Cheering Pai, jeering the junta

10 01 2018

Prachatai’s report regarding villagers in Loei continuing fight against gold mining in their area have also “urged the junta not to prolong its power…” includes some evidence of considerable political bravery from the villagers. Remarkably they displayed solidarity with the lese majeste victim Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa “by wearing masks of his face,” as seen in the picture below.

Clipped from Prachatai

Jatuphat and other Dao Din activists supported the villager struggle in the days before the junta jailed Jatuphat and harassed many others.

At their meeting on 7 January 2018, the Wang Saphung villagers announced four aims for 2018:

(1) to permanently close down local mines, (2) to revoke the unfair mining licenses, (3) to coordinate with environmentalists across the country in  proposing people’s environment bill as alternative to the junta’s version and (4) to state a rally titled “Walk for Friendship” from Bangkok to Khon Kaen as a protest to social injustice nationwide.

The statement also urges the junta to cease its effort to maintain power after the election scheduled for November 2018.

On the junta they declared:

This year is an important historical turning point because while the junta tells the international community that the election will happen in this year, the signs of evil have already been spotted. We, therefore, would like to send a good wish to the junta that it should let go its power from the coup and should not plan to prolong power through pro-military parties or a nominee parties….





Heroes and villains I

23 12 2017

Thailand’s politics under the despotic military regime has been one-sided but marked by impunity and double standards. The regime has been repressive, grasping and opaque. The military junta has used feudal laws and absolutist decrees to grind down its opponents while building its own political base.

Thailand’s villains are relatively easy to identify. Most of them wear uniforms (and expensive watches). They sit in puppet assemblies and courts or at the top of ministries. They collect allowances and advantages that build wealth and status. The faces may change over the years, although there’s remarkable longevity, but their politics remains the same: royalist anti-democracy.

Heroes are those who challenge the anti-democratic status quo. They pay dearly for it. Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been jailed for almost seven years. Hundreds have been jailed or “re-educated,” others have died in prison and thousands have been intimidated and silenced. Some have fled into exile and hundreds find themselves ostracized from a conservative, royalist and hierarchical society.

There is little good news for the heroes. This makes a recent report in the Bangkok Post a bittersweet article.

Already serving a jail term on an unfair and concocted lese majeste conviction by a junta court, student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa “posed for a photo in a graduation gown of the KKU’s Law Faculty with his parents.” He was prevented from attending his graduation ceremony because he was locked in a junta jail.

With seven other heroes, Jatuphat appeared in a court at the villainous 23rd Military Circle to deny charges “of holding a public assembly to protest against the military regime at Khon Kaen University (KKU) in 2015.”

While Chartthai Noiunsaen, Phanuphong Srithananuwat, Chatmongkol Jenchiewchan, Narongrit Uppachan, Natthaporn Arthan, Duangthip Kararit and Neeranut Niemsap were released on bail, Jatuphat went back to prison.

Another hero, Rangsiman Rome, failed to appear. We understand that he refuses to recognize the court. If that is so, it’s a brave act. Anything that challenges the villainous regime is brave.





Criticism = sedition

11 12 2017

Criticism = sedition if the critic is considered an “opponent,” meaning a red shirt, a Thaksinista or a member of the Puea Thai Party.

A few days ago we posted on Peau Thai Party one-time deputy spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat making some basic criticisms of the military regime which were not all that different from criticisms in the mainstream media.

This led the prickly junta to file charges against her. It has singled out “opponents” in the past for special “legal” attention, including the crude use of lese majeste against Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa as one among several thousand who shared an accurate news story on King Vajiralongkorn.

The junta has now filed a sedition case against her and several more.

The Nation reports that she will report to the police to acknowledge “six charges … for allegedly committing sedition and violating the Computer Crime bill by uploading false information to her Facebook page.

The Dictator and his junta are a gaggle of spineless cowards, unwilling to accept criticism from political opponents. Indeed, in a sign of deepening repression, they are turning on allies in a campaign that cannot go well for Thailand.





Updated: Lese majeste punishment

20 11 2017

In a recent post, PPT commented on the delays to lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We said this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

A report at Prachatai reminds us that even after sentencing, whether having enter a guilty plea or not, punishment involves more than just being held in a jail.

Student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, one of several thousand singled out for a lese majeste charge for sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, convicted and jailed, “has revealed that a prison staff ordered him to take off clothes and rubbed his genitals five times in a search for drugs [sic.].”

He “told media at the court that he has experienced a series of harassment[s] after being transferred to Phu Khiao Prison. When he arrived the prison, one staff [member] search[ed] his body for drugs…”. He was ordered to strip and the officer spread his anus “and rubbed his genital [s] five times.”

This could represent a sexual harassment by an officer, but it is also a repeated act of degradation perpetrated by prison staff. This is unceasing degradation. We have seen other acts of degradation and humiliation perpetrated against lese majeste victims in jail.

We know this because he made the comments on 16 November 2017, when Jatupat “was summoned to Phu Khiao Provincial Court to attend a trial on violation of 2016 Referendum Act.” That means he failed to abide by the military dictatorship’s demand that no one campaign against it constitution. The regime accuses him and “another student activist Wasin Prommanee …[of] inciting chaos during the junta-sponsored constitutional referendum in August 2016.” Inciting chaos means “distributing leaflets” urging the rejection of the junta’s hand-crafted and illegitimate constitution.

Update: The Nation adds to this story of using courts and prison to double-up punishment.





Time to stand up

14 11 2017

It has been said that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees. We wonder if this wouldn’t be better for Thailand’s media, which is traditionally on its knees before military regimes (and palace propaganda).

We notice that the Bangkok Post has demanded that the lese majeste accusations against Sulak Sivaraksa be dropped.

The Post’s editorial states that:

… the police formally charged the internationally famed 85-year-old Mr Sulak with lese majeste. An alleged violation of the Computer Crime Act was tacked on, as it so often and lamentably it is. A military court prosecutor will decide on Dec 7 whether to proceed with the charges.

Of course, the charge is a nonsense. But so are all lese majeste charges. The Post reckons that “the four previous charges had a tiny shred of substance.” Really? If so, why were all of them ditched?

This statement implies that the Post thinks some lese majeste charges are valid and it supports this feudal law. Which charges does it feel are “valid”? The one against a 14 year-old child jailed in Khon Kaen and awaiting sentencing? The man who “insulted” a dead dog that had something to do with a now dead king? The young law student jailed as one of thousands who shared a BBC Thai story? The mother jailed for decades? The family of the king’s former wife jailed in spite? The woman jailed for selling chilli paste to the palace at inflated prices?

Sulak is easy enough to support. He’s a royalist, he’s a middle class iconoclast and he’s a conservative.But all of this lese majeste stuff is a nonsense and makes Thailand a sad country seemingly stuck in some period in the 17th century.

It is long past time for the mainstream media to find its feet. Abolish this ludicrous law and free all political prisoners.

 





Only double standards I

3 11 2017

We have pointed to the double standards that operate in Thailand hundreds of times. So many times, that it seems that double standards are the only standards used by the military dictatorship and its puppet agencies, including the judiciary.

Two recent examples involve judicial action against student activists and, somewhat differently, in actions against provincial governors for royal funeral failures.

In the first instance, the Bangkok Post reports that a Khon Kaen Court has found student activist Sirawith Seritiwat guilty of contempt of court. He was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and fined 500 baht, put on probation for one year and ordered to do community service for 24 hours.

Another six activists of the anti-coup Resistant Citizen and Dao Din groups were put on probation for one year and ordered not to assemble or organize similar activities. They were also put on probation for six months.

Their “crime” was to gather on 11 February near the court “to show support for Jatupat Boonpattararaksa. They held ‘Free Pai’ posters in the court’s compound.”

On the face of it, this sentencing may seem rather similar to the case of anti-democrats sentenced a few days ago. But that is indeed superficial. These students – seven in total – were engaged in a peaceful and quiet show of support for a friend who was charged in a ludicrous lese majeste farce case before a kangaroo court.

The anti-democrats – more than 100 of them charged – were involved in a threatening and violent occupation of PTT building during anti-democrat street rallies in 2014, causing considerable damage.

There’s little comparison that can be made between the two sets of sentencing, except for the double standards and political persecution.

Then there’s the case of two provincial governors who are “facing a formal investigation into their alleged mishandling of dok mai chan (sandalwood flower) laying rites during the late King’s cremation ceremony on Oct 26, while three district office chiefs in Bangkok have been transferred to inactive posts for similar reasons.”

Because this is monarchy stuff, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda sprang into action, setting up investigations to be completed within seven days. This apparently all based on social media and newspaper reports. The accused are alleged to be guilty of “poor management.”

The double standard is the response. Monarchy stuff, even rumors, lead to official action within hours.

Compare this with murders, graft, nepotism, torture, enforced disappearances, and more, all associated with the military, the junta and the elite. In these cases almost nothing happens (apart from cover-up). Think of:

  • The the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and its associated lese majeste cases.
  • Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.
  • And who killed Ko Tee in Laos?
  • The ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda.
  • The nepotism of generals, constitution drafters and other puppets and grifters.
  • There’s plenty of land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

As we said, double standards are the only standards.





Updated: After the funeral, more of the same

30 10 2017

The funeral is officially over but the hagiographical syrup and royalist nastiness and threats continue to flow.

As in other periods where ultra-royalism is boosted by the military state, it becomes dangerous for anyone who might dare to express different opinions.

The military regime may also be emboldened by the continued rise of ultra-royalism, which obviously feeds into its political ambitions when it decides to call its “election.” Presumably the coronation will add to all of that political use of royalism.

In the meantime, we might also expect cowed and submissive politicians to become warily more active.

A Bangkok Post editorial has a bet each way. It drips royal loyalty for a couple of paragraphs, observing what should be obvious: “The expiration of the mourning period returns the country to a semblance of normality…”.

It strokes the military dog:

The members of the government under Gen Prayut deserve a respectful thank you for their care and attention to the events brought to a grief-stricken climax last Thursday. The preparations for the funeral of the great King Bhumibol Adulyadej provided impeccable grace, and splendour remarked on around the world. When he seized power three and a half years ago, Gen Prayut promised to unite Thais. Last week, Thai people were united as never before.

In fact, the funeral was fitting in that it marked a crescendo of military-backed monarchism that has defined one of the most politically repressive eras in Thailand’s modern history, with that repression being in the name of the monarchy and claimed to be protecting it.

The funeral was fittingly militarized but few have bothered to think about what this means for Thailand going forward (well, backward, under the junta).

(If one watches the Ananda Mahidol funeral and compares it with the recent event, the military dominance and precision of the latter is clear.)

The Bangkok Post then reminds the junta and its readers that the “funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore.”

It adds that several of these “questions” are “urgent.”

It lists:

These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park‘s improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part “improvement”. These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in “donations” — a word which has become synonymous with “scandal”. In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

Then there is the ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda. His latest mess is over  laser, speed-detection guns at hugely exorbitant prices.

But, really, is that it? Of course not. As the Bangkok Post itself reports, “[l]ocals in eastern Thailand are opposing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s [the junta] order to reorganise city planning in Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces to bring it in line with the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) policy.”

There’s plenty of other land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

But what about the political repression that has juveniles charged with lese majeste. There is the old man potentially charged with lese majeste for comments about legendary events. And there is the law student, singled out by the military dictatorship for lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai story that was also shared by several thousand others. What of the mothers and others jailed for scores of years on pathetic lese majeste charges? Protection of the monarchy means crushing many and threatening everyone.

Then there’s the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and associated lese majeste cases.

Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.

And who killed Ko Tee in Laos? We can all guess but probably the assassins, speaking Thai, will never be revealed. That’s the impunity that official murders enjoy.

We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people.

Update: Readers will be interested in two views of the events and legacy of the ninth reign at New Mandala. Both are reasonably tame and the first quite lame.