When the military is on top XII

19 01 2018

It is some time since our last post with this title. There’s a general air in the press and on social media that the political tide may be turning.

For example, commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak says he can see “civil society noises, together with political parties, are now on rise and may build into a crescendo of opposition to the military government.” Others are pleased to see the detestable Abhisit Vejjaiva “damning” the military government with language that is advisory in tone on General Prawit Wongsuwan’s large collection of luxury watches. On social media, many have lauded the dropping of yet another lese majeste case against Sulak Sivaraksa.

While there is some cause for cheer, it might be noted that much of this criticism is coming from yellow shirts and anti-democrats, many of whom were strong supporters of the 2014 military coup. This suggests that that coalition of anti-democrats is unraveling as the junta seeks to embed its rule. The unanswered question is what they propose as an alternative to the junta. Do these critics propose using the junta’s rules and having a military-dominated administration post-“election” – a Thai-style democracy – but where that dominance is not as total as it is now. That is, a simple refusal to allow General Prayuth Chan-ocha to hang on as head of a selectorate regime? Nothing much that any of these “opponents” have proposed since 2005 has looked much like an open political system.

What we can also see, and this also deserves attention from those cheering these developments, is that the junta continues to crackdown on other opponents.  One case involves the National Anti-Corruption Commission, criticized on Prawit, but widely supported by anti-democrats in an action to “determine whether … 40 [elected and pro-Thaksin Shinawatra] politicians submitted the [amnesty] bill with ‘illegal’ intent” back in 2013. If found “guilty,” they would all be banned from the junta’s “election,” decimating the already weakened Puea Thai Party.

Even when criticizing Prawit’s horology obsession, some critics are tolerated and others not. For example, Abhisit and yellow-hued “activists” can criticize, but what about Akechai Hongkangwarn? He’s identified as an opponent, so when he was critical, “four police officers … turned up at [his]… home … to serve a summons.” The “charge” seems to be “posting obscene images online…”. An obscenely expensive watch perhaps?

Then there’s the warning to critics of the junta that there call for The Dictator’s use of Article 44 for to not be made into law. Maj Gen Piyapong Klinpan “who is also the commander of the 11th Military Circle, said the NCPO [junta] is monitoring the situation. He said the NCPO did not ban the gathering on Monday since it was held in an education institute where academics were present to share knowledge. The NCPO merely followed up the event and tried to make sure those present would not violate any laws.” In other words, watch out, you’re being watched. It’s a threat.

Amazingly, Maj Gen Piyapong then “explained” these political double standards:

Commenting about political activist Srisuwan Janya, who has criticised the regime, Maj Gen Piyapong said there is no need to invite the activist for talks as he still has done nothing wrong, but the junta will keep tabs on his movements. “Currently, there is still no movement which is a cause for concern,” Maj Gen Piyapong said.

And, finally, if you happen to be one of those unfortunates – a citizen in the way of military “progress” – you get threatened with guns. At the embattled Mahakan community, where a historical site is being demolished, Bangkok Metropolitan administrators called out the military to threaten the community. The deployment of troops was by the Internal Security Operations Command.





HRW on Thailand under the military boot

19 01 2018

Human Rights Watch has released its World Report 2018. The Thailand report‘s first heading is: “Sweeping, Unchecked, and Unaccountable Military Powers.” That country chapter is only about 7 pages and worth reading.

The media release on the Thailand chapter begins (with our bolding):

Thailand’s government took no significant steps to restore democratic rule and basic freedoms in 2017…. The military junta’s adoption of a national human rights agenda and repeated assurances that it would hold elections for a civilian government did nothing to reverse the country’s human rights crisis.

It cites HRW Asia director Brad Adams:

Thailand’s military junta has used its unchecked powers to drop the country into an ever-deeper abyss of human rights abuses. Instead of restoring basic rights as promised, the junta prosecuted critics and dissenters, banned peaceful protests, and censored the media.

On media censorship it states:

During the year the authorities temporarily forced off the air Voice TV, Spring News Radio, Peace TV, and TV24 for criticizing military rule. The stations were permitted to resume broadcasting after they agreed to practice self-censorship.

Writing of The Dictator’s power:

As head of the junta, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha wields limitless authority, including the military’s power to arrest, detain, and interrogate civilians without safeguards against abuse. There are still at least 1,800 civilians facing prosecution in military courts, which do not meet international fair trial standards.

On lese majeste:

Since the 2014 coup, Thai authorities have arrested at least 105 people on lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) charges. The crackdown on lese majeste offenses has intensified since the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016.

It is a sorry tale.





Updated: Sulak’s lese majeste charges dropped

17 01 2018

Sulak Sivaraksa is one of the few in Thailand who has been able to defeat lese majeste charges. He’s done this repeatedly. And he’s just done it again.

Over the years, since at least 1984, Sulak has faced repeated rounds of lese majeste charges and has spent time in jail.

It is reported that one of the most bizarre of these cases – lese majeste and computer crimes – has been dropped by a military court. The charges related to his questioning, several years ago, whether an ancient story of 17th century King Naresuan’s elephant battle with a Burmese royal was real or a legend.

Sulak stated that “the military tribunal dropped the charge without explanation.” However, Khaosod reports “Maj. Gen. Choedchai Angsusingha, chief military prosecutor, said the case lacked sufficient witnesses to prosecute Sulak…”.

The critic’s capacity to get off such charges is uncanny, especially when hundreds of others fail and many are essentially forced to plead guilty. He’s also adept at getting bail while facing the charges, something precious few others get.

Certainly, one of Sulak’s strengths is the huge international support he receives, through long-established networks of religious and social activists. He’s also got considerable cross-color support in Thailand from academics, NGOs and activists who have associated themselves with Sulak’s work over several decades. Even the junta is reluctant to challenge such a spectrum of opinion-makers. Finally, Sulak is also a self-declared conservative and monarchist. Perhaps that’s why he chose to have this reported: “Sulak said he credited the mercy of King Rama X for the case being dropped.”

Update: Prachatai has a critical op-ed on this case, related to some of the issues we raise in our last paragraph. Well worth reading. The picture of Sulak Sivaraksa receiving an honorary doctorate from King Vajiralongkorn on 1 December 2017 at Thammasat University is clipped from the story.





For royalists, “protection” is paramount

11 01 2018

Prachatai has an interview with Pipathanachai Srakawee, President of the Thailand Association of the Blind.

It was Pipathanachai who filed the lese majeste complaint against Nurhayati Masoh that resulted in her conviction. She is also blind.

Pipathanachai claims to have filed the case to protect not just the monarchy, but to”protect” all blind people. By “protect” he means that blind Thais need to be seen as “loyal.”

In seeking to “protect,” Pipathanachai was driven to file his “complaint against her at Chokchai Police Station in Bangkok.” Later, he says, he “sent a copy of my complaint to Yala Governor, who assigned a representative to file a complaint against her.” Even this was not sufficient for “protection.” He explains:

I don’t want this case to be shelved. I kept pushing for progress. At that time, there was the Police Taskforce for the Southern Border Provinces, I called the then-deputy commander, who was assigned to oversee the case. Initially, the police considered not to prosecute her. I told them that she only losses her slight; apart from that, she is similar to a sighted person. The fact that she is blind should not prevent the police from prosecuting her.

I think the police should proceed with the case. I have contacted and requested many high-level officials and figures to prosecute this case. They thought it is a crucial matter. Finally, the public prosecutor ordered a prosecution. I want to see this case being prosecuted. I do not want to file a complaint with the police, only to hear that the case is shelved.

For a man who claims he did not know the woman involved, this mania for “protection” becomes a cruel and driven psychological mania. In the interview he shows no sympathy for Nurhayati as he spouts royalist ideology. Likewise, this President of the Thailand Association of the Blind shows no sympathy for blind and disabled persons who are jailed.

Following the sentencing, his view is that the court has been “too lenient.”

The interview is revealing of the motivations of those royalists who patrol lese majeste.





Cheering Pai, jeering the junta

10 01 2018

Prachatai’s report regarding villagers in Loei continuing fight against gold mining in their area have also “urged the junta not to prolong its power…” includes some evidence of considerable political bravery from the villagers. Remarkably they displayed solidarity with the lese majeste victim Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa “by wearing masks of his face,” as seen in the picture below.

Clipped from Prachatai

Jatuphat and other Dao Din activists supported the villager struggle in the days before the junta jailed Jatuphat and harassed many others.

At their meeting on 7 January 2018, the Wang Saphung villagers announced four aims for 2018:

(1) to permanently close down local mines, (2) to revoke the unfair mining licenses, (3) to coordinate with environmentalists across the country in  proposing people’s environment bill as alternative to the junta’s version and (4) to state a rally titled “Walk for Friendship” from Bangkok to Khon Kaen as a protest to social injustice nationwide.

The statement also urges the junta to cease its effort to maintain power after the election scheduled for November 2018.

On the junta they declared:

This year is an important historical turning point because while the junta tells the international community that the election will happen in this year, the signs of evil have already been spotted. We, therefore, would like to send a good wish to the junta that it should let go its power from the coup and should not plan to prolong power through pro-military parties or a nominee parties….





Updated: Karma lese majeste

10 01 2018

Royalist and anti-democrat monk Buddha Issara has found it necessary to attend “the Crime Suppression Division to try to clear the air over accusations he violated the lese majeste law.”

Buddha Issara and friend

Of course, PPT doesn’t approve of any use of this feudal law. However, feudalists mike consider the role of karma in Buddha Issara’s travails.

The monk was concerned that “police investigators came to interrogate people at Wat Orm Noy” where he is abbot and that “police are preparing to raid the temple.” This caused him to report to the police, lawyer in tow.

It was in April 2017 that “Wichai Prasertsutsiri, coordinator of an organisation that promotes Buddhism” made a lese majeste complaint. His complaint is that the monk  produced amulets some “eight years ago bearing the emblem of … King Bhumibol…”.

The complainer reckoned that the monk didn’t have proper permissions. He also barked that “some of the monk’s blood was allegedly used during the blessing ceremony, which was considered inappropriate.”

Feudal rites beget a feudal response.

Update: Khaosod tells us that police are investigating but “have yet to name any suspect” in the case. The police denied a raid was planned. Col. Phumin Pumpanmuang, a commander of Crime Suppression Division, said: “He keeps talking like this. The media already knows how he is. You know he’s been like this for a long time…. Whatever he wants to speak, it’s his rights.”





ISOC’s electoral power

8 01 2018

It has taken a while for the Internal Security Operations Command or ISOC to respond to concerns about its growing power under the military dictatorship. It was back in November when General Prayuth Chan-ocha used his sweeping powers under Article 44 to amend internal security legislation and set up a security “super board” to allegedly assist ISOC in dealing with “domestic security threats.”

The Dictator made ISOC the central agency dealing with all matters it considers “security,” and at all levels. As we well know, “security” usually means the use of lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition laws against political opponents. Using his extra-judicial powers, The Dictator has ISOC heading up all other agencies, and at the regional level, this includes the Interior Ministry, police and prosecutors. Among other things, this is a handing iron fist for when the military dictatorship decides it needs an “election.”

In the Bangkok Post, we get ISOC’s response. We doubt many will believe ISOC’s claim that the agency is warm and cuddly and apolitical. It never has been and with its domination by the military, it never will be. It is an agancy used by the military to undermine opponents, spy on opponents and purvey propaganda for the regime. But back to the new, “soft” line, reflected in its “peace” and “reconciliation” website and its Facebook page.

Isoc spokesman Maj-Gen. Peerawat Sangthong “explained” the use of The Dictator’s unchecked power was just a bit of administrative and technocratic streamlining. No need to worry.

Chaired by Deputy Prime Minister for Bling General Prawit Wongsuwan chairs ISOC’s “administrative committee.” His deputies are the “defence and interior ministers … with members including commanders of the armed forces and the Isoc secretary-general…”.

Now there are mirror regional and provincial committees, giving ISOC nationwide control of “security.”

Maj Gen Peerawat revealed that ISOC “has about 5,000-6,000 staff nationwide, excluding those working in the … South, and there currently are 500,000-600,000 internal security volunteers, as well as tens of thousands of people in its information network.”

All of those people working for an ISOC with enhanced powers might as the general says, will “reduce the gap among agencies where they are needed to work together to solve a problem, eradicate redundancy and to make sure all the agencies involved are supporting one another.”

That’s useful for repressing the junta’s opponents and we guess the most significant “problem” now is how to ensure the junta’s preferred “electoral” outcome.