Seeking to strangle protest I

4 08 2020

A couple of reports in Prachatai, both drawing on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, show how the regime is seeking to snuff out youth-led protest. We will have two posts on these reports.

According to TLHR, “there have been at least 75 announcements about plans to organize a protest and public activity in 44 provinces across the country to support the Free Youth group’s demands.”

It states that:

the rise of protests and political expressions in public has prompted interventions from state officials who tracked down, harassed, and suppressed protest leaders and participants in many places. Out of at least 76 planned activities, five could not be organized….

It notes the measures used by the authorities to harass and repress:

  • Before protests, officials including the police, Special Branch officers track down students and others “seeking information.” An aim of this is to gather intelligence and it is also meant o show that the authorities “know” who is involved, “warning, suppressing, and intimidating protest organizers, participants, and other related parties…”. In several cases, “plainclothes officers reportedly threatened to take some protest organizers to a police station without an official warrant.” This is meant to intimidate and demonstrate the state’s power while collecting intelligence.
  • At the protests, “state officials put up posters, handed out pamphlets, or made announcements using an amplifier to threaten the protestors that their activities might constitute a violation of the law.” In addition, police “take photos of the demonstrations.” They “target specific individuals during these recent flash mob rallies and tended to take pictures of those holding protest signs…”. In several cases, “military officers and officials from the Internal Security Operations Command in some provinces attended the protests to observe and record the activities.”
  • The authorities seek “to obstruct protestors in some provinces from using their intended venues by blocking them from those areas and causing them to move their activities elsewhere.”
  • Despite earlier claims/lies by Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council that the emergency decree was not to “ban gatherings [he said] to prove our sincere intention for disease control,” the authorities have regularly used the decree against protesters. TLHR reports that: “Four university students who gave speeches during the #ChiangMaiWillNotTakeThisAnyMoreToo activity … were summonsed to Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station to acknowledge their charges under the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act.”
  • At protests, “authorities [have] … confiscated … protest signs during the demonstration. In some cases, they arrested the protestors, put their information in an ‘interrogative record,’ and seized the signs…”.
  • After protests and rallies, police and military have trailed “some protestors backed to their home, especially those who held up protest signs.” They tell the protestors to stop using the signs when they are considered to be “sensitive” – meaning being about the monarchy. Usually these officials “recorded the protestors’ personal information and took their photos.”
  • At schools and universities, administrators “took the lead to undertake measures for suppressing and threatening their students.” Several institutions “prevented the student protestors from using their campus ground as a protest venue and ordered their students to refrain from organizing or participating in a public assembly.” Schools and universities have also “prohibited their students from participating in any rally.” Administrators also collaborate with the authorities, [illegally] providing them with the personal information of their students.

TLHR concludes:

The attempts to suppress, pressure, and intimidate protestors constitute an attack on peaceful expressions of opinions and unarmed demonstrations, which are the rights enshrined in the 2017 Constitution. Several of these attempts had no legal basis; they merely exploited people’s gaps in knowledge to undermine the power of free expressions.

Updated: It’s still a military regime II

22 05 2020

The Bangkok Post has had a flurry of stories about the proposed extension of the regime’s emergency decree.

The most recent of those stories states that:

The National Security Council (NSC) will propose extending the state of emergency for another month to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) today out of concern over the lingering pandemic.

Frankly, we doubt the health justification. For one thing, if the data are as good as the state agencies claim, then the number of cases in the country has been tiny since late April. The economy is in such bad shape that some have estimated unemployment rising to unprecedented levels.

NSC secretary-general Gen Somsak Roongsita said a meeting of security agencies and public health officials will propose to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, dominated by the military, that “the state of emergency should be extended for another month to June 30…”.

Gen Somsak added that “continued enforcement of the emergency decree is necessary for the third and fourth stage of relaxation expected in June.” In other words, the emergency decree may stay in place until July or August or even longer.

An earlier report was more forthright, noting that the decision on the extension of the emergency decree came in a meeting Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had with “military top brass to address the Covid-19 outbreak…”.

Yes, this is the same military brass responsible for one of Thailand’s major virus outbreaks.

An unnamed “source said military chiefs are ready to act in line with the government’s wishes if it decides to extend the decree.”

Thailand seems to one of the few countries where the military is overseeing the response to the virus:

The National Security Council, the National Intelligence Agency and military agencies have been keeping a close watch on the easing of business shutdowns since May 17, a day which saw large numbers of people flocking to shopping malls.

This emphasizes just how much Thailand is a military state.

The military worries that:

Without the executive decree … the CCSA will be dissolved and the government will lack the legal tools, including shutdowns and a curfew, it has used since March 26 to quickly contain the spread of novel coronavirus should further action be necessary.

Clipped from Prachatai

In the view of security authorities, the enforcement of the Communicable Diseases Act alone is not enough as legal power will be mostly exercised by the Public Health Ministry.

They want Gen Prayuth to continue “to give a ‘single command’ integrating the work of both security and health officials.”

Given that the military and its regime have used the virus crisis for political purposes, we can’t help but wonder if the real concern of the military isn’t to maintain the repression of political opponents.

Update: Instead of a new post, it seems appropriate to add to this one and observe the 6th anniversary of the 2014 military coup. Khaosod reports that “University students staged a brief protest in front of the Royal Thai Army HQ … on Friday.”

And it seems entirely appropriate that the current military/military-backed regime should celebrate its illegal 2014 putsch by deciding “to extend the emergency decree for another month through June, although no new cases of coronavirus were reported on the same day.” Move Forward Party general secretary Chaitawat Tulaton commented: “The public is fully aware of the problem and have already adapted to the new norms. There is no reason to extend the decree further…. The future of Thailand should be decided by the benefit of the majority, not for Gen. Prayut’s security.”

A selection of pictures from 2014:

Beware talk of a “third hand”

20 05 2018

Just over a week ago PPT posted about several dire warnings made by the likes of National Security Council chief Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh who publicly worried that pro-election campaigners would resort to violence. That was about a rally on 22 May.

We at PPT wondered and worried about this warning. None of the many small protests by those involved in the anti-junta campaign had ever resulted in violence. Mostly they led to arrests and charges by the authorities acting to protect the military junta and The Dictator.

We wondered why the general made such a statement. Was he thinking of a “third hand”? As we said after an ISOC “warning,” along the same lines, ISOC has, in the past, often provided the “third hands.”

As another set of small rallies is held and looms, a Bangkok Post report states that police “have begun implementing stringent security measures to deter attempts to smuggle weapons into Bangkok ahead of the planned march by anti-regime groups on Tuesday…”.

In making such claims, even the usual blather about “intelligence reports” is missing. The police simply appear to be concocting plots. But to what end? Again, we worry about the “third hand” provided by the state. We have seen it too many times in the past.

This time it is Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul who talks of the need to “deter any attempts by a third party to stir up unrest during the demonstration…”.

The police general said “several hundred police officers are set to be deployed on Tuesday” when a 4-year anniversary of the 2014 coup rolls around.

For good measure, “Pol Gen Srivara has threatened legal action against the protesters if they march to Government House.”

In this context of threat, we are pleased to note that groups identifying themselves as civil society organizations have come together to launch today a “Public Assembly Observation and Documentation for Human Rights” monitoring coalition that will “monitor and document what happens at a public assembly using a human rights based approach.” Its operation are said to have begun on 19 May. Piyanut Kotsan, a spokesperson for the Public Assembly Observation and Documentation for Human Rights, explained:

the network has been banded together with an aim to streamline and justify the roles of observers making their roles distinct from those participating in a public assembly. They are there simply to document the realities utilizing human rights indicators and to practice their skills in observing a public assembly professionally.

The Network is likely to risk criticism by the junta and its thugs, used to impunity in their actions.

Still threatening

11 05 2018

As many in Thailand seek to draw “lessons” from the vote in Malaysia that has seemed to overturn 61 years of political dominance, and the royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim, Thailand’s military dictatorship makes noise about doubling down on repression for the maintenance of the forces of political dominance.

A couple of days ago the Bangkok Post reported that National Security Council (NSC) chief Gen Wanlop Rugsanaoh “warned pro-election campaigners against resorting to violence after they vowed to march on Government House on May 22.”

This is a dangerous warning. As far as anyone can determine, none of the many protests by those involved in the campaign has resulted in any violence whatsoever.

So why does the scary general at the head of a scary organization make such a statement? He even says he doesn’t believe “the demonstration will not spiral out of control.” Does he have information about a “third hand”? As we said less than a week ago, ISOC has made such claims, and they are a scary bunch too, skilled in political manipulation and provocation.

Gen Wanlop added that the activism is a waste of time. He said “the government is following its election roadmap” and that it is “impossible that the NCPO [junta] will step down since the council is a mechanism which supports the government’s administration…”. In fact, it is the mechanism of government.

Another Bangkok Post report has Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warning “pro-election protesters they will face tough legal action if they march on Government House…”.

He claimed “70 million people understand the government’s election roadmap,” implying the protesters were being stubborn and were out of touch with the vast majority, even deceptive. His men are, he says, “trying to find out who actually pulls the strings in this political movement.” That’s a code for saying that the mostly student-led protesters are Thaksin Shinawatra’s tools and of the groups around him. It is a claim the junta has repeatedly made.

Gen Prawit “warned that the group must revise their plans to hold the rally.” He also referred to “[t]his new political unrest” and implied a plot or conspiracy, saying the “unrest” has “suddenly erupted after a few people came out to say something…”.

Of course, “unrest,” even if manufactured by the junta, can be useful for the regime. It can use “unrest” to delay elections, to attack/charge/quieten the political burrs that get in and under the military bear’s coat and to demonstrate political will and capacity.

More than anything else, though, the military junta wants to show it is still threatening.

Policing activists calling for the junta’s election

20 02 2018

Thailand’s military rulers reckon that “pro-election” activists are in the pay of others. The regime has good reason for alleging this as the military, and particularly ISOC has spent decades creating and funding the right-wing groups that have been instrumental in bringing down elected governments. In the process quite a few people have been murdered.

So whenever they see others agitating they automatically assume they are like the groups they form and back. National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Wallop Raksanoh has “pledged to go after those who are financially supporting pro-election activists…”.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Before going any further, we need to note that these activists are agitating for an “election” to be held according to the rules set by the military junta and a timetable that was promised by The Dictator not that long ago. In other words, the military junta is threatened by a small group of activists promoting the junta’s own “election.”

Of course, yet again, the junta has backed away from its “election” pledge, so now these pro-election activists – the junta’s election – are seditious. The military is spending huge amounts of taxpayer money policing those who have called for the junta’s election to actually be held.

General Wallop pledged to “hunt down those who are the backers of the group,” saying that the “activists’ would not pose such a major problem if people were not egging them on…”. He warned of possible violence saying “officials must ensure no third party would exploit the group’s activities by causing violence.” Funny that. It is usually ISOC that provides the infamous “third hand” in Thailand’s politics.

In “hunting down” backers, the regime’s internet police are more heavily blocking websites that support the activists, PPT included.

Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisad also says his men are “searching for the people thought to be supporting the group.” He suspects political parties and he means Puea Thai and Shinawatra money. With both Thaksin and Yingluck visible and in the region, the military junta is having kittens.

Gen Chalermchai said “[s]tate authorities will enforce the laws in a proper way…” against activists, with as many as 100 now having been charges. Ironically, it is Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who is instructing the authorities on these measures. He himself is accused of multiple acts of corruption and unusual wealth. That’s leaving aside the illegality of the coup he helped plan and implement.

Ko Tee dead?

8 08 2017

Following reports of Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s enforced disappearance in Laos there has been little information available. However, reports in the media and on social media make two points that are at odds with each other.

The military dictatorship states that it has heard nothing from Lao authorities to confirm anything about the case. That’s according to General Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council. Then Thawip said “he personally believes that Wutthipong is still in hiding.” In fact, such claims by the authorities are common following enforced disappearances.

The diverging social media account is that Ko Tee is dead: “Photos purportedly of Wutthipong’s body have gone viral on social media.”

It is incumbent on the Lao government to investigate the matter, but it is doubtful that the secretive regime there will make any statement.

Updated: National security debased (again)

6 05 2017

With all the repressive ridiculousness of the military dictatorship, it is easy to miss a report at the Bangkok Post regarding the never-ending campaign to capture and jail Wuthipong “Kotee” Kochathamakun.

National Security Council secretary-general General Thawip Netniyom has reportedly sent a third request to Laos for the arrest and deportation of Ko Tee. He has done this because “Lao authorities had not been responsive to previous requests…”.

With all of its important work protecting the country, now to be (eventually) supported by submarines, the National Security Council seems to rank the capture of a minor anti-monarchist at the top of its security agenda.

One of the reasons for this is that the yellow shirts clamor for him to be taken down. Another reason is that the new king apparently demands that his protection from words, photos, video and more is one of the highest concerns of national security.

General Thawip “described Mr Wuthipong as being a dangerous person because he had violated the lese majeste law and allegedly planned attacks on national leaders.” We do not dispute the first claim, but the second is buffalo manure. It is a wild claim concocted by the military dictatorship so that it could then concoct a claim for extradition from Laos.

Anyone seen any of the so-called terrorists arrested in the highly publicized operation fronting a court? It was almost two months ago.

The junta now claims it has “21 arrest warrants for a series of serious offences” out on Ko Tee.

It seems that the police, military, junta, NSC, cabinet and many other state agencies are now essentially devoted to nothing more than tracking down and concocting lese majeste, including entrapping and jailing curious citizens who, for example, are interested in the king’s bizarre fashion choices.

Update: A reader points out that Ko Tee has made threats of attacks in his podcasts. That’s not in dispute. The manure mentioned above is the concoction of an actual plot rather than an internet-based rant.

Snooping to repress

28 01 2017

Khaosod had a long report the other day that deserves close attention. It is based on Who’s that Knocking at My Door [clicking downloads a 27-page document] by Privacy International.who-copy

The Khaosod report observes that: “When they can intercept communications without having a legal framework that allows companies to refuse this, it means they have open-door access to people’s information…”.

The author, Eva Blum-Dumontet, is clear. This is “a clear violation of people’s rights to privacy and [the government’s] international agreements.”

The most alarming but totally expected aspect of the report is that there “are indications the government has systematically sought to defeat the encryption used to keep web traffic private – what to most is the difference between an http or https in a URL.”

The infamous shutdown of Facebook – the ICT bosses said Facebook had been shut down until the regime could win its “cooperation” in censoring critics – appears to have been the junta getting all of Thailand’s service providers to have “Facebook traffic … rerouted over http instead of its encrypted https connection.”

That might have failed, but it tells something of the junta’s aims and its initial misunderstanding of the internet. It also reveals cooperation between the junta and ISPs. The report says the relationship is “incestuous.”

One of the most important junta fixes has been having the head of the National Security Council General Thawip Netrniyom made board chairman of CAT Telecom. This is an important building block in a China-like Great Firewall.

An important aspect of the report is the light it focuses on Microsoft.

The Thai government also has its own root certificate and the report states that “[n]either Apple, Firefox-maker Mozilla, nor Java automatically trusts it…”. It is “only widely used platform … Microsoft Windows” that accepts it. This means “a spoofed website signed with the government certificate would return an error for someone on a Mac while Windows users wouldn’t notice a thing.” That’s dangerous for users.

Privacy International analysis of the “conversation that happens between an email client such as Microsoft Outlook, and a mail server in late 2014 found “the military government was conducting downgrade attacks” to force them to connect via an unencrypted channel.” That’s dangerous. The advice is: “Just use webmail.”

There’s a lot more in the report about the junta’s attempts to snoop in order to repress and jail opponents.

More on Patnaree’s case

9 05 2016

As the lese majeste arrest of Patnaree Chankij, mother of student activist Sirawith Seritiwat, began to be criticized domestically and internationally, the military junta decided to respond.

The Bangkok Post reported that the junta’s thugs insisted that “there is solid evidence behind the arrest of an anti-coup activist’s mother, despite information circulating online suggesting there is little to support a lese majeste charge.” At least some of that information was from the police charge sheet, which suggested a fit-up and hostage taking.

In order to justify its actions, a junta “legal officer” was sent out to “explain” that the charge against Patnaree “as based on evidence which investigators were not willing to divulge to the media.”

That “legal officer” also found it necessary to declare that the “authorities had not intimidated witnesses or used illegal means to obtain their evidence.”

Based on these statements, the junta’s track record and its lack of transparency, reasonable people can assume that the regime has concocted charges and has used intimidation and illegal means to gain evidence.”

Meanwhile, international outrage was apparent. Social media lit up. The international media reported the event in deservedly incredulous terms. Human Rights Watch stated:

“The Thai junta has sunk to a new low by charging an activist’s mother under the ‘insulting the monarchy’ law, which has been systematically abused to silence critics,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting someone for her vague response to a Facebook message is just the junta’s latest outrageous twist of the lese majeste law.”…

“In the name of protecting the monarchy, the junta is tightening a chokehold on free expression and heightening a climate of fear across Thailand,” Adams said. “The arbitrary enforcement of the lese majeste law against an activist’s mother is yet another example of Thailand’s blatant contempt of its human rights obligations.”

The junta initially seemed unperturbed, sending goons to search “the family home of Mr Sirawith, confiscating two computer CPUs, as they attempt to widen the lese majeste probe into his mother and several other suspects.” The impression is that the junta has decided to smash the little remaining activist opposition to its mandates.

General Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council “warned the activists Sunday not to break the law or the regime’s orders, saying they could face legal action.” He also “criticised attempts to bring in international organisations to put pressure on the government, saying the charges against the suspects including Ms Patnaree were based on evidence.”

We assume that this is the evidence that no one can see.

Parroting his boss, he demanded that “foreign groups study Thai laws to understand the fact that authorities were only enforcing the law.”

What he doesn’t get is that “foreign groups” are unlikely to be dolts who will not see that the law the general refers to is the junta’s law, designed to be selectively used against political opponents.

Suddenly, however, the situation turned. The military court, which hours earlier reportedly refused bail and extended detention, granted bail.

The Post states that this might have something to do with “pressure on a Thai delegation set to defend the country’s human rights records in Geneva on Wednesday.” We posted on this earlier. There may be something to this, although we are sure that

Junta spies everywhere

11 04 2016

That’s the message the military dictatorship wants Thai voters to hear in the run-up to the referendum. If you are anti-referendum, campaign for a No vote or do anything else the junta thinks risks a referendum victory for their charter, you will be watched, arrested or worse.

Such threats are meant to get compliance. This time, the military junta wants a Yes vote for its charter in an illegitimate referendum.

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta’s henchmen have been “deployed to monitor political movements suspected of violating the draft charter referendum law.” This is the junta’s get-a-Yes-vote “law” that promises large fines and up to 10 years in jail for doing anything that the junta feels is unacceptable in campaigning against the draft charter.

The National Security Council and “a range of state intelligence units” are snooping, seeking out dissenters and trying to enforce junta censorship on debate.

General Thaweep Netrniyom, the secretary-general of the NSC, “warned anyone intent on airing their opinions about the draft charter, or conducting a campaign for or against the draft, to carefully study the Referendum Act.” This huge law sets out, in very broad language, the “crimes” of “distorting,” “lying” and so on that mean that almost any statement against the junta’s charter could be interpreted as an offense against the junta’s “law.”

The general made it clear that for the NSC and other junta thugs, only the “Election Commission is responsible for explaining to the public the contents of the law in preparation for the early August referendum…”. Anyone who is opposed to the charter or the referendum is thus at risk of imprisonment.

The Thai people are being told that they must vote for the charter. The junta is seeking to prevent any negative voices.

The result of these actions is not just a deepening of the military authoritarianism that marks the country as so peculiar internationally, but marks a signal event for politics going forward: an illegitimate and coerced referendum for an illegitimate charter drafted at the behest of a power-hungry elite, fronted by military thugs who seized power in an illegal putsch.

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