Snitching for the royalist elite

4 10 2014

It is well-known that lese majeste charges are thrown at political opponents in order to discredit and silence them. The most proficient at this political ploy have been the anti-democrat zealots associated with the Democrat Party. Watchara Petthong, a former Democrat Party party-list MP is particularly notorious for slinging lese majeste mud at his opponents and has been doing it for years.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Watchara with “evidence”

This time he has filed a lese majeste complaint against Thaksin Shinawatra, Tom Plate and Suranand Vejjajiva and the company Matichon for publishing Plate’s translated book, Conversations with Thaksin or Jub Khao Kui Thaksin Shinawatra.

PPT has not been a fan of the book, finding it lightweight and uncritical. But that matters little in these circumstances for not only has the book “been available in the local market for more than two years” but Plate was apparently careful about the lese majeste threat. The English original was published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish. The Thai translation, completed by Suranand, was published in 2012 and was reprinted earlier this year.

As is expected of lese majeste monsters like Watchara he claims that “some parts of the book contained material harmful to the royal institution and had been quoted worldwide.” PPT has read the English version, and we didn’t see anything remotely like a slur against the king, queen or heir apparent. Yet the lese majeste crazies can always construe and misconstrue when they want to settle a score or create trouble.Thaksin Book

Watchara is to be condemned for his puerile and self-serving nonsense and for hiding behind the repressive law and the throne. He’s not the first, though, for another anti-democrat, Somkiat Onwimon, babbled about this book on the anti-democrat stage in January 2014. At the time, Somkiat seemed to mistakenly think the book hadn’t been published in Thailand, but was simply looking for yet another excuse to attack Thaksin.

Tom Plate is undoubtedly an enthusiastic supporter of Thaksin. For crazed ultra-royalists, that seems to be a”crime.” Watchara’s warped world is marked by fear that the royalist control may crash, worry that the aged and ill monarch is unable to hold the royalist world together, and the threat that popular and electoral politics offers an alternative to armed feudalism.

Royalist politics demands the lese majeste weapon

8 12 2012

As the royalists continue their war of attrition against the Yingluck Shinawatra government, the calls for locking opponents up using the draconian lese majeste and related laws become louder. The centrality of these laws for the royalist elite is clear.

The Bangkok Post reports that royalists have rallied at Matichon’s offices alleging the newspaper insulted the king. At the same time, “the monarchy protection network yesterday called on the government to take legal action against red-shirt leaders and Pheu Thai MPs for allegedly offending the monarchy.” They accused “red-shirt leaders and Pheu Thai MPs of committing lese majeste offences. Among them were Apiwan Wiriyachai, Korkaew Pikulthong, Jatuporn Prompan, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Giles Ungpakorn.”

In fact, most of these people already face one or more lese majeste charges.

The network “demanded the government speed up a probe … and take legal action against them within 30 days or face drastic action.” It warned that: “We will give the government 30 days. If there is no progress we will come back. And we have a knock-out punch…”.

The political use of lese majeste is both a threat to red shirts and a call to action on the part of royalists.

Constitutional court and corruption

16 08 2012

The corruption at the Constitutional Court runs deep, and the judges there have tried to use the law to silence critical comment. At the Bangkok Post it is reported that a case that goes back to the release of incriminating video evidence of the court’s corruption and political bias has been ended, by the judges.

Three of the court’s judges “have withdrawn a defamation lawsuit they filed against a former court official for distributing video clips in 2010 that were allegedly designed to undermine the court.” As far as we are aware, Pasit Sakdanarong, a former private secretary of former charter court president, has never been more than “accused of releasing the videos.” In other words, the judges wanted to stop discussion of the corruption and bias.

Now, for an “apology to the judges in the Matichon newspaper for 10 consecutive days, apologising to the judges in person, distributing his apologies to the judges on YouTube and paying for the judges’ legal fees,” the judges are willing to drop a case that seems to have little legal basis….

Interestingly, the suit filed also included Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit and the Matichon newspaper, accused of “distributing the clips.” It is stated that the “judges had also filed a defamation lawsuit with the Civil Court seeking damages from the defendants. They were accused of conspiring to doctor and illegally distribute the clips with the aim of smearing the judges.” It is not clear if this censorial action has also been dropped. PPT hasn’t seen any evidence of “doctoring.”

As the report states, the

clips, posted on YouTube under Ohmygod 3009, showed the judges discussing the Democrat Party dissolution cases. In one case, the Election Commission accused the party of misappropriating a 29 million baht election grant for use in campaigning for the April 2, 2005, election. In the other case, the EC alleged the Democrats received an illegal 258 million baht donation from cement giant TPI Polene Plc. The party survived both cases.

Of course it did. And the judiciary continues to be politicized.

PPT has posted a lot on the courts and these issues, so we won’t link to them all. Instead, interested readers can follow this tag.

Thaksin book now in Thai

1 04 2012

A regular reader tells PPT that journalist Tom Plate’s Giants of Asia: Conversations with Thaksin is now available in Thai, with the cover shown right.

The reader says that Kinokuniya and Asia Books are still refusing to carry the original English language version. The Thai version has apparently been put out with Matichon and was introduced at the Bangkok Book Fair this past weekend. The reader believes that Matichon believe they will sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

A review of the English-language version is available, although PPT has read the book and we are not as impressed as the reviewer. We felt that the reader learned more about Tom Plate than about Thaksin. Hopefully the basic factual errors have been fixed in the Thai-language version.

Because it is pro-Thaksin and because it has been controversial, PPT reckons that Matichon are right to think they will sell plenty of copies.

500 black shirts

27 06 2011

Prachatai has a wonderful summary account of a story at Matichon online that presents the views of one military officer on the events of April-May 2010, in which he participated.

The account carries considerable weight as it reports an article that “ appears in the Army Training Command’s Senathipat Journal, Vol 59, Issue 3, September–December 2010, as part of the army’s guidelines and case studies on military operations to solve urban unrest.”

In its reproduction of the first part of the article, Matichon helpfully posts the first part of the article and highlights “several interesting points…”.

The first relates to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claim at the Democrat Party’s Rajaprasong election rally last Thursday that it was he and not Teflon Mark – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva – who “gave the order” for the crackdown on red shirt protesters.

However, “the article clearly states ‘the Prime Minister gave orders at the CRES meeting on 12 May for the military to start the operation as planned’.” We imagine that Suthep is dissembling or is saying something about the official chain of command. If Abhisit wasn’t giving orders, it would seem very strange. First, he was at the military base for a very long time and presumably wasn’t just hiding under the bed. Second, Abhisit made claims that he was in charge and so got little sleep as he was deeply involved in operational matters.

The second important point the article makes is that “the government always had a clear policy to use military measures to pressure the red shirts, and the policy of ‘tightening the circle’ was to end the demonstrations, not to open a dialogue.” It adds that this policy contributed the rejection of “a group of senators to offer themselves as mediators on the night of 18 May…”.

Third, the article claims that “part of the reason for the successful military operation was the withdrawal of Chair of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Veera Musigapong and the death of Maj Gen Khattiya Swasdipol or Seh Daeng, because the UDD was deprived of its political and military strategists.”

Veera’s withdrawal has never been adequately explained. Other sources are less sure of Seh Daeng’s role, but if the military identified him as the red shirt military strategist, then Suthep’s bizarre claim that the red shirt leadership did him in makes no sense at all (not that it ever did for PPT). Suthep’s credibility has sunk below zero.

A fourth note of interest relates to the deployment of military units. Many commentators seem to have forgotten that this began with “sniper units … deployed in high buildings on Wireless Road, including the Kian Nguan and Bangkok Cable buildings.” Given the predominance of head and chest shots amongst the murdered, the use of military snipers is pretty clear.

A fifth claim about so-called black shirts is remarkable. It is stated that “CRES intelligence” had it that “there were about 500 armed terrorists among the red shirts, and they were equipped with war weapons including M79s, M16s, AK47s and Tavor-21s.”

Given the very low death and gunshot injury toll that is reported for the military, figures like this are startling. Were more military killed than the government has reported? If not, where are the weapons and the dead black shirts with their weapons? Wouldn’t the military snipers have had ample targets?

The report makes fascinating reading.



Regression in the media

29 08 2010

The Nation has an interesting report citing Roby Alampay, outgoing executive director of the Southeast Asean Press Alliance (SEAPA). His basic point is that media freedom has “palpably deteriorated” over the past six years; that is, a period coinciding with the last years of the Thaksin Shinawatra government, the rise of royalist opposition to Thaksin resulting in the 2006 coup and the period of royalist-military dominance since then. He says that much of the decline has been recent, “especially for broadcast media such as community radio stations and Web boards…”.

Alampay observed that it has been the “Internet over the past six years [that] has played a crucial role in allowing people to debate and air their views…”. Alampay also notes that censorship of this media, “state monitoring and the threat of prosecution over content in their e-mails or social networking sites” is highly “personal.”

It is also asserted that: “Print media fortunately remain very vibrant and free…”. That is true in Thaksin period, when the media was virtually united in its opposition to his government and said whatever it wanted – including being prepared to circulate patently false stories. Of course no print media – except for the now banned red shirt newspapers and magazines – ever developed the fortitude required to take on the monarchy and lese majeste laws. However, PPT rejects this account for the period since the coup. The mainstream press, until just this past 6-9 months when some notable exception (e.g. Matichon) emerged, has been almost as resolute in supporting the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime as it was in opposing Thaksin. Self-censorship was the rule, most especially related to red shirt demands and protests.

His positive view of the public TPBS television station also seems a little optimistic. When PPT has viewed it of late it seems to be having difficulty establishing any kind of independence.

Alampay warned of the “growing legal constraints that curb freedom of press and expression.” Here the reference is to lese majeste, computer crimes and similar legislation that is a dead weight on the media. He said, the current “Computer Crime Act was ‘dangerous’ because the authorities were exploiting its harsh penalties and weaknesses. Then there’s the spate of arrests under the lese majeste law.”

On Abhisit he said: “You have a prime minister who benefited from political and military upheavals, and he says all the right things about press freedom, but in the background, there’s a lot of trouble…”. He added that when “Abhisit first came to power, he told society ‘not to worry about the law’, but Alampay said things have turned out to be ‘quite disappointing and unfortunately got worse’ under the current administration.” There is no doubt that Alampay is correct on this.

Further updated: Matichon publishes a list of detainees

9 06 2010

A few hours ago, Matichon/มติชน newspaper published a list of detainees currently being held or recently held and released in Thailand. No source is listed, but the categories used are worth examining. Detainees are being held at:

  • Border Patrol Police Region 1, Pathumthani (11 total: 5 released, 6 still under detention)
  • Naret Camp, Petchburi (14 total: 1 released, 13 still under detention)
  • Adisorn Camp, Saraburi (4 total: 1 released, 1 dead, 2 still under detention)

Matichon notes that there are an additional 50 people being pursued for arrest, and 37 people who have been accused of alleged crimes of terrorism.

See the list here: 9 June 2010, “เปิด รายชื่อผู้ต้องหาถูกคุมตัว 29 ราย 50 คนถูกขึ้นบัญชีตามไล่ล่า 37รายเจอข้อหาหนักคดี”ก่อการร้าย””

PPT remains gravely concerned about the conditions of detainees. PPT is also concerned that this list does not represent the full number of those being detained in Thailand — earlier reports indicate that many more were pursued. In addition, what about areas outside of Bangkok? Are there individuals being held in the many other provinces under emergency rule.

Update: As PPT suspected, the number of those detained is much higher than reported in Matichon. The Bangkok Post has reported that the “identity of 422 people arrested in connection with the red shirt protests has now been made public.”

The burden is on the Thai government to immediately justify these detentions.

Lese majeste wrangle

7 06 2010

The Bangkok Post reports that Matichon has filed a suit against ASTV/Manager’s website operator, a columnist and an editor for articles alleging that Matichon was disloyal to the throne.

The complaint by Matichon refers to articles on 27 and 28 May “that suggest Matichon was involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy…”. The six accused are claimed to have violated the Criminal Code, Printing Act, and the Computer Crimes Act. Matichon insists the “articles were untrue and the six parties intended to defame the company.”

The first hearing is expected to take place on 2 August.

The accused said they would defend the charges, saying that the “articles only questioned Matichon’s news analysis and questioned whether it touched on sensitive subjects related to the monarchy.”

One of those charged explained that drawing a “parallel to the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, which ushered in the French Revolution” was questionable because “the event was associated with the overthrow of the French monarchy…”. Likewise, Matichon’s use of details from the overthrow of Nepal’s monarchy was questionable he said.

You get a pretty good idea of how rabidly royalist the people at ASTV/Manager are when discussion of the French Revolution is construed as disloyalty to the Thai monarchy.

Updated: Going national

25 04 2010

In his Sunday television “interview,” accompanied by an obviously uncomfortable General Anupong Paojinda, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said many things that are covered in the media. PPT has long observed that Abhisit’s public statements do not always match his actions and we have urged attention to the latter. (Matichon has recently demonstrated that even the premier’s words of the past do not match his words of the present.)

However, one thing Abhisit said Sunday caught PPT’s attention. He reportedly said “… let me stress that this is not just about Rajprasong. We want to solve the whole problem…”. That comment could be interpreted in many ways. Let’s consider one interpretation.

The Bangkok Post (25 April 2010) reported that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met with governors from 61 provinces Sunday, asking them to build understanding among local residents that the protest at Ratchaprasong is against the law and asked them to also take a legal action against local media broadcasting distorted information.” Abhisit’s meeting with the governors urged and extension of government propaganda and censorship of red shirt media,  particularly community radio. The charges against these media are vague accusations of “provocation and information distortion.”

Is this what Abhisit meant in his talk? That the struggle between the government and red shirts is intensifying and becoming a countrywide struggle? Of course, there has been a struggle against the red shirts in provincial areas for many months, but there appears an intensification on both sides. It seems unlikely that the military and government could deal with the southern conflict, red shirts in Bangkok and several provincial actions.

There were widespread reports on red shirt militancy in Khon Kaen, including in the international media (here and here) and an interesting piece by David Streckfuss in the Bangkok Post. However, in addition to Khon Kaen, action seem to be spreading. small rally was held by motorcycle taxis outside Abhisit’s heavily guarded residence on Sukhumvit 31 (not that he is home, being kept safe at a military base).

In Pathum Thani, red shirts “blocked part of inbound Phaholyothin frontage road and expressways heading to Bangkok. The Red Shirts aimed to obstruct 500 police officers from Lop Buri, Chai Nat, Nakhon Sawan and Nakhon Phanom from coming to Bangkok for fear that the police would be assigned to disperse the Red Shirt protest at Ratchaprasong.”

The Bangkok Post briefly reported that “red-shirt protesters in the upper northeastern provinces on Sunday morning converged on Mitraphap road in Udon Thani province to stop 178 policemen from joining the security forces in Bangkok…”. These police had been assigned to join police in at Rajaprasong.

The Post (25 April 2010) also reports that the red shirt leadership is “calling for regrouping of fresh demonstrators from Isan, North, and the Deep South and holding parallel provincial demonstrations in key provinces.” In the south, “security sources” believe people “from the three southernmost provinces this morning heading to Bangkok. Several dozens of pick-up trucks were seen taking hundreds of Muslim women and children mostly from Narathiwat’s Sisakhon and Bacho districts and few others from Satun, Pattani, Songkla, and Yala provinces.”

In Udornthani, there are said to be plans to seize the provincial administrative center if there is a crackdown by the military in Bangkok. Such plans are probably in place elsewhere. There are also plans to prevent troop movements appear to be ready for Khon Kaen, Chaiyaphum, Sakon Nakhon and Udorn.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Abhisit and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban also met with “leaders of local administrative organisations from 61 provinces on Friday.” Chatree Yooprasert, secretary-general of the Association of Provincial Administrative Organisations, said “the request for local administrative bodies to help boost support for the government among their constituents was inappropriate.” He added that the “government is wrong. This government has long lost its legitimacy to run the country. They should either resign or dissolve the House to solve the country’s crisis…”.

Updated: Thailand close to civil war

24 04 2010

That’s part of the headline in the U.K.’s Telegraph (24 April 2010). The full headline is: “Thailand is close to civil war as its British-born PM rejects deal with angry Red Shirts.” The story begins: “He came to power as the decent leader: a smooth British-born and Oxford-educated Thai aristocrat who promised to end political turmoil and restore democracy.”

Well, not quite true, as he was hoisted into position on the backs of the military, the palace and the People’s Alliance for Democracy and a related and hasty court decision that got rid of opposition parties. The Telegraph’s story gets to this point later, but there are several factual errors in the report. It is the general message, however, which is more significant.

It continues: “But Abhisit Vejjajiva was cowering behind razor wire in a military barracks in suburban Bangkok as his capital, turned into a smoking battlefield by mobs in red shirts, braced itself for an expected bloody crackdown.”

Again, not accurate on who is creating a battlefield, but the point is clear enough.

The Report says: “On Friday, alarmed by the pace of events, Red Shirt leaders offered to end their occupation of Bangkok’s central shopping district, normally awash with foreign tourists, in return for elections within the next three months. But when Mr Abhisit, who knows he would probably lose such a poll, was asked if he accepted the protesters’ proposal, he replied bluntly: ‘No, I don’t’.” It adds, “…Thais are beginning to face up to the possibility that their prosperous nation stands on the brink of civil war.”

Now, the report says, “the capital’s streets are now too dangerous for Mr Abhisit to venture out without powerful military protection…”.

The story concludes with a comment on the re-mobilizing yellow shirts: “It was their protests that originally paved the way for Mr Abhisit’s premiership. He had hoped to go down in history as the leader who healed Thailand’s wounds. If his natural allies now fight with rival Red Shirts on Bangkok’s streets, he may instead be remembered as the man in charge when Thailand descended into civil war.”

If the army moves, Abhisit will likely be remembered as the butcher of Bangkok who wanted to crush opponents to save a Thailand that should be of the past. Protecting privilege may mean burning the place to the ground.

PPT should also draw attention to an earlier post at Siam Report, where Abhisit’s determination to destroy the red shirts was seen in the 10 April event. As events inch closer to disaster it is worth recalling Matichon’s assessment as described and translated by Siam Report:

At the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) meeting before the crackdown Matichon Weekly (April 16, 2010) says “The Prime Minister favors a crackdown but the commander-in-chief doesn’t want to do it. That’s something everyone in CAPO knows well.” (นายกฯ อยากจะสลาย แต่ ผบ.ทบ. ไม่อยากทำ” นั่นคือสิ่งที่ทุกคนใน ศอ.รส. รู้กันดี). Anupong’s position quickly made him the odd man out, according to Matichon, and shortly before the April 10th order, there was a small meeting at Infantry Regiment 11 between PM Abhisit, Deputy PM Suthep, and a group of armed forces generals led by Deputy Commander in Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and First Army Commander Lt. Gen. Khanit Saphitak. The next sentence of the report translates, “Without the shadow of Gen. Anupong Paochinda”.

ชัดเจน มากขึ้น เมื่อพบว่าเบื้องหลังการปฏิบัติการ มีการหารือก่อนสั่งการในช่วงเช้าวันที่ 10 เมษายน ระหว่างการประชุม ศอฉ. วงเล็กๆ ที่กรมทหาราบที่ 11 รักษาพระองค์ (ร.11 รอ.) ระหว่าง อภิสิทธิ์, สุเทพ และคณะผู้บัญชาการเหล่าทัพ ที่นำโดย พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา รองผู้บัญชาการทหารบก และ พล.ท.คณิต สาพิทักษ์ แม่ทัพภาคที่ 1 โดยไร้เงา พล.อ.อนุพงษ์ เผ่าจินดา

In the meeting, Matichon says the group first discussed the legality of the crackdown and then moved on to planning. At this point, the group decided the crackdown should begin at the Phan Fa Bridge because there were fewer people there than at the Ratchaprasong intersection. Following that, the group assigned Gen. Khanit as the person responsible for the whole operation.

นอก จากนั้น ที่ประชุมเห็นว่าหากจะสลายการชุมนุมควรเริ่มจากสะพานผ่านฟ้าฯ เพราะเป็นพื้นที่ที่มีคนเสื้อแดงชุมนุมอยู่ไม่มากเท่ากับแยกราชประสงค์ โดยมอบหมายให้ พล.ท.คณิต เป็นผู้รับผิดชอบทั้งหมด

What happened next is known to everyone.

Abhisit’s position is clear and has been for some time.

Update: In the Bangkok Post, the army acknowledges the threat of a crackdown having consequences beyond Bangkok, with spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd saying: “The army was … concerned that a military crackdown on protesters in Bangkok would lead to political conflicts in other provinces…”. He continued: “Any operation in the Ratchaprasong area could fuel the fire in some provinces and that will stir up conflicts in the future…”.

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