorship appears ever more confident that it can get its preferred electoral outcome. So confident, in fact. that the Deputy Dictator has detailed that result.

Gen Prawit declared: “I have confidence Gen Prayut will be able to carry on [after the election]. I always support him…”. Even if Prayuth himself won’t confirm this, it has been the junta’s main objective in having The Dictator hit the campaign trail and in pumping funds into various constituencies.

Prawit let this cat out of the leaky bag as he “welcomed” defectors from the Puea Thai Party, from the so-called Three Allies. It remains unclear what promises were made to the defectors, but we can guess that it has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of baht.

The defector’s group has “pledge[d] to join the Phalang Pracharat Party…”. That’s the junta’s party. Gen Prawit “said it was a good sign that the group was joining Phalang Pracharat and backing Gen Prayut.”

That’s a second euphoric statement of Prayuth’s future as outside PM following the rigged election.

Those named as defectors are “former transport minister, Suriya Jungrungreangkij, former industry minister, Somsak Thepsuthin, as well as former deputy education minister, Chalong Krudkhunthod, ex-MP for Chai Nat, Anucha Nakasai, and former Nakhon Ratchasima MP, Pirom Polwiset.” Others include “Suporn Atthawong, a former key figure of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, and former Pheu Thai member Somchai Phetprasert.”

That Suporn is included among junta supporters is a clear indication of how the military dictatorship is prepared to go in bribing and gobbling up political partners. Back in 2011, then Army chief Gen Prayuth accused Suporn of lese majeste and laid a complaint with police.  Suporn had filed counter-charges against Prayuth. Now they are political allies. Opportunism and rigging the election? You bet. Opportunism and double standards are the rule.

It is revealing that the traitor’s group can hold a “group gathering at the Pinehurst Golf & Country Club on Wednesday,” reportedly “attended by about 50 former MPs.” It is also reported that the group included former members of the Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power parties, some from the Puea Thai Party and the doubly traitorous Bhum Jai Thai parties.

At hat political meeting, “Suriya told group members that he was throwing his support behind Gen Prayut to return as prime minister.” He also revealed that he had “contacted key government figures including Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana to say he was willing to help Gen Prayut, although he disliked the military coup.” The latter is errant nonsense. No one with an ounce of self-worth would proclaim himself a coup opponent and then join the coup makers.

Under the rules the Election Commission is applying to Puea Thai and Thaksin Shinawatra, Suriya named all of these ministers as “outsiders” influencing the Palang Pracharath. That Palang Pracharath is also the tool of Prayuth, Prawit and Somkid is also widely known. We don’t expect the puppet EC to enforce any law other than selectively and in the interests of Prayuth, Prawit and Somkid.

It is a rigged election with the election “umpire” being the junta’s puppet.





2014 military coup: assessing and forgetting

21 05 2018

There’s currently a plethora of stories and op-eds that assess the results of the 2014 military coup.

Despite limited resources, Khaosod is usually a news outlet that is better than others at reporting the events of the day and in trying to be critical of military rule. However, one of its assessment stories is rather too forgetful.

Teeranai Charuvastra is the author and begins with the sad statistic that The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been directing the state since he seized it 1,641 days on Tuesday. In fact, he effectively seized power a couple of days earlier and the official coup announcement then followed.

That long four years is, Teeranai observes, “longer than any other coup leader since the Cold War.”

We are not exactly sure when the Cold War ended. Perhaps its late 1991 when the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its all those republics. Perhaps it is the fall of the Berlin Wall two years earlier. It matters only because if it is December 1991, then there’s only been two military coups in Thailand in that period, both involving roughly the same military crew as is in power now. If it is 1989, then add one more coup.

Two or three coups in Thailand’s long history of military seizures of the state doesn’t necessarily amount to establishing a pattern, although Teeranai’s thinks it does. The claim is that:

Every ‘successful’ military takeover of the last four decades has followed the same script: The generals who led the putsch quickly install a civilian prime minister, ostensibly to give the appearance of democratic rule, before retreating into the shadows. Typically, general elections have been organized within a year.

For one thing, that time period takes us back to about 1978, when Gen Kriangsak Chomanan was in the premier’s seat, having seized power in late 1977 from the ultra-royalist/ultra-rightist regime of civilian and palace favorite Thanin Kraivixien.

But back to Gen Prayuth, who is claimed to have gone off-script. Military junkie/journalist Wassana Nanuam is quoted in support of this claim: “He tore to pieces the rules of the coup.”

Back to the dates. Is there a script. In our view there is, but it isn’t the version proclaimed by Wasana. Rather, the script for the military is in seizing and holding power. When Gen Sarit Thanarat seized power in 1957, he put a civilian in place but in 1958 took power himself. He and his successors held power until 1973. When the military again seized power in 1976, it reluctantly accepted the king’s demand for Thanin to head a government. He failed and Kriangsak seized power in late 1977. Kriangsak held the premiership until 1980, when the military leadership convinced him to handover to palace favorite Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who stayed until 1988.

Now there’s a pattern. We think its the pattern that Prayuth’s dictatorial junta has had in mind since they decided that the 2006 coup had failed to adequately expunge Thaksin Shinawatra’s appeal and corral the rise of electoral politics.

So Wassana’s triumphalism about The Dictator “breaking a mold” is simply wrong. The military regime is, like its predecessors in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, about embedding the military and throttling electoral politics.

Wassana’s other claim is that Prayuth’s coup and plan to hold power was risky. We think that’s wrong too.

In fact, after 2006 was declared a failure, Prayuth and his former bosses, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda, had worked with various rightist and royalist agents to undermine the likely opponents of another military political victory: red shirts and politicians of the elected variety.

ISOC was an important part of that as it systematically destroyed red shirt operations and networks.

In addition, the courts and “independent” agencies had all been co-opted by the military and its royalist and anti-democrat allies.

There was never any chance that Prayuth would hand over to an appointee.

Teeranai’s piece also asks; “So how did Prayuth’s National Council for Peace and Order, or NCPO, manage to stay this long?”

The response is: “The reasons are many, … [that] range from the junta’s use of brute force to Prayuth’s personal influence.” But a “common thread has to do with what the junta is not. The regime’s success, according to most people interviewed, lies in convincing people it is a better alternative to the color-coded feuds and churning upheaval that have plagued the nation.”

We think this is only true for some people and certainly not all. And the people who were convinced are the anti-democrats. Those interviewed are mostly yellow shirts who define “the people” as people like them.

When Suriyasai Katasila says that “The people felt there was only instability… So people accept the NCPO’s [junta] intervention, even though it cost them certain rights,” he speaks for some of Bangkok’s middle class and the anti-democrats.

Other anti-democrats are cited: “people don’t see the point of calling for elections, because they think things will just be the same after the election. People are sick and tired.” Again, these are words for the anti-democrats and by the anti-democrats.

If elections were rejected, one would expect low turnouts for them. If we look just at 2011 and 2007, we see voter turnout in excess of 80%. The anti-democrats propagandize against elections and speak of “the people” but represent a minority.

We’ve said enough. The aims of the current military junta are clear. And the anti-democrats are self-serving and frightened that the people may be empowered by the ballot box. That’s why the junta is rigging any future vote.





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.