A lawless and lying junta

11 10 2017

PPT has been busy posting about other things – the absurdity of lese majeste, junta political gymnastics – and so we neglected to mention an important op-ed by Umesh Pandey is Editor of the Bangkok Post. Earlier we posted on another commentary by Umesh on the basis of the junta’s rule in illegality and lies.

This op-ed may be seen as somewhat dated, given recent “changes” (see below), but we think his comments deserve consideration for the broader points made about what defines the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Umesh’s latest commentary begins thus: “Bending the law and going back on words seems to have become the norm ever since the coup that ousted the elected government in 2014.”

In other words, the regime is built on lies and the manipulation of law.

The Post’s editor is particularly upset that The Dictator told US President Trump that there would be “free and fair elections in 2018,” only to renege. (We actually think that General Prayuth and his team of flunkies simply didn’t comprehend the statement they signed. They are not all that intelligent.)

Umesh also worries that the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee, led by serial constitution buster and military minion Meechai Ruchupan, “is defending delays in polls is something that should go down in history books as being one of its kind in the world.” He comments that the CDC “is a body that supposedly comprises some of the smartest people, who are supposed to look at the country’s future and its long-term well-being, and they are protecting the never-ending delays that this military regime is trying to undertake.”

Smartest? Really? As far as we can tell from their record, the CDC is composed of puppets with no more intelligence than their wooden counterparts.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the CDC has supported the junta’s delays. In fact, we have lost count. But this is nothing other than a collection of puppets with the junta pulling all the strings.

Umesh observes that:

The regime’s initial promise to hold elections was within a year of the coup, so 2015, then it turned out to be 2016, then 2017 and finally Gen Prayut announced at the United Nations that it would be 2018.

Then it was 2019, although in recent days The Dictator has changed this back to 2018 (maybe). We still don’t know why Prayuth back-flipped.

Umesh continues:

While democracy is being kicked around a football, the players are gradually being red-carded one after another. The latest headlines in yesterday’s papers suggest that there is an all-out effort to go for the final kill.

After having prosecuted the Pheu Thai and its predecessor parties for the past decade, efforts are being made to charge its backer, Thaksin [Shinawatra], with the feared Section 112. Newly appointed Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwongs said 112 can be applied for video footage in which Thaksin reportedly blamed members of the Privy Council for the May 22, 2014 coup that ousted Pheu Thai government.

Of course, no election held under the junta’s rules will be “free” or “fair” or “democratic.”

Bravely, Umesh ponders the lese majeste law: “As far as most of the population of this country is aware, the lese majeste law clearly states that it applies to only members of the royal family.”

Well, sort of, apart from the cases related to Princess Sirindhorn, royal pets, dead kings, historical figures and mythical queens. But we get the point.

He asks:

So, what is the section of the 112 law that the attorney-general is going to use to prosecute Thaksin? Or is it the case that this law was changed over the course of time and people are not aware of it?

In fact, lese majeste is used however the junta (and palace) wants it to be used. There’s no rule of law in Thailand, just rule by junta.





Thaksin denies lese majeste

10 10 2017

Lese majeste has become the military dictatorship’s weapon of political choice in attacking opponents. Because it has to do with monarchy, yellow shirts immediately jump on board and support the junta, no matter how absurd the allegations and charges (historical myths and events, the dead king’s dead dog, use against a juvenile, etc.). When this political charge is used against Thaksin Shinawatra, the gleefulness of junta and royalist supporters is palpable.

So when the military dictatorship reactivated a lese majeste accusation against Thaksin (one of many such charges and allegations), the yellow-hued royalists again clapped and cheered the military regime.

In this instance, Thaksin has responded.

Thaksin denied “that he has ever defamed the royal family and threatened to sue anyone who accuses him of the crime.” He took to Twitter to state that he was “emotionally troubled” by reports that “the new attorney general had vowed to prosecute him for the crime.”

He condemned the use of lese majeste against him and declared that he “will take all legal action against those who continue implicate him, regardless of whether he knew the person. He did not name names.”

The newly appointed attorney general Khemchai Chutiwong wants to prosecute Thaksin for a “crime” of stating, quite reasonably, of the 2014 military coup, that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Of course, as in many cases of lese majeste, this statement cannot possibly be lese majeste if any sane person reads Article 112. But like many of his ilk, Khemchai is insane when it comes to Thaksin and sees no problem in contorting an already absurd law to the political purpose of the anti-Thaksin coteries of royalists, coup-makers and anti-democrats.





It feels like 1962

2 10 2017

Back in 1962, General Sarit Thanarat had his boot on the neck of Thailand’s politics. He had taken control of everything, including police and personally meted out “justice” against “communists,” “elected politicians” and others.

In other words, the military dictatorship had strong control over the bureaucracy, the military, the police and over broader society. One academic referred to Sarit’s rule as “despotic paternalism,” but the emphasis was really on despotism.

It feels like that now, and recall that Sarit’s military regime went on for a total of 11 years.

What prompted these observations is the story in the Bangkok Post where it is reported that the Minister for Defense and Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has is now putting himself in charge of crime-fighting.

He has “ordered widespread crackdowns on mafia gangs to stop them causing trouble to Thai and foreign tourists across the country.”

It seems that the Defense Minister is now controlling Pattaya (which is supposed to have its own administration), “key police agencies, including the Crime Suppression Division and the Immigration Bureau…”.

Following their “success” with political repression, “joint investigation between military officers and local police” will become common.

Nothing will escape the Deputy Dictator: the drug trade, prostitution, extortion, visa overstays, and down to bag snatching. After Pattaya, the Ministry of Defense plans to cover the country.

The militarization of Thailand continues apace.





The 6 October website

30 09 2017

As reported at Prachatai, a new website has been launched from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, to establish and maintain an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

That horrid massacre, mainly of students gathered at Thammasat University, was led by police, ultra-royalist rightists and the military. The massacre and the military coup that was a part of the plan was enthusiastically supported by the king, queen, then Prince Vajiralongkorn and other members of the royal family.

A photo by Frank Lombard available at the new website.

The students killed and the more than 3,000 arrested were maniacally alleged to be “communists and threats to Thailand’s monarchy.”

For a monarchy that is regularly said to be “revered” and “loved,” it is remarkable how many citizens have been killed and jailed to “protect” it.

The website is superbly designed and is an important resource.It is mostly in Thai, although some resources are in Thai and English (like the documentary “Respectfully Yours.”

Prachatai notes that “Thai society has tried to remove the 6 October massacre from the history timelines…”.

Another Lombard photo from the website.

In fact, it is not “Thai society” that has tried to erase the massacre but the ruling class, including royalists, police and military.

Because Thailand is currently ruled by a repressive military junta that came to power following a massacre, to “protect” the monarchy and to wind back political space, this online archive is an important innovation.





Coup learning

22 09 2017

PPT wishes to draw attention to two retrospective articles published by Prachatai. Both can be considered the 2014 military coup and the period of military dictatorship in a context of the “failures” of the 2006 coup to demolish the “Thaksin regime.”

The first, by Kornkritch Somjittranukit, claims that “[f]orming political alliances, securing military influence, creating extra-parliamentary mechanisms and establishing dominant ideology are things that the ruling junta has learnt from the 2006 wasted coup…”. The article details these “lessons,” learned by the current junta.

In our view, the regime and its anti-democratic supporters measure the junta’s “success” by its ability to destroy the Thaksin regime – its party, its red shirt support, its influence in the police, military and bureaucracy, its wealth and even individuals considered important to that “evil regime.” The current junta’s main key performance indicator is preventing the re-election of any Shinawatra, whether that is by “postponing” elections or rigging them.

The second, by Khon Kaen academic Siwach Sripokangkul, can be read as an account of the junta’s “reconciliation” as a means to exclude, discipline and destroy those considered oppositional. It highlights the broad double standards at work in a militarized Thai society.

Of course, The Dictator looms large: “In [General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s view, if someone does not think or see the world as he does, he or she lacks Thainess and is a danger to Thai society; he, Prayuth, is right and the other person is wrong.”





Justice system no longer makes sense

22 09 2017

Double standards rule in the justice system. Sure, some yellow shirts get to courts for their actions, but their cases are slowed to a crawl, subject to seemingly endless appeals and so on. But when it comes to those who are accused of lese majeste or actions the military dictatorship considers threatening or unsettling, the cases sail through courts.

Khaosod reports on the case of Piyarat Chongthep who, wearing a No Coup t-shirt, “stared down a security officer as he ripped his ballot in half while shouting ‘Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy’ at a Bangkok polling station.”

He soon goes to court and is facing 10 years in jail.

While the court outcome is not yet known, there are several things worth considering in this case.

Piyarat declares that he “engaged in civil disobedience,” but he was “charged with obstructing the referendum, causing a disturbance at a polling station and destruction of state property for tearing the 25 satang ballot.”

His aim “was to draw attention to suppression of the public’s right to oppose the junta-sponsored draft charter in an unjust process that give it the veneer of democratic legitimacy.”

As Khaosod reminds us, the military dictatorship enacted “a special referendum law … that criminalized campaigning against it [the referendum].” This draconian law “criminalized all forms of campaigning, but the airwaves were filled with pro-charter messages from the regime while only opponents were arrested.”

Like others we have recently posted on (here and here), Piyarat is disillusioned by the (in)justice system:

After learning the referendum passed by a sizeable margin, he felt the law had been so twisted by the junta that Thailand’s justice system no longer made sense. As a result, when he was released from the police station, he quit his evening law classes.

It is also worth remembering that, back in 2010, in a case that went back to the 2006 election, rightist and yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn was acquitted after he tore up ballot papers. The court found a technicality that meant it could let Chaiyan off the hook as he used the courts to highlight his anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaign.





When the military is on top XI

15 09 2017

It’s a while since we had a “When the military is on top” post. This post is prompted by a couple of recent stories reveal more about the military dictatorship and its aims.

First, as we have noted previously, the dictatorship’s core task is uprooting the “Thaksin regime.” That task is deepening and widening. Following thoroughgoing purges and arrests, the attention to the money the dictatorship and its anti-democrat allies mistakenly believe underpins Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s electoral popularity. The latest effort has the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) seeking to bring money laundering charges against Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra. This is a ratcheting up of earlier efforts and a precursor to charges being laid.

Second, Prachatai reports that the new junta-written election commission law has been promulgated and means that the new election commissioners will be selected by 250 military junta-appointed senators. That decision means that the Election Commission will essentially be junta-controlled for the next 5 or so years (depending when the junta decides to hold its “election”). Should a new government not be as the junta wants it, it is likely that that government will always be under threat from anti-election election commissioners.

Third, members of “the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have slammed a [police reform] committee over its move to invite former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to give his opinions on reforming the Thai police.” Suthep, mired in long-standing corruption allegations that go back to the 1990s, when his underhanded actions brought down Chuan Leekpai’s government in 1994, is an anti-democrats as coup planner and supporter.

The “committee on police reform [has] announced it would start seeking opinions from Constitutional Court judges, mass media, former national police chiefs, and the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban, who has also come up with reformist proposals.”

The police are seen as a nest of Thaksinites, so Suthep’s views will be important. After all, he’s been a minister, accused of corruption many times, is an “influential person” in the south, has been in the courts several times, once essentially accused of mass murder. That seems just the kind of advice the junta will want.

Can Thailand sink much deeper into the fascist slime? Under the military dictatorship, it seems it can go much deeper.