Updated: Enforced disappearances and political repression

7 06 2020

The government continues to deny any knowledge of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance. It also avers that it can’t do anything to investigate. It is the “We know nothing” response.

But this ruse is weakened when former security officials blabber on. In this case we have regime supporter and former deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency, Nantiwat Samart sowing seeds of doubt by urging “the public not to jump to conclusions.” He claims Wanchalearm may not have been abducted or killed.

He lies that Thailand’s military doesn’t have capacity for such operations – despite the fact that they have been conducting cross-border operations for decades and having several special forces units including some recently trained units capable of such operations. In addition, it is known that, less than a month ago, police visited Wanchalearm’s mother demanding information on his location.

Contradicting himself he then claims that Thia units would not have abducted the activist as he is just not important enough for such an operation.

Meanwhile, human rights defender Angkhana Neelapaijit – who knows a lot about enforced disappearances – advises the regime to act:

“The government would be cast in a bad light — as an accessory [to the disappearance] — if it is not active in solving this case,” Ms Angkhana said. “Despite Mr Wanchalearm being critical against the government, he is a Thai citizen.”

Thai authorities must work with the Cambodian government to solve this case, the former human rights commissioner added.

Ms Angkhana believes the Cambodian government would take an active role in solving Mr Wanchalearm’s disappearance as the country ratified the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2013.

The Mirror Foundation has announced that Wanchalearm is considered a missing person and that the Foundation will “raise awareness about his abduction.” It said that its “members are making a missing person report assuming that it was a case of forced disappearance.”

The Nation reports that others have expressed their concern. Police used the now common virus emergency decree excuse to restrict a protest on Friday that drew attention to the abduction. The report states that a “group of protesters gathered on the Bangkok Skywalk in Pathumwan district…”.

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that considers the abduction and the others over the past couple of years “speak volumes of how the country’s democracy is phoney.”

We never thought the junta’s “democracy” was anything of the sort, but thought that the Post could have observed that these abductions have been used since the king decided that lese majeste should be toned down.

The Post calls for speech to be freed and for the computer crimes law and other “unjust laws” to be revised. We can’t see the military-backed regime doing anything, either on the enforced disappearances or reducing repression.

Update: AFP reports that Wanchalearm’s family have “pleaded Sunday for his release…”. They said: “Please release Wanchalearm. We will look forward to this with hope…. We hope this enforced disappearance will be the last time.”





Further updated: It’s still a military regime I

12 05 2020

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha appears far more comfortable when ruling under an emergency decree. Parliament is not his thing and with it not meeting, its (limited) significance is reduced to invisibility. And, the virus crisis has (further) reduced the (limited) scrutiny he gets from the (tame) media; less than during the full-on military dictatorship.

The Dictator’s comfort zone – within the hard shell of the military – is showcased in a Khaosod report. In an odd move, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth “ordered a public survey to gather opinions on whether the emergency decree should be lifted, officials said Monday.”

It does seem strange that a “strongman” feels the need “survey” public opinion on a topic that has generally been considered a matter of science and public health. But we do know that the military junta used “surveys” to “assess” public mood. These surveys were usually conducted by the military and related bodies.

And so it is now:

National security official Gen. Somsak Rungsita said the survey will be conducted by the National Intelligence Agency and the Internal Security Operation Command. It will cover questions regarding the next phase of business reopenings and public opinion on emergency decree, he said.

Yes, the emergency decree. If those junta/military-backed agencies show that “people” are “happy” for the generals and their minions to bungle on under strict controls, then we might expect the emergency decree to be extended beyond the end of May.

Reassuringly, and suggesting that the “survey” is something of a smokescreen, Gen Somsak declared: “The decree has to be eventually revoked. It can’t stay forever…”. In the usual idiotic manner of generals, he added: “Please don’t link it to politics since the enactment of emergency decree is purely for the health of citizens.” Of course, it isn’t all about health.

Even the Democrat Party’s Ong-art Klampaiboon dared suggest that “the government” of which he is a part but in which his party has no influence, “should assign academics to conduct the questionnaire instead of intelligence agencies.” We’d ask why a competent government even needs a survey unless it is to justify more unaccountable (military) rule.

Update 1: The regime has now denied the above report despite it being clear that the earlier reports were accurate. National Security Council secretary-general Gen Somsak Roongsita has stated “Gen Prayut[h] … does not have a policy and has not issued an order” to carry out a survey on the issue…”. Ho hum.

Update 2: Ho hum indeed! Khaosod reports that Gen Prayuth has squashed talk about the emergency decree being lifted at the end of May. The report states:

National Security Council sec-gen Gen. Somsak Roongsita also told the media on Monday that it is “highly likely” that Thailand’s State of Emergency will end on May 31, citing surveys by two intelligence agencies.

“Both agencies were quite satisfied with the overall public health and safety situations,” Somsak said. “[They] believed that the general Thais have good understandings of the need for social distance at the time of the pandemic outbreak.”

Gen Prayuth seems to want the decree in place for longer, claiming health concerns. As usual, it is confusion erring on the side of repression.





The surveillance state

13 07 2017

Who knew? Well, the “authorities” probably did. The Bangkok Post reports that Thailand’s state has “a network of 27 agencies” that spy on its citizens.

The news emerges as a “security commission” headed by Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan “has approved another reform plan aimed at improving the government’s intelligence work…”.

It is reported that the “27 agencies, some of which are state enterprises, have much useful data but this would be optimised if they were interlinked to help identify threats…”. As we know, almost all efforts identified as “intelligence” are targeted at domestic “targets” and that most are related to dopey notions of “protecting the monarchy.”

“Intelligence” is said to be “mainly overseen by the National Intelligence Agency under the Prime Minister’s Office.”





“Non-political bomb” in Bangkok

5 11 2010

The Nation has one of its straightman reports that beggar belief but say a lot if one is cynical and adept at reading between the lines:

A home-made bomb on Friday exploded from inside a postbox located near the Labour Ministry in Din Daeng, police said. There was no casualties reported.

The explosion damaged the postbox and forensic officials found two letters – one addressed to the prime minister and another to the Democrat Party. Police were checking for any linkage between the letters and the explosion.

Metropolitan Police Region 1 commander Maj General Wichai Sangprapai said he suspected young hooligans were the culprits.

Wichai said the incident was not a politically-motivated attack.

So we have bombs in a postbox where there were also letters addressed to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and to the Democrat Party and the police say they are “not a politically-motivated” and the work of “hooligans.” Could that make sense? One reading could be conspiratorial and suggest that the authorities have been well aware of the bombers in previous instances, most of which have not been resolved by the police.

Then put that report together with one in the Bangkok Post. The government behind the government known as the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation “has warned all security agencies to be on high alert for possible violence – including attacks on important people – from now until the New Year…”.

CRES spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd made the point that his agency is getting reports from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) that “from the month of November until the New Year certain groups of ill-intentioned people may instigate violence in crowded areas and attack important people to erode the public’s confidence in the safety of their lives and property.”

The result is that CRES has “instructed all intelligence agencies including the National Security Council, armed forces and police to keep watchful eyes on activities of groups under suspicion.” Now who could be under suspicion? Probably not “hooligans.” Of course, it is “especially” the “activities of the red-shirts on Nov 13 to mark since six months the death of Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol (Seh Daeng), who was shot on May 13, and on Nov 19 to mark six months since the May 19 military crackdown on United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protesters at Ratchaprasong.”

Security units would be on high alert as the “NIA also received reports of suspicious movements of chemicals and explosives which can be used as precursors for making bombs. These activities would also be under watch…”. Was the postbox bomb a teaser? Who knows, but it is an interesting coincidence, perhaps.





National Intelligence Agency and politics of the monarchy

31 07 2009

The Nation (31 July 2009: : “Petition damned as divisive ploy”) reports that the National Intelligence Agency has warned the Democrat Party-led government that the red shirts will cause chaos from Monday.

“Yesterday, national police chief General Patcharawat Wongsuwan and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) chief Adul Kowattana briefed Prime Minister Abhisit about the movement for amnesty. Adul said in reality, fewer than 1 million people had signed the petition, because the process of authenticating names, backgrounds and profiles was far too complicated, while some had changed their minds. The NIA believes the red shirts will probably start creating political chaos from next Monday – the day Abhisit turns 45.

Abhisit said: “I don’t think we can stop the red shirts from rallying or submitting a petition. They can allow them to do that, but I’m concerned they’re trying to bring the monarchy into politics. They’re free to attack me, but they should not touch the monarchy…”.

The Nation seems convinced that chaos will ensue and reports that the military are on alert.