Wanchalerm’s enforced disappearance

3 07 2020

Wanchalearm

Keeping the spotlight on the unexplained “disappearance” of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the BBC has a long feature article detailing the events and background to the likely state abduction of the political activist, then living in exile in Cambodia.

As the report observes, he is “the ninth exiled critic of Thailand’s military and monarchy to become a victim of enforced disappearance in recent years.”

We feel it is worth reading in full. There’s not a lot that is new for those who have been following the case, but it is useful to have it brought together.

The report emphasizes that those who abducted Wanchalearm were armed and threatening to those who tried to intervene. The abductors used a black SUV, often a sign of state involvement.

His satirical political commentary “made fun continuously of the military junta. He made fun of Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha] … he made fun of other generals.”According to human rights observer Sunai Phasuk, Wanchalearm’s social media interventions were to “show that a commoner can make fun of those in power. That seemed to be the way of getting even with the oppressors.”

It seems the oppressors came to hate him and to fear his wit and popularity in Thailand, especially in the northeast. They had been after him since the 2014 military coup and issued an “arrest warrant for Wanchalearm based on allegations he violated the Computer-Related Crime Act” in June 2018, with the authorities vowing to bring him back to Thailand. Now he’s gone.

Jakrapob

Jakrapob Penkair, also a political exile, says the junta/post-junta message is clear:

Let’s kill these folks. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they should be killed in order to bring Thailand back to normalcy….

The reaction in Thailand to Wanchalearm’s disappearance has varied by political position, with regime supporters, royalists and yellow shirts cheering.

However, it has also “sparked protests in Bangkok, with demonstrators accusing the Thai government of involvement, while demanding the Cambodian government investigate the case fully.”

The enforced disappearance also caused the “hashtag ‘#abolish112’ was also written or retweeted more than 450,000 times.” The undertone is that the king is involved in these disappearances:

Many activists believe this abduction is linked to the palace, but the strict laws against any negative comment on the monarchy make this a dangerous link to explore or investigate.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, described as “a prominent activist who served seven years in jail on charges of lese majeste” explains that:

The objective of kidnapping is to kill him and to create the atmosphere of fear in Thailand and other countries where [Thai] people are active in criticising the monarchy….

Somyot is reported to be “in little doubt as to who was behind the disappearance”:

The government knows very well about this kidnap and disappearance. I can insist that the government are the ones behind this violation….

The regime says it knows nothing. No one believes it.





Patronage and ideas sclerosis

22 04 2020

Readers will be over the moon to learn that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s request for help from Thailand’s filthy rich billionaires has received a positive response:

Thailand’s top business leaders are ready to help the government ease the crunch of the coronavirus crisis, and plan to offer their ideas to lift the country out of the economic quagmire.

There was much mutual back-slapping and self-congratulations:

Suphachai Chearavanont, chief executive of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, “hailed the prime minister’s gesture as a smart move.”

He compared Thailand’s wealthiest to ministries:

Each of the businesses is like one ministry. They are from the real sector and they are running their own micro economy. If they work under the government, the prime minister will automatically have twenty more ministries working for the administration….

A Bangkok Post editorial notes that Gen Prayuth “wanted the rich to do more to ease the suffering of the masses,” urging them “to propose tangible projects in writing by next week on how they can help more.”

The editorial proclaims: “Requesting the captains of industry to help the country during a crisis is not wrong.” It might be asked why he even has to do this.

One reason is that it is “natural” for those in a symbiotic relationship to rely on each other. Since at least the late 1950s, the relationship between the wealthiest capitalists and military rulers has been cosy and has resulted in massive exploitation of people and environment. The military has created a social order where the rich get richer and the very rich are bloated, with cash flowing to them from multiple state coffers, semi-monopolies and corrupt relationships.

A second reason is that the junta post-junta regime is bereft of talent and ideas. As worshippers at the fount of great wealth, that’s where they seek “ideas.” The trouble is that most of these Sino-Thai tycoons live in a cocoon of inter-married families, royalism, nepotism and exploitation and know little of the world of those of Comrade Gen Prayuth calls the “masses.”

In fact, he should have gone farther, asking that more people on the top of the national wealth pyramid pitch in.

The Post editorial states it “is indisputable that many business moguls have long reaped the benefits of crony capitalism. They have utilised greater resources in the country to create wealth, inevitably widening the inequality gap.”

Observing that “Thailand is among the 10 most unequal countries” in the world, it notes that those with great wealth “have enjoyed the advantages of the political patronage system.” (We recall when Jakrapob Penkair got into terrible lese majeste trouble for his description of Thailand’s patronage system.)

Yet the Post – it is owned and operated by tycoons – feels the need to defend the beneficiaries of the patronage system, saying the the huge income gap “does not necessarily mean that these billionaires are villains. They have contributed greatly to the country and the economy, created a large number of jobs and developed many social projects.”

They have created businesses that have made them hugely wealthy on the backs of poor farmers and workers. They have used some of this wealth to grease the wheels of bureaucracy and military, adding to their wealth. They have funded the monarchy, cementing a ruling class in power for decades.

When they “give,” they do so for reasons that grow their wealth and power.

It even gets into some fake history, declaring: “The Chinese ancestors of several billionaire dynasties successfully established business empires in Thailand without state support.” Which are they? We can’t think of any.

Many old books on Thailand’s capitalist class tell a different story (see, for example, Bankers and Bureaucrats (PDF), Capital Accumulation in Thailand, and even Chinese Society in Thailand: An Analytical History.

The Post reckons that asking the “super-rich” for help “does more good than harm.” There’s no evidence for this. The ideas they’ve come up with so far suggest idea sclerosis.

Has anyone looked at how much or how little tax these tycoons pay?





Further updated: Behind the “plot”

5 12 2017

The Nation reported about a day ago that The Dictator reckons the “discovery” of one set of rusted weapons and another set of brand spanking new ones were of a batch that “belonged to Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha also predicted that there might be more weapons to be found, and we guess he should know.

In our earlier post we suggested that this sudden “discovery” might have been a sign of political desperation, another excuse to delay elections or testing the gullibility of the media and population. We now think these might all be reasons for the discovery but we also think we missed the most likely explanation.

But some more contextualization from a report in the Bangkok Post.

It is stated that “[w]arrants for the arrest of five people, including former PM’s Office minister Jakrapob Penkair and former 3rd Army deputy chief Maj Gen Manas Paolik, for their alleged links with the recent discovery of a huge [sic.] arms cache in Chachoengsao will be sought…”. The other “suspects” are Watana Sapwichien, Somjet Kongwatana and Chaiwat Polpho (Peak Kalamae).

In other words, it is being cast as a red shirt plot.

Oddly, “Watana was said to have reported to the Army Air Defence Operation Centre 1 in Pathum Thani on Friday. He has been taken into custody at the 11th Military Circle.”

Even odder still, it seems that Watana “was earlier arrested in 2014 for allegedly conspiring to possess firearms and explosives.” Read this and wonder if this isn’t the usual stitch-up:

His arrest was announced in the joint police and army press briefing on Aug 13, 2014.

According to the briefing at that time, Mr Watana’s arrest was made following the apprehension of Mr Somjet, who was accused of supplying weapons, including M79 grenade launchers and RGD 5 grenades, to people during demonstrations by the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Mr Somjet allegedly told officers at that time he had delivered the weapons to Mr Watana, who would distribute them further. Mr Watana then allegedly confessed to the charges.

Mr Watana allegedly told police during that time he received weapons from Mr Somjet and handed them to Mr Chaiwat, who would carry out attacks in various places.

Mr Watana allegedly also told police that he had dumped some of the weapons in Ayutthaya’s Lat Bua Luang district for fear of being arrested.

The strange bit is that, if they were arrested in 2014 on such serious charges, why are they wandering around now? Are they working for ISOC? Are they connected to Ko Tee or were they the men providing “evidence” against him in the earlier weapons “find.”

But here’s what we think is really going on. The junta may get away with deception, tarnish red shirts further and delay their “election,” but we noted that one report stated Jakrapob was thought to be “hiding” in Cambodia.

Then we recalled our post on trouble for dissidents. We think the “sudden” discovery is possibly one element in an effort to extradite exiled red shirts from Cambodia.

Update 1: The junta has provided a kind of “reply” to some of our comments above, as reported in the Bangkok Post. It may be a coincidence that as this report emerged, so did the sentencing of the man who admits to bombing the Army hospital, stating that he “despised the military-led government.” In addition to “a total of 27 years in prison [reduced] because he cooperated,” he was “fined 500 baht, reduced from 1,000 baht, for carrying the bomb in a public place.”

That sentence is revealing when it is considered the junta has launched a “probe … to determine why one [Watana] of the five men allegedly linked to a huge [sic.] arms cache … was released early from prison after a weapons conviction in 2014…”. The report continues:

Watana was earlier arrested on Aug 13, 2014 for allegedly conspiring to possess firearms and explosives. The suspect allegedly told officers at that time he handed weapons to another man, who would carry out attacks during demonstrations by the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

A police source said Watana had links to the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

Doubts have been raised as to the effectiveness of the punishment in relation to the 2014 offence as he is now suspected of having committed a similar transgression just three years later.

They don’t know? Seriously? That beggars belief. We also loved the picture of the “discovery” of weapons in 2014, which we reproduce below from the Bangkok Post.

This is a “diver”? Seriously? Interestingly, these weapons – not rusty – were also under water.We can only marvel at the capacity of the police and the junta for these marvelous “discoveries.”

Update 2: The Nation reports that not only has Jakrapob angrily denied the charges but more information on Watana. The latter “was summoned and detained for questioning on December 1 and released on Thursday…”. He was said to have “provided authorities with useful information…”. It is added that Watana “was convicted of crimes in 2014 related to military weapons and sentenced to 40 months in jail. Because of his confession, his jail term was commuted to 20 months and he had just completed the term.” This is a highly dubious story.





The patronage system

24 12 2016

The puppet National Legislative Assembly’s (NLA) has been allocated a series of tasks by the junta, all meant to uproot the so-called Thaksin regime, meaning all remnants of the electoralism of the period 2001 to 2006.

Anti-democrats and the military dictators believe that Thaksin Shinawatra established an extensive patronage network in business, politics and the civil and military bureaucracy that needs to be abolished if the royalist elite and “network monarchy” is to maintain its ascendancy. They often linked patronage and vote-buying.

We at PPT had not previously heard of what The Nation calls an NLA “ad-hoc committee on how to fight the deeply-entrenched patronage system,” led, of course, by one of the top brass, Admiral Saksit Cherdboonmuang.The committee was the Admiral’s idea and was established in February.

Apparently, it has been at work developing a “367-page report with detailed proposals on how to end the domination of the patronage system in Thailand’s bureaucracy.” PPT hasn’t seen the report, but the Admiral says the ” patronage system causes damage in various dimensions. For example, it discourages many talented people from working in the government sector…”. Patronage, he says, leads to corruption.

Saksit reckons “that when it came to the delivery of government services, people … will think they just can’t go through normal channels of service delivery. They will think they need to find personal connections to get good services…”.

Anyone who has dealt with the bureaucracy will recognize this. That said, quite a few departments were much better following changes that began with the 1997 constitution. For example, getting a passport became a standardized procedure without the need to pay extras or to know someone.

The Admiral also “lamented that patronage had long been a part of the bureaucracy, pushing civil servants to prioritise personal relationships over a merit-based system.” He added:

It encourages junior officials to kow-tow to senior officials, who in turn bow to political-office holders so as to maintain beneficial relationships. In this cycle, businesspeople have also lobbied government officials and political-office holders.

Again, everyone will recognize this pattern. Having many minions makes life comfortable and is a display of power. It is also well-known that senior bureaucrats, police and military become very wealthy by their positions and their control of bureaucratic knowledge, rules and hierarchy.

None of this is new, being described long into the past by historians who describe favoritism, nepotism and corruption.

It starts when they are young

It starts when they are young

Saksit said his committee had compiled guidelines on how to stop the patronage culture from damaging the bureaucracy. These include a “ban free gifts, feasts, and bribes.” Government officials will also be “advised to avoid playing golf with people who may pose a conflict of interest.”  Reportedly, the recommendations include advice that “senior officials should reduce the number of assistants, because close work relations can also foster patronage feelings.”

Like many things in Thailand today, under the military dictatorship, this is doublespeak. There’s good patronage and bad patronage. Bad patronage is associated with nasty elected politicians. Good patronage is unmentioned, because it is a system that is based in hierarchy, military and monarchism.

It continues for university students and military recruits

It continues for university students and military recruits

As one commentator observed:

The patronage system is deeply ingrained…. The government is the parent. The people are the children…. The parent naturally has a fascist tendency to demand that the child not do this, not to do that.

This brief description fits the military dictatorship like a glove.

The last person who criticized this system of “good” or royalist patronage in any detail was probably Jakrapob Penkair.

Jakrapob, a former spokesman for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin, made a speech at Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) on 29 August 2007. Royalists declared the speech anti-monarchy and he had to resign as a minister in May 2008. Under pressure from the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, on 22 March 2010 the case was sent forward for consideration for prosecution. Jakrapob had fled Thailand a year earlier. While the lese majeste case was reportedly dropped, Jakrapob remains in exile.

And continues to the top

And continues to the top

In that speech [opens a PDF that may be considered lese majeste in Thailand], Jakrapob stated that the then (2007) political crisis represented a “clash between Democracy and Patronage system directly.” He added: “It’s a head on clash.” He traces the history of patronage in Thai history:

One of the noted examples was that Great Father Ramkamheang … proposed to have a bell hung in front of his palace and anybody with specific problems could come and ring that bell and he or his people would come out and handle the problems. That was one of the first lessons the Thai students learnt about Thai political regime that you have someone to depend upon.

When you have a problem turn to someone who can help you, so before we know it, we are led into the Patronage system because we asked about dependency before our own capability to do things.

The lesson for today is that loyalty is paramount: “If you have loyalty to the King, unquestionable loyalty to the King, you would be protected, in order to show this protection more clearly, people who do otherwise must be punished.” Hence, under the military dictatorship of royalist generals, lese majeste is considered a more dire crime than premeditated murder.

Jakrapob talks of the modern era where the “[p]atronage system is problematic because it encourages unequality [inequality] among individuals. And that’s a direct conflict to Democracy. It encourages one person into thinking of depending on the other or others. It breeds endless number of slaves with a very limited number of masters. It prevents Thailand from coming out of age.”

That’s why Thailand has so many coups; the idea is to prevent the royalist patronage system being changed or overthrown.

We don’t think the Admiral is talking about this patronage system. After all, he and all his junta buddies and every single member of the military’s officer corps benefit greatly from royalist-preferred patronage.





Updated: Vigilante lese majeste

16 01 2015

Just a day or so ago PPT posted on the concern that reasonable people should have about the military dictatorship’s lese majeste war. We pointed to the way in which the junta has actively sought to create cases, conduct political vendettas, and prosecute those considered political foes using the draconian law. We expressed this as the military dictatorship having encouraged a lese majeste frenzy amongst royalist. The result is a dangerous lese majeste vigilantism.

As if to prove us right, the police are reported at Prachatai as responding to lese majeste vigilantism.

Ultra-royalists and their media activated a campaign attacking “Pol Col Nahathai Tanya, an Assoc Prof of the Social Science Faculty of the Royal Police Cadet Academy.” The royalist vigilantes accuse Nahatai of posting “lese majeste content on the [F]acebook profiled under the name ‘Doungchampa Spencer Isenberg’.”

PPT has long seen posts on Facebook under this name. We read these from time to time and over several years, and it was clear to us that this name was used by a person living and working in the United States.

It is stated that Nahatai was listed on the junta’s  Order No. 49, “along with other prominent dissidents, such as Ji Ungpakorn and Jakrapob Penkair, who were summoned to report themselves…  in early June 2014.” News reports are that Nahatai was detained for seven days and then released. As the vigilantes seek out more victims in their lese majeste witch hunt, they came on Nahatai and began a campaign against her.

Prachatai reports that “several royalist Facebook pages and royalist media Chaopraya News revealed her personal information and bullied Nahatai and called for the authorities to prosecute her.” Apparently with no evidence to reveal, these lese majeste fanatics have “accused the police lecturer of using [the] Doungchampa Facebook to post lese majeste contents.”

The royalist vigilantes claim “she was summoned because she defamed the King on that [Facebook] profile, but was released and allowed to continue her civil servant work. They called for the authorities to fire her from civil servant post and prosecute her.”

Prachatai states: “Although they have never offered any evidence to support the allegation that Nahatai was behind Doungchampa Facebook, many people prompted to believe so and condemned her…”.

Following this social media pressure,”Pol Lt Gen Sakda Techakriangkrai, the academy commissioner of the Royal Police Cadet Academy, revealed that Nahathai was suspended from teaching position at the academy.” This despite his statement that “Nahathai never show inappropriate behaviours while she was teaching at the police academy.”

Meanwhile, the Doungchampa Facebook page has “posted that she is in fact a U.S. citizen and has been working for the U.S. government for the last 15 years,” adding, “When the lecturer went to report in with the [junta], I still posted on Facebook — real time. How could you say that she is me? Well, an innocent person face condemnation and bully because of such mistake?” We assume this means mistaken identity. More information in response to this charge was posted here.

This case suggests that the very dangerous turn taken by letting the lese majeste dogs out is having serious and negative impacts for those caught up by royalist vigilantism and for Thai society more broadly. Thailand’s political future looks dark and the country looks set to be ruled by authoritarian and royalists fundamentalists for a considerable time.

UpdateThe Bangkok Post’s editorial about “hate speech” and “principles,” seems to miss the most important point: it is about lese majeste and politics. It is highly unlikely that the puppet constitution stampers and approvers will do little more than define “hate speech” as being about lese majeste. Such a definition will make lese majeste more draconian, more repressive and will make Thailand a worse place. Royalists can hate as much as they want (see above), but only love and reverence, real or not, is allowed when it comes to the monarchy.

 





Malaysiakini on Thailand’s lese majeste exiles

7 01 2015

There have been several reports of late about Thailand’s lese majeste political exiles. One of these appeared in the influential Malaysiakini, written as a special report by Susan Loone. We felt it worth reproducing, with a few notes added and some clarifications:

Thai exiles want ‘free, democratic Thailand’

On Dec 1, several NGOs protested the visit of Thailand Prime Minister [they mean The Dictator and self-appointed premier] Prayuth Chan Ocha to Malaysia, in solidarity with the Thai exiles, who urged other countries Prayuth visits to follow the example of Malaysians in sending a strong message that they opposed the Thai military dictatorship.

Malaysiakini spoke to several Thai exiles, who expressed their desire to see a liberated Thailand in their lifetime.

One of them, Jakrapob Penkair, was a university professor and a TV journalist before devoting his time to politics in 2003.

During Thaksin Shinawatra’s rule, Jakrapob … was a Member of Parliament, representing Bangkok, besides being a minister in the Thai Prime Minister’s Office and a government spokesperson.

He helped formed the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and was subsequently jailed for 12 days for his anti-military coup activities.

As a cabinet member, he was about to relinquish state powers when he was accused of lèse majesté, the law that punishes citizens for insulting the royalty.

Jakrapob left his beloved country on April 14, 2009 and has never since returned. And he has not never given up on his political beliefs either.

“We hope to undo the brainwashing of Thailand and to continue with the process of democratisation.

“We Thais have been led to believe that the King of Thailand can right all the wrongs and we need not have confidence in ourselves, but just to believe in him.

“No country can depend on one person, although one good leader can encourage several more people to move and shake,” Jakrapob told Malaysiakini in an interview recently.

He is proud and grateful that several Malaysian activists protested against Prayuth’s visit to Malaysia on Dec 1.

“You made it clear to the dictator of your disgust and disdain about him and his kind. We would like to express our appreciation to all of you.

“We understand that your internal struggle is no less tough and tiresome. We hope to be able to join forces for you as well,” he said.

Junya Lek Yimprasert is a Thai labour rights activist who fights and writes about exploitation at the bottom of supply chains.

After the massacre of civilians by military forces in Bangkok in May 2010, Junya wrote ‘Why I don’t love the King’ and was charged with lèse majesté.

She has, since July 2010, been living in Finland as a “political refugee”.

“The last straw that made me leave was after seeing many trade unions and NGOs become part of the royalists movement to kick out many elected governments since 2005.

“My last straw was seeing 40,000 military troops crackdown violently on the demonstrators, which caused some 100 people to be killed and nearly 2,000 injured,” she said in an interview with Malaysiakini.

‘Even those in exile face threats’

But being in exile does not guarantee freedom from violence or fear.

Junya … said the Thais who are living in exile from the military regime also face much threats, from both ultra royalists and the military, as well as imprisonment, without any chance to defend themselves.

“For me, being wanted by the Thai military junta as ‘a criminal and a treat to national security’ for my writings is something that hit me hard in terms of recognising that the road of struggle for democracy and freedom in Thailand will be long and with lots of obstacles,” she said.

Like many who live in exile, Junya is not happy to see Prayuth welcomed warmly in Malaysia by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

She then went on to call upon Malaysians to oppose the Thai junta and not allow Prayuth to poison the aspirations for freedom and democracy in her country.

“It’s important for Malaysia, for Thailand and for Asean as a whole that the people of Asean stay in solidarity to uphold the principle of freedom and democracy. The Thai people are very much in need of solidarity from you all to help us fight against the dictatorial military regime,” she said.

Suda Rangkupan was an assistant professor at the Department of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, from 2000 to 2004 before she fled Thailand.

Suda was part of the well-known movement, “29 Jan 10,000 Liberate”, where 10,000 people called for amnesty for political prisoners.

She left Thailand after the coup, on May 22 last year, after realising that the Red Shirt Movement to oppose the military coup could not be pushed further at that time.

She does not accept the coup as the orders of its leader, Prayuth …, are “illegal and an act of rebellion”.

“However, I realise how brutal the Royal Thai Army, which took control of Thailand, is to the Red Shirts so I decided to leave Thailand, hoping that the least I can do as a free person is to tell the world that not all Thais surrender to this latest royal coup,” she said.

‘Prayuth is just a junta leader’

Suda does not understand how anyone can accept Prayuth as the leader of Thailand. “I would not call him prime minister, for he is just a junta leader,” she said.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University in Japan has been summoned twice by the Thai junta for his criticisms of the military.

“I rejected the call and as a consequence, the junta issued a warrant for my arrest. Shortly afterwards, my passport was revoked and this forced me to apply for refugee status with the Japanese government,” Pavin … said.

He now feels safe in Japan, for the government there looks after him well, he said. He has a permanent job, with a steady income and a sense of security.

“Hopefully, I will be granted refugee status in the future and this will allow me to travel legally, which is a important part of me as an academician, for I need to travel for my work.”

Pavin’s message to Prayuth, nevertheless, remains clear: “Return power to the Thai people immediately. Stop violating the people’s rights.

“The military must withdraw itself from politics; the military must also stop politicising the monarchy for its own political interests.”

The coordinator of the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy, Jaran Ditapichai, said Thais who love freedom and democracy need moral and political support, notably from the international community, to stop the human rights violations the ruling junta carries out daily.

Jaran is currently in political asylum, under the juridicial and administrative protection of France.

“I have several good friends, both Europeans and Thais, who are keeping an eye over me.

“But the big problem is how to earn living in this country, where the cost of living is high,” said Jaran, who was a former adviser to a deputy prime minister and a former national human rights commissioner of Thailand.

The leader of the … United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, which is also known as the Red Shirt Movement, is thankful to Malaysian politicians, human rights and democratic NGOs and the media that reported the protest against Prayuth during his visit to Malaysia.

“I hope friends of human rights and democracy in the other Asean countries will openly express their what they think of the Thai military leadership, like how the Malaysians have done,” Jaran added.





Anti-monarchy = freedom, balance, equality and democracy

27 07 2014

A couple of days ago PPT posted on a VICE story about the monarchy and the threats imagined by the military dictatorship. The following is an English-language translation of the highly confidential Thai document featured in the VICE story:

[Highly confidential]
Undermining the Royal Institution
(27June 2014)

Groups undermining the Royal Institution have attempted to exploit the 72nd anniversary of the change in government structure [1932 Siamese revolution] (24 June 2014) by revealing their organisation to oppose the National Council for Peace and Order. They plan to undermine the Royal Institution, referring to freedom, balance, equality and democracy as their main justifications. Their methods have included the revelation of concealed history connecting the Royal Institution to political events, and they have attempted to distribute reports of royal deaths in an effort to reduce the community’s faith in the Royal Institution.

The establishment of “The Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy: FT-HD” includes Mr Jarupong Ruangsuwan as the Presidential Secretary and Mr Jakrapob Penkair as the Managing Secretary. On 24 June 2014, a videoclip was released providing a declaration from the organisation, criticising the political changes made by the National Council for Peace and Order as having broken Thai and international law, causing Thailand to return to an extreme system of dictatorship. The choice to use the phrase“Seri-Thai” [Free Thai] on the website http://www.youtube.com with the username “FreeThai Organisation”, and on the page “Seri-Thai Organisation” (องค์กรเสรีไทย), is said to refer to the freedom and rights of the common people, suitable for use while fighting to reclaim their human rights and democracy.

The opinions of most of the general Internet community oppose/do not agree with the above-mentioned proceedings. They see the establishment of such an organisation as being connected to the undermining of the Royal Institution, and spread information regarding the differences between “Seri-Thai” during the political changes caused by the revolutionaries in 1932 and the present. Concerning the groups that are undermining the Royal Institution, they have promoted and joined in sharing the above-mentioned declaration, as well as inviting each other to use the tag “#FreeThai”. They have stated that they are releasing the country to freedom and update each other with information on the page “Followers of the Thai Freedom Against the National Dictator Movement” (แนวร่วมขบวนการเสรีไทยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ). Interestingly, Mr Anon Numpa, a lawyer, has requested that Mr Jarupong or others involved in this organisation clearly provide a statement concerning the existence of the Royal Institution.

Regarding the movements of individuals attempting to undermine the Royal Institution, during the reporting period it was found that some have returned to using Facebook or have reopened their Facebook accounts, such as Mr Thanthawut Taweewarodomkulor “Noom Retanont” (หนุ่ม เรศนนท์), who has become active on Facebook again and has confirmed his refusal to report to the National Council for Peace and Order, including rejecting the order as a denial of his rights and freedom. In addition, it was found that individuals attempting to undermine the Royal Institution living overseas, who were asked to report to the National Council for Peace and Order, displayed their passports to show that they have received a different nationality rejecting their Thai nationality and include: Miss Chatwadee Amornpat or “Rose” (England), Mr Lerpong Wichaikhammat or “Joe Gordon” (USA) and Pavin Chachavalpongpun (Japan).

Overseas Situation

Mr John William Oliver, a comedy actor known for parodying English politics, discussed the issue of Crown Prince Filipe of Spain’s inauguration, criticising it and referring/connecting it to other countries with monarchs, such as Queen Elizabeth II, by means of showing sections of and criticising ‘the poolside clip’ broadcast on HBO, 23 June 2014.

For Consideration

The declaration of actions/establishment of the “Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy” by Mr Jarupong, which Mr Saneh Tinsaen (Piangdin Rakthai) had previously (on 21 June, 2014) provided information regarding the establishment of this organisation, shows that this organisation is connected/it may contact or join in an attempt to undermine stability.





On opposition and the monarchy’s centrality

22 07 2014

At the Financial Times there’s a report on “Thailand’s scattered and demoralised opposition is seeking to regroup after a military coup in May toppled the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra and drove some of its leading ‘red shirt’ supporters into exile.”

แปลจากบทความ “Thai Opposition Regroup Abroad In Bid To Regain Power” ของหนังสือพิมพ์ไฟแนนเชี่ยล ไทมส์is available too.

Jakrapob Penkair has talked about preparations “to register an official organisation-in-exile in an unnamed western country and to launch a ‘road map’ detailing plans to regain power” for some time, and he is quoted again.

Yet action seems difficult in the face of an all-embracing and suffocating fascism from the military dictatorship inside Thailand.

The report notes that the “military government headed by [The Leader] General Prayuth Chan-ocha has led a crackdown on red shirt supporters, detaining many and forcing them to sign documents renouncing politics. Gatherings of more than five people have been banned…”.

Yingluck is facing continuous and vindictive legal actions from partisan “independent institutions.”  She has “branded unfair an investigation that last week called for her to face criminal charges.”

Other “senior opposition figures have gone into hiding or self-exile in Europe, the US, Japan or Cambodia.”

Thaksin Shinawatra has been quiet.

Jakrapob observes that “the opposition was divided between those who wanted to fight on and those who felt demoralised after the latest coup.”

The Free Thai Movement, which Jakrapob helped form, says it will “seek to rally Thais living abroad, including up to 300,000 in the US, to back the democratic cause.”

It’s latest statement is reproduced at Asia Provocateur, and also available as แถลงการณ์อย่างเป็นทางการ: “องค์กรเสรีไทยประณามการควบคุมสื่อของคณะเผด็จการทหารไทย”

The movement states that it will “also press western governments to impose sanctions against the Thai dictatorship, beyond the limited countermeasures launched” to date.

Jakrapob states: “We need to mount external support … to finish the unfinished revolution…”. He adds: “The reform of Thailand has to involve the monarchy…. We can’t keep saying they’re above politics…”.

Jakrapob says that the “latest coup may have been prompted by tensions surrounding the succession of 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” That was also a line run at the time of the 2006 coup.

Whether it is about succession or not, it is clear that the monarchy remains central for the royalist elite’s rule. As Jakrapob observes, “the crisis stemmed from the unwillingness of the Thai elite to cede political and economic power to the rural masses.”

The monarchy is critical to this “unwillingness.” After all, the “children” cannot know better than the “father.”

 





Updated: Lese majeste regime

13 07 2014

The Bangkok Post reports on the recent surge in “lese majeste charges following the May 22 coup has raised concerns that more lawsuits will only undermine political reconciliation sought by the junta…”.

Well, yes, there has been a surge, but reconciliation. Surely this is nothing more than buying into the propaganda of the military dictatorship! “Reconciliation” doesn’t come from repression and censorship.

According to the report, “[a]t least 13 people have been arrested or charged with lese majeste under the Criminal Code’s Section 112 since the coup took place.” In years gone by, that would be the total over 2-3 years, not in a few weeks. The report mentions these cases:

… former Pheu Thai Party MP Prasit Chaisrisa, cyber activist Kathawut Bunpitak; 24-year-old engineering student Akaradet Eiamsuwan; Red Sunday group leader Sombat Boonngam-anong; freelance writer Siraphop, aka Rung Sila; and Thanat Thanawatcharanont, aka Tom Dundee.

Other high-profile people facing lese majeste charges who have had arrest warrants issued for them but have failed to report in include a hairdresser based in England, Chatrawadee Amornphat; former PM’s Office minister in exile Jakrapob Penkair; and Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

Readers might note that PPT does not have some of these cases listed. We are having trouble keeping up with the rash of charges.

Niran Pitakwatchara, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, said: “The more arrests and charges are made, the more the revered institution will be politicised…”.

That is a false line that has been used by many as a means to make the proponents of the law feel somehow shamed because they bring the monarchy into disrepute. PPT finds this naive and politically daft, for those using the charge use it to repress these very persons and the palace supports the law in times when they feel threatened, as they surely do at present.

Update: It is worth adding two pieces of related news here. The first is about academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who has had his passport cancelled for failing to show up when the military dictatorship demanded it. The hopeless ThaiPBS has reported it this way:

Singapore-based Thai academic’s passport revoked
The Foreign Ministry has revoked the passport of Singapore-based Thai academic Pawin Chatchavalpongphan who is facing criminal charges in Thailand and has defied the order to report to the National Council for Peace and Order.

The decision to have Pawin’s passport revoked was based on the recommendation of the National Police Office.

Foreign permanent secretary Sihasak Puangkatekaew explained that the Foreign Ministry simply acted in accordance with procedure after it was recommended by the police.

Pawin who is a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore has vigorously campaigned for the amendment of lese majeste law in Thailand or Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He is also the man who initiated the “Ah Kong’s Palm” sign – a symbol of defiance against the lese majeste law.

There’s a couple of things to note here. First, the emphasis on lese majeste is politically significant in the current context. Second, ThaiPBS and the junta seem to think that Pavin is in Singapore. He moved many, many months ago, and this is no secret.

The second piece of news is kind of good news but based on the bizarre. Prachatai reports that the dopey police have released Chaowanat Musikabhumi without charge. She was arrested for her “Long Live USA Day” placard considered potential lese majeste for parodying the propagandistic “Long live the king” slogan. She isnow  banned from political activity.

She was released on Friday 11am. Similar to other detainees, she was forced to sign an agreement that she will stop all political activities.





Updated: The dictatorship and fabricated claims

29 06 2014

As most readers will be aware, the Dictator and his military junta will brook no inference as they suppress and threaten their way to “royalist reconciliation.” Their latest stunt is a claim that anti-coup activist and one of the leaders of the Organisation for FreeThais for Human Rights and Democracy, Jakrapob Penkair is a gun runner. Yesterday, the military dictatorship issued a further arrest warrant for him, claiming “possession of war weapons…”.

The claim is considered a fabrication for at least two reasons.

First, Jakrapob has recently been in Cambodia and Hong Kong, setting up the Organisation for FreeThais for Human Rights and Democracy, and it is this which causes the charge. The junta is merely seeking a pretext that “makes it possible for authorities to seek the extradition of Mr Jakrapob from any country with which Thailand has a criminal extradition treaty. The other charges against him of lese majeste and failing to report to coup authorities are not extraditable offences.”

The senior policeman making the charge is the now notorious junta lackey Somyos Pumpanmuang, who is running a mission for the junta that includes quite ridiculous extradition warrants against Rose Amornpat, and suppressing peaceful demonstrators with massive police “rallies.” He also recently led a “police taskforce is investigating recent discoveries and seizures of war weapons and arms caches in Bangkok and other provinces to identify who supplied them.”

A second reason for considering this charge fabricated is related to the “seizure” of weapons. PPT has previously expressed skepticism regarding the remarkable “finds” the police and military claim to have made. We have also posted several times on how many of the military’s own weapons go missing and are traded.

The Bangkok Post reports on one of the biggest finds. Police proudly proclaimed that a “haul of war weapons seized in Nakhon Ratchasima on Monday will be expanded to locate the source of money used to procure them.” The “haul” included “firearms, including assault rifles, magazines and various types of ammunition,” and grenades. The weapons were “seized” on “a house belonging to Noppadol Petchmadan, 42, in Nakhon Ratchasima.” The diligent cops proclaimed that they were investigating “the red-shirt linked ‘Khon Kaen model’ armed network, which the suspect is allegedly connected to.”

The so-called Khon Kaen Model is quite possibly just one more military concoction. That aside, what  did suspect Noppadol have to do and say?

The “raid” netted “four M-16 assault rifles, six other automatic rifles, including one AK-47, two machine guns, a shotgun, a firecracker launcher, an M-79 grenade launcher, two bulletproof vests and various types of ammunition,” all said to be “brand new.”

Noppadol “denied any involvement with the ‘Khon Kaen model’ armed network.” In fact, he stated that “he was well-known among many people in the weapons trade, including soldiers, police and government officials.” He admitted “procuring weapons…”. Of course he did. That is is way of making a living, and as he has stated, the police and military “trade weapons” and know him.

We simply do not believe the claims made by the military dictatorship. They are self-serving and altogether too convenient.

Meanwhile, as might be expected, at Asia Provocateur, Jakrapob Penkair, the Executive Secretary of Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FT-HD) has denied the claims made by the military dictatorship.

The charges levelled against me today by Thailand’s illegitimate coup regime reveal, once again, the desperation of the Generals and the Establishment they represent. The false claim that I am behind some kind of “armed element” is not only a fiction but yet another example of the injudiciousness of the fraudulent Thai junta.

Let me be clear – there is simply no evidence whatsoever to connect me to the junta’s seizure of arms and I would challenge them to produce such evidence. Of course, even the seizure of said arms has more than a whiff of suspicion about them. There has been no independent investigation regarding these arms’ seizures, no chain of evidence has been preserved and the kind of claims the junta are putting forward are so flimsy they would be washed away very quickly when subject to proper cross-examination.

As for any attempt to “extradite” me on such charges, the junta must know that no government on earth would succumb to their threats and that I would be given full access to any evidence they have concocted and also the platform to challenge such evidence.

For the record, I must state that I have no involvement in any kind of “armed” struggle. I believe fully in a political, social and cultural struggle secured in reality by the democratic will of the Thai people. The Generals and their Establishment masters know very well that if the democratic will of the Thai people is expressed, power will be removed from them and returned to more accountable and legal forms.

It’s only two days ago our organisation was being dismissed as “irrelevant” by the junta. Now we face allegations of being behind a regime-concocted “armed struggle” along with attempts to curtail our rights to travel via the revocations of passports. These actions by the junta reveal only one thing – their increasingly obvious insecurity – something which will only grow in the days and weeks to come.

That’s why the only “judicial” vehicle they could use to expedite their false charges would be through their own military-run “courts” where due process and the rule of law have long been abolished in favour of despotism. It must be said that any and all cases coming before the military “courts” exist in the context of a form of jurisprudence that is little more than a theatre of the absurd, such is the lack of any form of legal rights.

At the moment the military and the forces they represent are the only agents engaged in any kind of illegitimate “armed” struggle against the will of the Thai people. Those who believe in democracy have no need to use force of arms as we are fully confident that the moment the franchise is returned to Thais the junta will be little more than an historical aberration.

I should add that the revocation of passports by the junta is not only another grotesque repressive act it also turns any Thai citizen who stands against the military regime into political refugees. Such revocations will further expose to the global community that the junta are little more than petulant tyrants operating far beyond the norms of international law.

We ask our supporters to remain steadfast and not be distressed or disheartened by the junta’s threats and games. The only action the junta have available to themselves is to attempt to crush the hopes and aspirations of ordinary Thais. Yet, with each turn of the repressive screw, the junta just further seal their own fate and will strengthen your resolve to return sovereignty to the Thai people.”

Update: Junta flunkey Pol Gen Somyos said “police did not need to ‘make up’ evidence as alleged by Mr Jakrapob to make it possible to seek his extradition from Hong Kong or elsewhere.” Somyos is playing catch up on this because he simply can’t produce any evidence for the claims he makes. But why does he say that they don’t need this well-crafted “evidence” to extradite Jakrapob? It is Jakrapob’s “alleged criminal offence” associated with his alleged “involvement in leading red-shirt supporters to stage a violent protest at the home of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda on July 22, 2007…”. Yep, something that happened seven years ago, and following the period when the Abhisit Vejjajiva military-backed government was in power. Why didn’t they think of this? No prizes for a correct answer.