Caving in

1 04 2018

The repression associated with lese majeste is critical for the maintenance of the status quo in Thailand. So critical in fact that even the thought of an amendment to the law is greeted with threats of violence. As it has been for seven decades, the rightist alliance between monarchy and military is a keystone for the establishment order in Thailand, with lese majeste, ultra-royalist ideology and murderous enforcement are the means for maintaining that conservative order.

When the Anakhot Mai/New Future/Future Forward Party was recently formed, ultra-royalists foamed and fumed about a young academic lawyer, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who had once called for minor amendments to Article 112 of the criminal code. Ultra-royalist Sonthiya Sawatdee “petitioned the Election Commission … to disqualify the FFP. He alleged that Piyabutr’s previous involvement with the anti-lèse majesté group Nitirat had caused conflicts among the country’s population, in violation of the Organic Act on Political Parties.”

Knowing that in royalist Thailand Sonthiya’s banal claim may well carry weight, Piyabutr immediately went into reverse political gear, declaring “he would not press the issue of amending the lèse majesté law in the new party…”. He is quoted: “I insist that I will not involve the party in the issue of amending Article 112 of the Criminal Code and will not press the issue in the party…”.

Piyabutr’s backpedaling has opened debate.

Exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, himself a victim of ultra-royalist and military attacks, “commented that without the issue of amending Article 112, the new party would be just a smaller version of the Phue Thai Party.” He saw a familiar path being taken whereby the young become prematurely old as they flinch on the most significant political issue of recent years, the monarchy.

Somsak believes that the new party didn’t have to say anything:

“When the party’s general meeting (to pass policies, select executives, etc.) happens, and Piyabutr or other important party members see that it is inappropriate to put the issue of Article 112 into the policies because it will lead to the party’s disqualification, then just remove it and register without this issue. So what’s the necessity of yesterday’s announcement [by Piyabutr]? I can’t’ see one…”.

He might have added that the new party has little chance of attracting large numbers of voters, so the strategic withdrawal on monarchy means little more than another ultra-royalist and military victory in its crusade to “protect” the monarchy and, thus, the establishment.

Puangthong Pawakapan of the now-defunct Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 was less critical, saying Piyabutr ‘s vow was unsurprising as “the political establishment never hesitates to suppress those who challenge the royal defamation law, making an amendment to Article 112 through legislative measures nearly impossible.”

Puangthong added:

“The difficulties in this issue are not about the number of votes in the parliament, but it is a sensitive issue that political parties are afraid to touch because they will be easily attacked by anti-monarchy allegations…. This is why all political parties are afraid to fix this issue. This is why people’s signatories and the draft amendment [to Article 112] by the CCAA 112 was immediately rejected by the Parliament Chairperson, who was at that time a Phue Thai MP.”

It is clear that Puangthong “believes that Piyabutr’s statement was a strategic move to ensure that the FFP will wins seats in the parliament, which will allow the party to make progress on other significant political missions, like eliminating the military influence from Thai politics.”

We recall, back in 2004-2005, so-called progressives signing up to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its royalist agenda, using a similar line of argument. They may have been anti-monarchy or even republican, but saw the need to get rid rid of Thaksin Shinawatra as being so crucial that they could accommodate the royalist stuff, and fix the monarchy later. How did that turn out for them? Most are now ardent royalists.





When the military is on top XVII

30 03 2018

In another egregious example of the warping of society under the military boot, The Nation reports that “Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart has given the green light to resume construction of court buildings and official residences at the foot of Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep, near [right at the edge of] Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.”

The same report states that the “plot in question is considered Ratchaphatsadu land belonging to the state. However, when the project started two decades ago, the plot was under the authority of the Army.”

So why the chief Army thug has his say on this seems to reflect the way Thai society and administration has been militarized.

Chalermchai declared that the “[p]roject ‘gone too far to stop’ despite residents’ environmental worries…”. He added: “As our investigation found construction had proceeded in line with the law and it was already 95 per cent complete, I have allowed the construction work to resume…”. He’s the boss!

Significantly, the large plot of land – 24 ha – cutting a swathe into forest is building luxury houses for judiciary officials based in Chiang Mai. It seems the judiciary has been such a loyal ally in politicized rulings that the military junta is rewarding it.

 

From the Bangkok Post

Construction of the judges and associated staff luxury houses will “cost about Bt1 billion.” Then there will be additional services and fine furnishing.

The Bangkok Post reports that local residents are livid about the judicial housing project essentially involving clearing all trees from the site.

Now the Army boss has “ruled,” he expects all discussion and debate to cease. This is what happens when the military is on top.





Trigger-happy soldiers and impunity

13 01 2018

When Chaiyapoom Pasae was shot dead by soldiers it was soon revealed that there was another shooting leading to death involving Abe Sae Moo. Both cases involve soldiers accused of using excessive force. Both were separately killed at the Ban Rin Luang military checkpoint in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district. The excuses provided by  the military and backed all the way to the top was that both men resisted, ran and tried to throw a grenade at the soldiers who then shot them dead.

As far as we know, neither case has gone anywhere, the military shooters remain free and more or less unidentified and evidence remains officially hidden.

A recent case suggests that the military remains trigger-happy.

A few days ago, Khaosod reported that after initially “forgetting” to reveal that soldiers were involved, police had finally admitted that they were when Sorachai Sathitraksadumrong was shot in the head and died. Amazingly, a community leader, Wutthichai Injai, had already been arrested for the alleged crime.

Initially the police said “only civilians manned the roadblock…”, on the road between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, but “Sorachai’s family and neighbors went to protest Monday at the district administrative office to demand answers and justice for his killing.” They said they knew soldiers were at the road block.

The initial police story was full of inconsistencies.

After it was admitted that soldiers were at the money-making venture road block, “all of the soldiers denied any involvement with the killing, and no witnesses [were said to have] … implicated them.” The soldiers also claimed to be unarmed.

After a while, another Khaosod report was saying that a “soldier [had] stepped forward to admit that he killed a motorist at a northern checkpoint last week…”.

The soldier was not named and remained with military, said to be “in custody.”

This admission came after “the community rallied to pressure police to come clean about what happened following the arrest of a civilian [Wutthichai] for killing the motorist.” Wutthichai was later bailed but still faces legal action.

As police “investigated,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said “the military will convene a disciplinary investigation into the shooting.”

The Bangkok Post then reported that an “army private has turned himself in to police…”:

Pvt Wanchai Champa was accompanied by his boss, Col Worathep Bunya, who commands the 17th Infantry Regiment in Phayao, to report to Provincial Police Region 5 in Chiang Mai before he was handed over to Mae Suai police for interrogation.

Wutthichai’s family have requested that “the national police to take over the case from local officers.”

Then Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart blathered that “the fatal shooting could have stemmed from a misunderstanding by the soldier.” And he played the drug claim, also made in the earlier checkpoint killings:

He admitted he was surprised to learn that soldiers were helping local authorities man a village checkpoint. Their presence could be because of reports of drug trafficking in the area….

Whatever happened, it is clear that the military is out of control. When the military runs the country, they get even further out of control.





Troubles for the junta II

19 12 2017

If the junta plans a transition to a slightly different form of rule following its “election,” it seems to be struggling to maintain political control and direction. Yesterday we posted on some of these issues and challenges. Today we look at how some of these are playing out and some other issues and challenges.

A big issue is when the military dictatorship will ease the ban on political organizing in order to permit the junta’s “election” and how the junta will arrange the military’s continuing political domination. After claims of the formation of a “military party,” those involved have denied that anything is planned (well, sort of).

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, one of the few civilian’s in the military’s government has denied claims that he’s going to lead a military political party. At the same time, the be-watched Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan seemed less sure. Checking his new Casio watch, he said “he had no idea if a military-back political party was being set up or if Mr Somkid would lead it.”

Prawit’s penchant for pricey horographs threatens the junta by showing that it is corrupt, practices double standards and maintains impunity. All of this worries the middle class. It is that class that has been the bedrock of junta political support.

One of the most poignant demonstrations of military cruelty and its institutional impunity has been the death of cadets and recruits. The family of Pakapong “Moei” Tanyakan has rejected a meeting with the military to be told of a military inquiry “investigation” into their son’s death in which the military had already publicly exonerated itself. Such brutality and its sweeping under the carpet are increasingly seen as unacceptable, not least by the middle class.

Then there are the splits within the anti-democrats and with the junta. The usually supine Abhisit Vejjajiva, while still refusing to attack the junta, wants an election, even if it is the junta’s election. So he’s attacking his former deputy and Democrat Party alpha male Suthep Thaugsuban for proposals that might delay an “election” and/or might presage a Suthep-supported alternative political party in the south, gobbling up support that might have gone to the Democrat Party. Any pro-Suthep party is likely to throw weight behind a junta-dominated government post-“election.”

The junta appears befuddled in dealing with political allies of the past although splits in old parties might be considered to benefit any new military party. It is more “comfortable” repressing red shirts.





Callous to all

29 11 2017

Thailand’s military is a barbarous institution, built on violence and behaving violently towards the nation’s citizens and, it has shown, to its own recruits as it barstardizes them to blind compliance with hierarchy and orders.

“Barstardization” is an Australian term used by one of our correspondents, and it struck us as sadly appropriate for this horrid bunch of thugs.

As an example of how base the organization is, The Nation reports that a “military-appointed fact-finding committee investigating the recent death of a teenage cadet at a military academy has refused to give a timetable for its inquiry…’.

The thugs claim this is because they are going to be “transparent,” “honest” and “clear.”

The military’s committee has “already started interviewing witnesses and checking CCTV recordings.”

We are reminded that the military has seldom been “transparent,” “honest” or “clear” in anything. Think of the “investigation” of Chaiyapoom Pasae’s murder. That also included attention to CCTV.

As far as we can tell, that “investigation” went nowhere and the murderers remain free while the military rid itself of one young activist.

The military leadership is callous to all. It makes no distinctions.





Vampires and zombies

26 11 2017

A couple of days ago PPT posted on the latest death of a military recruit. Sadly, there have been many.  In that post we observed that violence is an important element of the military’s establishment of social order and, most importantly, imprints the hierarchy of power that marks the military. It creates dictators who stride the country as (illegitimate) rulers just as it crushes the lower ranks, and makes them zombies, providing obedience to the bosses no matter what their corruption or the callous orders they make.

That’s all we have to say on this because the Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee has an important op-ed that everyone should read. A couple of previews:

We thought this country was many things — a country of smiles, of crooks, of crooked smiles, of corrupt politicians and coup-addicted soldiers, of might and military men. Now we’re also a country of vampires….

First thing first, what the public want to see now is simple: Somebody must be suspended or sacked, then investigated by an impartial party. Somebody must be — this is so simple! — responsible. In a civilised society, we couldn’t possibly ask for anything less than this. Unless we’re not that kind of society….

And yet an even less simple thing to ask, especially when the military, the government and nearly everyone in power are almost the same people, is for the army to come to terms with the fact that too many conscripts and cadets have died in suspicious circumstances — three this year and more in the past few years — and something must be done. Unless, of course, such violence — institutional violence condoned and elevated to a point of pride — is the norm, the culture, the standard operating procedure, and death in training is not something to waste time or tears thinking about….

The worst part, however, is that such violence is really the culture…





Military hierarchy and the need for violence

24 11 2017

As readers will know, reports of the unusual deaths of recruits to the Thai military are common. Pictures of naked recruits being forced to engage in degrading activities and other pictures of recruits who have been beaten and bashed are all over social media.

We hadn’t posted on the most recent case, despite its grotesque details, as it was one case among many. However, this case has taken an unusual political turn as the dead recruit and his family had promoted their support of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the group that supported and encouraged the 2014 military coup. The dead recruit did not come from the draft, but was at the “prestigious” Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

Prachatai reported that Cadet Phakhaphong Tanyakan may have been beaten to death. At least his parents thought this and secreted away his body for an independent autopsy after the military stated he died of sudden cardiac arrest.

The independent autopsy revealed that several of the cadet’s internal organs were missing, including his brain. The media reported the parent’s shock but then seemed to confirm that returning a body sans organs is “normal” and “not illegal.”

His parents were criticized for wanting another autopsy and not accepting the military’s explanation of his death.

While the junta has now had the “chief of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School has been transferred to an inactive post,” the initial response of the senior-most military thugs was to support “military discipline.” But even in replacing the former commander, the junta showed its intention to cover up by appointing a loyalist: “Col Benjapol Dechartwong Na Ayutthaya, deputy commander of the 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen’s Guard.”

Another Prachatai story had Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “explaining” the death. He stated that “the freshman cadet … was … just too weak to withstand tough training.” Blaming the victim is the redoubt of fools and fascists.

He also supported the cadet school.

General Prawit also justified the “extreme discipline” at the school. He declared: “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.” That’s all okay then. Torturing your recruits is fine and dandy and if they die, it is their own weakness.

Prawit also indicated that “extreme discipline” would continue: “You don’t have to enrol. You don’t have to be a soldier. We want those who are willing.” Willing to be bashed, humiliated, and tortured. Those who survive can make coups and get unusually wealthy because they “learn” the hierarchy, accept it and move up, getting more loot and power at each level.

His view was supported by The Dictator, as reported in another Bangkok Post story. With the virtually moribund National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) actually making a statement that “harsh disciplining of cadets could constitute an act of torture…” under a law that is not in effect, Gen Prayuth said military bosses “would meet for talks the family of Pakapong … Tanyakan whose cadaver was later found to be missing organs including his brain.”

Prayuth mumbled that “military discipline for cadet training” was okay. He added: “Don’t worry. Nobody wants any losses or injuries…”. He used the same “logic” as Prawit: “he was disciplined when he studied at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.” He brainlessly added: “What’s wrong with it? I went through it all.”

That explains a considerable amount about Prayuth, Prawit and their dictatorship. Trained to accept torture as “discipline,” they are mentally crippled by their “education” to the extent that they think all Thais need “order” and “extreme discipline.”

On learning that the family were PDRC, Prayuth “apologised to the family and pledged to continue with the investigations to get to the bottom of the mystery.”

It isn’t a “mystery,” it is military discipline, establishing hierarchy and marking territory. The military does this with violence. This is also how they run the country: threats of violence and the use of violence. The deaths of citizens who get in the way is just collateral damage for the greater good and social order.