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.





Human rights are for foreigners

1 05 2017

The National Human Rights Commission has been pretty hopeless for a long time. This makes the latest report on it at the Bangkok Post no surprise at all.

Earlier this month, Surachet Satitniramai “resigned from his NHRC position in the hope of bringing about change inside the organisation. He said he wanted to use his resignation to point to governance problems in the NHRC.”

Surachet, a medical doctor with lots of experience in rural areas,  referred to an “an unpleasant working environment” when he resigned. He told of “obstructions,” saying it was “hard to progress anything…”.

Meanwhile, one of the few members of the NHRC with a real background in human rights, commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit “told the Bangkok Post she would not hesitate to follow Mr Surachet’s footsteps, saying she has had to exercise much patience in the position as the working atmosphere among commissioners turned unpleasant.”

She said: “All I can tell you is that each commissioner’s opinion isn’t respected equally in meetings. Some commissioners can work easily, but others may face some obstacles in progressing their work…”.

While she continues “to fight for improvements in human rights,” she expressed her exasperation with hierarchy, poor governance and what we’d interpret as “unprincipled” actions at the NHRC.

Some background is needed here. When the U.N. Human Rights Committee met recently, its report included this on the NHRC:

While acknowledging the important work of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the Committee regrets that it was downgraded to “B” status by the accreditation committee of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. The Committee is concerned about the transparency of the process for selecting of members of the Commission (art. 2).

… The State party should ensure that the Commission is able to carry out its mandate effectively and independently, and in full conformity with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles).

In other words, at present, the NHRC has little independence of the military dictatorship and is not considered to operates as an appropriate human rights commission.

None of this seems to bother the troglodyte running the NHRC, What Tingsamitr, a judge and junta minion. He’s been on the warpath,  declaring that “if somebody [s commissioner] tried to serve foreign interests and destroy their own country, they will be loathed by the public and unable to work in such an important role in the end.”

We think the person who deserves to be loathed is the chairman himself. He is a disgrace with no knowledge of human rights. Of course, that’s why he was chosen for the position. The junta has a preference for posterior polishing royalists who are both unable and unwilling to do their job. They want obedient servants, and What is certainly that.

To comprehend the failure of the NHRC, just scroll though our posts and look at torture, murder, extrajudicial murder and more and see that the NHRC achieves nothing. It is toothless and useless.





UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





Good lads and bad lads

26 03 2017

Remember those nice lads from the south who came to Bangkok and organized protests against the military junta’s coal-fired power station plans? Yes, the lads who have a leader who is a royal and who called for a counter-coup if they didn’t get their way?

Those lads seem to be good lads because they had the junta changing its mind on the power plant process and also forgiving the lads so that none of them have become subjects of harassment and jailing. This is because they are pro-coup.

It seems good lads can even threaten the junta without having to worry too much. Of course, the junta may change its political judgement about these lads, but at the moment they seem “protected.”

Then there are bad lads, defined as activists and drug dealers and troublemakers. Chaiyapoom Pasae, killed with a single shot by the Army, is said in the Bangkok Post to be an activist and artist. That article describes two stories of Chaiyapoom’s death, and its pretty easy to see that the military and police story is struggling to paint him as a bad lad.

One of the very interesting parts of the story is the attached picture, a screen grab from TNN, showing a blurred out image of “the body of Chaiyapoom just after he was shot, as the police, military and their photographers begin to coordinate the stories they will tell the public.” We assume it is accurate in its description and have clipped it and reproduced it below.

We find it interesting because we recall that at first “soldiers claimed that they found certain amount of amphetamine in the car Chaiyaphum was sitting in and that he was resisting the authorities to arrest him by pulling out a knife before running into a bush.” First the knife went missing from the story and now, looking at the picture, the bush is gone too.

Then there’s other pictures:

Earlier there were pictures, leaked by a Facebook page opposing the Single Gateway Internet control idea, that showed Chaiyapoom cooperating with the soldiers’ search. The pictures seem to contradict the claim that the Lahu teenager resisted the soldiers.

The problem with Chaiyapoom’s sad case is that the disbelief expressed by many is causing the authorities to have to embellish and refine their story. In other words to make it more believable by making him appear as bad as possible. But there’s the troubling problem of witnesses who are not in uniform. The driver of the car involved has been held by military and police since the event. There may be others, and if this is a cover-up, then the authorities need to control them.

If previous cover-ups are a model, then this involves intimidation and violence. One measure of the moves being made is a statement by Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree who:

yesterday dismissed reports of a witness to the killing being threatened as untrue, saying officers have been taking care of the witness who had been co-operative and provided useful information.

He went on to threaten the media: “…[he] warned that anything revealed to the media could be libellous.”

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit:

took a man who was Chaiyapoom’s mentor to Na Wai police station to file a report about receiving a threat. The mentor (whose name has been withheld) told the NHRC he found a bullet in front of his house on Wednesday night, after he spoke out in defence of the young activist. He said two men, who did not identify themselves, had showed up earlier at his house to tell him to stop talking about Chaiyapoom.

They will have been military thugs.

The NHRC stated that “[o]ther witnesses were too scared to even talk to members of the rights body team yesterday.”

No soldier who manned the checkpoint at the time of the extrajudicial murder had been transferred or suspended. They were all continuing to work as normal.

Perhaps that’s why the witness who has been threatened is being assisted by the NHRC and will likely “go into a witness protection programme.”

Expect more efforts to paint Chaiyapoom as a bad boy, to intimidate his family and friends and to intimidate witnesses.





Rehearsing lies

9 03 2017

A story at Khaosod tells much about the military dictatorship that currently rules Thailand by dint of military boot and Article 44.

The story reports Pitikarn Sithidej, who works for the little known Rights and Liberty Protection Department in the Ministry of “Justice.” (We gave up looking for it on the Ministry website, which is a tangled mess.) We imagine they don’t have much work to do.

Pitikarn proudly declares that “Thailand is ‘fully prepared’ to defend its record and obligations on human rights next week when they are discussed in Geneva before the United Nations…”.

Others have also defended the undefendable and usually it has been the skilled liars from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have led the teams defending torture, lese majeste, political repression, enforced disappearance, the murderous military, impunity, military courts, massive censorship, restricting speech and assembly, rule by decree and martial law, and many more.

Apparently, on Monday and Tuesday next week, in Geneva, “an 18-member body of independent experts chosen by UN member states will review Thailand’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In fact, this is an open-and-shut case. The junta simply doesn’t defend civil and political rights; it mangles them.

Still, perhaps thinking that the rest of the world is moving in Thailand’s direction, the Rights and Liberty Protection Department’s Pitikarn says it has been rehearsing responses: “We have staged a question-and-answer drill and anticipate what questions will be asked by the committee. We are fully prepared, and our report will be based on the facts…”.

Facts? We get it, she really means “junta lies.”

Oddly, although perhaps part of the “rehearsing,” Pitikarn appeared at a forum with Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch. He revealed that “his organization would focus on the use of Article 44 under the military’s interim constitution, which he said has widely undermined human rights and lacks any accountability. ”

He added: “All [international human rights] obligations can be discarded by Article 44 and many times it’s been used to violate rights…”.

Sunai also said HRW “will call next week … for the military government to abolish it to demonstrate its commitment to restoring democracy.”

Seriously? Just that? That’s the best HRW can come up with? Square that with National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit saying: “There must be an assurance they will not sue those speaking in Geneva.”

Yes, those going to speak at Geneva – apart from the official bearers of rehearsed junta lies – are already fearful!