Murder and the failure of the justice system

11 08 2018

In our first post on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017, we made several points. We began by saying no one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event.

The junta immediately defended the soldiers who shot the young man:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The courts have decided that the military shot Chaiyaphoom, but no more than this.

The police initially insisted that Lahu activist Chaiyaphoom was linked to drug trafficking. They also stated, immediately, that the killing was in self-defense. They claimed Chaiyapoom was shot after he tried to attack the soldier with a hand grenade while fleeing. Another version of the police story also had him threatening the soldier with a knife. It later emerged that the military used exactly  the same “defense” in a case a month earlier and at the very same military checkpoint.

The story became more bizarre when it emerged that in neither case did the “grenade” explode! It was being alleged that the two used the grenade like throwing a rock.

You’d think the story could be better than this if you were concocting it. But these officials and the military are so sure of their impunity that they can come up with ludicrous, improbable and dumb excuses and just get away with it.

Immediately after Chaiyaphoom’s one-shot death, the police insisted there was no foul play.” And they also claimed that a large number of meth pills were “found” in the car that Chaiyaphoom allegedly ran from. Shut the door, close the books and go home. There’s nothing to see or investigate.

Locals were aghast and knew there was a cover up. When the military suddenly showed up in villages and strong-armed potential witnesses and a few who spoke out, it was clear there was a cover-up.

More covering up followed. The Army boss Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart said his men “had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade…”. Deputy Dictator Prawit Wongsuwan said much the same.

Local witnesses of the shooting told a different story. They were soon silent, no doubt intimidated.

By the end of March, the military and police had refused to release CCTV footage of the killing. Third Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the military had sent CCTV evidence to the police.

Gen Chalermchai also “stated that he had already watched the CCTV recording of the scene. He said the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all questions.’ Releasing the footage might lead to confusion in the investigation process and arguments among society.”

Then in mid-April it was reported that the generals were lying:

Pol Col Mongkhon Samphawaphon revealed to BBC Thai that the police have not received CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

The police submitted a request to the military for the footage. However, the military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.

Intimidation continued.

In mid-May 2017, it was reported that police had received the CCTV video. The police stated that they had “spent a week unable to view critical footage because they didn’t have a computer with the necessary software to watch it.”

Then, almost six months after Chaiyapoom was killed and over five months after the military first stated it had handed the CCTV footage to police investigators, a lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family said he was concerned about the CCTV footage which was prime evidence. He said he did not know whether the military has given the footage to prosecutor.

Later still, the CCTV video remained “unavailable”:

Although the trial in the killing of ethnic Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae began over seven months ago, the court has not yet received the Army’s CCTV footage, critical evidence which recorded soldiers shooting the activist.

According to Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, the Army had already sent the CCTV hard disk to the police, but the file cannot be opened. The lawyer said that he would ask the court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.

As court proceedings continued, it was reported:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

In June 2018, a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on Chaiyapoom’s killing was delivered, concluding that “the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

Again, Chaiyaphoom’s lawyer and family petitioned the Army to reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain. The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men.

Now it is reported – some 17 months after the extrajudicial killing – the Army would have the public believe that there is no footage. That’s what they have now told the family.

This is breathtakingly dumb. Those generals, then, were simply lying. They cannot be believed on anything at all. They are scoundrels of the lowest order.

More importantly, they may have engaged in malfeasance justifying legal proceedings against them.

Now it is claimed the tape was erased. It is claimed it was never there having been erased to create space on the tape/disk for additional recording.

So what did the generals view? Porn perhaps? Family holiday videos? Blank screens? We think not. We actually think the generals did not lie. Rather, they saw the events, realized it was incriminating its troops of an extrajudicial murder, and after hiding the evidence, it has now been erased.

That’s a criminal act. The Bangkok Post’s editorial doesn’t say anything about that, but says this:

Thailand has been unable to hold state officials accountable for extrajudicial killings, torture or forced disappearances due to a flawed and biased justice process.

The missing footage once again will prevent the justice system from fulfilling its mission of getting to the bottom of yet another mysterious killing.

Its time to say that the justice system under the military dictatorship is incapable of delivering anything resembling justice.





Generals need conscripts

8 08 2018

In a recent report, self-appointed Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that the military “need[s] to retain the mandatory conscription for Thai male adults as soldiers form an indispensable force in time of crisis or emergency.”

He added that conscripts “have several roles besides defending the country. He said soldiers are necessary in time of crisis as government agencies don’t have enough manpower to deal with such situation.”

The Dictator also said that “living conditions of conscripts now are much better off than they were in the past…”.

What he didn’t talk much about was why the higher-ups really “need” conscripts or how so many conscripts and recruits have been subjected to torture in training and how some have died.

In the past, the Deputy Dictator has defended “extreme discipline.” He believed “all soldiers have had to undergo such disciplinary measures, including himself.” He added: “I was once repaired more than I could take and I fainted too. I didn’t die.” In other words, torturing recruits is fine and if they die, it is a matter of their own weakness. The Dictator himself defended the practice: “What’s wrong with it? I went through it all.”

“Military discipline” establishes hierarchy and marks territory. The military does this with violence. This is also how they run the country: threats of violence and the use of violence.

But why do they want conscripts?

The evidence is that conscripts are free labor for officers. Not that long ago, Wilat Chantarapitak, a former Democrat Party MP and former advisor to a parliamentary anti-corruption committee, said the conscription system is “riddled with corruption because more than half of the conscripts end up as servants in the houses of senior officers or in military cooperative shops.”

Worse, many become slave labor for officers.





Updated: The satellite system squirm

7 06 2018

Read the junta’s efforts to hose down the satellite deal controversy.

The Dictator Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is “trying to placate opponents of the multi-billion baht defence satellite project, saying many other elements must be considered before deciding whether it should get off the ground, including the budget and people’s consent.”

People’s consent? Huh? The Dictator is interested? Oh, yes, we forgot, he’s campaigning for “election” selection.

The Dictator ever so solemnly declared that “no proposal regarding the satellite project has been forwarded to the cabinet for consideration.” Does he mean that the military operates on its own? It has free reign? Or is he fibbing, suggesting that no final decision has reached cabinet. Or maybe both.

But The Dictator clearly knows a lot about the project.

Meanwhile, Deputy Dic and Defense Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan argued that “the project is still being studied.” So he knows all about it as well.

He went on to say that “the study was being carried out between the United States and several other nations.” Now, by saying “United States,” he’s implying something government-to-government. Yet the limited information available suggests that the Theia Group is private and just one of several competing private satellite projects on offer and all still in development or even earlier stages than that.

We think Prawit is fibbing when he states: “The US wants Thailand to co-study and be a member, but Thailand has not yet replied…. If we do not join them, the US would look at other countries.” If he’s not fibbing, then he’s revealing information not available anywhere else and presumably that means information shared with allies.

That there is “a letter of intent signed by the Defence Technology Institute in regard to the project,” is, the Deputy Dic says “not a binding contract, but only for acknowledgement.”

Prawit then said: “Right now we still do not know when the project would get off the ground,” and we think that’s right. While “Ministry [of Defense] sources said it could be operational in 2021, when the ministry’s lease contract for the Thaicom satellite expires,” all other information suggests that’s almost impossible. Other dates suggested have been 2023, but there’s doubt about that too.

It sounds like typical junta obfuscation.

Update: As it usually does when it has things to hide, the junta is threatening and considering legal harassment. Khaosod reports that:

A top junta figure is mulling legal action against a transparency activist who accused the government of illegally planning to acquire an expensive satellite network to spy on its citizens.

Through a spokesman, Gen. Prajin Juntong, who serves as deputy prime minister, slammed the allegations as baseless and said he had ordered lawyers to prepare a case against Srisuwan Janya, though he did not specify what charges would be brought.

“It damaged the deputy prime minister and confused the public,” spokesman Monthol Satchukorn said.

Sounds like a sedition and computer crimes farce set of charges, again common under the dictatorship.





Updated: Military wheeling and dealing

4 06 2018

Activist Srisuwan Janya seems to enjoy walking around with a target on his back. That is not a poor taste reflection on the military’s penchant for using snipers to kill demonstrators, but to Srisuwan’s continued attacks on the military and the regime.

His latest outing is of a military satellite project. He claims it is likely to “incur up to 91.2 billion in public debt to fund the … project.” Srisuwan says “the Defence Council last week approved a proposal for the Defence Ministry to draft a 2018-2027 strategic plan on space affairs for country defence purposes in paving the way for the purchase of 112 satellites called Theia.”

The Bangkok Post states that unnamed “ministry sources” revealed that the “Defence Technology Institute (DTI) and the ministry’s space affairs and cyber centre to assess the Theia satellite project.” Further, this is “part of the Thailand Satellites Data Information Processing Centre (TSDIPC), in which Thailand will work with the United States and other countries…”. It adds that the “US Theia Group invited the Thai government to co-invest in a satellite (Theia Space) with another four or five countries, the names of which were not revealed…”.

On the Sky Dragon purchase, we looked for information on the penny company involved with that waste of funds. We did the same with this one.

There’s something called Theia Space involved with the the European Space Agency, satellites and space research, but we don’t think that’s the agency involved.

More likely is the Theia Group in the US, which has very little information that we can find. There’s a sparse profile and an SEC reporting document from 2016. The military will also be pleased to know that there’s a Technical Narrative for the Theia Satellite Network available from the FCC.

There’s also some news that seems to relate to Theia. One we saw stated that several companies had filed for approvals from the FCC in 2016-17, adding: “It’s unlikely that all of them are going to make it to market…”. One of the projects mentioned is Theia Holdings:

The proposed Theia Satellite Network (TSN) is designed as an integrated Earth observation and communications network to provide remote-sensing and communications products and services to a variety of users in the U.S. and worldwide.

The constellation would include 112 operational satellites in LEO that incorporate remote-sensing, signal-processing and communications payloads. TSN is designed to collect, process and deliver remote-sensing information products directly to end users on demand and to provide broadband communications necessary to the delivery of these products and services, including directly into machines via M2M communications.

Potential markets for Theia’s services include basic Earth and atmospheric sciences, agriculture, natural resources exploration, insurance, infrastructure protection and support of economic and physical security.

Theia doesn’t jump out as a major corporation for which there is lots of information available (but perhaps we are not looking in the right places). It is in a technology area that is in clearly in development and where it faces competition, and where the report cited above says not all proposals will get to market.

Naturally enough, the junta has attacked Srisuwan for “distortion.” We have no idea about that, but the military would get less “distortion” if it was less opaque in its wheeling and dealing. But that might threaten commissions and the painful effort of being more transparent, something all the generals find an awful idea.

Update: Khaosod now has an excellent report on this “project.”





Updated: Still watching and waiting

11 05 2018

A Timeline (from the Bangkok Post)

A couple of days ago we posted on how quiet the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) had become very, very quiet on Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury watch “investigation.”

The NACC has now been pushed by activists to state that the “probe into the luxury watches allegedly owned by Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit … is still ongoing and is not being stalled…”.

As ever, though, the NACC secretary-general Worawit Sookboon said “it is unlikely the commission will meet this month’s deadline to wrap up the case.”

So far, the NACC has met none of its self-imposed “deadlines.” Nor has the Deputy Dictator met NACC “deadlines.”

Now the NACC says the “investigation requires another two to three months…”.

So the saga goes on and on. But that’s the plan. The NACC and the Deputy Dictator figure that they can just wait for the heat to finally go and they walk away from the cover-up “investigation.”

The NACC’s Worawit said, as he did months ago, that “the speed of the probe depends on how quickly luxury watch dealers respond to NACC requests for information about the 22 watches seen worn by Gen Prawit…”.

We can only guess that the dealers have been ordered/told/threatened/encouraged not to respond.

Worawit added that “it is not complicated verifying the 22 watches’ owners via the serial numbers, it takes time repeating the same process for each watch…”.

He did respond to the activists who demanded investigations to include all witnesses, saying that “questioning of witnesses, including the children of Pattawat Suksriwong, the late close friend of Gen Prawit, is completed…”.

Presumably that has produced receipts for the purchase of each watch and the tax paid. Yeah, right.

Update: The Bangkok Post has an editorial that makes all the obvious points. It notes that the NACC’s claim for delays is not at all convincing. This is also worth repeating:

The latest delay to the probe revealed this week will come as no surprise to the public but disgraces both Gen Prawit and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which has six of its nine commissioners appointed by the current regime. This unnecessary and unconvincing delay has deepened the public’s mistrust in the agency’s integrity and independence, and in Gen Prawit’s claim.





NACC on watch

9 05 2018

It was only a couple of days ago that PPT mentioned how very quiet the National Anti-Corruption Commission had been since Gen Prawit Wongsuwan told them his luxury watch case was over. We assumed then that the NACC has done as it was ordered and there’s no case for the boss to answer.

Interestingly, a couple of activists have raised the watch case again. Akechai Hongkangwarn and Chokchai Phaiboonratchata have asked that “the NACC to summon Jiraphan and Jutiphon Suksriwong, daughters of Pattawat Suksriwong, for questioning over the luxury watch scandal.” Pattawat is the dead businessman Gen Prawit claims to have “borrowed” a score of expensive watches from.

The two activists, with considerable merit, “said that since Pattawat had died, his two daughters should clarify whether the watches in question belonged to their late father as claimed by Gen Prawit.” It seems the NACC has neglected these women, while hoping the case will just go quiet and go away.

We can’t wait to hear the NACC response.





Watching and waiting

23 02 2018

In the land of the military dictatorship, double standards are the guiding principle when it comes to law. While there were similar patterns seen in the past, it needs to be remembered that the junta seized the state in the 2014 coup and expelled an elected government publicly trumpeting the need for reform, its opposition to corruption and rule of law.

Of course, some seasoned observers knew from bitter experience that all of this was bluster and it wouldn’t be long before the nepotism, corruption, impunity and the double standards that are definitional of military regimes were seen.

While many of the junta’s anti-democrat put up with early examples of corruption (such as Rajabhakti Park) and were prepared to turn a blind eye to lese majeste repression, murder (what has happened to the evidence associated with the Chaiyapoom Pasae case?), censorship and political repression, a range of issues have seen even diehard yellow shirts turning away from the junta. These issues include: the election “delay,” double standards in the law and the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watches.

On the latter, many will be stunned to read that the National Anti-Corruption Commission continues to delay on its investigation. The NACC says that it will (again) “write to Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon in the next few days, demanding he provide specific details on how he acquired 25 luxury watches…”.

We count at least three previous letters asking for the same information.

NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, himself polluted by his relationship to the Deputy Dictator, said the “deputy premier will be asked to furnish precise details of the watches exposed in recent news reports, including the brand names, price tags and dates he wore them…”.

What did the previous letters ask for? Did they not ask for such details? If not, why not? Pol Gen Watcharapol must explain this.

The NACC has given Gen Prawit another 15 days to respond. All the other deadlines, like “election” promises, have simply been ignored.

The article suggest that Gen Prawit is not fully cooperating with the NACC. That may be so, but why is the NACC cooperating with Prawit?

On an “investigation” that the NACC recently said would be wrapped up by the end of February, Pol Gen Watcharapol now says the “issue will be clearer [next month]…”.

Unremarkably, Pol Gen Watcharapol said “the deputy premier has informed the NACC he was too busy with his duties” and that Prawit “may need some time to gather the information as some of the watches were worn a long time ago … adding he did not suspect Gen Prawit was deliberately stalling.”

It sounds like collusion and a cover up to us.

Another case that is defining of double standards is that of leopard killing and eating tycoon Premchai Karnasuta of Italian-Thai Development and dozens of other companies. Not that long ago we posted on his seeming disappearance despite ongoing investigations of his illegal hunting.

Police have now issued a second summons to Premchai and other members of his hunting party “inviting him to answer additional charges of cruelty to animals…”. All had failed to respond to the first summons. His lawyer didn’t even bother to provide a particular reason for his client’s failure to appear.

Not showing up to answer a summons is not uncommon, but this is a high-profile case and we well recall the way poor farmers were mistreated under the same laws. Not that long ago a couple of farmers were arrested by police and quickly sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was reduced by half because they had confessed. Their “crime” was picking mushrooms from a protected forest. They did not shoot and eat  endangered animals. But the law works differently for the rich.

And so it goes on and on….