Updated: Royal assassination plot alleged

25 11 2015

PPT is becoming more and more bemused by the goings on related to lese majeste and the military junta. The latest story is among the most bizarre. So bizarre that we reproduce it in full from The Nation:

Three men, including a former Border Patrol policeman, have been arrested in connection with an alleged plot targeting government figures during a big national event next month, the national police chief said Wednesday.

Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police intelligence had learned that the trio may have been plotting to create unrest and allegedly planning an attack during the “Bike for Dad” event on December 11.

The suspects were identified as Pol Sgt-Major Prathin Chanket, who was formerly with the Border Patrol Police, Pissanu Phromsorn and Nattaphol Nawanlay. They were initially accused of violating Article 112 of the Penal Code involving lese majeste and the Computer Crime Act.

Chakthip said yesterday that police had monitored the suspects’ activities and movements for a while before their arrests were made.

“This group was targeting Bangkok and intelligence reports show they were aiming at important persons in the government. It could have been sabotage with the use of explosives,” the police chief said.

“But we still don’t know if this group has any political connections,” he said, adding that police investigators have not ruled out political motivation.

Chakthip said police have evidence against the suspects, including records of their communication through social-media applications.

“The military court approved the arrest warrants because police could prove that they were planning to carry out an attack in Bangkok,” the police chief said.

Police are checking to see if those suspects had anything to do with bomb attacks in Bangkok in the past, Chakthip said.

“Police believe this movement involves more than three people and they have a mastermind,” he added.

Before his arrest, former policeman Prathin worked as a security guard at the Bank of Thailand’s Khon Kaen office. He was arrested at his home in the Northeast province and later brought to Bangkok for questioning.

We assume that a claim will be made that the arrested men are or were red shirts. Whatever the claims that will be made and the veracity of the “plot,”, it seems that Thailand’s ruling elite and the military junta is being torn apart by something to do with succession and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.

Update 1: Khaosod reports on this alleged “plot” and does not mention lese majeste. In this report there are claims regarding “[r]umors of a plot to assassinate junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha [that] began circulating on Monday.”

Already a finger has been pointed at red shirts and a broader “plot” to create “unrest” in the northeast. The report names three “suspects”: Police Sergeant Prathin Chanket, Pitsanu Promsorn and Nattapol Nawanle. Social media rumors are of a junta effort to create a diversion from its own corruption issues and “investigations.”

The Bangkok Post reports that a “search” is on for “the mastermind of a group suspected of plotting unrest and possibly attacking key figures during festive events in Bangkok and the provinces.” This report does mention lese majeste charges against the three arrested men.

The 23 February 1991 coup

29 08 2014

PPT was doing some hard disk cleaning and came across a file that was sent to us some time ago by a reader who thought  we’d be interested.

It is a report by Australia’s Parliamentary Research Service and is listed as a “Background Paper,” and we have also located it online as “The Coup inThailand” [Clicking downloads a PDF]. Because there are so many of them, we should note that this refers to the coup of 1991, and that the report is dated 19 March 1991. Its author is listed as Frank Frost.

We thought these bits interesting, indicating how the monarchy has been used by the military/has used the military for political purposes:

The deterioration in relations between Prime Minister Chatichai and his government and the senior military leadership came to a decisive point in February 1991. The ultimate cause of the confrontation was probably the military’s concern at evident efforts by Chatichai to bring their autonomy into question and the general lack of trust between the parties. The immediate focus for tension was an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against senior public figures in 1982 and an attempted Cabinet change by Chatichai.

Prologue: The assassination plot’ issue

The publicity given to the alleged assassination plot highlighted the continuation of tensions between elements of the Thai military from the 1980s. The Thai military is now firmly in the control of a group of military leaders identified by their status as graduates of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy’s Class Five (i.e.the fifth post-world war two graduating class); General Suchinda Kraprayoon, now commander of the Army, was class president. The 1981 and 1985 coup attempts were largely planned by a group of officers identified with the Military Academy’s Class Seven. In January 1991 , publicity was given to the continued investigation of an alleged plot in 1982 by some military officers, several  academics and several members of the Communist Party of Thailand, to assassinate several figures, including Prime Minister Pram, Supreme Commander Arthit Kamlang-ek, and Queen Sirikit. One alleged suspect was a leading Class Seven officer, Manoon Roopkachorn, who led both the 1981 and 1985 coup attempts. He left Thailand after each attempt, but in 1990 was able to return, was pardoned, reinstated into the military, promoted from Colonel to Major General, and appointed by Prime Minister Chatichai to the Defence Ministry as his adviser. In January, anonymous leaflets were reportedly circulated, accusing Manoon and Chatichai’s son, Kraisak {who had been one of the Prime Minister’s key advisers) of having been involved in the alleged plot. Both men complained to the police about the leaflets.

The controversy was intensified in late January, when the national police chief General Sawaeng Thirasawat and General Boonchu Wangkanond, who had been in charge of the assassination plot case, were both transferred; Boochu was a Chulachomklao Class Five officer. Rodney Tasker (Far Eastern Economic Review) wrote that: “Inevitably, there was strong suspicion that Chatichai had ordered the police reshuffle to prise the assassination case away from Boonchu and place it out of harm’s way in other officers hands … Chatichai strongly denied that this was a motive and ordered the police through the Interior Ministry, to expedite the case”. Tensions rose over the issue. Army commander General Suchinda called for a speedy conclusion to the case and Supreme Commander General Sunthorn in his capacity as director of internal security, warned: “If the directorate of internal security finds any distortion of the facts, it will take drastic action against the ill-intentioned people in accordance with its legal powers”. Sunthorn took action to ensure that General Boonchu would remain involved in the case as a military representative. In this complex context, Chatichai’s association with Manoon, the alleged conspirator, was clearly a matter of controversy. In an atmosphere of rising tension, Prime Minister Chatichai moved to appoint a senior former military supreme commander, now in parliament, General Arthit Kamlang-ek as deputy minister of Defence on 20 February. The military leadership, who are known not to be on good terms with Arthit, evidently viewed this with disfavour. Chatichai may also have planned to make personnel changes among the top military leadership. In the event, on 23 February, when Chatichai boarded an aircraft to fly to Chiang Mai for an audience with the King, a coup was instituted by the military leadership.

The coup leaders received formal endorsement for their actions from the King. A Royal Command, dated 24 February, stated that “it has occurred that the government which has Gen Chatichai Choonhaven as prime minister, has not administered the country to the confidence of the people, and cannot keep peace and order in the nation”. The Command formally appointed General Sunthorn as head of the NPC and directed civil servants to heed the orders of General Sunthorn. While formally endorsing the position of the NPC, the King, in a comment relayed by General Sunthorn the day after the coup, cautioned the NPC “not to let the people down”. The King’s endorsement was a crucial issue; the monarch played a major role in the defeat of the coup attempts in 1981 and 1985. A draft interim constitution was submitted to the King and, in an unusual step, he reportedly asked for it to be amended before approving it.

The new interim constitution, approved by the King on 1 March, granted extensive powers to the military. A legislative assembly of up to 300 members would be appointed to prepare for elections and draw up a permanent constitution. The assembly will have six months to do this, and elections would be held by April 1992. But the NPC reserves the right to dismiss the interim prime minister or dissolve the assembly in the interests of national security. Article 27 gives seemingly wide-ranging authority to the military to take any action necessary against people threatening national security or going against Buddhist morals.

PPT previously posted documents about this: Young Turks Assassination Plot 1982-91.

The lottery coincidence

2 12 2010

A reader sends us the lottery results. We at PPT are not superstitious, but as we think of numbers and dates for this week, we wonder about lottery results. See the two-number result on the right side.

Updated: The Cambodians and red shirts

11 10 2010

The highly politicized Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has decided to push ahead on the very unlikely story related to the 11 men arrested/detained/protected or something else in Chiang Mai, who were at one time accused of undergoing weapons training (but weren’t) at a resort in the north. PPT posted on this “case” of alleged red shirt “freedom fighters” or “terrorists-in-training” earlier. Our skepticism (and that of others) was expressed there.

DSI now claims that an “investigation” had discovered that “39 Thai men” – we presume DSI checked their passports and IDs – “have been trained for arms use in Cambodia for a mission to assassinate this country’s key public figures including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.”DSI claims this was a second round of alleged training in Cambodia.

Given that DSI is very much a flunky agency for the Abhisit regime, continually making political cases and rapid-fire allegations, all this is a bit hard to believe, but the report is carried by MCOT, so is going to get attention.

Pol-Lt Col Payao Thongsen, chief of DSI investigators probing the terrorism charge-related activities, told a news conference that the 11 (arrested/detained/protected or something else) men were “suspected of involvement in a movement to destabilise national security and plan to kill the country’s very important persons as well as overthrow the monarchy…”. This mirrors statements made by Chiang Mai police a few days ago. He claims that “police … have … solid evidence such as phone call details between these people and Red Shirt DJs group in Cambodia…”.

Apparently the men were “well-trained in using firearms” after a full one week of training (see below). Interestingly, trained assassins sent to kill king and prime minister, are now “under witness protection scheme in exchange for useful information which could lead to an arrest of other accomplices.” The colonel also said that these nasties had “confessed to being members of the anti-government movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and … were recruited and taken by Red Shirt leaders to Cambodia for arms training.” After that shock announcement, the DSI “investigator” linked this group to “men-in-black.” As he mentions the April and May events, we might assume that these men-in-black are not the one’s who took over an airport car park recently, apparently supporting a “business arrangement” for government-aligned politicians. In any case, these men had not undergone the alleged training until after 19 May.

Payao claimed that it was “Red Shirt leaders in northern region, mainly Red Shirt disc jockeys at community radio stations” who organised the training in Cambodia. Red shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong is also said to have been involved. The colonel says one “group convened in Bangkok, leaving Thailand by way of the Chong Jom border crossing in Surin province, the second group gathered at Nakhon Ratchasima and left Thailand via Chong Jom, and the last group met at Sa Kaeo and crossed to Cambodia…”. Linking this story to the Privy Council-linked alarmist claims released over the weekend, Payao said the 39 were “in a Cambodian army camp and they were trained by Cambodian soldiers.”

Payao claims that the first week of the alleged training “focused on political education but inciting anger and hatred on the monarchy while the second week was how to use military weapons and the third week was field operations training…”. He says that DSI found a “map of routes leading to [the] home of former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban who oversees national security had been used for the training of how to carry out the assassination plot and how to deal with his security guards…”. The targets for assassination also included Abhisit, Newin Chidchob and acting Police Inspector-General Pol Lt-Gen Somkid Boonthanom.

Colonel Payao said the “35 armed men arrived Thailand August 16 and then went separate ways before reuniting again in Phufa Resort in Chiang Mai in September to be standby for the operation as asked by UDD leaders in the northern region.” There is no indication where the other 24 associated with this alleged plot are now located, although the DSI G-men are on their trail, including in Cambodia.

PPT awaits the evidence that will no doubt be made available in the (presumably open) court cases. We are also keen to hear the Cambodian response.

Update: The Nation now has a brief story on this Payao press conference. Meanwhile, the Cambodian government has denied the claims. Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan stated: “It’s made up. Our constitution does not allow anyone to do that sort of thing [on Cambodian soil]…. Nobody is allowed to do any such stupid thing in Cambodia.” As might be expected, he also referred to “recent meetings between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Abhisit in the United States and Brussels were evidence of Cambodia’s good intentions to improve relations.” Phay added: “So I think this accusation is a made-up story to blame Cambodia, and is also [part of the] campaign against the red shirts, using Cambodia as a springboard for Thai local politics…”.

Updated: Anti-monarchy plots alleged

5 10 2010

Yesterday, at the end of this post, PPT had mention of 11 men arrested in the north initially said to be “red shirt” assassins-in-training. We also mentioned the related claim by Newin Chidchob that that there was an assassination contract on him by a “former boss.”

The Nation now reports further claims by a senior police officer that 11 apprehended men are part of a plot against the monarchy.

The arrested men are stated to have “received weapons training for purposes targeting national security…”. “National security” is now Abhisit Vejjajiva regime code for the monarchy.  They are said to have immediately agreed – “vowed” is the term in the report – to “disclose useful information to authorities…”.

According to the police, mirroring claims earlier made by certain government officials and reported in several national and international news outlets, the men say they are part of “a movement was set up to subvert the country through acts of terror…”.The police officer speaking to the media added: “We have information about the weapons training they received, and their involvement in various activities including bomb-related incidents, the anti-monarchy movement, assassination plots and other incidents which caused disruption to public order in Bangkok and elsewhere…”.

So the claim is that the assassins in training morphs into a claim that they have already been bombing and so on, all around the country.

Then the police officer makes the unbelievable claim that the “police were treating the matter purely as a criminal case without seeking political motives. He refused to indicate whether the men were red fighters, or linked to the infamous ‘men in black’, who are believed to be behind incidents of violence during the red-shirt protests in May.” But he can still be quoted as saying: “If all details [coming from the 11 suspects] are linked together, and coupled with information achieved through investigations by the Department of Special Investigation into more than 200 incidents, they will be very useful for the country…”.

No names or other details have been released and the men have not been charged. The gleeful policeman alleged that there “are other groups receiving similar weapons’ training and scheming to carry out similar activities…” and then added: “but I can’t tell you where they are based now. It’s a sensitive issue and may affect investor confidence if details are revealed…”. That sounds very odd to us.

PPT noted yesterday that claims of assassination plots are legion and that “investigations almost always lead nowhere. Readers might recall that the last claimed assassination plot involving the monarchy was said to be against a privy councilor.

This case was the subject of several posts at PPT (here, here, here and here) and involved Privy Councilor Charnchai Likhitjitta. Suspects were quickly arrested, but all were soon released and that was all that was ever heard of the case. At the time we speculated that the “alleged plot may well turn out to be a political conspiracy rather than a real plot.” We might speculate again about this police claim.

Related because it involves the monarchy and in the same report, it is stated that an alleged bomb hoax against the king at his Siriraj Hospital retreat has been arrested. The man in custody is said to be a “cobbler for allegedly making a prank bomb threat against the Siriraj Hospital last week.” Police stated that he “is a supporter of the red-shirt movement and said he selected the target because it was an important place, and did the prank out of his dislike for a coalition party.”

Again, we can’t help wondering if there are real plots involved or whether the plot is simply to (again) make links between red shirts – as they regroup and get active – and anti-monarchy conspiracies.

Update: And just for good measure, another story of alleged red shirts (maybe) in training as, in this story, “freedom fighters”:

The military is conducting an investigation into activities of the red freedom fighters nabbed by the authorities for weapon training along the Thai-Burmese border in Tak Province.

Mae-sod Chief-of-staff staff of special unit region 4 , Colonel Prasan Saengsirirak said that he had sent officers to inspect the area said to have been a training site, but found no suspicious movements. He, however, ordered troops to set up check points in front of Mae-sod district in order to step up security measures.

Burma has also set up check points in the area.

It is interesting, given Kasit Piromya’s recent comments, to see support for the Thai regime from the Burmese military thugs.

Weekend news round-up

31 01 2010

Democrat Party investigation: The TPI donation case against the “Democrat Party for having allegedly obtained unlawful [Bt258 million] donation and abused political party development fund” has been delayed yet again (The Nation, 30 January 2009). Election Commission Chairman Apichart Sukhagganond said that case “could not be concluded within next month.” No surprises there.

Justice Ministry voluntary spies: On ThaiPBS television news (29 January 2010), the Justice Minister appeared at a ceremony for the fourth group of volunteers who the Ministry wants to help locate threats to “democracy with the king as head of state.” Volunteers must be committed to this form of democracy and must watch out for threats against the monarchy and report them. No surprises there.

Seh Daeng, assassination plots and Abhisit: As anyone who follows Thailand’s politics will know, when assassination plots are alleged or carried out, there are seldom any arrests and convictions. As evidence, think of the attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul’s life, that the current government said would be solved by the end of last September. Or the alleged plot against a privy councilor last year. Now the government is taking comments by Seh Daeng (Khattiya Sawasdipol) as revealing a real plot against those involved with the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case (The Nation, 31 January 2010). All grist to the political mill as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjaiva pushes for Seh Daeng’s arrest on weapons charges. These charges, if they come, will be based on the grenade attack on the army chief, where there is no evidence of an attack available. The subsequent searches of houses and vehicles, which turned up weapons, showed senior police handling all the supposed evidence at the scene. There seemed few efforts being made to collect and protect evidence integrity.

Military demonstrations: VOANews.com (29 January 2010) has a report that refers to the now multiple gatherings of military leaders to support their chief against Seh Daeng and to deny that the military is divided. Of course, it is. Otherwise there wouldn’t need to be such demonstrations. At the King Prajadhipok Institute a retired military officer, Ekkachai Srivilas, agrees: “This is natural for the military because it has a conflict in the Royal Thai Army, because they take sides.” But he doubts Thaksin has much support “among active duty officers.” Chris Baker is reported as citing vague threats from both sides, while Sunai Pasuk, Thailand representative for Human Rights Watch, says “Thaksin’s supporters may threaten violence to pressure the government to drop the cases against him and allow him to return home.” He adds: “In the current political context without bloodshed Thaksin may not achieve this. That’s why it’s quite worrying to me…”. He warns the military against falling into the Thaksin “trap.” PPT believes that any violence from the red shirts would be welcomed by the military and government as they seek a final solution to their Thaksin problem.

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