Fear and repression

10 08 2017

Part of the fear that consumes the military junta is self-created by its fear of the Shinawatra clan. Seeking to punish Yingluck as a way of also damaging Thaksin’s popularity and wealth has come to be viewed as vindictive. Clearly, the fear that has developed over the pending verdict means the military dictatorship has doubled-down on repression.

The police bullying of van drivers for transporting Yingluck supporters is one petty example of this deep fear of responses to the outcome of the trial.

The concocted treason/sedition charges against two Puea Thai Party politicians and a critical journalist are another example. And, we can’t help feeling that the enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is related to the junta’s efforts to shut down criticism and opposition before the Yingluck verdict.

Likewise, it is no repressive coincidence that the junta puppets at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has banned the red shirt Peace TV for a month.

The military regime has now declared that it “will not lift its restrictions on political activities any time soon owing to the unstable state of Thai politics and the number of pending lawsuits against politicians…”.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan “explained” that only he and The Dictator can decide on when Thais can participate in political activities (unless they are a junta political ally). He paternalistic statement was: “Wait until I feel happy [with the situation] and I will see to it the restrictions are lifted…”. He cited a “number of important legal cases that are passing through the justice system which could have a destabilising impact on society and politics.”

He went on to warn that “security” would be tightened for Yingluck’s next court appearance.

It is as if the junta knows the court’s decision and is seeking to prevent any response by Yingluck supporters.





Ko Tee dead?

8 08 2017

Following reports of Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s enforced disappearance in Laos there has been little information available. However, reports in the media and on social media make two points that are at odds with each other.

The military dictatorship states that it has heard nothing from Lao authorities to confirm anything about the case. That’s according to General Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council. Then Thawip said “he personally believes that Wutthipong is still in hiding.” In fact, such claims by the authorities are common following enforced disappearances.

The diverging social media account is that Ko Tee is dead: “Photos purportedly of Wutthipong’s body have gone viral on social media.”

It is incumbent on the Lao government to investigate the matter, but it is doubtful that the secretive regime there will make any statement.





Incessant double standards

7 08 2017

In his weekly column at the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson looks at the double standards that define the military dictatorship’s (in)justice system.

In it, he mentions national deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week that “he has their transport dead to rights. He captured 21 taxi and van drivers who drove the fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.” He suggests this action was vindictive and petty.

He turns to lese majeste:

On Thursday, the first witness hearing was held in the case of The Regime vs Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, aka Pai Dao Din. The prosecutors call him “that man who liked a Facebook post”.

Which he did, of course. He fully admits it and it’s there on the BBCThai.com website if you need prove it. The “like” was for a biographical news report. It’s a report on which 3,000 other people in Thailand clicked like — but aren’t being prosecuted for lese majeste and computer crime with 30 years of free room and board at state expense in the balance.

As others have, he compares this with the situation of hugely wealthy and influential Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya:

That’s a double standard [Pai’s case]. But the pursuit and persecu… we always get that word wrong, the prosecution of Pai is in stark, massive contrast to the case of a playboy and bon vivant from a family with 10 dollar billionaires. The chase doesn’t even rise to the description of trivial pursuit.

In just a few more days, the rich guy’s case expires. Cop dead, run over and his body dragged along the road by the expensive car, but never mind, attack rural students for being a political activist.

Dawson could have gone on and on.

What of those accused of lese majeste and sentenced for “crimes” against royal personages not covered by the law? Then there are the political activists picked off by junta using lese majeste charges.

Then there are those sent to jail, like Jatuporn Promphan, for defamation of leading anti-democrats, while anti-democrats defaming their opponents remain free. Then there are those who are slapped with sedition charges for pointing out some of junta’s failures (of which there are many).

What of those identified as opponents who are prevented from meeting when “allies” like the members and leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy can. And we hardly need to mention the jailing of red shirts for all manner of “crimes” while PAD leaders walk free.

And then there are the double standards when it comes to corruption. The junta is considered squeaky clean, always. “Evil politicians” are always considered corrupt.

Finally, for this post, there is impunity, which is the grossest of double standards. Who stole the 1932 plaque? No investigations permitted. Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder has disappeared into official silence, so that usually means impunity via cover-up by simply ignoring it as a case against soldiers. The enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is unlikely to be mentioned much at all as the military junta quietly congratulates itself on a “job” well done. It seems a bit like the murder of Kattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng by a sniper in 2010.

Not only is the junta operating with double standards, its sanctions the murder of its opponents. Meanwhile, the justice system in Thailand is broken.





HRW on Ko Tee’s “disappearance”

2 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s apparent forced abduction.

While the military dictatorship in Bangkok continuing its Sgt. Schultz “explanation,” HRW has called on the “Lao authorities … [to] urgently investigate the abduction of an exiled Thai activist … Ko Tee…. Eyewitnesses stated that a group of unknown armed assailants abducted him in Vientiane on July 29, 2017, raising grave concerns for his safety.”

Providing more details, HRW’s account is that:

On July 29, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene. According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai. The incident was reported to Lao authorities in Vientiane.

It calls on the Lao authorities:

The Lao government needs to move quickly to ascertain the facts and publicly report their findings, including an assessment of Wuthipong’s whereabouts and who might be responsible for this crime that was so boldly carried out in its own capital city.

Lao authorities should mount a serious effort to find Wuthipong if he is still in Laos, and take immediate steps to prosecute any persons in Laos who were involved in this abduction.

It remains unclear who abducted Ko Tee.

We can guess that the military dictatorship in Bangkok would be involved in some way. We also know that enforced disappearance is not unknown in Laos. We also know that the Thai military regime has allowed other security forces – in several cases from China – to abduct dissidents from Thailand. We might also consider this action as a typical action of Thailand’s dictatorship, seeking to silence critics by attacking one as a special example.





Further updated: Ko Tee disappeared?

31 07 2017

Social media lit up this afternoon with speculation that Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul has been “disappeared.”

Over months and years, the military junta has been hunting Ko Tee, alleging lese majeste, anti-monarchy plots and more, while Ko Tee has poked back, angering the short-tempered royalist generals who are Thailand’s dictators.

The speculation is that the military dictatorship has sent teams of assassins to hunt him down.

Update 1: Khaosod reports that:

Word that Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kochathmmakun had been abducted began spreading early Monday morning by another exile, Los Angeles-based journalist Jom Petchpradab. Jom wrote that Ko Tee was abducted by 10 armed Thai men in all black and wearing hoods Saturday night in Laos and likely taken back into Thailand.

Jom’s report remains unverified, but if this is an enforced disappearance, then there will be silence. Khaosod continues:

Jom said his account was based on that of two men who were with Ko Tee at the time but either were not taken or managed to get free.

He quoted the two unidentified friends, who claimed their heads were covered with cloth while another piece of cloth was stuffed into the mouths of all three as they were dragged into a residence.

“Those who arrested us spoke Thai,” Jom wrote, quoting the men. “They used an electric shock device and applied it to our necks. Each of us was then assaulted and threatened to not make any noise, not to cry out. At the same time, [the source] said he heard Ko Tee say, ‘Ouch. Can’t breath,’ and then Ko Tee went quiet.”

Jom also posted photos of what were described as the cloth and plastic wrist restraints used in the abduction.

A fellow activist, Nithiwat Wannasiri, “said he was unsure whether Ko Tee had been abducted but said no one has been able to contact him since Saturday.”

The story then refers to the earlier disappearance of another activist:

[Nithiwat] … added that he wouldn’t be surprised because a lesser-known dissident, Ittipon Sukpaen, aka DJ Sunho, disappeared from Laos in June 2016, and no one has seen him since.

“I believe Sunho is dead. I can’t conclude if Ko Tee has been forced to disappear, however,” Nithiwat said from Laos.

An attorney representing Ittipon’s family said in July 2016 they also believed he was dead.

It appears that there was a warning from Lao authorities:

A member of the Thai dissident community living in Laos said they were warned by Laotian authorities last week that they were “being hunted down” by those from the other side of the border, a reference to Thai authorities. Many temporarily moved to safer locations, the source said, requesting anonymity for fear of his safety.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has reported on this, in somewhat odd terms. In a photo insert quoting Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan using the usual Sgt Schultz line, the report states that the “rumor” is that Ko Tee was “rounded up by troops while hiding in Laos.” We assume the report means Thai troops operating either clandestinely in Laos or with the connivance of the government there. It adds that the military dictatorship has been keen to have Ko Tee silenced, to “prevent his group criticising the Thai regime via community radio stations based in Laos.”





Further updated: Bombs, “elections” and anti-democrats

27 05 2017

No diehard anti-democrat wants the military junta to hold an “election,” even one that is fixed in a way that allows the military to continue to control politics for years to come.

At the Bangkok Post, Surasak Glahan admits to being

mystified by [anti-democrat] Suthep Thaugsuban’s plea last week for Prime Minister and NCPO [junta] head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the top job for five more years without the need for elections. He must have drunk himself in oblivion, I thought, as critics and even some supporters of the regime started to voice their rebukes over its failure to deliver in key areas, from the economy to so-called national reform, security to happiness-making, as the NCPO marked its third anniversary on Monday.

But then, when trying to wear the hat of either the military or one of its No.1 cheerleaders like Mr Suthep, who led street protests in 2013-2014 that gave the pretext for the coup, I began to realise that the NCPO has delivered numerous achievements.

He goes on to list these “achievements”:

… there has been drastic political reform. A new constitution was drafted by accidental hero jurists, appointed by the military, and smoothly passed in the [rigged] referendum last year.

The new charter will entrench the military power for at least five more years, allowing it to select 250 senators who will be much more powerful than their predecessors.

Decentralisation has been compromised. Elections of local administrators have been frozen.

The charter and several NCPO orders have lurched Thailand backward into a political system applied four decades ago…. If you are nostalgic about the past, now it is your chance to live it.

… military-appointed lawmakers … know best what needs to be drafted to govern the ways we live without having to consult us or seek the nod from our representatives. Notably, they have invented and revised laws to save us from cyber crimes and other security threats. We just have to sacrifice our privacy and risk being branded as criminals.

The most outstanding … victory was its ability to successfully remove all the hurdles put up against the 36-billion-baht submarine procurement plans by previous elected governments.

The list is long and I have to stop here before feeling suffocated.

You get the picture. More and more military rule and political repression.

The prospect of the military staying in power for years also means that military factionalism is assured. Military factionalism is probably linked to recent bombings.

Yet the military is blaming others. So are the anti-democrats who see the bombing as an opportunity to extend military rule. For the military and the anti-democrats, as allied groups, the “natural” enemy is anyone considered Thaksin Shinawatra-related.

So Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul is named. Naturally enough, he denies it and he “condemned those who were involved in the hospital explosion.” He adds that he “would have bombed Government House, not a hospital…”. His view is that the culprits are in the military.

That said, Ko Tee sought another opportunity to anger the bears in green, poking them with a claim that “he is mobilising resistance against the government.” He says these are “civilian warriors” training in the jungle. But, he says, his group is small and not yet ready to attack the “bandits [junta] out of the country…”.

**The other supposedly anti-regime “suspects” are a couple of former generals in their 70s and 80s, associated with Thaksin.

**Neither General Prayuth nor General Prawit Wongsuwan seem to have been particularly to be involved in cabinet discussions and considerations of the bombing. Indeed, that both have been away from Bangkok speaks louder than words.

Bombs might be about army factionalism yet the general interest of the anti-democrats and military is retained: no elections.

Update 1: We managed to garble a sentence or two and have rewritten and marked this with **.

Update 2: PPT was struck by a single line in an op-ed by Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey:

One has to consider who is the real beneficiary of these kinds of unrest. Is it the people who are looking forward to elections or is it the people who want to hold on to power?





Further updated: Junta in disarray

25 05 2017

If the information in a Bangkok Post story is to be believed, Thailand’s military dictatorship is in disarray. It may also be that its factions are coming apart. We certainly hope so, but acknowledge that the junta’s survival instincts have kept it together for three years.

The first signal of disarray is that the usually hopeless police are showing signs of even greater capacity for the inane than usual.

They claim to have “created a sketch of a person suspected of being involved in the Phramongkutklao Hospital blast…”. Yet they have not released it and cannot confirm when they might make it available even when they plan to use it to get an arrest warrant.

The police lamented that “the case is not easy to crack…”. These guys are dolts and worse.

A second signal is the claim that the military has detained a suspect. The police say they know nothing.

A third signal is that it seems that “security authorities [were] … tipped off about possible attacks. They did nothing even when three letters tipping them off were received. Maybe they are too busy seeking out lese majeste suspects to worry about bombs.

A fourth signal is that both The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator skipped town. General Prayuth Chan-ocha headed south and General Prawit Wongsuwan was in Europe for what authorities finally said was medical treatment. That’s after a cabinet meeting decided not to discuss the bombing.

Fifth, and most telling of splits, the detestable 1st Army commander Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong made big claims.

First, he declared he had “information that up to four ill-intentioned groups are behind the explosion at the army-owned hospital.” Second, he said “he also had information that the explosion was not carried out by foreigners, but was the work of Thai citizens.” Third, he boasted about his knowledge of the bombers: “We’ve got their names…”.

Who are “we”? Why is that Apirat’s “we” are not working through legal channels to arrest the “known” perpetrators?

We think he’s probably looking around to decide which political opponents to fit them up for the crime. But let’s go with Apirat’s own story: “I am waiting for the order from the deputy prime minister [Prawit Wongsuwan]. I am ready to take action against these groups immediately and mercilessly as soon as he gives me the orders…”.

Prawit…. There you have another clue to the disarray and factional competition.

Update 1: Meanwhile, The Dictator is dancing. We are left to wonder why he reckons the bombing is unimportant when Apirat wants to slit throats.

Update 2: Of further evidence of disarray, Prachatai reports that Army Gen Charlermchai Sitthisart claims exiled red shirt Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is a “suspect” in the hospital bombing. He then added:

Ko Tee is just one suspect…. I can’t answer anything because we suspect everyone and I can’t say things randomly until we have enough evidence to identify … A random guess will not benefit society.