No change, more repression

10 07 2019

Despite claims that the military government is ending, it remains in place, essential a government of the junta, headed by the junta’s prime minister who will also be the post-junta/junta-backed prime minister.

The (almost) end of the rule by junta government has some useful attributes. For example, as reported by the Bangkok Post, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a decree stating:

The NCPO [junta] issued announcements and orders to facilitate administration and national reform and to promote unity and reconciliation among people. Now that the implementation of some of them have been completed, they no longer serve a purpose….

All offences under the NCPO orders, whether committed before or after this order takes effect, will be in the jurisdiction of the courts of justice [not military courts]. The cases being tried by the military court will also be transferred to the courts of justice….

And, despite having used Article 44 just yesterday, Gen Prayuth says he won’t use it again.

Even so, “[s]ome special laws enacted by the junta’s absolute power will stay in place even after the new government takes over…”. As has been noted previously, however, many of the activities of the junta have been sucked up into the military and in particular, the Internal Security Operations Command.

As the Bangkok Post notes in an editorial about recent attacks on activists and repression and threats to opponents, this is the style of “rule of a repressive military regime, not a civilian one.”

It notes that “state surveillance on activists remains ongoing and the same kind of heavy-handed suppression of political dissent can be expected under the new civilian government,” confirming that the junta “has already ensured that such a campaign will be led by the military … [and] Isoc…”.





No justice from the military

23 05 2019

The mothers of two men murdered by the Army in early 2017 are suing it for 11 million baht in compensation, with their lawyer urging the authorities to ensure justice for the families.

The families of Abe Saemu and Chaiyapoom Pasae have been forced to the Civil Court because the Army and the military junta has refused any justice for the extrajudicial killings, despite the “Chiang Mai Provincial Court ha[ving] … ruled last year that Abe and Chaiyaphum had indeed been shot dead by military officers.”

Chaiyaphoom

PPT’s summary of the murder of Chaiyaphoom is worth re-reading for the details of this horrendous cover-up that began from the moment he was murdered. The impunity is staggering, even for the junta’s Thailand.

Ratsada Manuratsada, representing the families, “said his clients have the right to seek compensation as per the Liability for Wrongful Act of Officials Act, under which official agencies have to make reparations for the wrongdoings of their officers.” He added: “We have to take this case to court, because the acts of military officers in both cases are a clear discriminatory action and directly violates their rights…”.

Ratsada also “called on relevant officers to disclose the latest update on the process of filing a criminal case against the officers behind the slayings…. He also asked whether the police had already submitted the case docket with a Military Court attorney, as civilians are not allowed to file a case with the Military Court directly.”

And, Ratsada again called for the “release of a CCTV recording of the incident involving Chaiyaphum at the checkpoint, which has been missing so far.” Well, “missing” only in the sense that the military has withheld it.





Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





The monarchy, military two-step

16 05 2019

Since the Cold War era, the relationship between the military and monarchy has been close, with predominance see-sawing between the two pillars of Thai authoritarianism. Several times, the military has murdered and massacred in the name of the monarchy. The monarch appreciated their work. The monarchy has long danced with dictators.

The current military dictatorship seized power to eject yet another pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party, in part to eradicate what it considered an unacceptable rise in republicanism. That republicanism was bred of the royal family’s support for royalist political movements and against the pro-Thaksin/pro-democracy forces.

At times it has been felt that King Vajiralongkorn is not particularly close to the ruling junta. We have no idea if that is true. What has been demonstrated is the junta’s loyalty to the king, publicly accepting demands made by the king and lauding him to the public. As far as we can discern, the king has gone along with the junta’s plans, even (effectively) campaigning for the junta’s party in the recent election.

That support from the king will be even more important in what might be a shaky politics after a new government is in place.

The-Dictator-hoping-to-be-reaffirmed-premier Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha demonstrated how the monarchy can be used politically to benefit the post-junta military-backed regime when he used the king’s name to reject criticism of the puppet Senate he selected and the king approved (we do not know if any were the king’s selection.)

Rejecting all (valid) criticism, Gen Prayuth thundered at journalists: “Remember this…. Anything that has been endorsed and considered by His Majesty has always already gone under scrutiny. That’s the most important thing.”

In other words, only the king can scrutinize the work of the junta and if he approves no mortal can criticize this.

While we do not expect that this threat will silence criticism of the completely compromised Senate, the use of the king’s name is suggestive of some very dark times ahead under a military-backed regime and a military-trained and aligned king who is building his own control of the Army.

That the king is used to silence critics of a Senate that is packed out with junta relatives, junta ministers, military officers and other junta flunkies suggests The Dictator and king are locked in goose-step.





Akechai bashed again

13 05 2019

While engaging in enforced disappearance and (probably) in political murder of those considered opponents of the regime and monarchy, the military junta also allows vicious assaults on opponents.

Regime critic Akechai Hongkangwarn has been viciously viciously assaulted for a seventh time.

This assault took place in broad daylight, in front of witnesses and in front of the Bangkok Criminal Court at about 8.30 am on Monday. As in some of his previous assaults, four men wearing motorcycle helmets attacked him for several minutes and then fled the scene.

As the report observes, “[w]ith the exception of a man convicted in 2018 of punching Ekachai, most of the attackers were never caught or prosecuted.” Our guess, and it is no more than that, is that the most of the helmeted attackers are in the pay of some military agency.

This is how the junta’s Thailand operates: nepotism and favoritism for supporters and assault and death for opponents.

 





Abject nepotism

12 05 2019

The military junta has demonstrated that it is determined to monopolize political power; it is the way of military dictatorships.

PPT is full of posts about its political repression, martial law, use of military courts, nepotism and corruption. The junta has filled the bureaucracy, “independent” organizations, courts and appointed bodies with junta puppets and flunkies.

This is why a story in the Bangkok Post, where Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has defended The Dictator’s nepotism, is now “normalized” for Thailand.

Gen Prawit, himself having been accused and never properly investigated for corruption, “defended the appointment of ex-permanent secretary for defence [Gen.] Preecha Chan-o-cha, the younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as a senator, saying the retired officer has experience as a lawmaker.”

He means the experience of seldom attending the puppet National Legislative Assembly. His brother appointed him to that and several other posts as well. See what we mean by “normalized.” Of course, there are a long string of complaints about Gen Preecha, big brother and nepotism, none of them adequately “investigated” by the puppet anti-corruption authorities, all of them staffed and headed by junta lackeys.

The list of 250 senators handpicked by The Dictator and the junta has been sent off to the king in Germany, a bunch of junta members, government ministers, NLA members and other junta associates have resigned from posts in order to constitute the unelected swill of the Senate.

Nepots: clipped from the Bangkok Post

Gen Preecha was reported to be “among 60 members of the … NLA … who resigned from their posts this week ahead of taking up roles as senators. At least 15 cabinet ministers also stepped down for the same reason.”

This cartoon, from The Nation is about the state of politics in the country and seems accurate enough:

It is from 1992 and pretty much still relevant today. With the military and its men still controlling politics, bootlicking is rewarded and nepotism and corruption will deepen.





The unelected swill

9 05 2019

The unelected swill that will compose the dead weight of the royalist elite and the military junta on the future – the senate – will shortly be announced.

The Bangkok Post correctly observes that the junta’s senate will be marked by cronyism and nepotism. As it also notes, this was expected of The Dictator and his band of election-rigging cheats.

It notices that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “has picked his brother, cabinet members and current lawmakers to serve in the Upper House…”. Their “service” is to the ruling class and the junta. As so many agencies have been made puppets, so it will be with the senate.

At present, these observations of who is a new senator comes from moves by those selected resigning elsewhere. Young brother, Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, “confirmed to the media that he had resigned from the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to assume a new role as one of the senators.”

Preecha hardly ever showed up for the NLA and has been the subject of numerous corruption and nepotism allegations. He has brazenly stared down critics – his brother is the boss, so he can do what he likes – and the puppet anti-corruption agencies have averted their eyes. He’s a crook, but he’s loyal to big brother.

NLA vice president Peerasak Porjit has “revealed” that “at least 60 people would quit their jobs at the NLA …[to] be eligible to take up posts at the Senate.” They are being rewarded for their loyalty to The Dictator and the junta. And, “at least 15 cabinet ministers have tendered their resignations with the same goal in mind.”

It is clear that, as expected, Gen Prayuth’s selection of senators is “to be dominated by people from his personal circle and political allies.”

While the senate is crucial for the selection of the next premier – still looking like The Dictator – it is unlikely to be anything other than a rubber stamp for the junta’s Palang Pracharath government. As the Post says, it will be like the NLA, a puppet, “serving the agenda of the government without the proper checks on its power.”

Perhaps for the first time, the Post also calls out the “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Election Commission (EC), the Constitutional Court, the State Audit Office, and the Office of the Auditor General” as puppets of the junta.

For the ruling class, you get what you pay for: justice for sale, parliament for sale, and a buddy regime.