The king’s laundry I

21 05 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship is expanding its already frantic efforts to create a political landscape cleansed of anything that shows the real king as other than the “official king.” Like slaves and handmaidens of centuries past, the junta is busy laundering the king’s image and cleaning up his own messes.

The laundered image is the often grim, sometimes seemingly bemused man in business suit and more often a military uniform, trailed by a daughter or officials appropriately bowed or slithering.

The only concession to a more real view is that the junta’s version does allow for the now most senior consort to be regularly seen.

His earlier and third wife, Srirasmi, had been thrown into house arrest and her family jailed in late 2015 as the then prince prepared for his reign.

The new, apparently official, number one consort is also often in the military uniform of a general. She was promoted by the king to this position. Her only “qualification” is that she is the king’s consort.

The image the junta launderers don’t want seen is that of the king trailing around his beloved Munich, dressed like fashion moron, sporting mail-order tattoo transfers and accompanied by another of his girlfriends, a legion of servants and a fluffy dog.

PPT doesn’t think fashion is a necessary qualification for being king. After all, that has to do with blood. Yet his “style” says something about the man. His desire to keep this side of his life from his Thai audience is also telling. (We do not believe that the military junta would be so frantic about these images if it wasn’t being pushed by a king known to be erratic, wilful and menacing.)

The seemingly demented efforts a week ago to threaten Facebook may not have been entirely successful, but they are again revealing. The Economist reflects on these bizarre and dangerous efforts to repress for the king:

Thailand has always treated its royals with exaggerated respect, periodically clapping people deemed to have insulted the king behind bars. But some thought the death of the long-reigning King Bhumibol in October and the accession of the less revered Vajiralongkorn might curb the monarchists’ excesses. Instead, it seems to have spurred them on. The military junta that runs the country is enforcing the draconian and anachronistic lèse-majesté law with greater relish than its predecessors.

We are not sure who could have thought that a new king, often secretive and with a reputation for vindictiveness, might have eased up.

Indeed, this king has a long history of lese majeste cases in his name. One of the first cases we wrote about at PPT was of Harry Nicolaides, an Australian who wrote a forgettable novel that included these lines:

From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives “major and minor “with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.

Harry was probably writing of second wife, Yuvadhida, but the words could also be applied to the treatment  of Srirasmi.

Those words must have enraged somebody. They earned Harry a sentence of six years  in jail on 19 January 2009 (reduced to three years on pleading guilty). This for defaming the then crown prince now king.

If not in Thailand, where it is illegal, read Nicolaides’ novel here. Note that this scanned version of the book bears the stamp of the National Library of Thailand but should not be downloaded in Thailand.

The Economist continues:

At least 105 people have been detained or are serving prison sentences for lèse-majesté, compared with just five under the elected government the junta overthrew in 2014. Many of them posted critical comments about the royal family on social media; some simply shared or “liked” such comments. Other arrests have been on even pettier grounds. Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a student activist, is on trial for sharing a profile of King Vajiralongkorn published by the BBC’s Thai service. Police have warned that those agitating for his release could themselves face charges. A well-known academic, Sulak Sivaraksa, remains under investigation for several instances of lèse-majesté, including questioning whether a 16th-century battle involving a Thai king really took place.

As we have said, this number of lese majeste cases is too low. Quoting the low number allows the prince-now-king too much latitude. The lese majeste arrests and charges have been swelled by various palace purges by Prince, now King, Vajiralongkorn. Lese majeste has been widely used against those he dislikes. Give him the “credit” he deserves and for this nastiness and vindictiveness.

The Economist mentions the (almost) latest set of six cases (we will post separately on another set of cases):

This month security forces arrested Prawet Prapanukul, a human-rights lawyer best known for defending lèse-majesté suspects. He risks a record 150 years in jail if convicted of all ten counts of lèse-majesté he faces. Several recent sentences for insulting royals have exceeded 50 years; the standard for murder is 15-20 years.

All of this is followed by a banal claim by the newspaper: “Thai kings have a long history of fostering democratic reform…”. There is simply no adequate historical evidence for such a claim. It is a royalist fabrication based on notions of Thai-style democracy that is “democracy with the king as head of state,” exactly what the current junta is promoting: no democracy at all.

That Vajiralongkorn is going to be ruthless and anti-democratic should not be a surprise to anyone. He comes from a long line of anti-democratic kings who have protected privilege by working with the military. The only threat to the continuing of this monarch-military dictators alliance is if the junta gets so ticked off with the king that it decides to do away with him. That possibility seems somewhat remote.

The more likely outcome for the short to medium term is more censorship and ever more maniacal efforts to police the king’s image and wash his dirty laundry.





Making stuff up

17 05 2017

Two reports in Khaosod and one at The Nation should serve as reminders that Thailand under the military boot is a kingdom of lies.

The first Khaosod report is about infamous police chief Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. He’s the one who produced an assets declaration that stated he received a hefty monthly payment from beer magnates. Then he denied this. It was a mistake. And, anyway, he didn’t fill out the form himself, but had minions do it. Presumably they made it up? Hardly. But, no one in the junta was bothered. Such payments are the norm and apparently not illegal, not corrupt and not unethical. Just normal for this bunch of corrupt bastards.

The Bangkok police commander has now lied again and covered it up with a wholly unbelievable story that suggests that he continues to believe that the public are a bunch of clowns and dolts.

As the story has it, the policeman “visited the site of an explosion that wounded two people and told reporters it was not an explosion at all, but a ‘explosive-like loud bang’ caused by a malfunctioning water pipe.” Not long after, “a police leak burst his implausible claim of an injurious water pipe, [and] Sanit admitted that he made up his original version of events. The lie was necessary to deceive the perpetrators, said the lieutenant general…”.

Equally unbelievable, this latest claim from this fraudulent official is remarkable for displaying his own lack of intelligence, coming up with “stories” about as believable as a grade school student blaming the dog for eating his homework.

This person is a serial liar and a disgrace. But he’s got plenty of company.

The second Khaosod report is about the still unexplained extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae. Two months after his death, the police say the Royal Thai Army has finally handed over video footage of the events. The Army says the kid was a drug smuggler and “resisted.” No evidence of any of these claims is available, but top military and police say the video footage “proved” their claims.

Yet it took almost two months for the video to be handed over. And, then, as a hard disk that the police say they can’t view because of a software issue. What software? They can’t say.

But if they do view the footage, what then? Police Maj. Gen. Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk says “the Official Information Act prohibits information disclosure if it can affect others…”. Presumably he means official killers might be affected.

They just make stuff up.

The final story is from The Nation. On 2 May the Thai Ambassador in Seoul sent an official letter to the chairman of the May 18 Memorial Foundation seeming to complain that lese majeste detainee Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa had been awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

In that letter the ambassador lied that Jatuphat was guilty of certain crimes. Of course, he hasn’t (yet) been convicted by one of the kingdom’s feudal courts.

Jatuphat’s parents demanded an apology and retraction by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Getting the junta to correct its lies is problematic, not least because the junta seems unable to discern fact from fiction.





Release Pai XIII

9 05 2017

The Nation reports that the activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, singled out from thousands of others for a lese majeste charge related to a BBC story on the king, has been refused bail.

We think this is perhaps the eighth time he’s been refused.

The courts and the regime have decided that this young man is not just to be unfairly fitted up for a “crime,” but must be psychologically tortured and denied constitutional rights. The barbarians are not at the gates, they are running the place.

We are not suggesting that his case is unique. Far from it. Almost all lese majeste detainees are treated as guilty from the day they are arrested and very few ever get bail.

The state’s minions opposing bail argued, again, “that Jatupat had been accused of being disrespectful to state authorities and could manipulate the evidence if released.” Such claims are unnecessary as the courts have no intention of releasing him.

Meanwhile, as Jatuphat has been  awarded the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights from the South Korea-based May 18 Memorial Foundation, it may be his mother who represents him and receives the award.

The regime is so mean and twisted, that it can’t even let this event go by without sniping and showing how warped the justice system is.

The letter reproduced here is said to have come from the Thai Ambassador in Seoul and sent to the May 18 Memorial Foundation.

Not only does it not specify why the letter is written – just being nasty – but while claiming that Jatuphat is getting a fair trial, which is simply a fabrication, it also states that he’s guilty. That is the ambassador, who heads a seemingly inactive embassy (there’s nothing done since February on the website when we looked at it, declares Jatuphat guilty of crimes.

Now we know that the unfair trial will find him guilty, but the dopey ambassador should probably not declare him guilty and then say a fair trial is underway.

Just for good measure, Ambassador Sarun Charoensuwan then includes a paragraph of lies. He states that Thailand supports and values freedoms of expression, assembly and association. That’s completely untrue. He then appears to suggest that Thailand’s military dictatorship is a democracy.  Finally, he emerges from this stupor of lies and adds the rider that, of course, these lies are only good if they are considered in the context of the junta’s laws and decrees. That, of course, means that none exist.

We are sure that the folks at the Foundation are fully aware that military dictatorships are built on repression and lies. We are also pretty sure that they understand that such regimes demand “representatives” who are either stupid or so ideologically attuned to Fascism that they just blurt out lies as a matter of duty.





Unconstitutional regime

7 05 2017

In a Prachatai report a day or so ago, and also reported at The Nation and elsewhere, activists have petitioned “Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, Chief of the Royal Thai Police, at the National Police Office in Bangkok” to “release Jatuphat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, saying the court decision to repeatedly reject his bail requests is ‘unconstitutional’.” They refer to the 2017 constitution.

On 5 May 2017, Chalita Bundhuwong, a lecturer at Kasetsart University and political activist Nuttaa Mahattana submitted the letter to the police on behalf of Pai’s father Wiboon Boonpattararaksa. Pai has been detained at Khon Kaen Prison since December 2016 and repeatedly refused bail.

According to the report,

Under Article 34 of the 2017 Constitution, people are free to express their opinions by means of speaking, writing, publishing, and other means subject only to provisions of the laws enacted to protect national security, rights and liberties of other people, and public order, morals and health, the letter states.

It also urged that “Jatuphat should be freed in order to travel to South Korea to accept the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which will be awarded on 18 May in Gwangju, South Korea.”

Jatuphat is accused of violating Article 112 for sharing a BBC Thai article on the then new king on Facebook. Thousands of others shared the same post but he is singled out by the military dictatorship as an example to other activists of the punishment they can expect if they get too outspoken against the regime or monarchy.

Based on past complaints about the repeated unconstitutional actions by the courts in lese majeste cases, it seems doubtful that this unlawful military regime will take much notice.





When the military is on top III

26 04 2017

When the military is running its dictatorship, secrecy and silence replace any notion of transparency, reinforcing arrogance and abuse of power.

We have already noted the junta’s secret approval of its controversial purchase of a 13.5 billion baht Chinese submarine. Taxpayers fork out the money but they are not told about how their money is to be used.

Yet secrecy goes far wider than this.

Most lese majeste “trials” are held in secret. This ensures that political “crimes” are heard in political courts.

Now it seems that more political “crimes” are to be heard in secret political courts.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “[s]even people accused of contempt of court in connection with a Feb 10 gathering to voice support for lese majeste suspect Jatupat Boonpattararaksa [and who] reported to the provincial court [in Khon Kaen on] Monday to acknowledge charges” were treated to a secret hearing.

The court that does this is indeed contemptible. It again demonstrates that the junta and its courts are lawless in delivering injustice.

Not only was the “hearing was held behind closed doors,” but police were “deployed to beef up security.” This for a group that has never indicated any semblance of “unrest.” In fact, the heavy “security” is but another measure of demonstrating who is on top.

The arrogance of power is breathtaking. The destruction and politicization of Thailand’s institutions is breathtaking. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny, no justice.





Lese majeste detainee gets human rights award

15 04 2017

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa has been awarded South Korea’s prestigious 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

Jatuphat or Pai is held in jail without bail for sharing a BBC Thai story that accurately reported on Thailand’s tenth Chakri king, a report that was shared by thousands of others and has been viewed by millions. In other words, Jatuphat is singled out and framed by the junta because he is an activist.

The selection committee of the May 18 Memorial Foundation announced the award to the jailed law student and member of the New Democracy Movement for his “brave and noble actions against dictatorship and violations on human rights…”.

The letter to Pai further stated: “We also noticed that your struggles have aroused attention about political conditions and the importance of their improvement among your citizens, especially among the young and have contributed to bringing democracy to Thailand…”.

He was nominated by Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies.

The award ceremony will be held on 18 May in Gwangju, South Korea, and it is certain that Pai will sit it out in a junta dungeon in Khon Kaen, where he awaits what will be an unfair and secretive trial as the “first person to be arrested for lèse majesté under the reign of the new [k]ing.”





The BBC dancing with the junta

7 04 2017

PPT has posted on stories about the BBC and its dance with Thailand’s dictators. There were the lese majeste rattlings, then Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa’s fit-up lese majeste case for reposting a BBC Thai story that has now been was read by more than three million people. And who can forget the “failed” negotiations on the transmitter.

The Bangkok Post reports that the dictator’s dance has become a little more complicated, requiring what we hope is fancy footwork.

The Post reports that the Beeb “is ready to move forward as a digital news content provider in Thailand and it is also ready to adjust its work culture to suit Thai laws and audiences…”. That’s Francesca Unsworth, “director of the BBC World Service Group and the BBC’s deputy director of news and current affairs…”.

Sounds like self-censorship is the next dictator’s waltz. But then she adds: “But we still need to serve all audiences in a way that we feel they are best served. We have to find a balanced operating environment.”

A two-step? Unsworth had one dance with with deputy junta spokesman Lt. Gen. Werechon Sukhondhapatipak. He spun her around with talk of the “lessons arising from incidents that prove sensitive for Thais…”.

To be honest, we have no idea what he’s babbling about, but when he states: “I think we can form common ground where we can work together,” anyone interested in the BBC and a free media should be very, very worried.

The General stated: “We now have communication channels through which [the BBC] can verify or check comments from the government so the stories will be balanced and well-rounded.”

Really? That sound dangerously like manipulating the news to suit a military dictatorship. Would the BBC stoop to such low levels? Well, yes, it has bent to governments in the past, but usually prides itself on editorial independence. Fortunately, Unsworth “insisted the BBC team would stick to its strong editorial values to tell the truth accurately, impartially and reporting from all sides.”

At the same time, Unsworth twirled around the BBC as business conundrum: “It [Thai market] is important to us. It’s a big country, it’s a very vibrant country. It’s a young country and they say the 21st Century belongs to Asia. So it is important for us to be in Asian markets…”. We can hear the self-censors and corporate bosses sharpening their scissors to cut content when markets are “threatened.”

When Unsworth says that “Thailand already have very lively local media scenes in newspaper, broadcasting and increasingly in digital space,” you have to wonder which Thailand she is in and which band she’s listening to.

Hopefully the BBC two-step is a way of allowing the dictators to save face and that adequate to good journalism will be the BBC’s future when reporting on Thailand, including reporting on lese majeste, the monarch and the monarchy.