Notes on the news

20 02 2014

PPT is again having trouble keeping up with the flood of stories – bizarre and serious – that deserve attention at present. Here’s a brief set of notes:

Army hide-and-seek: Both Khaosod and Bangkok Post report on the military refusing/delaying handing over soldiers accused of involvement in organizing the assassination attempt on red shirt activist Kwanchai Praiphana. At Khaosod it is reported that the “military has not yet handed to the police four suspects…”. All are said to be from the 9th Infantry Division.

The Army had previously promised to deliver the suspects but this hasn’t happened. (Yes, it is the case that the military is treated differently from regular citizens in legal cases owing to their control of government for many years.) It seems the military are refusing to answer the phone. Worse, they are withholding evidence: “the 9th Infantry Division, … in Kanchanaburi Province, has also withheld two pick-up trucks thought to be used by the four suspects during their assassination attempt…”.

The Bangkok Post has it this way: “The army yesterday abruptly cancelled the handover to police of four soldiers allegedly involved…”. The Post says that the Army accuses the “police of allegedly breaking a handover condition and cited this as the reason for the cancellation.” Here’s the reason: “The suspects had travelled to Khon Kaen, along with the staff judge advocates and military court prosecutors, expecting to be handed over to police. Before they reached the police training centre they were informed that witnesses would be questioned while they were being interrogated, said Maj Gen Pairoj. This had not been part of the agreement, he said.”

Eventually, the suspects were delivered, and then released on bail….

Who us (Army)? No, couldn’t be. Then who?: At the Bangkok Post, a “top army officer [Maj Gen Varah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st Division (King's Guard),] has denied speculation that troops shot at police during Tuesday’s clash between authorities and anti-government protesters.” Why would he need to do this? Because some on social media “questioned whether unidentified men who used deadly weapons during the melee were military officers.” For PPT, what we have heard is questions regarding the shooters – who are now pretty well-known and identified – is a question about whether they are serving or or were previously serving, soldiers. As Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously said that these shooters appear to be well-trained and claimed he has no idea who they are, the social media question seems reasonable.Shooter 10

Meanwhile, the reprehensible Tharit Pengdit of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has also said that the shooters were “unidentified armed elements” with “high-explosive hand grenades, M79 grenades, high-velocity sniper rifles and handguns.  We doubt they are “unidentified given the photographs available of them.  We have more to say on Tharit below.

Courts again support anti-democrats: The Bangkok Post reports that the “Civil Court ruled yesterday the caretaker government has the authority to enforce the emergency decree, but issued a set of orders chiefly to prohibit dispersal of the anti-government protesters.” In essence, the court upheld the decree but rejected the measures needed to enforce it. Pondering the 2010 red shirt demonstrations, this action would have been unthinkable. So why the double standards? Simple: “It cited an earlier ruling by the Constitution Court that the PDRC rally is peaceful and without weapons.” Right…. The guys with guns and grenades actually are “unarmed”….  And the court was frank about its decision: “The court said its order was to protect the protesters’ right to hold peaceful demonstrations, citing massive mobilisation of security forces into Bangkok to break up the protest.” Funny, we don’t recall that logic being applied in 2010? Or have we neglected the courts providing “protection” to red shirts? It matter not that this is legal horse manure, for the Constitutional Court has ruled!

Anti-election commissioner: At the Bangkok Post it is reported that Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who has led the EC’s charge against elections, stalling, fibbing, dragging feet etc. etc.,  says that by defending the government’s rice policy and trying to stem a political run on a state bank, “Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s televised address … risks breaking the law.” It is stated that a message posted on Somchai’s Facebook page – yes, it is okay for an election commissioner to post his views there it seems – where he said “the premier’s use of the media to woo voters conflicts with Section 60 of the organic law on elections and the EC’s announcement on the poll campaign. Ms Yingluck also promised to give farmers something, and this breaches Section 53 of the organic law on elections, he said. The premier, meanwhile, used state resources to seek votes, which goes against Section 181(4) of the constitution. She also failed to behave neutrally, which violates Section 57 of the organic law on the election.” It seems that in politics, Somchai is of the view that a caretaker government can do nothing at all, whereas the opposition is free to campaign as they please, including on the streets. More of those old blue double standards!

Meanwhile, Somchai is busy suing others for allegedly defaming him!

Abhisit VejjajivaAbhisit in la-la land: Also at the Bangkok Post, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has an op-ed and there is also a story about his call for a political path forward. He uses pretty political language to dress up his party as well-educated proponents of political compromise. The problem for PPT is that Abhisit seems to think that every one in the world interested in Thailand’s politics is either an anti-democrat or suffers memory loss.

Some seem to think it is a kind of breakthrough that Abhisit says “As the leader of the Democrat Party, I must share the blame for the failed politics…”. Of course he does. His party rejected elections after calling for them, trashed parliament, supported political extremists, engaged in serious hate speech and decided to lead street demonstrations because it can’t win an election. Abhisit has also destroyed the moderate wing of the Democrat Party and allowed it to be controlled by extremists. In addition, Abhisit was prepared to accept a military coup, make deals to grab the premier’s position and then participated in decisions that saw red shirt demonstrators shot down, more or less in cold blood. Yes, Abhisit has more than his fair share of blame for the current problems.

It is clear that he is in both denial and spin modes when he states: “We must all demand progress in bringing to account the perpetrators of over 30 incidents of violence against protesters and opposition leaders in the past few months.” The guy has to be given a negative credit for his complete rejection of his own violent responses to demonstrators and the failure to condemn violence by his own people; indeed, the Democrat Party’s own Blue Sky channel lauds the protester’s violence.

And the elitist Abhisit has also found farmers to be political tools when he finally manages to see them not as ignorant buffaloes but as tools for attacking his opponents.

Perhaps the least surprising element of his political diatribe is the call for “someone credible and accepted by all sides can lead the reform process and manage the short transition to new elections in which everyone participates. That someone is clearly not the current government, the protest leaders nor the Democrat Party…”. That call is the one emanating from the senior royalists and Abhisit must do what he is told.

Is it Dhamma or Army?: Chamlong Srimuang’s religious beliefs have long been soaked in politics and blood. From his time as a mercenary to 1976, 1992, and all the events since 2005, Chamlong has mobilized the so-called Dhamma Army, which nowadays appears to be bereft of dhamma and to act as a political gang. They were at the center of clashes with the police on Tuesday and they remain united under Chamlong as their commander. Other extremists populate the Dhamma Army contingent and encourage violence. As the Bangkok Post explains, “Police were attacked with grenades and gunfire but they also fired live rounds at protesters.”

And The Eel: We noted above that we’d get back to Tharit. This is reported in The Nation: “Tarit insisted that the police who carried out the operation were not armed.” As he did during the red shirt demonstrations when he was against them, he’s lying. It is clear from many reports, videos and photographs, police were armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. To claim otherwise is stupid. In another source, he states: “crowd control police were backed up by an armed unit, to protect them if they were in danger. However, the backup unit did not fire a shot on Tuesday, just displayed their weapons in a tactic to subdue the other side…”. Again, we think this is lunacy. The picture evidence is that police did fire shots. What is unclear is whether these were all live rounds or rubber bullets. With “allies” like this, enemies are almost unnecessary.





Assassination threat

12 04 2012

Earlier today PPT posted on an op-ed by academic W. Scott Thompson, who appears to have spoken with several members of the royalist elite in Thailand. In that op-ed, Thompson stated:

Of course, it would be convenient were he [Thaksin Shinawatra] to disappear from the scene, and there are some who hope they can accomplish just that. It’s wishful thinking; he’s well-guarded and not stupid.

PPT stated that we could only wonder who he’s been talking with. Yet more assassination plots against Thaksin? Who might be thinking this way?

Interestingly, the talk of assassination of Thaksin has now escalated. The Nation reports that Thaksin’s visit to Laos has seen increased security “amid rumour of assassination bid.”

Red-shirt leader Kwanchai Praiphana refers to “rumours of an assassination threat may have worried the Laotian government so they provided special security measures…”.

 





Updated: Wichian Kaokham responds on lese majeste

18 04 2011

The Isaan Record has an interview with Wichian Kaokham, one of the red shirts accused of lese majeste in the latest, Army-driven, set of cases that use lese majeste as a political weapon against the opposition.

The report explains that the term that appears to have been used against Wichian, a Pueau Thai Party member of parliament, in the recent lese majeste case was first used in parliament last month. The phrase he used was: “Why the hell are you shouting for your father?” [โห่หาพ่อมึงเหรอ]. He used this when Democrat Party members were heckling him. The Isaan Record says this term “amounts to a commonplace, moderately offensive ‘Shut up’.”

Apparently, the term caught the imagination of many red shirts and they chanted it back to him when he was on stage at the red shirt rally on 10 April. The Isaan Record says: “Two days later, on April 12, Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha charged Mr. Wichian with lèse-majesté.”

Wichian claims to be unconcerned by the lese majeste charge: “I didn’t say anything against the royal family. What I said is the phrase from [the debate]…. I just repeated it without any innuendo.” He says the innuendo comes from his political enemies, adding: “I’ve been charged because members of the military along with [Privy Council President] Prem want to destroy me and Pheu Thai. They want the Democrat … [Party] to win the election.”

Royalist's scattered marbles

That seems a pretty reasonable summary of events of the past two weeks.

Update: The Nation lists the 18 red shirts being investigated for lese majeste and sedition. PPT thinks the royalist elite has lost its marbles. The 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Khaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Incredibly, many of these red shirts now look like facing charges of terrorism, lese majeste and sedition.





Further updated: Lese majeste repression and provocation increased

15 04 2011

This post is really a part of a series of posts we have had. They are, in reverse order:

MCOT News adds to our list of reports that show the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s political use of lese majeste as a tool of repression and as an election gimmick. Thailand’s political police, known as the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has said that:

at least 18 leaders of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) made inappropriate remarks about the monarchy at their recent Red Shirt rally.

DSI Director-General Tharit Pengdit said after screening video clips, still pictures and speeches made by the leaders during the rally in the capital on April 10, it was found that at least 18 were allegedly made remarks which were deemed insulting to the revered monarch as well as instigating people to violate law.

Tharit also said he would submit requests to revoke the earlier bail granted to nine UDD core leaders. They are: Nattawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praiphana, Yoswasris Chuklom (Jeng Dokchik), Nisit Sinthuprai, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong and Jatuporn Promphan.

PPT suspects that the political backers of the government are either trying to provoke red shirt violence before an election and/or to prevent and election and/or seeking to remove red shirt leaders from the political arena in order to silence them. Whatever is the case, the regime should be condemned for its blatant authoritarianism and political manipulation that some of the world’s worst dictators would be proud of.

Update 1: A reader rightly points out that one of the reasons the Abhisit government feels it can use lese majeste with impunity is because foreign governments themselves are reluctant to criticize the position of the monarchy in Thailand and the political use of lese majeste. The reader says that the recent U.S. State Department human rights report falls neatly into this category. It fails to make a strong and explicit link between lese majeste and political prisoners. PPT thinks the reader is absolutely correct and might have added Amnesty International to the list. Indeed, it seems AI and the U.S. State Department read from the same game plan.

Update 2: The Nation reports on the above and includes a comment from the Puea Thai Party where it claims Army spokesman “Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd had smeared Pheu Thai when he accused an unnamed political party of being behind the red shirts in their moves to insult the monarchy.” Puea Thai said:  “Political parties are loyal to the monarchy. The Army should not mix the job of running the country with loyalty to the monarchy. That is improper. Pheu Thai has many [retired] senior bureaucrats and armed forces commanders. They agree that some of their junior colleagues in the Army are overacting and claiming they are the only group with loyalty to the monarchy…”.





The Army’s election campaign: Vote monarchy!

13 04 2011

It seems PPT’s earlier post on lese majeste charges against red shirt leaders has underplayed the extent of Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha’s efforts to “protect” the monarchy by using the lese majeste law against political opponents.It is far worse and far more sinister than our post indicated.

If The Nation report is to be believed, Prayuth has gone nuclear on the monarchy. He is now actively campaigning in an election period for the monarchy. In essence, for the royalists in the Phum Jai Thai Party and the Democrat Party.

Prayuth wants a high voter in an election as he thinks a high “turnout is the key to safeguarding the monarchy and bringing about change under a democracy…”.

Getting the number of eligible voters wrong by quite a way, he says: “”I believe if all 60 million [eligible] Thai citizens come out to cast their votes, they can change the country…”. He seems to mean changing Thailand to be a Thai-style democracy where the monarchy rukes.

Prayuth thinks that an election “could end the political turmoil that had gripped the Kingdom.” He seems to mean that if the Democrat Party wins, it can finally claim electoral democracy. And as the party of the royalist elite, the “people” would effectively be safeguarding “the country’s revered institution by weeding out ill-intentioned politicians…”. He means any politician who are in the opposition, associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts.

Commenting on offensive remarks about the monarchy, Prayuth “said he saw no justification for certain individuals to try and fault the King, adding that politicians should not allow their political rivalry to spiral out of control and tarnish the monarchy.”

He continued, “urging voters to punish the instigators of last year’s riots through the ballot box.” He added: “Everyone knows the culprits behind the lost lives and the injuries incurred…”. PPT is sure he doesn’t mean the military! He means those who are in the opposition, associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts.

Although the instigators tried to attribute the blame to anti-riot forces, the crowd-control measures had been activated as a last resort and in a defensive manner due to the provocation, the Army head said. Prayuth then got really nasty, when he “pointed out that troops and protesters suffered high casualties while the rally organisers themselves had come out unscathed.” Perhaps he forgets that most casualties were to those wearing red shirts. Or perhaps he remembers and is simply a liar or perhaps he doesn’t care.

The Nation says this is “a veiled attack on red-shirt leaders.” It isn’t. It is a direct threat and the army chief is up to his thick neck in political campaigning for the current regime. Nothin g much else could be expected from the army chief. What is really very sinister is that this political figure who happens to be army chief has the temerity to criticize “red-shirt leaders for trying to link the military to politics in a bid to sway the crowds.”

Related, the political police at the Department of Special Investigation have “launched an investigation into 10 red-shirt leaders, including Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan, on suspicion of their having offended the monarchy during the April 10 rally last year at Democracy Monument.” Do they mean this year?

DSI director-general Tharit Phengdit revealed yesterday that his team of investigators was preparing to charge Jatuporn and rally organisers for lese majeste, as evidenced by their recorded rally speeches.

Tharit said Jatuporn Promphan “had contacted him via telephone to inquire about surrendering to face a lese majeste charge. Other red-shirt leaders likely to face the same charge include Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Praiphana and Laddawan Wongsriwong.

The Army chief has already filed a police complaint against Jatuporn, Suporn and Wichian Khaokham forlese majeste.

So is that 13 accusations of lese majeste in 2 days? Maybe the U.S. State Department can review its so-called human rights report now that the political intent of the use of lese majeste is so clear that a blind monkey could see it.





Further updated: DSI boringly predictable

16 03 2011

The Nation reports that the “Department of Special Investigation will submit a request to the Criminal Court to revoke the bail of seven red-shirt leaders after they allegedly violated their bail conditions at a rally on Saturday, the DSI said yesterday.” Why? Because the seven are said to have made “statements on stage calling for unrest or provocative acts that could lead to violation of the law…”.

The DSI boss Tharit Pengdit claims, for the umpteenth time, that these red shirts should be locked up yet again.

The DSI is entirely predictable; boringly so.

Update 1 : MCOT reports that DSI chief Tharit has now “petitioned the Criminal Court to revoke bail for the seven Red Shirt leaders on grounds that they broke the conditions set by the court when they joined the rally on March 12.”

Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praipana, Yoswaris Chuklom also known as Jeng Dokchik, Nisit Sinthuprai and Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai were bailed recently and “forbidden from leaving Thailand without court permission and join any political gathering to incite chaos.” Tharit claims the “seven UDD leaders had joined the demonstration on March 12 at Democracy Monument and were breaking the law by joining the demonstration that blocked traffic lanes, causing inconvenience to motorists, schoolchildren and the general public.” He says they also “violated the court’s conditions by being on stage and addressing the Red Shirt supporters using words to incite unrest, encouraging the public to commit crimes and disparaging Thailand’s legal procedures and insulting government officials…”.

Tharit  wants their bail withdrawn and the court is considering whether to accept the DSI petition.

Update 2: Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Wednesday dismissed a Department of Special Investigation (DSI) petition for the cancellation of bail granted to seven United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders, reasoning that the request should be instead submitted by the prosecution.” Tharit said he would submit the petition through special cases prosecutors, adding: “I am not disappointed.  I don’t think it’s a loss of face.  I am only performing my duty.  No matter through which channel, we have confidence in our evidence…”.





Red shirt leaders bailed

22 02 2011

In line with the recent post at PPT regarding the bail application by the jailed red shirt leaders, both the Bangkok Post and The Nation report that their applications were successful.

The Post states that the Criminal Court allowed bail for seven United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders on charges of “terrorism” and their lawyer was seeking additional action on charges against 4 of them and another red dhirt:

Lawyer Winyat Chartmontri said one of the applications was for the release of Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakarn and Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai who are defendants in a case in which they are accused of leading red-shirt protesters to lay siege to the residence of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda in 2007.

The other is for the release of Yossawaris Chuklom, or Jeng Dokchik, accused of lese majeste and firearms theft.

The court was considering the additional requests.

The Nation adds that: “Each, except Yoswarit, put between Bt600,000 to Bt800,000 as guarantee for the temporary release. The bail approval followed the Monday’s hearing. Yoswarit needed to put Bt1.6 million as a guarantee because he is also facing a lese majesty charge.”

Unfortunately, this release on bail, 10 months after their arrest, comes in the midst of double standards on yellow shirts charged with similar crimes, a deepening lese majeste-based repression and leave more than 100 other red shirts still in jail.

On the yellow shirts, as is the pattern, their leadership showed up at a police station to acknowledge charges against them related to the Internal Security Act, and walked out to a press conference vowing to bring legal cases against those who charged them.





Updated: Red shirt leaders again seek bail

21 02 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that the red shirt leaders, jailed for 10 months, are again seeking bail:

UDD lawyers inititially submitted a bail request for seven UDD leaders – Weng Tojirakarn, Korkaew Pikulthong, Natthawut Saikua, Wiphuthalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Yossawaris Chuklom or Jeng Dokchik, Kwanchai Praipana and Nisit Sinthuprai.

Sophon Thitithampruek, the Bangkok Remand Prison commander, later asked the court to free on bail another UDD terrorist suspect, Phumkitti Sukchindathong, citing his poor health.

This brought the number of suspects seeking bail to eight.

Picture from The Nation

Lawyers and supporters believe that this request may well be upheld. Not least because:

In the afternoon session, the court heard testimony from Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart and Kanit Na Nakorn, chairman of the government-appointed Truth for Reconciliation Committee.

Maj-Gen Sanan said he went to see the UDD suspects at the prison on one occasion in an attempt to promote reconciliation and found them cooperative.

Mr Kanit said if the eight were released on bail he believed they would not pose a problem to the government’s reconciliation plan, adding that he had long called for the release of UDD core members in detention.

Update: There’s more on this story at MCOT News.





Jailed red shirt leaders refused bail

4 01 2011

MCOT News reports that the “Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed bail requests for seven key Red Shirt leaders and allies who have been detained for more than six months on terrorism-related charges…”.

Acting chairperson of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn and UDD lawyers appeared at the court to submit bail documents for the seven detainees: Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praiphana, Yoswaris Chuklom aka Jeng Dokchik, Nisit Sinthuprai and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai.

It is reported that Thida “had prepared Bt3 million (US$100,000) bail bond for each detainee, altogether Bt21 million…”. The case made was that “as the state of emergency was lifted in Bangkok and two adjacent provinces, while the national reconciliation process is underway, the bail granting for the seven Red Shirts will provide an opportunity for all parties to enter the reconciliation process. The seven detainees also pledged in their documents that they would neither obstruct the national reconciliation process nor threaten national security and would not attempt to escape once they were released.”

Apparently the documents included “recommendation papers on the temporary release of the detained leaders from the independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand and the Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department.”

The court dismissed the requests, “saying there were no grounds to overturn the previous decision of the Appeals Court which refused to grant bail for fear of their possible flight due to the severe charges which carry a heavy penalty.”It is added that: “Most Red Shirt leaders, charged with terrorism, were denied bail as the court expressed concern regarding their possible flight. Only former UDD chair Veera Musikapong was released on Bt6 million bail with condition that he was barred from joining any political gatherings, being interviewed and travelling outside Bangkok.”

An appeal is expected.





Red shirt leaders face lese majeste and terrorism charges

21 05 2010

The Bangkok Post (21 May 2010) reports that the 5 red shirt leaders detained at the Naresuan military camp in Phetburi province – not a police prison, of course – face charges that carry the death penalty.

Deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Amnuay Nimmano said “that some of the charges are terrorism and lese majeste.” Terrosim charges can result ina  death penalty and lese majeste charges can lead to up to 15 years in prison. The police commander reported that the leaders were confined to “the same room because of the limited space.” The named leaders in custody are: Natthawut Saikua, Jatuporn Prompan and Kwanchai Praipana.

It was also revealed that some 40 protesters “who refused to leave the Ratchaprasong rally site as demanded by the authorities were also detained at the camp…”.

Just the beginning perhaps.








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