Stop criticizing The Dictator

12 06 2018

Readers will have noticed that PPT is having trouble keeping up with The Dictator’s antics and his junta’s political campaigning for an “election” that may be held at some time in the future and/or for puffing the junta’s collective chest.

The junta gets away with a lot given its political repression and its control of the media through bans, hectoring and the media’s own political timidness and/or support for the military dictatorship.

Even so, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s recent gripe that he deserves more respect because he’s (self-appointed) prime minister (after illegally seizing the state), has us wondering what might have been the media’s response if, say, Thaksin or Yingluck Shinawatra had made the same demand.

Khaosod reports that The Dictator last week made a “plea for the position of prime minister to be spared from insult…”. Prayuth moaned to his puppet National Legislative Assembly that “his ‘honorable’ position should be above reproach…”.

Befitting a dictatorial leader, Prayuth warned his critics: “I want to maintain the position as honorable. Those attacking me should be careful…”.

The Dictator loves power, covets it and cannot stand even the mildest of criticism.





Constructing the junta’s digital Panopticon

17 05 2018

Anyone who has watched the junta’s boot grinding down political activism, one of the most noticeable and distasteful of its repressive efforts has been to establish vigilantism supporting military hired spies who police the internet for content the military dictators feel is threatening. This usually means online lese majeste although the junta has also bee watchful of its own egos and has also policed the Thai world for political dissidents.

It seems that its “successes” in political repression and censorship have prompted the military and the junta to seek to construct a digital Panopticon. Initially devised by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, the idea was to construct a prison where the inmates could be observed without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. The idea was to impose order and passivity because the inmates cannot know when they are being watched meaning they become motivated to act as though they are being watched at every single moment.

The junta wants all Thais and others in Thailand to believe they are under surveillance all the time. In other words, the whole society becomes, in everyone’s mind, a political prison.

An editorial at the Bangkok Post states that the junta “plans to recruit civilian so-called ‘cyber warriors’ … it needs to ensure they target the right groups of people.” The military dictatorship is hiring and training another 200 cyber spies, with a goal of having 5,000 by 2023. Such a massive spying mission is in the hands of the Minister of Justice – of which there is little – ACM Prajin Juntong.

The plan announced by the junta “leaves room for worries on whether they will be mainly used as a political tool to suppress freedom of expression and hunt down political dissidents.” Fascists will be fascists.

And, as the editorial notes, “a cyber security bill has been drafted pending approval by lawmakers. If enacted into law, it will allow the authorities to take broader control of online activity, including snooping on individuals’ personal computers.”

Another Bangkok Post story refers to the military – not a regular, civilian ministry – is developing ways of tracking tourists, investors and migrant workers, among others. Such tracking is used in other countries but it is only in the darkest of authoritarian regimes that it is the military doing it.

Be very concerned at how broadly the military has defined its role in Thailand. It has seeped and oozed into every arena and level of civilian administration. Even if a junta party doesn’t “win” the junta-granted “election,” the military thugs will be everywhere. The Panopticon is in place.





Neutering media

21 08 2017

The military dictatorship has generally been able to neuter the media. It got rid of most of the red shirt media soon after the 2014 military coup. It has then managed and manipulated the media. Initially, this did not require much effort as the mainstream media cheered the coup.

As the regime has gone on and on, some elements of the media have become just a little more critical of the junta’s nepotism, corruption, political repression and so on. The Dictator has shouted orders at journalists on those many occasions where he has felt the media should be doing more for his regime.

Most recently, as widely reported, the regime has been doing a little more to direct the media:

The government has ordered all television channels to promote the work of its ministers in an effort the head of its public relations division said was meant to take the focus off the prime minister.

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the government spokesman who heads its Public Relations Department, said Thursday that he ordered each channel assigned to different ministers because he did not want the coverage to focus only on the prime minister.

“I didn’t force them. I let them choose freely but each channel must do differently,” he said after word got out and the effort was slammed as state-mandated propaganda. “Some channels even asked me to choose for them, but I didn’t because I know each channel has a different interest.”

It should be no surprise that most media enthusiastically signed up.

Dissent in the media is difficult under a military regime. One example of rare but consistent dissent by a journalist has seen Pravit Rojanaphruk who is now being punished by the military junta. He says:

It never occurred to me that what I write could be seditious.

Under military rule, criticizing the junta on social media can be construed as an act of sedition, however.

I learned this the hard way when police rang me up at the end of last month, informing me that I had been charged with sedition for a number of my Facebook postings.

That this is yet another fit-up. Each of Pravit’s posts was critical of the military junta. Yes, criticizing the junta constitutes sedition in totalitarian Thailand.

Pravit comments on the junta’s charges:

… no one really knows what constitutes sedition under military rule makes this a chilling effect and ensures greater self-censorship of anything critical of the junta in social media, however. The hazier the boundaries of what constitutes sedition, the more effective they become in instilling fear.

It may also be baffling that people who criticize the military junta, which usurped and continues to usurp power from the people, are the ones being charged with sedition. Control is more effective when fear is induced by logic-defying situations because one suspends disbelief of the illogical and absurd in Juntaland Thailand any longer. When right is wrong, wrong is right and might is right, rationality no longer gives guidance. We live not under the rule of law but under rule by arbitrary law of the junta. And logic is not necessary. Just obey. In fact, to obey without logically asking why or questioning the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the military regime, makes control effective. Just obey. Don’t ask what’s wrong with the order imposed upon us.

On the future and on dissent, he declares:

It’s a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression on social media during the past three years. It is also an honor to be singled out among the select few Thais who have stood up and effectively disturbed the make-believe world of Juntaland Thailand.

We cannot defend freedom of expression if we are not willing to pay the price. The price is worth paying when one takes the long-term benefits of society to heart.





ASEAN lawmakers on Thailand’s authoritarian path

22 05 2017

We reproduce this in full from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights:

ASEAN lawmakers: Thailand moving in the wrong direction three years on from coup

JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia warned today that Thailand is moving in the wrong direction three years after the country’s military overthrew the last democratically elected government.

On the third anniversary of the 2014 coup, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) reiterated concerns over arbitrary arrests, persecution of government critics, and restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The collective of regional lawmakers said that moves by the ruling junta have dealt lasting damage to Thailand’s long-term democratic prospects, and urged military leaders to return the country to elected, civilian rule as soon as possible.

“In the past year, this military regime has further strengthened its hold on institutions to the detriment of both democracy and the economic well-being of the country. Its actions since taking power appear aimed at systematically and permanently crippling any hope of democratic progress,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“To put it bluntly, Thailand is headed in the wrong direction. With the military firmly in the driver’s seat and a new constitution that guarantees it a central role in politics for years to come, Thailand appears further from a return to genuine democracy than at any point in recent memory. Meanwhile, investors are increasingly nervous about the control exerted by elites in managing the country. The damage incurred will have severe, long-lasting consequences that will not be easily undone.”

A new military-drafted constitution, officially promulgated on 6 April, contains anti-democratic clauses, including provisions for an unelected prime minister and a wholly appointed upper chamber of parliament. A version of the charter was approved by voters in a controversial August 2016 referendum, which APHR criticized at the time as “undemocratic.”

“With its new charter, the Thai junta has designed something akin to Myanmar’s ‘disciplined democracy,’ a flawed system where the generals still hold key levers of power and are able to pull the strings from behind the scenes,” said APHR Vice Chair Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the House of Representatives of Indonesia.

“This is a real concern for all those hoping that the Thai people will be able to enjoy democracy and prosperity in the future. In order for Thailand to truly return to democracy, the military needs to step aside, allow for genuine elections, and commit to remaining in the barracks, rather than meddling in politics.”

Since seizing power on 22 May 2014, the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has placed severe restrictions on political activities and arbitrarily arrested hundreds for speaking out against it. Journalists, human rights defenders, and former politicians have been among those subjected to arbitrary detention and mandatory “attitude adjustment” at military and police facilities.

“The situation for human rights in the country has deteriorated. In the past three years, we have witnessed steadily increasing repression and a clampdown on basic freedoms. These developments are especially concerning in the context of a broader erosion of democracy and rights protections across the ASEAN region,” said APHR Board Member Walden Bello, a former Congressman from the Philippines.

“After repeated delays to promised elections, it’s not clear that the generals who currently hold power have any intention of giving it up for real. There are also real concerns among the international community about the continued use of Article 44 and its implications for accountability and human rights,” he added.

Article 44 of Thailand’s interim constitution enables the NCPO chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to unilaterally make policy and override all other branches of government, and Prayuth has used this sweeping authority to restrict fundamental freedoms.

Political gatherings remain banned, a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly. Meanwhile, political parties are prohibited from holding meetings or undertaking any political activity.

The country has also witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of individuals arrested and charged under Article 112, Thailand’s harsh lèse-majesté statute, which outlaws criticism of the monarchy. Over 100 people have been arrested on such charges since the NCPO took power.

Press freedom has also come under attack. A new media bill, approved by the National Reform Steering Assembly, was repeatedly criticized by journalists and press freedom advocates. Though the final version of the bill forwarded to the cabinet earlier this month eliminated controversial proposed licensing requirements for media workers, it still includes provisions for government officials to sit on a regulatory body tasked with monitoring and accrediting media. This provision would undermine media freedom and constitute undue government interference into the affairs of the press, parliamentarians argued.

“The military government must recognize that a free, independent press is critical to a functioning democracy. It must also do a better job listening to civil society, including by ensuring adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders on all legislation,” Eva Sundari said.

“As Thailand moves into its fourth year under military rule, it is now more urgent than ever that concrete steps be taken to right the ship. Junta leaders need to understand that their actions, which fly in the face of international human rights norms and democratic standards, are no way to achieve a peaceful, prosperous future for Thailand,” Charles Santiago said.





The Dictator and the media means repression

3 05 2017

There’s been a spate of reporting saying the military dictatorship was prepared to “compromise” on the controversial media control bill.

For example, the Bangkok Post stated that “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) Monday endorsed a controversial media bill after making changes to two controversial issues in an apparent attempt to ease pressure from the press and critics.”

The Post reported that the revisions meant the “contentious plan to license individual journalists was dropped. However, journalists would be required to obtain certificates from their respective media companies.” Whatever that means.

It also reported that “the much-criticised 15-member national media profession council, which would include permanent secretaries from the PM’s Office and Culture Ministry, state representatives will serve on it during the five-year transitional period.” Again, this could end up meaning whatever the junta wants it to mean.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post responded to this move, basically saying the whole bill should be flushed down the nearest drain.

Thailand’s Chaplinesque Hynkel, The Great Dictator, known more widely as General Prayuth Chan-ocha, even prattled about having ” a forum to hear the views of members of the media on the controversial media bill…”. But this is window dressing. The Dictator stated: “”Don’t worry. All issues of concern will be jointly discussed. The bill has both positives and negatives…”. Whatever one thinks of this verbal manure, Prayuth wants control and limits on the media.

At the same time that he was babbling to the media, he was also criticizing the Navy for giving too much information to the media, claiming that “no other country has ever had to disclose this much information about military hardware procurement as Thailand just did.” This is just a lie. But the point is, Prayuth wants secrets kept so that his people can do what they want.

Then there’s the abduction of critics. No one may speak ill of the junta.

Bigger than this, though, is the desire to control the history that Thais know, not to mention the protection of a new palace regime of toadies and other supplicants in the service of a king who simply can’t be trusted.

We have speculated that the king is responsible for the removal of the 1932 commemorative plaque. So when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) decided to hold a panel discussion on the stolen plaque, the dictatorship had a political heart attack.

The result was that on 3 May , the “FCCT announced on its Facebook page that it had received orders from the police to cancel [the] panel discussion…. The police advised that the order came from so-called ‘relevant officials’ who perceived the seminar as a threat to national security.”

The national security threat is presumably an admission that the king had the plaque stolen.

The FCCT went on to say that it “regrets to announce that the panel discussion ‘Memories of 1932: The Mystery of Thailand’s Missing Plaque’, … has been cancelled. The decision was made after the FCCT received a letter from the Lumpini Police asking for the event to be called off, after the police were contacted, they say, by ‘relevant officials’…”.

It added: “The FCCT has been given to understand that this cancellation is on the orders of the NCPO, and we have no choice but to comply.”

That’s the junta’s position: the media cannot be free because it and the palace has many secrets that may not be revealed to anyone, least of all the media. If anyone reports on these secrets, they risk years in jail or even the king’s private lock up.





Death and detention

3 05 2017

Prachatai reports on the military junta’s puppet National Reform Council (NRC) on the rightist plan to bring the media even further under the military boot.

The NRC “has given the green light to a controversial bill that would subject the Thai media to a licensing system.”

During what Prachatai euphemistically calls a “debate over the bill” – it was the usual back-slapping resulting in support for the bill – “NRC whip spokesperson Pornthip Rojanasunand declared: “The media nowadays make video clips to defame people. This is very difficult to control … and is destroying society…”.

She was trumped by Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon who decried Thailand’s “free” media, saying that Thailand needed to be more like “countries such as China and Singapore have similar media regulations…”.

Lt Gen Thawatchai, seemingly drunk on power or just drunk, trumpeted:

Pol Gen Seripisut Temiyavet, a former police commander, recently gave interviews condemning the military…. He has no respect [for the military]. Journalists who report these things should be executed by firing squad.

Reckless chatter from a puppet, perhaps, but we are sure his personal fascism is widespread among the puppets.

Meanwhile, the military dictatorship’s official thugs continue to abduct political opponents. Prachatai reports that the “military has reportedly detained incommunicado two political dissidents one of whom is a human rights lawyer who represented a former lèse majesté convict.” That was Darunee Charnchoensilpakul.

On 30 April 2017 human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul told a colleague that the junta had “summoned him.” He then “disappeared and could not be contacted further…”. Legally, this may be another case of forced disappearance by the junta.

Prawet is known for posting “messages critical of the Thai military government and the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.”

A day earlier, Prachatai states that “more than 10 police and military officers detained Danai (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), 34, a political dissident from Chiang Mai.”

His disappearance was confirmed by Danai’s father who “reported that the [military] officers searched their house and confiscated two of Danai’s mobile phones and informed him that his son would be taken to Bangkok, but did not disclose other details.”

The official thugs “did not present any warrant for the arrest and did not tell him [the father] why Danai was arrested.” However, the “local village headman later told Danai’s father that his son was arrested for posting political facebook messages critical of the junta.”

Military fascism defines the junta’s Thailand.





When the military is on top V

28 04 2017

PPT is having difficulty keeping up with all of the junta’s shenanigans, so we are bringing a few stories together in this post and leave it to readers to go to the links if they want more.

Repression: Prachatai reports that earlier this week the dictators were miffed that Niwat Roikaew, the leader of an a local environmental conservation group Khon Rak Chiang Kong, complained about the Chinese surveying the future damage they would do in the Mekong River. They called him in for a “chat.” In other words, for intimidation.

Low royalism: Khaosod reproduces some decidedly awful painting by an unknown American they say is an artist. We have seen some awful scribbling before, but this takes the cake. The royalists seem prepared to dredge up drudge and call it significant to “honor” a dead rich man.

Press unfreedom: Also at Khaosod, it is reported that Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, Ranked Thailand 142nd out of 180 countries around the world in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. As high as 142! Wow. It will fall again next year as the junta’s new laws on the media bite (even if The Dictator is having second thoughts).

A torpedo in the tube: There are articles and op-eds at the Bangkok Post lamenting the dictatorship’s secret decision-making on buying Chinese subs. One is an editorial telling the junta that this secrecy is not on. Why the Post only chooses to do this for the sub deal seems to be because they think having a bunch of business people decry the purchase means it is safe to complain. But another adds a layer of secrecy when the Auditor-General says it will “investigate” the purchase but do it secretly.

What the rich do: Well, some of them continue to get away with murder. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has failed to show in court eight times “since legal proceedings against him began in 2016.” He continues to live the high life.

There’s more, but we are despondent.