Making stuff up

17 05 2017

Two reports in Khaosod and one at The Nation should serve as reminders that Thailand under the military boot is a kingdom of lies.

The first Khaosod report is about infamous police chief Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn. He’s the one who produced an assets declaration that stated he received a hefty monthly payment from beer magnates. Then he denied this. It was a mistake. And, anyway, he didn’t fill out the form himself, but had minions do it. Presumably they made it up? Hardly. But, no one in the junta was bothered. Such payments are the norm and apparently not illegal, not corrupt and not unethical. Just normal for this bunch of corrupt bastards.

The Bangkok police commander has now lied again and covered it up with a wholly unbelievable story that suggests that he continues to believe that the public are a bunch of clowns and dolts.

As the story has it, the policeman “visited the site of an explosion that wounded two people and told reporters it was not an explosion at all, but a ‘explosive-like loud bang’ caused by a malfunctioning water pipe.” Not long after, “a police leak burst his implausible claim of an injurious water pipe, [and] Sanit admitted that he made up his original version of events. The lie was necessary to deceive the perpetrators, said the lieutenant general…”.

Equally unbelievable, this latest claim from this fraudulent official is remarkable for displaying his own lack of intelligence, coming up with “stories” about as believable as a grade school student blaming the dog for eating his homework.

This person is a serial liar and a disgrace. But he’s got plenty of company.

The second Khaosod report is about the still unexplained extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae. Two months after his death, the police say the Royal Thai Army has finally handed over video footage of the events. The Army says the kid was a drug smuggler and “resisted.” No evidence of any of these claims is available, but top military and police say the video footage “proved” their claims.

Yet it took almost two months for the video to be handed over. And, then, as a hard disk that the police say they can’t view because of a software issue. What software? They can’t say.

But if they do view the footage, what then? Police Maj. Gen. Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk says “the Official Information Act prohibits information disclosure if it can affect others…”. Presumably he means official killers might be affected.

They just make stuff up.

The final story is from The Nation. On 2 May the Thai Ambassador in Seoul sent an official letter to the chairman of the May 18 Memorial Foundation seeming to complain that lese majeste detainee Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa had been awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

In that letter the ambassador lied that Jatuphat was guilty of certain crimes. Of course, he hasn’t (yet) been convicted by one of the kingdom’s feudal courts.

Jatuphat’s parents demanded an apology and retraction by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Getting the junta to correct its lies is problematic, not least because the junta seems unable to discern fact from fiction.





Reflexive denial I

5 03 2017

We earlier posted from the annual US State Department’s human rights report on Thailand.

These days, the military dictatorship responds to negative human rights allegations and reports in a reflexive way. It denies and lies.

A report at the Bangkok Post is the latest example of this unthinking and deceitful response. This time it is from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which operates now at the level equivalent with the official spokesmen of the junta.

The Foreign Ministry covers for the regime’s failures, stating:

The report is an exercise carried out unilaterally by the United States of America to present the situation in Thailand from an outside perspective. Many of the concerns, statistics and case studies cited in the report come from unidentified or unverified sources….

The Ministry is saying believe us and our military dictatorship over any other sources.

The “unidentified or unverified sources” are mainly reports from local NGOs with long experience of the issues they deal with. As far as we can tell, almost all points made in the US report have been reported in the local media as well (for how the dictatorship is screwing the media, read this report).

The Ministry engages in propaganda for the military regime:

The government is committed to the implementation of the roadmap towards achieving sustained democracy, social harmony and lasting stability … Laws and orders that have been issued by virtue of the Interim Constitution have the objectives of preserving public order and solving problems that have been long overdue and could not otherwise be addressed with ordinary legislation….

Actually, they mean “sustainable democracy,” which is a non-democratic political system controlled by the military, the royalist elite and the monarchy itself. Using “laws and orders that have been issued by virtue of the Interim Constitution” is acknowledging that the military dictatorship makes up its laws that mean it can do anything it wants and call it “lawful.”

That’s what military dictatorships do.

It then states: “the government [they mean the junta] exercises this power only when necessary, with prudence and in the best interest of the nation.” Article 44 has been used umpteen times to do minor things like make administrative changes to a broader use to repress regime opponents and to run operations against “seditious” monks. It uses its self-granted powers to repress and to give itself and its minions impunity.

That’s what military dictatorships do.

Oddly, while rejecting that which it deems anti-regime, the Ministry “saw a bright side to the report, saying it recorded advancement in several areas such as gender equality, combating trafficking in persons, and lifting of prosecution of civilians under military jurisdiction.”

Presumably those bits of the report weren’t “carried out unilaterally” or from “an outside perspective” and did not use “statistics and case studies … from unidentified or unverified sources.”





HRW chastised by military junta’s toadies

14 01 2017

The Nation reports that the junta’s government has “contested claims in a summary on the human rights situation in Thailand released by Human Rights Watch (HRW)…”. The junta reckons the “allegations were outdated and unfair.”

The junta’s toadies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared: “The authors have expressed their views with no updates of the latest status of each issue and, therefore, without taking into consideration progress and efforts made in the country…”.

The MFA’s lamentable statement continues:

There has been significant progress regarding the Government’s [they mean the military junta] efforts on the Roadmap towards restoring a strengthened and sustainable democracy [they mean the much delayed “election”], social harmony [they mean jailing opponents] as well as political stability [they mean repression]. Thailand is now in the second phase of the Roadmap where the Government is currently forging ahead [they mean delaying] with comprehensive reforms to lay a strong foundation in order to achieve a genuine democracy [they mean a Thai-style non-democracy] as well as undertaking legislative reforms. Over 190 laws have been promulgated with a view to addressing chronic problems from the past, including inequality and human rights issues such as gender equality, human trafficking, illegal fishing and labour rights. Such foundation will facilitate the proceeding to the third phase of the Roadmap, whereby the general elections will be held [they mean may be held], and ensure long-term political stability after the new Government [they mean a junta-friendly regime] takes office.

We’d like to be able to say that the folks at MFA are forced to make such silly and untrue statements because they are under the thumb of the junta. Unfortunately, we know that the MFA is populated by royalists and other anti-democrats who support the junta to the hilt.

Human Rights WatchThe HRW account is from its recently released World Report 2017. It begins:

Thailand’s military junta increased its repression and failed to restore democratic rule in 2016…. A new constitution, adopted in an August referendum that was marked by a crackdown against its critics, effectively entrenches unaccountable and abusive military rule.

That seems a reasonable summary of those events. It goes on, quoting HRW’s Brad Adams:

Thailand’s human rights crisis has worsened over the year as the military junta has tightened its grip on power and led the country deeper into dictatorship…. Rather than leading the country back to democratic rule, the junta has increasingly persecuted critics and dissenters, banned peaceful protests, censored the media, and suppressed speech in the press and online.

Again, there’s no argument on these points. The report continues, discussing the junta, saying it:

has banned political activity and public gatherings, made expression subject to criminal prosecution, censored the media, conducted hundreds of arbitrary arrests, and detained civilians in military detention.

That’s all certainly true and it adds that there remain 1,800 cases awaiting trial in biased and unfair kangaroo courts run by the military itself. Further,

The junta has arbitrarily and aggressively used the lese majeste … laws to prosecute people for any expression deemed critical of the monarchy. Since the May 2014 coup, Thai authorities have charged at least 68 people with lese majeste [we think this is too low an estimate as it seems to leave out all of the palace-related machinations associated with the prince-cum-king].

There is much more: “zero justice for past state-sponsored abuses,” the “killing and enforced disappearance of human rights defenders and other activists” and the increased use of “defamation lawsuits under the Penal Code and the Computer Crimes Act to retaliate against those reporting human rights violations.”

And the MFA bleats about “improvements.” The Ministry is a sad joke. The junta is further entrenched and human rights are down the drain. Thailand remains in a very dark and scary place.





Updated: In bed with the fascist regime

23 10 2016

We guess it should not be any surprise at all, but after years of trying, a report at Prachatai indicates that, by using the death of the king and the extraordinarily gushing reporting that is appearing, the military dictatorship has finally signed up some of the big, global, internet firms to the junta’s parochial, nasty and repressive internet censorship program.

We should note that the account is from the junta itself, so we do hope that the firms involved are willing to deny the accuracy of the report.

Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Junthong, who is also deputy junta head says he “has asked Google and YouTube to cooperate in blocking websites and videos with alleged lèse majesté content.”censorship-1

He says that on 21 October 2016, he invited Ann Lavin, the Director of Public Policy of Google’s Southeast Asia and Greater China Office, to a meeting where censorship was the topic. The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore lists her as “Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs in Asia Pacific, Google Asia Pacific.” It also notes that she has been a member and executive of several organizations with links into the palace.

The junta’s website states that “Prajin consulted with Lavin about ways to block websites and video clips deemed defamatory or offensive to the Thai [m]onarchy.”

According to the junta, Lavin “placed great importance on the case under the current circumstances after the recent death of King Bhumibol.” We are not at all sure why the death of a king (or anyone else) should be cause for censorship.

The report states that Lavin “agreed to set up an ad hoc team in the US to monitor alleged lèse majesté content with Thai nationals in the team and adjust the complaint form in the Thai language to make it easier for Thai people to file complaints about such online content…”. That team has reportedly begun work.

The junta “will also set up a team in Thailand to send web addresses and URLs of people alleged to have posted such online content to the Google team after which the team will consider within 24 hours whether the content should be blocked.” Prajin added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “will send a request to the US to obtain information from Google about people who post lèse majesté content on the internet…”.

Prajin noted that “on 19-20 October, 120 people, mostly Thais, reportedly posted online content deemed offensive to the … monarchy.” It is not clear if this refers to persons overseas, in Thailand or both.

The junta’s deputy leader said that pressure would also be brought to bear on Line and Facebook.

The junta is using the king’s death to promote and embed its politics and enhanced censorship is critical for the junta in denying critical voices.

Update: Above, we stated: We should note that the account is from the junta itself, so we do hope that the firms involved are willing to deny the accuracy of the report. At The Nation, it is stated:

INTERNET giant Google has denied it is monitoring posts by Thai social media users but said it would simply consider Thai government requests to remove certain sensitive posts on a case-by-case basis.

Google was reacting to a claim by Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong that it would help the government scan sensitive posts during the mourning period for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In a statement to The Nation, Google said: “We have always had clear and consistent policies for removal requests from governments around the world. We have not changed those policies in Thailand.

“We rely on governments around the world to notify us of content that they believe is illegal through official processes, and will restrict it as appropriate after a thorough review. All of these requests are tracked and included in our Transparency Report.”

We’d tend to believe Google as the junta has a terrible record of lying. Let’s see if Prajin responds.





Further updated: Mobs and censorship

16 10 2016

The death of the king has allowed for even greater censorship, especially related to the monarchy.

It seems that there is a view among the junta’s bureaucrats that foreign reports aren’t fitting their royalist worldview, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (opens a 1-page PDF) admonishing the generally rather supine foreign media.

And, at Prachatai it is reported that the authorities have demanded that internet service providers “set up 24/7 monitoring centres to search for ‘inappropriate content’ across all social media platforms including Youtube, Facebook, Line and Twitter.” If ISPs fail to comply they will be prosecuted.

The NBCT order has essentially turned ISPs into state snoops and asks all internet users to act as vigilantes for the monarchy.

The risk is that such state encouragement of militant monarchists eliminates whatever space was available for different views, creates mobs and prompts violence. We have already seen two mob actions where rabid royalists seemed intent on at least having lese majeste charges laid against individuals and at worst wished to do them harm.

Update 1: It is interesting that there are now three reports of royalist mobs going after persons they believe are not royalist enough. All three are from the south, the home of the (anti)Democrat Party and a region where royalist hysteria has been heavily promoted in recent years, not least by the Democrat Party and the military. Using Facebook and ‪#‎shamethailand, scroll down and you see a video of a young woman being publicly humiliated by a mob. Of course, royalist mobs have gotten violent in the past.

Update 2: The reports of attacks on those deemed not to be in mourning, not dressed in monochrome or who post something on social media considered “inappropriate” have mounted. It appears that gangs of royalists are easily mobilized via social media or SMS. One report even mentions a critic being hunted in Europe by mad monarchists. Several well-known critics of the monarchy living overseas have reported that their Facebook accounts are flooded by vitriolic royalists.





Up yours

17 07 2016

A few days ago, PPT posted on a letter endorsed by the ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the US as well as the head of the European Union delegation. That letter urged the junta “to allow the Thai people to engage in open dialogue, forge common links, and find the consensus needed to build a strong and sustainable future for all.”

The junta has responded with lies and continuing repression.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister and deputy junta boss General Prawit Wongsuwan “brushed off” this call, essentially saying, “Up yours!

Prawit lied that the junta “never suppressed free speech.” He was supported in his lie by junta spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinpan who said “the regime did not do anything that would violate freedom of expression, noting critics could still proceed with their activities if they were not deemed against the law.”

He knows, as does everyone else, that the junta deems all activities it doesn’t like against the “law.”

Piyapong also declared that the junta “was not concerned about the latest stance by foreign envoys.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee repeated the nonsensical Orwellian claims that “the draft charter and the referendum process were part of the “roadmap to democracy” and the government took legal measures necessary to ensure peace and order and a smooth transition.” He became bizarre, declaring that these “legal measures would never restrict freedom of expression as long as it was not disruptive to peace and order, adding the government was also open to opinions from all stakeholders in the reconciliation and reform process.”

The threats were also multiple. General Prawit “denied the military was behind the distribution of several thousand letters containing allegedly distorted information on the draft charter,” adding: “Some groups want to see the referendum collapse. I know who they are and actions will be taken.”

Other threats are more immediate. We have posted on two of the most recent threats to the media and actual threats to expression. The threats to red shirts are ongoing and unrelenting, with Prachatai reporting that 19 northeastern red shirts have been summoned for joining shortlived/abortive UDD plan for a referendum watch campaign. According to lawyers, a total of “[a]t least 96 red-shirt supporters in seven provinces across the country have so far been prosecuted under NCPO Order No 3/2015 for joining the red-shirt referendum watch campaign.”

But the junta never restricts freedom of expression. Malarky, nonsense and horse manure rolled up hill are all terms that come to mind.





Liars and damned lies

6 07 2016

In earlier posts, PPT has mentioned several instances where those representing the military junta and The Dictator himself have misrepresented or lied to UN bodies, representatives  and officials or about meetings and phone calls or lied to the Thai people about these interactions (all of these links are here).

They’ve done it again.

Khaosod reports that the “Office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the highly unusual step of refuting a Thai delegation’s account of a meeting held late last month on the referendum and freedom of expression.”

The report states that an unusual “statement released Tuesday, the U.N. said Thai officials mischaracterized to Thai media the meeting held 29 June between Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Virasakdi Futrakul, Foreign Affairs vice minister.”

The UN statement, cited here in full, at the official website of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states:

The Deputy Secretary-General met on 29 June with H.E. Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand. The Deputy Secretary-General expressed concerns about the recent reports of restrictions on the freedoms of expression and assembly ahead of the referendum on the draft constitution to be held on 7 August. Stressing the importance of the partnership between Thailand and the United Nations and welcoming the support for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regional office, he stated that respect for human rights and the rule of law are important elements for sustainable development and emphasised the need for open and inclusive dialogue to promote democracy and support national reconciliation.

The Deputy Secretary-General reiterated the United Nations’ willingness to support Thailand’s efforts in this regard, noting the importance of the continuing engagement between Thailand and the United Nations.

Khaosod reports that Michael Bak, adviser to the UN resident coordinator, explained that “… statements made to the Thai press by some members of the delegation and reflected in reporting in the press that the [deputy secretary-general] ‘is not concerned’ about the referendum did not accurately reflect the conversation that took place, where he clearly raised concerns, including about freedom of expression and the need for an open dialogue ahead of the referendum…”.

The statements to the local media apparently refer to comments by “Thai representative to the U.N. and former permanent secretary Norachit Sinhaseni…”.  It was he who was “reported in several media outlets saying the global body was ‘not concerned’ about the situation in Thailand in the run-up to a public referendum on the next constitution.” Norachit misrepresented the meeting, reportedly stating:  “The DSG said he fully understands the situation in Thailand and is not concerned with the Referendum Act…”, later reported as saying the “United Nations did not oppose the Referendum Act…”.

Norachit was at the meeting in New York, so we assume that he understands that he’s fabricating events and statements.

As Khaosod states, “[m]ilitary government officials have repeatedly returned from overseas visits claiming to have successfully made their case in the international community, despite conflicting messages from their hosts.”

They are liars, dealing in damned lies.