Updated: National security debased (again)

6 05 2017

With all the repressive ridiculousness of the military dictatorship, it is easy to miss a report at the Bangkok Post regarding the never-ending campaign to capture and jail Wuthipong “Kotee” Kochathamakun.

National Security Council secretary-general General Thawip Netniyom has reportedly sent a third request to Laos for the arrest and deportation of Ko Tee. He has done this because “Lao authorities had not been responsive to previous requests…”.

With all of its important work protecting the country, now to be (eventually) supported by submarines, the National Security Council seems to rank the capture of a minor anti-monarchist at the top of its security agenda.

One of the reasons for this is that the yellow shirts clamor for him to be taken down. Another reason is that the new king apparently demands that his protection from words, photos, video and more is one of the highest concerns of national security.

General Thawip “described Mr Wuthipong as being a dangerous person because he had violated the lese majeste law and allegedly planned attacks on national leaders.” We do not dispute the first claim, but the second is buffalo manure. It is a wild claim concocted by the military dictatorship so that it could then concoct a claim for extradition from Laos.

Anyone seen any of the so-called terrorists arrested in the highly publicized operation fronting a court? It was almost two months ago.

The junta now claims it has “21 arrest warrants for a series of serious offences” out on Ko Tee.

It seems that the police, military, junta, NSC, cabinet and many other state agencies are now essentially devoted to nothing more than tracking down and concocting lese majeste, including entrapping and jailing curious citizens who, for example, are interested in the king’s bizarre fashion choices.

Update: A reader points out that Ko Tee has made threats of attacks in his podcasts. That’s not in dispute. The manure mentioned above is the concoction of an actual plot rather than an internet-based rant.

The Ko Tee “plot” and extradition

20 03 2017

In our last post on the military junta’s marvelous story about a mammoth plot to accumulate war weapons, assassinate The Dictator using a sniper rifle and cause a rebellion based on Wat Dhammakaya, we stated:

While Ko Tee [Wuthipong Kachathamakul] has denied the arms belonged to him, the cops admit he’s been on the run since early 2014…. “Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact … Cambodia … for Mr Wuthipong’s extradition, but had received no helpful reply.”

Now the police can claim that Ko Tee “allegedly played a leading role in gathering weapons to support the temple and as such must be considered a threat to national security…”. This “plot” will presumably help with gaining his extradition.

Bingo! The Bangkok Post reports that the junta “has vowed to seek the extradition of hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee, from Laos following the discovery of a huge cache of weapons by authorities in a house in Pathum Thani.” (Like everyone else, we thought he was in Cambodia.)

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “he wanted Mr Wuthipong brought to justice given the weapons were found in his home, adding officials will contact Laos authorities to seek Mr Wuthipong’s extradition.”

They really want him for lese majeste and seem prepared to go to extreme devices to get him.

In our earlier post we also stated:

The next step for the police will be to parade the “suspects” before the media where they will presumably admit their guilt and “confirm” the “plot.” They may even be made to re-enact some “crime.” That’s the pattern.

Bingo! The same Bangkok Post story quotes a senior policeman as stating; ” The nine arrested suspects were questioned by military officers and they confessed to keeping the weapons for a particular mission…”.

Now we await the parade of “suspects.”

As a footnote to this story, readers might recall earlier posts, beginning in early February, about a junta desire to extradite anti-monarchists from Laos. This morphed into an alleged “death threats” against The Dictator, which were then said to come from republicans, and which saw attempts to push the Lao government to extradite the alleged conspirators. This effort went on for some time.

Does it seem like too much of a coincidence that yet another plot has suddenly been “revealed”?

Still pressuring Laos

21 02 2017

The Nation reports that Army Chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart has declared that “Laos has agreed to consider Thailand’s proposal to help tackle Thai criminals including anti-monarchy dissidents in its territory.”

The royalist Army boss spent two days in Laos on an official visit meeting with “high ranking security officials there.”

Chalermchai seemed to feel that the most important thing from the meetings was that “he had expressed concerns over the moves against Thailand in Laos and asked the counterpart to help Thailand in the matter.”

Thailand’s junta seems remarkably paranoiac and apparently wants to lock up everyone who is critical of the monarchy.

Interestingly, the boss “said he did not discuss with his counterpart about extradition.” But he reckons the Lao authorities are “working on it…”.

It is clear that the anxious junta is putting a huge amount of pressure on its neighbor.

“Dangerous” people and cajoling Laos

1 02 2017

There have been several stories of late that report that the military junta is cajoling Laos into handing over a small number of allegedly anti-monarchist refugees.

In a recent account, the Bangkok Post claims that General Thawip Netniyom, the “head of the National Security Council, said Tuesday that the people being sought used social media to attack the monarchy.”

He affirmed that the Ministry of Defense “has assigned him to seek a meeting with Laotian officials and work out a deal, which could include the exchange of people sought by each country.”

We understand that net-ignorant General Prawit Wongsuwan has been pressing Laos for some time to get the dissidents silenced and to have them deported to Thailand. In November 2016, he claimed some success by working military channels in Laos.

The claimed success involved using the late king’s death for political gain. On his passing, the junta promptly asked Lao authorities to warn the Thai dissidents. It was claimed that the Lao authorities warned them “about risky activities and asked them to keep a low profile, at least during the grieving period.”

It is claimed that “[s]ome YouTube channels such as ‘Media Force’ disappeared…”. As far as we can tell, it is still operating. as are other channels including Faiyen.

In the most recent report Defence Minister and Deputy Dictator Prawit is cited as having spoken “with his Lao counterpart Lt Gen Chansamone Chayalath, who reportedly agreed to consider deporting the wanted Thai dissidents…”.

Among the earlier “negotiations” it was stated that:

Thailand and Laos signed an extradition treaty in 1999 but the pact cannot be enforced for the junta’s purposes due to the political nature of the lese-majeste offence. Laos is a socialist republic where insulting the monarchy is not a crime. The extradition treaty does not allow offenders to be sent home for political crime or crimes that are not listed by the contracting parties.

Has the Lao government changed its mind and its policy and law? Contradicting earlier reports, it is now stated by the Thai junta’s General Thawip that:

Although Thailand and Laos do not have an official agreement to extradite suspects, we can proceed in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation. If Laos wants a criminal who violated the law in Laos and is hiding in Thailand, they may ask Thai officials to make an arrest and send that person back….

Another minion, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Kongcheep Tantravich said the people it wants deported “are causing divisiveness to another country. They are smearing the government and smearing the institution, which is dangerous.”

Helpfully, the Post adds: “The monarchy is often described with respect as ‘the institution’.” In fact, it is not always said with respect.

Maj Gen Kongcheep claimed: “They are not suspects, they are dangerous people.”

He then indicated that the military junta is cajoling its neighbors: “This is more of an exchange of prisoners between one country and another…. They have some and we have some. We are exchanging information and we will see what we get out of it.”

Cajoling for a deal. That’s a bit like ensuring that one gets a commission is a corrupt deal. Its history suggests that the most dangerous people are the Thai military.

Seeking more political prisoners

7 11 2016

The military dictatorship insists it is still seeking lese majeste extraditions. According to a report at The Nation a few days ago, it seems that the junta is hoping that, like them, the governments of Laos and Cambodia will ignore their own laws:

Legally speaking, the extradition of lese majeste fugitives from Cambodia and Laos is impossible, since treaties signed by Thailand with its two immediate neighbours don’t allow it. But legal loopholes can be found in such cases.

In fact, they are not legal loopholes, but bringing political pressure on those governments.

The military dictatorship is seeking the extradition of “three of the suspects … in Cambodia and six … in Laos,”

Treaties with Cambodia and Laos “contain grounds for mandatory refusal of extraction if there is a political offence involved.”

As the report makes clear, “[l]ese majeste is a political crime by nature, since the law in question effectively prevents any debate on the Kingdom’s head of state, rendering them ‘untouchable’.”

It makes the excellent points that:

Thai governments and their supporters routinely abuse Article 112 by using it to gag political opponents. Exploiting the monarchy’s high status in society, authorities enforce the lese majeste as if the country were still ruled by an absolute monarchy.

The hopes that both countries can be convinced to use “loopholes” to deport the junta’s political opponents back to Thailand for certain jail terms of many years.

No free and unfettered access to forcibly deported Hmong

27 03 2010

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, whose chief mission is apparently playing hide and seek with Thaksin Shinawatra, got some diplomatic criticism on Thailand’s forced repatriation of Hmong to Laos (Bangkok Post, 26 March 2010).

Diplomats, said to include “the envoys of the EU, Switzerland, UK, the Netherlands, and Canada” told Kasit that they had “concerns about the fate of the 4,500 ethnic Hmong deported from Thailand to Laos last December.” They “called for free and unfettered access to the Hmong returnees.” EU ambassador David Lipman complained that “It is now March and we have not been granted free and unfettered access, especially to the 158 Lao Hmong from Nong Khai…. The Netherlands, the US, Canada and Australia have offered them resettlement…”.

Kasit who defended the repatriation back in December and claimed then that there were essentially no human rights issues or problems, said “he had spoken to Lao authorities about access, but would raise the matter again at the MRC meeting.” He scrambled about a bit and after the meeting with the diplomats, announced he’s “ask Vientiane to give ‘free and unfettered’ access to Lao Hmong repatriated from Thailand.”

A Lao government-sponsored and managed visit to some of the resettled Hmong “indicated that they wanted to leave Laos.”

These expressed concerns are unlikely to go very far with the Lao government. As for Kasit, he’s likely to get back to what he considers his most significant charge of guessing where Thaksin is and having his ministry and advisers release all kinds of contradictory information on that.



With 3 updates: Sufficiency economy and democracy at the UN

27 09 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s speech to the U.N. on 26 September 2009, received no international press coverage – PPT looked around and can only find a Xinhua report, but we are not sure if this is related to his speech. However, several newspapers in Thailand have reported the speech, even though there seems no transcript available at the PM’s Office website [Update: now available here]. There are stories at that site about the talk and other events, including the premier’s videolink to reporters assembled at Government House prior to the speech. The UN summary of Abhisit’s speech is available.

As should be clear from this, a speech at the U.N. carries more domestic political reasons. Perhaps this is why Abhisit led with a demonstration of his royalist credentials by trumpeting the king and sufficiency economy (SE). Based on the UN summary, Abhisit’s speech included more than this – climate change, ASEAN, Burma, financial crisis, global co-operation, Millennium Development Goals, international peace-keeping – but such weighty issues pale before the domestic significance of the  remarks on sufficiency economy and “Abhisit-style democracy.”

The Bangkok Post (27 September 2009: “PM promotes sufficiency economy”) leads with a story that focuses almost entirely on the statements made about the sufficiency economy idea noting Abhisit’s claim that the SE “concept is a key for global development which needs a balance between economic growth and sustainability…”. Apparently Abhisit “urged other countries to seriously take into account the policy championed by His Majesty the King to help prevent future crises,” and, in the U.N. summary claims that SE was already “being emulated in many parts of the world.”

PPT wonders where. We know that Tanzania tried some rain-making, and that failed dismally, but that isn’t SE being implemented. If any reader knows, please let us know. [Update: We found some also in Laos and, one reader tells us, Cambodia. The Lao project is essentially funded by Thailand as part of its small bilateral aide program. For some of the associated propaganda, see here. An earlier dam building project, proposed by the Thai king and supported by Sirindhorn, was rejected by a foreign donor as too damaging to the environment and to local people.]

Abhisit pleads that the king’s concept “should not be misinterpreted as an inward-looking approach.” Here he is responding to the negative press the SE concept received internationally when it was used by the military-appointed government, led by Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont, as a political device and as a nationalist call.

The UN version says that Abhisit claimed that “Excessive greed had caused the economic crisis,” and he said that “moderation” was the key to making  a country ” resilient and protected from both external and internal shocks.” The Post states that “Abhisit said the concept was not political rhetoric and its success could be seen through several royal projects and Thailand’s ability to cope with the recent global financial crisis.”

Leaving royal projects aside for they receive so much state attention and money to be an unlikely measure of SE success, PPT is not quite sure which economic figures Abhisit is reading to assess Thailand’s alleged resiliency in the current crisis. It can’t be these and others at Thailand Crisis.

He seems to focus only on the fact that no Thai bank has collapsed. Abhisit claims that “Thailand’s financial institutions escaped the direct impact of this crisis, thanks to a more conservative style of investment.” True, but they were cleaned out in 1997-98, when the Democrat Party government and then the Thai Rak Thai government sold, nationalized, arranged takeovers and supported most of them.

And Abhisit claims that Thai entrepreneurs “managed to weather the [financial] storm through prudent decision-making and careful risk management, two of the key principles which His Majesty’s philosophy suggests…”. It seems Abhisit believes that SE now imbues all “entrepreneurs’ in the country. He also claims that the government does this: “The government’s policy also adhered to the King’s principle by concentrating not only on spending but also on improving education, healthcare and welfare services.” Maybe Thaksin Shinawatra can also claim the SE crown?

Actually, Abhisit’s claims to SE are pretty weak. His government has a couple of projects – one of them mired in corruption allegations (but that “investigation” has gone very quiet) – but not much else that can be seen as definitively SE. Like Surayud, Abhisit seems to use SE more as an ideological and political device that is about “loyalty.”

In the U.N. summary, Abhisit also talked about democracy, human rights and freedoms. In what is now his mantra, Abhisit claimed that “Democracy entailed ensuring the rights of minorities in addition to majority rule.”

That’s fine in theory and would be good in practice, but Abhisit’s government, Surayud’s government, the royalists around the palace and the military had made sure that the majority’s will is not allowed to rule.In addition, these governments and their supporters have presided over the repeated use of draconian laws such as lese majeste (with lengthening sentences), computer crimes laws and the Internal Security Act. They have also revived Cold War security organizations and orders that are repressive and reduce freedoms. All of this is for political advantage.

In addition, PPT notes that few Thai government’s, including Abhisit’s, have ever done much for Thailand’s minorities.

Hollow words indeed.

Update: After reading Abhisit’s speech, PPT doesn’t see the need to update anything in the above post. All we’d note is that the speech as delivered is replete with contradictions in addition to the contradictions between his words and his government’s actions. That may be the nature of government in Thailand or it may reflect a more generalized intellectual fuzziness on the speaker’s part. One of the most notable contradictions for us has to do with sufficiency economy. PPT is not about to defend the idea as articulated in palace propaganda where “moderation” is sprouted from the mouths of the fabulously wealthy who control huge industrial and financial conglomerates.

It is apparent that an economic liberal like Abhisit is uncomfortable with this essentially autarkic concept. Hence he refers to the “fruits of globalisation,” the efforts his government is making to “jumpstart” the economy and efforts to improve the long-term “competitiveness” of agriculture, education, healthcare and tourism. This sounds almost Thaksin-like and he was accused of being a closet neo-liberal. PPT is sure that neo-liberal economic policies sit most comfortably with the Democrat Party and its Oxford-educated economist premier. So to deal with SE the Democrats endlessly redefine it to fit their own economic themes. Of course, they can’t ditch it because it is so politically and ideologically useful for them.