When the military is on top XXIX

19 03 2020

A couple of Bangkok Post reports raise questions for PPT on the role of the military.

Everyone knows that the military is a law unto itself. It may be poor reporting, but two reports, one on the south and the other on virus disinfection, suggest the military really is a parallel regime.

In the first, “Fourth Army commander Lt Gen Pornsak Poonsawat has ordered all 13 temporary border checkpoints with Malaysia closed from March 18-31.” As far as we recall, martial law is still in operation in the south, but it does still seem presumptuous of the local military commander to do this. It does show the power of the military.

The second report is about the army beginning “spraying roads in Bangkok with disinfectant to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”Maybe that’s useful, but the claim is that this “spraying …[was] approved at a high-level meeting of army units chaired by army chief Apirat Kongsompong, will be carried out the Army Air Defence Artillery Unit and the Army Chemical Department…”.

It is almost as if the government doesn’t exist.

Prachatai’s documentaries

15 03 2020

If readers haven’t seen them, we want to draw attention to three documentaries recently posted to Prachatai. They are:

Talk for Freedom by iLaw and Prachatai. Described as a new documentary that tells the story of Mafang and Pai Dao Din, two of the participants in the Talk for Freedom public forum on the draft of the 2017 constitution at Khon Kaen University on 31 July 2016, who were prosecuted by the NCPO for violating the NCPO 3/2558, which prohibited a political gathering of more than five people. Of course, Pai Dao Din went on to serve time for lese majeste.

Wound of the Soul is a documentary by The Pen that tells the story of the effects of national security laws, such as martial law, emergency decree and the Internal Security Act, on those who live in the Deep South.

Humans of Muang Phia is by the New Isan Movement and Prachatai and tells the story of the Hak Ban Koet group’s fight against the Mitr Phol sugar factory and biomass power plant project and for their right to take part in making decisions about what happens in their hometown.

The lawless regime

4 02 2018

PPT has long pointed to the lawlessness of the military dictatorship. It was an illegal and subversive act – a military coup – that brought it to power. The junta then enacted its own decrees and made itself and its illegal actions “legal.” Since then, the junta has regularly ruled by decree and martial law, used military courts for civilians, acted against its own constitution, failed to provide evidence in murder and torture cases, used the dubious and draconian lese majeste as a weapon against political opponents, concocting cases, arrested people on bogus charges, abducted others and much more.

As the regime digs in against political opponents (and even some supporters gone bad) it is now ignoring the courts it has previously able to direct as puppets. All in the cause of maintaining the military dictatorship and covering-up General Prawit Wongsuwan’s corruption on luxury watches.

Prachatai reports that “[d]espite a recent ruling from the Administrative Court ordering the authorities to facilitate the civil rights march, local authorities in Nakhon Ratchasima have pressured the civil rights march to leave the area two days earlier than planned.”

On 1 February 2018, about 10 local government officials visited participants in We Walk, A Walk for Friendship at a temple in Nakhon Ratchasima and asked them to leave the temple earlier than planned.

According to Eakachai Issaratha, one of the marchers, the participants planned to stay for three nights at Wat Non Makok temple in Non Sung District before continuing their journey to Khon Kaen and the abbot of the temple had agreed to shelter them. However, about 10 local government officials visited the temple and told the march organisers that they could stay for only one night.

The officials claimed that there was a resolution from a meeting of soldiers, police officers, district officials, village heads and subdistrict heads, to allow them to stay for only one night. The marchers could not stay in the area for 3 nights, because the district and provincial officials felt uncomfortable.  The decision to let them stay in the area was not for the abbot alone to make, but rested also with the local administration.

It seems the junta and its minions can just ignore the Administrative Court and its ruling that the We Walk march should continue under a notion of the right to freedom of assembly and its order that the authorities should not to obstruct the march.

Lawless regimes are dangerous.

More judicial harassment

15 12 2017

The military dictatorship has repeatedly used the judiciary to harass its political opponents. It has also repeatedly used this harassment against individuals. It is at it again.

One such case is Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who is also anti-junta and a member of Resistant Citizen. He is associated with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and has defended numerous individuals accused of lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act since 2010. His high profile cases have included Ampol Tangnopakul, the aged lese majeste victim who died in prison in 2012 and the case of a man accused of lese majeste for mocking the then king’s dog.

Arnon has faced several situations identified as judicial harassment. In 2015, the military accused him of “importing into a computer false information which may damage national security” under the Computer Crimes Act for five Facebook posts that criticized the military regime’s administration of “justice” under martial law. Then he faced up to 25 years in jail and a fine. In 2016, he was charged with “standing still.” This was a public protest against the junta’s detention of anti-coup activists. The public prosecutor filed charges under Public Assembly Act.

The junta is again using the judiciary to harass Arnon. Is the EU following this case?

According to Prachatai, police have summoned Arnon “over his 2 Nov 2017 Facebook post, accusing him of contempt of the court and importing false information into a computer system under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act.”

His “crime” was to question the Khon Kaen court’s 2 November verdict “which found seven anti-junta activists guilty of contempt of the court for their activities in front of Khon Kaen Court on 10 Jan 2017.” This case had accused a “peaceful symbolic activity was organised to give moral courage to Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, alias Pai Dao Din, a pro-democracy activist who has been sentenced to 2 years and six months in jail for lèse majesté.”

Arnon copied a news story and wrote a comment, questioning if it is fair or even possible for a court to prohibit those convicted “from associating with each other.”

For this he gets slapped with a charge that could result in many years in jail.

The harassment of political opponents continues. The junta brooks no opposition.

The Dictator and his law

12 09 2017

The Dictator and his military junta are particularly keen on the law. They have used it extensively in their self-initiated battles against Shinawatras, red shirts, the Peau Thai Party, students, local communities, republicans, and anyone else conceived of as an enemy or potential threat.

This is why The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “stressed that justice is a crucial part of human rights protection, saying that everyone must go through the process equally and face the consequences if they are found guilty of wrongdoing, regardless of their social status.”

On the face of it, none of this would seem to apply to General Prayuth and his military dictatorship or their allies. After all, the junta seized state power in an illegal coup, it has abused human rights and it has lasciviously bathed itself and its allies in rule by decree, martial law, impunity and double standards.

A Bangkok Post picture

But, then, one must remember that all the junta members and supporters think the law is a tool for repression and order that falls to those who control the state.

But even then, when The Dictator states that his “government [he means the junta] pays attention to human rights protection and instructs investigations into allegations concerning the issue,” he’s lying. In fact, his regime has repeatedly affirmed that it has little understanding of human rights.

Clearly, however, when General Prayuth, who also commanded troops that gunned down dozens of civilians in 2010, spoke of law and justice, he was thinking of those now declared “fugitives” – Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

He did, however, get closer to truth when he acknowledged that human rights “allegations need to be delicately handled when it comes to the performance of state officials.” What he means is that impunity is the rule and that state officials only get into trouble when their actions don’t help their bosses or when they forget to pass on required loot.

On double standards, the general mischievously declared:

It’s not that the poor commit wrongdoings and they will definitely go to jail, while the rich will not. The fact is that the rich have often fled the scene, and that’s why we see that they don’t go to jail. It’s not a problem with the justice system…. The law is not there to bully anyone. If one commits wrongdoings, he or she must go through it and fight for justice….

Prayuth’s regime has shown that this is untrue. Yes, some of the rich do flee, but sometimes that suits the regime and sometimes it suits the rich. But it is the double standards that are most evident. Slow investigations, withheld evidence, cover-ups, and so on. And, significantly, the regime uses (and abuses) the law to bully and silence opponents. It also uses it to benefit itself and its allies.

Thailand’s justice system was wobbly before the coup. Since the coup it has become an injustice system.

Rehearsing lies

9 03 2017

A story at Khaosod tells much about the military dictatorship that currently rules Thailand by dint of military boot and Article 44.

The story reports Pitikarn Sithidej, who works for the little known Rights and Liberty Protection Department in the Ministry of “Justice.” (We gave up looking for it on the Ministry website, which is a tangled mess.) We imagine they don’t have much work to do.

Pitikarn proudly declares that “Thailand is ‘fully prepared’ to defend its record and obligations on human rights next week when they are discussed in Geneva before the United Nations…”.

Others have also defended the undefendable and usually it has been the skilled liars from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have led the teams defending torture, lese majeste, political repression, enforced disappearance, the murderous military, impunity, military courts, massive censorship, restricting speech and assembly, rule by decree and martial law, and many more.

Apparently, on Monday and Tuesday next week, in Geneva, “an 18-member body of independent experts chosen by UN member states will review Thailand’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In fact, this is an open-and-shut case. The junta simply doesn’t defend civil and political rights; it mangles them.

Still, perhaps thinking that the rest of the world is moving in Thailand’s direction, the Rights and Liberty Protection Department’s Pitikarn says it has been rehearsing responses: “We have staged a question-and-answer drill and anticipate what questions will be asked by the committee. We are fully prepared, and our report will be based on the facts…”.

Facts? We get it, she really means “junta lies.”

Oddly, although perhaps part of the “rehearsing,” Pitikarn appeared at a forum with Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch. He revealed that “his organization would focus on the use of Article 44 under the military’s interim constitution, which he said has widely undermined human rights and lacks any accountability. ”

He added: “All [international human rights] obligations can be discarded by Article 44 and many times it’s been used to violate rights…”.

Sunai also said HRW “will call next week … for the military government to abolish it to demonstrate its commitment to restoring democracy.”

Seriously? Just that? That’s the best HRW can come up with? Square that with National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit saying: “There must be an assurance they will not sue those speaking in Geneva.”

Yes, those going to speak at Geneva – apart from the official bearers of rehearsed junta lies – are already fearful!

Surprising, but true

10 06 2016

A few days ago, we posted on the International Institute for Strategic Studies  and its invitation to The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha to present a Keynote Speech to its 15th Shangri-la Dialogue.

The Dictator’s speech there has caused The Nation to compose an editorial with the bold title: “Junta’s dishonesty to the world continues.” We were a little surprised, when a reader drew our attention to this, noting the use of “dishonesty” and “continues.”

It went further, noting that the so-called Dialogue always sees security issues trump any consideration of democracy, but observing that The Dictator offered “false assurances.” It says that “General Prayut … disguise[d] the state of Thai politics,” declaring that the junta “continues to be dishonest and misleading about the domestic political situation…”.

We were startled that The Nation, which has for several years been determinedly anti-democratic, declared “[t]he [political] division we suffer is not unprecedented, and nor did it stem from politics that rendered democracy dysfunctional.”

Prior to both the May 2014 coup and the 2006 coup, Thailand had a normal parliamentary system similar to that of many other countries, including the United Kingdom. Ideological differences are hardly unique to Thailand. But in more advanced democracies such differences, and even conflicts that boil into violence, are resolved non-violently in parliament. Public dissatisfaction with elected representatives is expressed in the next election.

Thailand had already developed a system of democratic institutions that could have calmed its political upheaval without the military interfering as it did. The armed forces – manipulated by the power elite – simply refused to allow the system to work in the normal way.

Better late than never? Surprising, but true.

The Nation gags on Prayuth’s claim that “the Thai military is politically neutral.” The editorial declares that the military “always takes sides:

Its troops spilled the blood of fellow citizens to end the 2010 red-shirt street demonstrations and, by contrast, responded to the pleas of the erstwhile yellow shirts to topple a legitimate and elected government in 2014. Prayut was among the insiders on both occasions and knows this distinction all too well.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Surprising, but true. And still further:

The only law the Thai military understands is martial law, and it is applied with extreme prejudice. Prayut and the NCPO are forever stressing the importance of the rule of law, but they must have a limited grasp of what this entails. If they truly respected the rule of law, they would not have staged coups against elected governments – a coup in itself is unlawful. Thus any law imposed by a coup-installed government and any ostensibly legal action taken is illegitimate, lacking the popular mandate and measures of accountability that democracy demands.

Nor would the prime minister even consider having in his arsenal the interim legislation known as Article 44, which grants him extraordinary powers to override the usual restrictions on government activity. And nor would the NCPO be bringing civilians to trial before a military court.

Again, surprising, but absolutely correct. And still more truths follow:

For Prayut to tell foreign observers that the junta doesn’t “intend” to violate rights or restrict freedoms demonstrates how hypocritical this government is willing to be. It must surely be plain for all to see both at home and abroad that the military is offering false assurances with its claim to have seized power temporarily to restore law and order so that reforms can be introduced. The ongoing detention of critics of the junta has nothing to do with reform, and in fact runs counter to what ought to be reform’s ultimate goal – the strengthening of Thai democracy.

Washington Irving, if he were around, would think his Rip Van Winkle had woken in Bangkok. But credit is due to The Nation for this truthful editorial.

Junta’s political strategy II

2 06 2016

The Dictator has “clarified” his statements that he doesn’t desire power or want to hold it or that he intends to stay on or have the military stay on in power. As the Bangkok Post reports it, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “threatened his critics … that he would hold on to power … until peace has been fully returned to the country.”

We guess that suggests that the “loosening up” might have already gone too far for The Dictator.Prayuth gunning for democracy

Oddly, the erratic general was reportedly making these comments on the junta’s domestic political strategy to “a group of 134 developing countries known as G-77 at a forum in Bangkok.” He added that “he would use the 200,000 soldiers at his disposal to continue to lead the country.” The Dictator was clear still: “Without soldiers, Thailand can go nowhere. Nowadays, we are using soldiers to steer the country. Our troops aren’t meant to fight anybody or to persecute politicians…”.

In one sense, we agree with Prayuth. The military is not a conventional armed forces. It is a political agency that has for decades repressed and murdered the citizens of the country.

While the Post worries that the “general’s latest outburst flies in the face of repeated pledges to restore democracy through elections next year,” it should look more closely at the political rules the junta has set that will bound and corral any elected civilian regime to such an extent that the elite’s and military’s representatives in (non)independent agencies and the royalist judiciary will be what one academic calls the Deep State.

Prayuth’s rant continued as he said that “there are still some politicians expressing their opinions.” That’s a pretty clear statement of what Prayuth and the regime think of “politicians” and he is clear on what their subordinate, dominated and unrepresentative position must be. On his own extraordinary powers as The Dictator, Prayuth “explained” that “[m]artial law and Section 44 are crucial for Thailand keeping peace and moving towards the elections…”.

That all seems pretty clear, but the erratic Prayuth then played dumb, claiming he has no “thirst for power.”

Finally Prayuth defended non-democratic politics:”Western democracies” should not urge elections or people’s sovereignty. The Dictator said a one-size political “shirt” does not fit everyone. He declared: Dictators of the world unite, trumpeting, “We countries in the G-77 should have the liberty to select which shirt we want to choose to fit our people.”

That’s exactly what he’s doing in Thailand. The Dictator is defining the people’s political shirt. It is small, narrow and uncomfortable.

All hail The Dictator.


17 11 2015

Prayuth Chan-ocha has been Thailand’s dictator since 22 May 2014. He seems increasingly comfortable in that position, even if he abhors even the slightest criticism.

He seems especially willing to use Article 44 of the interim constitution – put in place by himself and his junta and which replaced martial law – to get what he wants. Recently there has been timid criticism of his repeated use of this dictatorial article to push through the simplest and most mundane of policies (such as changes to the Social Security Office).

According to a report at the Bangkok Post, Prayuth has sounded very much like other dictators by claiming that Article 44 was used “to cut through red tape and run the government more effectively…”. Of course, dictatorial powers are not necessary for he speaks of normal government activities. But dictators like Prayuth seem to love using special powers.

He added that his use of these powers “does not run counter to the achievement of democratic ideals.” We are bemused by this claim, for Prayuth’s junta has no notion of democratic ideals and does not operate as anything other than a military dictatorship.

For some reason, The Dictator then decided to lecture Thais on democracy. As a leader who has no experience of democratic principles and has shown no democratic intent, this strikes us as arrogant. But that’s how dictators are.

Dictatorspeak saw him warning of Thais being “deceived by illusive democracy.” He claimed to know what “real democracy is…”.

Like the old men in his Constitution Drafting Committee, Prayuth’s dictatorspeak is that “instead of electing politicians and handing power to them, people need to learn how to exercise their power to achieve what they really want.” Or is it what Prayuth and his royalist and anti-democratic elite wants?

Indeed, anti-democrat ideology is now dictatorspeak: “… politicians will help only the people who vote them in…”. Of course, he’s talking about Thaksin Shinawatra and his various parties and governments. Yet his memory is flawed in that Thaksin circa 2001-05 actually implemented several universalist policies.

As dictators often do, Prayuth declared: “Don’t pay much attention to the elections.” He never has.

Like previous military dictators, he also complained about the media and opposition.

Repression to deepen II

1 04 2015

It is clear that martial law is to be converted into something even more troubling with The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha deciding to use Article 44 of the interim constitution. That article provides The Dictator with enormous scope for repression. He will use these powers to wipe the political floor of anything he thinks is red or pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

In a Khaosod report it is stated that Prayuth will use the “broad powers granted … under Article 44 of the interim charter … to swiftly solve national problems without violating human rights…”. Given that the military dictatorship has never shown any comprehension of human rights and has repeatedly violated international conventions, this claim is implausible. Prayuth “explained” his position far more plausibly to reporters:

If you didn’t do anything wrong, why are worried?… I insist that Article 44 will be used creatively in one aspect, and the other aspect is to deal with national security problems. If there’s any shooting and causing of chaos again, I will arrest them. I will arrest them immediately. We will use laws like this, otherwise we would have to wait for court warrants…. Don’t be afraid. I don’t know why are you so afraid, if you didn’t do anything wrong. Please help explain to the people….

If Prayuth thinks a person has done something wrong, and that can mean all manner of things that anger the angry man, forget legal rights. Human rights too.

PPT stated a few days ago that this “end of martial law” was a political ruse. Deputy Prime Minister, General and member of the junta Prawit Wongsuwan stated: “We are trying to reduce pressure. The United Nations asked us to [find a new law].” An Army spokesman has also explained this:

… any order issued by Gen. Prayuth via Article 44 will have the same status as a law…. Article 44 will also be used to retain key powers granted to the military under martial law…. In fact, we only used only one or two chapters of martial law, such as allowing security officers to search properties and arrest and investigate individuals, but foreign [nations] don’t care about that…. So, we found a new way to help the  international community feel relaxed about our exercise of power, and arranged for Article 44 to be used.

Nothing has changed, except that the erratic Prayuth will have increased and more dictatorial powers.

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