Further updated: Military and the virus

4 08 2020

Yesterday, PPT saw a Reuters report that “Thailand has suspended plans for its army to undertake joint training with the U.S. military after nine Thai soldiers tested positive for coronavirus upon returning from Hawaii…” That was from the Defense Ministry on Sunday. To be precise Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantawanich stated: ““The army has suspended all plans to bring forces abroad until the situation improves…”.

It seems that last poor expression was crudely accurate as within hours US troops have arrived in Thailand for exercises. But no Thai service personnel have been “abroad.” At present, the situation is: “More than 100 U.S. troops were put under a 14-day quarantine when they arrived in Thailand on Monday…”. Two Thai military officers are watching over them at each of two Bangkok hotels. Hopefully they get replaced over the 14 days otherwise they are on long shifts.

Wondering who is paying? The two hotels listed are on the Alternative State Quarantine list and they aren’t cheap. As a The Conrad offers a “Deluxe Room (41 sq.m) starting at 137,000 THB per person for 15 nights.” The Anantara Riverside Bangkok’s cheapest is “Deluxe Room 73,000 THB per person per 14 days.” Another hotel listed is The Idle, which offers a “Superior 50,000 THB per person per 14 days.”

They all arrived, from Guam and Japan, at Utapao, so were transferred to Bangkok. None of this sounds particularly “safe” in a context where Thais still deal with restrictions.

“Thoughtfully,” Gen Nathapon Srisawat, a “special adviser to the Royal Thai Army (RTA) and director of the RTA’s Centre for the Management of the CCSA,” explained that “the RTA and the US army had jointly agreed on the military exercises prior to the pandemic, before adding that the exchange of military experiences will benefit the army.” He was asked why the Army “chose not to postpone the exercise despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Gen Nathapon played down the matter, saying the RTA will do its best to comply with health safety measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.”

Update 1: According to a Thai PBS report of Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn’s questioning of the need for Army exercises with US troops, it is mentioned that these exercises will occur despite objections by the CCSA. We can only assume that, as usual, the military does whatever it wants.

Update 2: A Bangkok Post editorial taunts the military:

For the army to suddenly allow foreign soldiers into the country for a mission that is generally deemed as not that urgent is inconsiderate of the sacrifice that Thais have had to make to cope with the outbreak….

Worse, the decision that seemingly goes against popular sentiment could put the army in an unfavourable light not just as an organisation that seeks privileged treatment for its own affairs but also as one that is out of touch with the public and reality.

Yanking the puppets’ strings

13 10 2014

Some of our recent posts have pointed to the ways in which the military dictatorship is directing its puppet “assemblies” at the National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Council. Without repeating all that we had in those posts, it is clear that the dictators are yanking the puppets strings and, undoubtedly, the puppets are responding as directed. At the same time, there are some puppets who consider themselves not as puppets but just 100% supporters of the military dictatorship.

The Bangkok Post reports on some of these supporters of dictatorship and, of course, they are found to be long-standing anti-democrats.

Some members of the junta-appointed NRC have quickly “denied the military is trying to steer their work, claiming guidelines given to them by the junta last week are simply intended to kick-start the reform process.” They are denying that a Defence Ministry “document listing ideas and recommendations for various aspects of reform” provided to them as they registered for the NRC. This is the same document that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha says they should study and heed.

One of the puppets denying this reality is “Charas Suwannamala, an NRC member and political scientist from Chulalongkorn University…”. Charas has long been a propagandist for PAD from the beginning, cooperated with the military junta and its government in 2006-2008, and was active in Suthep Thaugsuban’s anti-democratic movement. His political views are rabidly anti-democratic and pro-monarchy. Naturally, he “insisted” that the document “offers a guideline that enables members to explore their options before pursuing reforms…”.

Remarkably he reckons that the “NRC will have the final say on the direction of the reforms.” That’s remarkable because it is disingenuous. The Dictator will only allow a “final say” if it accords with the views of the junta. But Charas is a true believer: “Charas defended the document, claiming it was well-researched and provides background information that will help members hold debates once the council starts work.” Even more startling is his claim that “[m]embers might know little about matters outside their area of expertise…”.

Relying on the military’s information for inadequately prepared members is a recipe for military gravy. Charas will get fat on it.

Also supping the military’s gravy is rabid yellow-shirt Khamnoon Sitthisamarn who described the military directions “as reasonable and comprehensive.”

Charas and Kamnoon are true blievers in the fascism of military royalism.

Prayuth and “truth”

29 07 2014

It was just a few days ago that The Leader was emphatic that his fascist junta “sought to maintain a balance between the powers of the interim government and those of the NCPO [the junta].” He added that the junta “has no desire for power or personal interest…”.

It turns out that General Prayuth Chan-ocha was simply lying.

We know that no one should ever believe anything an illegal military dictatorship says. Less so Prayuth, for he has a history of baldfaced lies. Apparently it is easy to lie to the whole nation because “polling” agencies can produce equally flawed and manufactured results that show mammoth support for the military dictatorship.

We are, of course, referring to a report in the Bangkok Post that states Prayuth is “expected to take up the roles of both prime minister and NCPO chief in the new cabinet line-up.”Prayuth

So there will be no/zero/none/zilch balance, unless it is on the head of a pin. No balance; just a monopoly of power for the military brass.

In addition, “former army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda is tipped to become a deputy prime minister and defence minister.”

That’s the Queen’s Guard and the Burapha Phayak task force link. It is also the palace link.

Other military brass, current and recent monopolize other positions: deputy defence minister, deputy prime minister, transport minister, foreign minister, permanent secretary for defense, interior minister, permanent secretary for defense, justice minister. In addition, some of these post will be held concurrently.

No balance. No truth.

And just in case you wondered, it is tipped that fully 110 of the 200 members of the dictatorship’s National Legislative Assembly will be wearing military green. A further 20 will be added later.

No truth.

Prayuth “has submitted a list of 200 NLA members for royal endorsement. The list is expected to get the seal of approval this week.” Of course it will. The king just loves the military when it monopolizes power.

That’s the real truth.

Others who aren’t military are anti-democrats who called for a coup for years, including bright yellow dolts like Surachai Liangboonlertchai and Khamnoon Sitthisamarn. Other royalists include “academics” Thammasat University rector Somkit Lertpaitoon.

Lies, royalists, palace, military. No surprises in any of this. Why does Prayuth even bother with the lies? No one with even an ounce of IQ expects anything other than dictatorship from the military.


For us, against us

8 07 2014

The lines of demarcation between the junta and its opponents are reasonably clear, as two recent event demonstrate.

If you are an ally of the junta, you get special treatment.

Bangkok Pundit recently suggested that the massive Cambodian migrant worker “exodus was so quick that it has no doubt caused political problems in Cambodia, [and] … forced Hun Sen to cooperate with the junta. (Veera’s release?).” Veera is Veera Somkwamkid, the People’s Alliance for Democracy-associate ultra-nationalist member of the Thai Patriot Network, who was detained in Cambodia following a border incursion in 2011. When he was released a few days ago, all of the old hyper-nationalist, yellow shirts got together for a party to welcome back their “hero.”

As the Bangkok Post reports, the party was arranged at the at the Royal Turf Club, where General Boonlert Kaewprasit was host. Boonlert is a favorite of the military and royalist elite not least because he was one of those who managed the revival of anti-democrat street protests for the PAD lot prior to the mobilizations that became the Suthep Thaugsuban anti-democrats, who paved the way for the coup…. and the rest is history, as they say.

The military dictatorship became worried, after the fact, that the welcome party might be seen as “double standards,” not that such claims seem to bother them in other spheres. The party was attended not just by Boonlert, but a bunch of others from the military and the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement including “Gen Preecha Iamsuphan, former senators Prasarn Maruekpitak, Khamnoon Sitthisamarn and Rosana Tositrakul, national artist Naowarat Pongpaiboon and other activists.”

So Veera and Boonlert were called in by the junta. The result was a bit of hugging and and a public reprimand. Then, as the Post reports it, after a couple of hours, they were “allowed to go home after a meeting with a high level officer of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).” They even went on television to “explain”:

Gen Boonlert said in an interview with television reporters afterwards that Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, the assistant army chief and NCPO’s chief of legal and justice affairs section, asked him and Mr Veera to let the NCPO know before conducting any activity which may be construed as violating the NCPO’s orders including the ban on a political gatherings.

They agreed to comply with the request, Gen Boonlert said.

If you are seen as an opponent of the coup, you get very different treatment. Boonlert and Veera get mainstream media coverage for the party and its aftermath. Most of those present, as yellow shirt supporters of the coup, go about their business, political and otherwise. But not opponents. Khaosod reports the second detention of Thanapol Eawsakul, editor of Fa Diaw Kan.

A “senior army officer” says that the editor is having his attitude “re-adjusted.” Why? Because of “critical Facebook comments violated a condition he signed before being released from his first bout of military detention. That release form barred Mr. Thanapol from participating in politics or expressing any opinions that ‘incite unrest’.” Should the “military decide to charge Mr. Thanapol with violating the NCPO’s release conditions, the activist will be tried in military court and could face up to two years in prison.”

Compare the re-education and multiple detention of an activist writing on Facebook with the military junta’s freeing of Veera and the treatment of their friends Boonlert and Veera. This is not about double standards but about the nature of the military regime.

Democracy and gloom II

16 05 2014

The future for democracy looks brighter when the Bangkok Post reports that activists observe that “[a]n election held as soon as possible is the only feasible way of reaching a peaceful solution to the current political crisis…”. The report is worth quoting almost in full:

The “Let the People Decide” network also demanded that the Senate talk to civic groups and let them air their views like it did with the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) on Monday….

Jessada Denduangboripant, a Third Pillar Against Violence core member, said the PDRC’s call for an non-elected premier to take the helm of an interim government would only deepen the divide in Thai society.

Mr Jessada, also an assistant science professor at Chulalongkorn University, said various civic groups have called for a democratic solution to the protracted crisis over the past six months, but have now united to send a strong message to the public that voters were the only neutral party who should decide who would lead the country.

Ake Atthakorn, a member of the Respect My Vote group, said the Senate should stop trying to derail the democratic process by pretending to act as a peacemaker.

“Stop pretending to listen to the people. Those pressing parliament are not the majority in this country. We know what you are plotting,” Mr Ake said.

“Certain senators are violating the law. If they dare install a non-elected prime minister, they will face overwhelming opposition,” he warned.

Chanya Chamnankul, of the My Freedom group, said her group has been studying the impact of PDRC-led protests in Pattaya, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.

“People want to see the country progress. They believe the best way is to elect their own representatives. If they turn out no good, people can boot them out. They don’t need others to come out onto the streets to overthrow them,” Ms Chanya said.

She said her group would like to see a successful election install a government.

“It’s ridiculous that certain agencies are pursuing the ousted PM while those who blocked the Feb 2 election are still walking around free,” Ms Chanya said.

She questioned the legal status of Surachai Liangboonlertchai as Senate Speaker, saying he might have violated parliamentary regulations by placing the Senate speaker election on the Upper House’s special session agenda.

Kittichai Ngamchaipisit, of the Enough is Enough group, said the PDRC call for reform before an election was just a ruse to confuse the people.

“Anyone wanting reform should contest an election to get the people’s endorsement,” he said.

“We must proceed democratically, with an election, which is the best way to solve differences of opinion in Thai society,” Mr Kittichai added.

barking_mad - CopyBut then PPT is brought back to the gloomy reality of the anti-progressive, anti-democratic, unlawful and barking mad in another Bangkok Post report, where a bunch of unelected, unrepresentative and elite-selected trogladytes are claimed to have decided and “agreed a fully authoritative government is needed to see in political reforms…”.

“Appointed Senator Wanchai Sornsiri” meaning an unelected senator from the so-called private sector and a card-carrying yellow shirt “said after the meeting that most participants wanted to see such a government as soon as possible.” Sounding like anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban or even the irrelevant Abhisit Vejjajiva, this unelected and unrepresentative anti-democrat stated that such an unelected and unconstitutional government “should be in place for six to 12 months in order to see through election reforms and ensure peace before elections take place.” In other words, only have elections after the anti-democrats fix the system so only their people can get elected to government, turning back the popular tide that has rejected the royalist political parties time and time again.

Who were the seven public organizations that met “acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai”? It will be no surprise to learn that they are the very organizations created by the military junta-backed government in its 2007 constitution to undermine any elected government. In other words, the very same organizations in charge of the creeping judicial coup: “the Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, the Election Commission (EC), the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Economic and Social Advisory Council.”

The only two that didn’t show up were the Constitutional Court and the Office of the Attorney-General, but it is known that they are fully on board with the judicial coup.

Each of these organizations is deeply politicized and fully committed to undermining electoral democracy in Thailand.

Based on the meeting, deeply yellow unelected “Senator Khamnoon Sitthisamarn said the EC was unlikely to proceed with the planned July 20 election if it was unsure about the status and authority of acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisarn.” Hell, they haven’t wanted to run an election since former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament. Thailand’s Election Commission is the Commission for Preventing Elections.

Bending, breaking, trampling and sullying the law seems to be the stock in trade of this lounge of anti-democrats.


Dangerous Sombat

12 10 2010

PPT has intimated before that political crackdowns under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime tend to be associated with an outpouring of seemingly coordinated hyper-ventilating from security forces, the government’s acting spokesman, CRES, palace associates and a bunch of angry pink/yellow royalists. That point seems to have been reached again. It remains to be seen if their is an escape valve for all this anger and fear.

Prachatai has a report that relates to the fear and anger of yellow shirts associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Their report is about “Khamnoon Sitthisaman, appointed senator and Sondhi Limthongkul’s right-hand man” who has vigorously attacked Sombat Boonngamanong’s symbolic and peaceful protest activities, saying they “are more dangerous than violent campaigns, as they cannot be handled by the law.”

The dangerous Sombat at Rajaprasong

Ominously, Khamnoon draws a (false) comparison with the period of communist insurgency, but claims the red shirts are more threatening. But he makes the excellent point that the “March-April 2010 [red shirt] rallies seem to be a defeat, but only in the form of large public gatherings.  In contrast, illegal, underground, decentralized and guerrilla-like campaigns have pervaded.  Khamnoon believes that even if Thaksin Shinawatra wanted to order a halt, he couldn’t because he wouldn’t know who to give the order to.  It is not really an exaggeration to say that a certain number of red shirts have already gone beyond Thaksin…”

Of all red shirt activities, Sombat’s are said to be the most dangerous:  “Sombat’s campaigns cannot be prosecuted under any laws, whether the lèse majesté Section 112 or anything else.” Other yellow shirts agree and they want the government to do something.The New Politics Party has urged Abhisit “to be strong and to tighten his grip on power in dealing more firmly with problems, particularly the anti-monarchy movement.”

This is how authoritarianism is embedded.

Closed Senate discussion of lesé majesté

27 03 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajive has expressed coninuing concern regarding lesé majesté, particularly when it emanates from the internet and overseas. The Bangkok Post (27 March 2009: “PM concerned about lese majeste webs”) reports that Abhisit stated his anxieties following a closed session discussion in the Senate, adding that the government needed to be careful when enforcing the law.

According to the newspaper, Senators Anothai Ritthipanyawong and Khamnoon Sitthisamarn, both appointed senators and among the senators who bailed PAD leaders in 2008, asked Abhisit “about his reaction to left-wing academic Giles Ungpakorn’s recent statements in England. The senators suspected the academic’s views amounting to lese majeste.” In response, Abhisit sought the closed-door session, claiming that the topic was highly sensitive. After the closed-door meeting that lasted over an hour, a source said Mr Abhisit admitted his government was concerned about lese majeste, especially that which involved comments posted on overseas websites.

Citing an unnamed source, the Bangkok Post reported the prime minister as having “stressed legal action that was too public could allow ill-intentioned parties to increase their activities. Law enforcement alone is not a solution…” . According to the same source, “Abhisit pointed out that critics who expressed their academic views had to be separated from those who had ill intentions towards the monarchy.”

This view is to be welcomed, if it turns out to be more accurate than some of Abhisit’s earlier claims, but also raises questions: is it only elite-level discussions of the monarchy and lesé majesté that will be allowed?

Does this mean that political opponents can be easily targeted? A later quote attributed to Abhisit suggests that the political use of lesé majesté could be reinforced: “Especially among internet users, people who express opinions honestly must not be forced to join the movements of those with ill intentions”.

Apparently, Abhisit also wanted the government to seek co-operation “from the internet community rather than making arrests,” recognising that “freedom of communication on the internet and that webmasters cannot screen out improper content around the clock.” That too might be welcomed, but serious questions need to be raised about “encouraging” self-censorship.

In an updated report, the Bangkok Post (28 March 2009: “PM: Web lese majeste a worry”) adds that in the Senate session , Abhisit “was asked to find a way to help defend privy councillors from accusations because they were not in a position to defend themselves in public. He promised to consider the request.”

It is unclear to PPT why Privy Council members are considered defence-less when they have been regularly quoted in the press. However, it may be recalled that during the period of junta-backed government, there was a call to apply the lesé majesté law to privy councilors.

Abhisit again confirmed that his government did not plan to amend the lesé majesté law.

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