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.”
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.
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 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.