Updated: Thailand’s culture of torture

1 03 2017

A day or so ago, the Bangkok Post reported on the military dictatorship’s puppet National Legislative Assembly having “dropped legislation to criminalise torture and disappearances after years of working on the bill…”.

The United Nations Human Rights Office and NGOs reported on this.

Because Thailand has long been dominated by the military, torture is not only “not a criminal offence … and perpetrators cannot be prosecuted,” but it is essentially standard practice among the military and police.

Torture as used by the current regime ranges from the blatant use of torture such as beating, choking and electric shocks when persons are taken into custody to deliberately delayed, long, drawn-out and secret trials of lese majeste suspects who are often shackled.

Meanwhile, the “lack of a law on disappearances leaves a legal loophole that means security officials who abduct people and kill them, imprison them or send them to a third country may never be brought to justice.”

The UN stated that the “decision not to enact the bill is … a devastating blow to the families of those who have disappeared. They have the right to know the truth.”

The Post report adds that:

Amnesty International said last year Thailand’s military government has allowed a “culture of torture” to flourish since the army seized power in a 2014 coup, with allegations of beatings, smothering with plastic bags, waterboarding and electric shocks on detainees by authorities.

In the face of ample evidence of torture, the military regime lies that none of this is true.

Update: Khaosod reports that a “senior Justice Ministry official said the regime remains committed to enacting legislation against torture and enforced disappearance despite belief the bill died recently in a subcommittee.” No details provided….





Fudged to save well-paid relatives and buddies

24 02 2017

In an earlier post, we commented on the “clearing” of the seven puppet lawmakers who were “investigated” on allegations that they had failed to fulfill their required duties with the National Legislative Assembly. A report was said to be forthcoming that cleared the well-paid and senior friends of the junta.

PPT concluded by stating: We can’t wait for the report to see how this is fudged.

The Bangkok Post has now reported on this. It is another one of the junta’s concoctions to preserve nepotism, corruption and impunity.

NLA secretary general Vararat Atiphaet “told reporters on Friday that from Jan 1-Dec 31, 2016, NLA members voted 1,264 times in total.” She went on to confirm that “each member had to cast in at least one-third of the votes, or 421, to maintain their status.”

Helpfully, the Post constructed the table below:

From the Bangkok Post

For the table, a year of attendances is presented by the NLA and only “missed votes without prior leave-of-absence requests shall be counted as missed votes.”

As the Post points out, there’s hocus pocus going on: “the timeframe the NLA used in the calculation was 365 days even though its own regulation says the one-third rule applies to a 90-day period.” This sleight of hand went unexplained.

So the data is a pile of buffalo manure. Even so, the absences are remarkable! The next question is when those in the table (and others) are skiving off are they still “paid a position allowance of 71,230 baht and an extra allowance of 42,330 a month, totalling 113,560 baht.” And that doesn’t include “committee allowances.”

The answer seems to be that “If a member fails to attend half of the meetings scheduled each month, he will not receive the extra allowance for that month unless he is on a parliamentary trip approved by the NLA president.” So, the money for nothing seems to be 71,000 baht++.

Recall also, as the Post points out, these lazy thugs get an “allowance” so they can continue to collect other salaries:

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam said two years ago that a state official may not receive salaries from more than one source but may accept unlimited position allowances and other compensation so long as the payments are not called a salary.

The trough is filled with loot and is warm and inviting. These guys are swimming in it.





Money for nothing II

17 02 2017

In a post a little while ago, PPT had the story of puppet legislators missing in inaction at the National Legislative Assembly. We mentioned Prachatai’s report of an iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We used the word “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

At the end of that post we speculated that because “leaves” from the puppet NLA are “secret,” and because The Dictator’s brother is one of those involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, we expected an announcement that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

Clean hands?

Clean hands?

Sure enough, we already have that statement. The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “it is not a problem that General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the former Defence permanent secretary and brother of the prime minister, takes frequent leave from legislative meetings…”. Oddly, he also stated that “a committee is being set up to examine the case.”

And just in case you wondered, General Prawit declared that “Preecha took leave under normal regulations of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”.

Of course he did. And, if he didn’t, you can probably bet he has applied now and been approved.

As we understand it, even on leave – for almost all the six months he missed almost all meetings – he still draws his NLA salary that is in excess of 100,000 baht a month.

Money for nothing.

Prawit explained the “situation.” He speculated “that as Preecha also served as the defence permanent secretary he might need to take leave sometimes.”

In any case, the NLA is just a rubber stamp for the junta so missing meetings is hardly an issue for The Dictator and his dictatorship. Demonstrating its puppet status, “Prawit said he had already talked to NLA president Pornpetch Vichitcholchai. Prawit said they found no problems…”.

Still, to launder the record, General Prawit “told Pornpetch to go ahead with setting up a committee to examine the case.”

That will result in a finding that there’s no issue. Junta-led “investigations” of themselves always reach this conclusion.

Naturally enough, General Prawit was loyally supported by “Army Commander General Chalermchai Sittisart also defended the absence of NLA members from legislative meetings, including the PM’s brother.” Chalermchai did admit that the NLA “is far different from a normal House, as it draws members from various professions, many of whom are civil servants, meaning they also have their own work to take care of.” He means its a puppet, rubber stamping hoax legislature.

General Preecha’s record displays considerable evidence of corruption and nepotism. His protection by his brother and the regime is simply one more case of gross double standards.





Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





Buddhism, the palace and propaganda

13 02 2017

As we have stated previously, PPT doesn’t usually follow the shenanigans within the sangha, except where these impact politics and the palace.

Most assuredly, the long-running fight to have an appropriately conservative monk, acceptable to anti-democrats and royalists, appointed as supreme patriarch has fulfilled the impact on politics and palace criteria. For earlier posts on this very public political battle, see here and here.

In that battle, the junta’s minions went after the most senior monks in line for the top job. They accused them of, among other things, fraud, luxury living and other “crimes,” but all part of a view that the most senior contenders were politically unacceptable to the military regime and its supporters.

Because Buddhism is a political field strewn with booby traps, the junta decided that the way out of what had become an unseemly political battle with senior monks, including the sangha’s governing body, was to change the law on who selected the supreme patriarch.

The puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has hurriedly pushed through an amendment to the 1962 Sangha Act, as amended in 1992, to restore what was falsely described as “an old tradition” which gave the king the right to name the supreme patriarch. He soon did choose, and it was not one of the controversial senior monks the junta had nixed.

While we only have The Dictator’s word for it, he claimed the king then asked everyone involved in the investiture of the supreme patriarch to ensure there were no problems. The investiture went ahead yesterday.

Immediately, a propaganda offensive has been launched to justify the king’s selection, to shore up the supreme patriarch’s position and that of the junta as well. As with the king himself, this involves a sanitized and approved version of “the truth.”

This new version of “truth” can be read here. A different story is available, recounting some of the politics of the unacceptable truth.

The last time that there was a major political and palace intervention in the position of the supreme patriarch was under the earlier dictator, General Sarit Thanarat, in the early 1960s.





“Reconciliation” by military committee II

9 02 2017

The degree of military control of this flawed “reconciliation” soap opera has been seen in a military press conference on the contrived process. This picture, snipped from the Bangkok Post, tells much.

military-in-charge

The report states: “The military will start discussions on national reconciliation with politicians on Valentine’s Day and plans to produce a reconciliation pact in three months.”

We can surmise that the “pact” is already crafted. Claims that the document will come after the talks are unbelievable as this junta is had more than two years to prepare its agenda.

“The Defence Ministry will arrange roundtable discussions where military officers talk with 10 representatives from each political party on weekdays…. At the roundtable, 10 soldiers would discuss 10 reconciliation-related topics with the 10 political representatives from each party.”

Ten isn’t usually a lucky number, but it is the 10th reign…. Only 10 issues need discussing? And reconciliation is being steered by the soldiers and the parties are being kept separate.

Why only political parties? We gather that this is because the purpose is to ensure that an “election” produces the result desired by the military dictatorship. “Reconciliation” means the existing political parties will acknowledge and accept the domination of the military junta.

When the military’s document is “approved,” it is will be by a “committee headed by army chief Chalermchai Sittisat…. The panel would include Somkid Lertpaitoon, president of Thammasat University and member of the National Legislative Assembly.”

Somkid is a notorious royalist and handmaiden to the military junta. We guess he’s already in on the military’s “agreement” that will be put before the political parties.

Then, following tactics used in the constitutional “referendum,”  the “draft” will “go to public hearings that the military would organise in all regions.” That means no real discussion and certainly no debate is expected.

The military adds that “[r]epresentatives of farmers would also be invited to comment on the draft,” presumably chosen by the military.

The junta expects that its “reconciliation pact” would be “accepted” as “a consensus from political parties and general people.”

Like the junta’s “constitution,” the “reconciliation pact” is a military plan for junta political longevity and for military political domination into the future.





“Reconciliation” by military committee I

9 02 2017

We assume a report yesterday in The Nation is accurate when it reports that the junta has appointed a “reconciliation committee” composed almost entirely of “military officers and state officials…”.

It states that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “signed an order to appoint members of four committees under one umbrella covering reform, reconciliation, and national strategy.” Prayuth and the junta retain total control of the committees and their process:

Each of the four committees – the national strategy preparation committee, reform preparation committee, reconciliation preparation committee and strategic administration committee – will be chaired by Prayut, with one or two deputy PMs as vice chairman. Most members of the four committees are ministers, state officials, and the president and vice president of [puppet] National Legislative Assembly and [puppet] National Reform Steering Assembly.

We were stunned by The Nation’s wrongheadedness in referring to “outsiders” who “will sit on the reconciliation preparation committee which is the biggest with 33 members.”In fact, the committee will be under Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan, “and includes military top-brass and chiefs of security agencies.”

The alleged “outsiders” are “former charter writers Sujit Boonbongkarn and Anek Laothamatas; Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science and an adviser to Prawit; Suthibhand Chirathivat, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of economics, and former Supreme Commander General Boonsang Niampradit.”

Suchit is a determined royalist, one of the grand old men who has served both post coup governments since 2006. Anek has hawked himself to the regime for some time. General Boonsang is, well, a general. The Nation doesn’t say it, but he is an ardent royalist and was a second tier leader of the 2006 coup. Certainly the People’s Alliance for Democracy favored him.

Most bizarrely, the idea that (pseudo)academic-for-hire Panitan is an “outsider” is like calling his boss, General Prawit, an “outsider.” No one is further inside than the disreputable Panitan.

In other words, “reconciliation” is just like an “election” and the “constitution.” It’s all rigged by the generals.