I’m not a dictator, just ahead of the curve

15 08 2017

With apologies to The Joker, it seems The Dictator has adopted his line in getting cranky with those who call him out as The Dictator.

A report at Global Voices suggests that Peace TV has been shut for a month for a show that referred to General Prayuth Chan-ocha as a dictator.

We are prepared to believe that The Dictator has again gotten personally ticked off and used his power to have the whole station shut down for a month. However, we think that the real reason for the closure has to do with silencing an outlet that is seen by the junta as oppositional.

But back to the notion that Prayuth doesn’t like being labeled a dictator.

Wikipedia says that a “dictator is a political leader who wields absolute power. A state ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship.” It adds that a dictatorship is “often characterised by some of the following traits: suspension of elections and civil liberties; proclamation of a state of emergency; rule by decree; repression of political opponents without abiding by the rule of law procedures; these include one-party state, and cult of personality.”

On all of that, if Prayuth isn’t The Dictator, then he’s ahead of the curve.





Threatening Yingluck’s supporters

11 08 2017

The military dictatorship’s fears around Yingluck Shinawatra’s next court appearance grow by the day.

We have mentioned several of the junta’s efforts to undermine any displays of support for her. As the junta does these things it also reveals the deep-seated “beliefs” that underpin the broad yellow-shirted anti-Thaksin movement about the Shinawatra clan and red shirts.

Essentially, that view is that, as Thaksin’s voters were, Yingluck’s supporters are paid, duped and/or ignorant.

So it is no surprise that The Nation reports that the Ministers of Interior and Defense have been told that “local administrative organisations had misused their budgets by funding trips to Bangkok for ‘hidden’ political motives.” While no evidence is produced for such claims, the notion is that ignorant villagers are being “used” by “political interests.” Those ministers have been ordered to ensure that there are no more of these claimed “paid” trips to Bangkok.

Taking the “villagers are stupid” line further, The Dictator has ordered uniformed thugs “to ask people gathering in support of Yingluck whether they knew why they were attending the event and whether they had travelled on their own or were mobilised in large groups.”

These “allegations that free transport is being provided for people to travel from the provinces to Bangkok” actually appear to originate in the social media accounts of rabid yellow shirts and other anti-democrats.

Deputy Dictator and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan “also said he had heard people would be brought from the provinces in large numbers to support Yingluck.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, reckons “some” Yingluck supporters “go because [they] … are hired to do so…”.

He warns/threatens that “Yingluck’s supporters … must not violate the law, express contempt for the court, create chaos, violate other peoples’ rights or cause traffic congestion.”





Fear and repression

10 08 2017

Part of the fear that consumes the military junta is self-created by its fear of the Shinawatra clan. Seeking to punish Yingluck as a way of also damaging Thaksin’s popularity and wealth has come to be viewed as vindictive. Clearly, the fear that has developed over the pending verdict means the military dictatorship has doubled-down on repression.

The police bullying of van drivers for transporting Yingluck supporters is one petty example of this deep fear of responses to the outcome of the trial.

The concocted treason/sedition charges against two Puea Thai Party politicians and a critical journalist are another example. And, we can’t help feeling that the enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is related to the junta’s efforts to shut down criticism and opposition before the Yingluck verdict.

Likewise, it is no repressive coincidence that the junta puppets at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has banned the red shirt Peace TV for a month.

The military regime has now declared that it “will not lift its restrictions on political activities any time soon owing to the unstable state of Thai politics and the number of pending lawsuits against politicians…”.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan “explained” that only he and The Dictator can decide on when Thais can participate in political activities (unless they are a junta political ally). He paternalistic statement was: “Wait until I feel happy [with the situation] and I will see to it the restrictions are lifted…”. He cited a “number of important legal cases that are passing through the justice system which could have a destabilising impact on society and politics.”

He went on to warn that “security” would be tightened for Yingluck’s next court appearance.

It is as if the junta knows the court’s decision and is seeking to prevent any response by Yingluck supporters.





Catching up on the monarchy

8 08 2017

PPT has been posting regularly and yet we have not been able to post on all the stories in the media we’ve found interesting on or related to Thailand’s most feudal of institutions. Thus, this post is a catch-up. We will list several of these stories, from the past week or so, with little comment and just a quote of interest from each one:

Thai dissident’s lonely fight to keep history alive

Carrying a bucket of cement and a heavy bronze plaque, Ekachai Hongkangwan set out across Bangkok’s heavily-policed Royal Plaza in late June to perform a solo act of D-I-Y dissent.

But the 42-year-old was quickly bundled into a police van before he could lay down the metal disc – an exact replica of a monument that was mysteriously removed in April, sparking fears officials were trying to whitewash history.

The attempted restoration was a dangerous and rare act of subversion in a country smothered by an arch-royalist military and where criticism of the monarchy is being purged at an unprecedented rate.

Silencing dissent: digital capitalism, the military junta and Thailand’s permanent state of exception (we are not exactly sure how an exception becomes permanent)

In the last three years of military rule in Thailand, arrests and prosecutions for defamation, sedition and offences under the Computer Crimes Act have soared. Human rights advocates, democracy campaigners and ordinary citizens have been threatened, harassed and detained in military camps. The junta have sought to silence public discourse on every conceivable aspect of their rule. Global social media platforms are ground zero in this repression, and each month citizens are arrested and detained for what they post, share and like on Facebook.

Thai King’s Birthday Celebrations Mark Consolidation of Power

Thailand to celebrate birthday of assertive new King

The new monarch has shaken up the palace. A law quietly passed in April by Thailand’s interim assembly allowed him to consolidate control over five agencies which handle palace affairs and security. These agencies, which previously reported to the prime minister and defence ministry, remain funded by the state, but need not return revenue to the treasury.

A Straits Times examination of over 100 notices published on the Royal Gazette website since January shows the palace has promoted over 200 employees, removed or demoted over a dozen, as well as appointed over 100 more – many of them senior government servants.

All these moves have taken place amid tighter enforcement of Thailand’s lese majeste law, under which individuals have been jailed not just for insulting or defaming royalty, but also for trying to profit from their connections to the palace. Open discussion about the king, already constrained under the previous reign, has withered.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn expands his territory – but at what cost?

Change is afoot in Thailand. Amidst continued instability and uncertainty, King … Vajiralongkorn asserts more control. This move puts the ruling military junta in check.

The king now has full control of the agency that manages the holdings of the monarchy. Details about the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) are shrouded in secrecy. But it is worth at least US$30 billion thanks to significant holdings and investments, estimates suggested.

The Frontlines of Cyber Repression: Thailand and the Crop Top King

This post is the first of many in which we will begin the process of documenting the digital frontlines of cyber repression. By building better awareness about cyber repression, we hope this blog series will help illustrate current examples from across a wide spectrum of states and highlight actions being taken to push back on repression.

Trial of Yingluck sparks deeper crisis for Thailand

Why must she be eliminated at this point in time? The political elites are increasingly concerned about their position of power now that King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away last October, is no longer on the political scene. Under Bhumibol, their political interests were firmly secured through the monarchy network, which had dominated political life for decades. Without Bhumibol, Thailand has moved into an uncertain phase under the new controversial king, Vajiralongkorn. Those political elites fear that the Shinawatras might exploit political uncertainties to regain power.





Updated: Vindictive, petty and a warning to others

7 08 2017

In our previous post on double standards, we mentioned deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul’s chagrin at not being able to arrest Yingluck Shinawatra supporters last week. His  vindictive and petty response, probably ordered by The Dictator, was to go after that “21 taxi and van drivers who drove the [Yingluck] fans to the court because they were not licensed to drive in Nonthaburi province where the court is.”

And the cops have actually done it. One report states:

Ten van drivers have been charged by police and could be fined up to 50,000 baht or even jailed for taking supporters of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to the Supreme Court last week.

They are accused of “providing the service without a contract.” Who would have guessed? Are they making this up? It certainly is petty and vindictive.

Another four face a possible penalty of 20,000 baht and/or a jail term of one year for running outside their approved route.

All 21 drivers have been ordered to report to police by Monday or face arrest.

A report at The Nation suggests that the cops are acting on bureaucratic instinct, demanding that the drivers prove their innocence: “Thung Song Hong deputy police chief … said the owners must show proof that they were permitted to drive outside a permitted route and use their vans for that purpose.”

The reason for this ridiculous fabrication is that the junta wants to threaten all drivers who might bring people to Bangkok when Yingluck next appears, on 25 August. Perhaps The Dictator might consider banning trains and all bus and tour operators from working for a week before the  25th. That would seem in line with the junta’s current state of panic.

Update: With breathtaking speed, the junta has had its courts fine van operators for ferrying supporters to Yingluck’s court appearance: “Three van operators whose vehicles were used to transport supporters of ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to the Supreme Court last Tuesday for her rice scheme trial were fined 5,000 baht to 15,000 baht on Tuesday by the Criminal Court.”

Of course, this speed is because the military dictatorship wants to threaten others who might do this on 25 August.

While there are a few occasions where courts make decisions based on law, the junta has mangled law and politicized the courts.





Repressing opponents

6 08 2017

Two reports in Khaosod show how insecure the military dictatorship becomes when it identifies critics of its dominance.

The first Khaosod report is, naturally enough, related to the trembles it has when Yingluck Shinawatra looks popular and seems to have supporters boosting her. The junta has blustered about conspiracies and plots. Who have they targeted?

A day after several hundred supporters “gathered to support former premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s closing statement in her malfeasance trial, the … police … launched a crackdown against the people who drove them there.”

It is reported that “Gen. Srivara Rangsipramkul, who usually handles matters of national security, charged 21 minivans drivers Wednesday with violating the Land Transport Act by straying from their designated routes to bring Yingluck supporters to Bangkok.”

In addition, the regime has sent its uniformed thugs to threaten red shirt supporters seeking to prevent them from showing up at the court. The report states:

Redshirt supporters say these efforts are emblematic of the Prayuth regime’s strategy of uprooting the legacy of its political rivals, the Shinawatra clan, and falling short of that, render it invisible.

A second Khaosod story reports that two former Puea Thai Party politicians and a well-known journalist (for Khaosod) have been slapped with sedition allegations.

Former energy minister Pichai Naripatapan met police last Friday to “acknowledge a charge of sedition filed against him…”.

PPT has mentioned journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk in a previous post. The third is the outspoken Watana Muangsook.

For the junta, “sedition” seems to amount to criticism of the junta.

Pichai’s “crime” is that he “violated the law in things they wrote on social media.” He quoted an academic on economic problems. It seems that this amounts to sedition.

Watana “acknowledged the charge on Wednesday and insisted on his innocence.”

The Article 116 charge against Pravit cites “unspecified Facebook posts…”. He is due back before the police in a few days, when the police say they will finally disclose which of his posts are determined to be “seditious.”

It seems that appearing pathetic is not an issue for the military dictatorship.





HRW on Ko Tee’s “disappearance”

2 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s apparent forced abduction.

While the military dictatorship in Bangkok continuing its Sgt. Schultz “explanation,” HRW has called on the “Lao authorities … [to] urgently investigate the abduction of an exiled Thai activist … Ko Tee…. Eyewitnesses stated that a group of unknown armed assailants abducted him in Vientiane on July 29, 2017, raising grave concerns for his safety.”

Providing more details, HRW’s account is that:

On July 29, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene. According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai. The incident was reported to Lao authorities in Vientiane.

It calls on the Lao authorities:

The Lao government needs to move quickly to ascertain the facts and publicly report their findings, including an assessment of Wuthipong’s whereabouts and who might be responsible for this crime that was so boldly carried out in its own capital city.

Lao authorities should mount a serious effort to find Wuthipong if he is still in Laos, and take immediate steps to prosecute any persons in Laos who were involved in this abduction.

It remains unclear who abducted Ko Tee.

We can guess that the military dictatorship in Bangkok would be involved in some way. We also know that enforced disappearance is not unknown in Laos. We also know that the Thai military regime has allowed other security forces – in several cases from China – to abduct dissidents from Thailand. We might also consider this action as a typical action of Thailand’s dictatorship, seeking to silence critics by attacking one as a special example.