Tales of political asylum

5 11 2017

The Nation has a short article trying to explain political asylum in the U.K. It does this because there’s lots of speculation suggesting that Yingluck Shinawatra is seeking asylum there.

The bit that caught PPT’s attention was where Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai. We were very surprised to read that he claim that:

The UK said that if Yingluck came to stay in the UK, there would not be an issue of political asylum. If she wanted to stay, she would need to follow the normal immigration process….

We find this astonishing. It implies that Yingluck has not arrived in the U.K. and has not applied for asylum in the U.K., which may be true. However, it would be a staggering attack on U.K. law if a decision had been made in advance of an application, which is what Don claims.

Don seems to be concocting this.

Thailand can kick rule of law down the drain, but that is not usually true of British officials in the area of asylum. As far as we know, they do not discuss these cases when they are in process or before a claim is made, especially if this makes a decision before a case can be considered.

For details on the process, see the U.K. government’s web page. We can assume that U.K. officials will follow the law, unlike Thailand’s junta.





Updated: Military propagandists to the world

9 09 2017

The Thailand National News Bureau has reported that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has held a ceremony to send off – the report uses the military term, “deploy” – a batch of 27 “military diplomats” to the rest of the world.

These propagandists for the military dictatorship seem to be an additional “diplomatic” resource, supplementing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its ambassadors and military attaches. (We note that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is deeply yellow and has worked hard to “justify” Thailand’s descent into military authoritarianism.)

Gen Prawit, who is also Minister for Defense and responsible for Shinawatra hunting, declared that the “military diplomats” will “foster a clearer understanding among foreigners of the current situation in Thailand.”

The Deputy Dictator “told the diplomats to inform their host governments of the role of Thailand’s reform plan, roadmap to democracy, and the monarchy.” As we said, these are propagandists for the dictatorship. (At the same time, it is a reward for military posterior polishers and enhances loyalty in the senior ranks.)

Update: Alan Dawson at the Bangkok Post also picks up on the military propagandist plan:

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who knows more about staging successful coups d’etat and clutching power than almost anyone in the world, has just done an Orwellianism.

He has dispatched messengers around the world — 27 military attaches and deputy attaches — with instructions to change the story.

The May 22, 2014 putsch was not to reform government laws. It wasn’t to bring about reconciliation. That old story is invalid, air-brushed as surely as a North Korean propaganda photo. It was merely an act of benevolence by the green shirts to stop red shirts and yellow shirts from mayhem and murder.

As he points out, the real story of the 2014 coup. It was:

to take the country back to a simpler time, and events now taking place are the main part of it. The slogans and policies are in place. “Democracy isn’t for everyone” and “Freedom of speech is a good idea but …” and “Elections will eventually occur after it is clear peace can be assured”.

Dawson observes that this reactionary path means:

What is factual is a lack of true reform that would bring freedoms and rights, along with a mass of new laws so great that no one alive can list them, let alone provide details.

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha positively bragged in July: “The government has already issued 401 new laws.” Not enough, though. “More than a thousand more need reform.”

Junta law and justice under the junta and into the future means rule by “law,” injustice and double standards.





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.