Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.





Military responsible for torture and murder in its own ranks

10 11 2018

Under the military dictatorship, the National Human Rights Commission is a neutered agency. Its fall into non-independence can be traced to a series of events over the period of political conflict, but most notably its alliance with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime in 2009-11 when stewarded by Amara Pongsapich,. Her tenure at the helm of the NHRC was a disaster for human rights in Thailand.

Even so, there are odd rays of light from the NHRC. Most recently, The Nation reports that the military’s “beating of military draftees is a violation of their rights” according to the NHRC. It has “called on the Army to set guidelines for appropriate ways to punish infractions.” It also called for “regulations establishing the level of aid and remedial measures given the families of soldiers injured or killed while being punished.”

That last bit is an admission that the military continues to kill recruits in using enhanced disciplinary measures that have been most recently defended by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Essentially, they have claimed that recruits who die are simply not tough enough.

The NHRC findings result from “an NHRC probe into two recent cases – the caning and kicking of a soldier at the Royal Thai Army Cavalry Centre in November 2016 and the fatal beating of conscripted Private Yuthinan Boonniam at a military detention facility in Surat Thani in April 2017.”

These cases amount to torture and murder.

The military brass involved is protected by the impunity attached to the men with weapons.





NACC a sad joke

16 07 2018

Thailand has a bunch of agencies that the media repeatedly refers to as “independent.” Article 215 of junta’s constitution defines these as:

An Independent Organ is an organ established for the independent performance of duties in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.

The performance of duties and exercise of powers by an Independent Organ shall be honest, just, courageous, and without any partiality in exercising its discretion.

They are: the Election Commission, Ombudsmen, State Audit Commission, National Human Rights Commission and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

As far as we can see, none of these agencies is in any way “independent” of the junta. Most of their actions are the stuff of puppets.

When it comes to the NACC, it has proven itself a weak, toady, puppet organization, incapable of fulfilling its legal duties.

We pick on the NACC because an anti-corruption NGO has “renewed its call … for the national anti-graft body to speed up its probes into a luxury watch scandal facing Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and the money-laundering allegations against a former national police chief [Somyos Pumpanmuang].” The Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand says it is three months since it published an “open letter asking the National Anti-Corruption Commission [NACC] about progress made in its probes…”.

It seems that the NACC only responded about a week ago, stating that the “two cases is that they still are in the fact-finding stage…”. Since then, zilch, nothing, silence. We might add that the “investigation” of Gen Prawit goes back to December 2017. Pol Gen Somyos was first revealed as being involved with the owner of the Victoria’s Secret Massage parlor back in January this year. Now boss of the Football Association of Thailand – where was he in the cave drama? – Somyos “borrowed” 300 million baht from the brothel boss.

ACT puts the obvious question: why [is] the NACC is taking so long to wrap up these two particular cases?” As we have said, ACT points out that these are not complicated cases.

In response, referring to the Prawit “investigation,” an anonymous “NACC source … revealed that a committee handling Gen Prawit’s case had finished questioning all witnesses, but the local dealers of those luxury watches had refused to provide the NACC with any information about the serial numbers of the watches in question.”

That might have something to do with tax evasion, but that’s only a guess. In any case, this is where the NACC was in May and sounds rather like an excuse for foot-dragging and the great cover-up for the Deputy Dictator.

There was silence on the case investigating Somyos and scores of others.

ACT rightly asks: “… how could the public trust the NACC to handle even more complicated cases in the future?” We haven’t trusted it for several years now as it became the political plaything of the junta, doing some of its dirty work, disrupting the Puea Thai Party and making life difficult for politicians and activists the junta finds oppositional. In other words, the NACC is a tool for political repression and displays not a skerrick of independence.





Greasing the junta’s wheels II

15 07 2018

The Nation has another interesting yet tantalizingly short report about the puppet National Legislative Assembly doing some more of the junta’s work.

As usual, almost unanimous votes granted “salary increases for judges, public prosecutors and members of independent organisations. The NLA’s first reading voted to pass amendments to five laws regulating personnel of the relevant agencies, as proposed by the Cabinet.” Anything the junta wants, the junta gets.

The “five laws involve personnel and remunerations regarding the Courts of Justice, the Administrative Court, the Constitutional Court, independent organisations and public prosecutors…”. The rises go to all the people who have been loyal to the junta, doing as they were told or acting as the junta’s automatons: “Heads of the courts, the Office of the Attorney-General, and independent organisations…. Among the independent organisations involved are the [anti-election] Election Commission, Ombudsman’s Office, [hopeless] National Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Auditor General and National Human Rights Commission.”

What is tantalizing is that we are not told who gets what rise, just that the cost to the taxpayer will be about 450 million baht.The rises will be backdated to just after the 2014 military coup, with the vacuous, toothless and hopeless NHRC getting raises backdated to 2005.

All of the junta-loving puppets in these organizations will appreciate the generals even more.





Election ≠ democracy

17 12 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey thinks the military junta is likely to allow its “election” to take place in November 2018.

Certainly, the junta and The Dictator are campaigning hard. Umesh also sees the EU capitulation to the military dictatorship as evidence that an “election” just might be held.

But issues remain. For one thing, as Umesh notes, the junta has not yet allowed political parties to complete the necessary legal requirements to allow them to campaign and then stand candidates for election. That could be a delaying tactic or it may be just an attempt to cause disarray and disorganization among political parties and preferencing the junta.

Another issue is that the formation of the Election Commission is stuck. Seven commissioners have been nominated, at least one with links to the anti-democrat stage, but the two selected by the Supreme Court seem not to have followed legal procedures. Of course, the Supreme Court has broken and bent rules in the past but the National Legislative Assembly is questioning the court.

There’s also an issue with the political parties act and the potential for changes and delays. The junta can still play around with this law using Article 44 but there may also be considerable debate at the NLA.

The bigger problem with Umesh’s view, however, is his odd view of “democracy.”

Identifying himself as a “democracy lover,” Umesh states:

Given the fact that elections are usually held on Sundays and assuming that the government plans to hold on to power until the last day it can, the last day to hold elections would be Nov 25, which would mean that the country would be back to a democratic system 343 days from today.

Of course, when the anti-democrats campaigned against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government, they repeatedly complained that elections did not make democracy. Their argument was that election by a majority of the population ignored the minority.

In the case of the junta, however, “elections” do not make democracy because the military dictatorship has developed all the rules for the “election.” These rules have been developed by the puppet appointees of what is an illegal regime (which legalized itself). Many of those rules have been developed to produce a junta-friendly post-election regime.

The junta’s constitution was “approved” in a referendum that was unfree and unfair. And then it has been substantially changed, some of that done in secret.

The result is likely to be that, as in the period when General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected premier, “elections” may not matter much and political parties are likely to have relatively limited power.

The junta’s reign has also seen courts and so-called independent agencies made the bastard children of the junta. In addition to the EC, a recent example is the National Human Rights Commission, completely de-fanged after years of increasing impotence and partisanship.

This fixing of the legal and electoral system has been so thorough that no election under the junta’s rule can be democratic if that word has something to do with free and fair elections.





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.





Watching and repressing for profit

30 07 2017

The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.

That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.

The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.

We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.

The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”

There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.

The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.

It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.

The report continues:

He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.

He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.

There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.

Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”

NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.

Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”

The military junta is defined by such acts.