Money and power

21 03 2018

The military dictatorship’s “election” campaigning is intensifying. It is a campaign to strengthen the regime, whether it goes to an “election” or just remains in power through “election delays.” The intensity of the campaign and related action suggests a regime feeling stressed and worried about its capacity to retain power.

As we have noted several times, the military regime has been pouring money into the electorate. Its latest effort involves a plan to “inject 30 billion baht into more than 82,000 villages nationwide…”. This effort reeks of the so-called populism that the regime once criticized but has readily embraced as a means to retain power.

In fact, the regime has a “supplementary budget of 150 billion baht approved in January by the cabinet to spur the grassroots economy.” In other words, the 30 billion is just a part of the regime’s new “election” fund. Its going to rain money, especially in rural electorates.

The National Legislative Assembly will shortly endorse the supplementary budget with the regime urging NLA deliberation now, declaring “it is essential to disburse funds that can spur investment and the economy in general under the government’s Pracharath people-state partnership scheme.” That’s just one of the junta’s electoral campaigning fund.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continues his personal campaign for nomination at prime minister following the junta’s “election,” should it decide to allow one. He’s visiting the northeast.

While campaigning, The Dictator still had time to use Article 44 to sack anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. Somchai is a bright yellow election commissioner who has come to clash with the junta because he wants to keep his job but the regime is dismissing all commissioners. Presumably the junta finds the current commissioners, already under-strength, a little too unpredictable when it comes to its delayed “election.”

Somchai paints himself as a martyr, declaring: “It’s been an honour to reveal the face of the NCPO.” In fact, Somchai had a large role in preparing the political ground for the 2014 military coup, and feels the regime should be rewarding him, not appointing a new EC. He should be apologizing for his role in bringing the military dictatorship to power.

Then there’s the military arm of the junta. Army boss and junta member Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart has gone a bit crazy after Nitirat member Worachet Pakeerut raised the specter of a 1992-like uprising if The Dictator becomes an outsider premier following an “election.” Gen Chalermchai demands that no one speak of The Dictator’s political desire.





Ultra-royalists vs. NKOTB

16 03 2018

A little while ago, PPT posted on the attention to the young phenoms threatening to enter politics and to shake up the system. At the time, we reckoned that there would be lots of grey hairs who would work assiduously to undermine them and added that claims of treason, sedition and even lese majeste might follow.

It didn’t take long. Prachatai recently had a story on the rising opposition to the now named Anakhot Mai or Future Forward Party, which is the 58th party to register with the Election Commission.

As Prachatai puts it:

The spotlight of Thai politics is shining on the party’s key leaders, Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit] and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a law professor at Thammasat University. They have claimed that the party will break the vicious circle of Thai politics, where the military claims to be a middleman to solve the political conflict. Piyabutr said the military itself is, in fact, the root of the problem.

Royalist criticism has already been heard. Ultra-royalists accuse the new party of republicanism. The loudest critic has been M.C. Chulcherm Yugala, a nasty and conservative prince and general, or as the loathsome Thailand Tatler puts it, “Maj Gen His Serene Highness.” His blast is that the new party intends “to turn Thailand into a republic” where “the abolishment of the Article 112 was only the first step.” He added that the party had “a connection with the anti-establishment redshirts.”

Maj Gen His Serene Highness Chulcherm thundered: “This land, this kingdom must have the monarchy, and the kings will last forever. Don’t ever think of abolishing it.” He then said he “will run a political party to protect the monarchy as well.” We thought that was the job of the Democrat Party and the military devil parties.

It isn’t Chulcherm’s first political brush. Back then there were thoughts he was a reddish prince, but that’s all gone now and Chulcherm avers a politics that is distinctly driven by 1932 concerns for the monarchy. He seems to claim not just blood links but political alliances with dead king, that king’s dead sister, queen and current king.

In our view, it is somewhat disappointing to read that Piyabutr argues “that his movements in the past with Nitirat was to promote democracy and actually to protect the monarchy so the institution would not be abused as a political tool.” He went on to observe that the “Thai authorities [we guess he means the military junta] nowadays are also aware of the problems under the lèse majesté law and seeking a way to reduce numbers of the prosecutions.”

It’s disappointing because royalists will never believe him or vote for the new party. That ultra-royalists go mad is to be expected. That’s how they play politics.





Updated: Yellow support peeling away

30 01 2018

Arnond Sakworawich, the anti-democratic director of the National Institute of Development Administration’s polling agency, has cause quite a political scene.

The Bangkok Post reports that he was due to resign today after senior administrators at NIDA, a nest of yellow-shirted academics, “bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.”

He made a statement that his action was in support of “academic freedom” and about “honour.”

We may have missed it, but we can’t recall having seen Arnond defending the “academic freedom” of Ji Ungpakorn or members of Nitirat. In the past, the NIDA poll has managed to be politically-driven.

So his claims about ethics are probably empty, but that’s not the point. That point is another yellow advocate coming out against the junta.

Another Bangkok Post report has Arnond saying: “Although I support the coup and government, if [I see] something isn’t right or just, I don’t have to ‘lick top boot’…”.  Boot licking seems to be a choice for some in the middle classes.

Again, though, the point is the peeling away of yellow support from the military junta.

Updated: Prachatai reports that Arnond has “resigned as Director of the Research Centre of the National Institute of Development Administration, also known as NIDA Poll.” He did not resign from NIDA and declared that he “still supports the junta.”





Unleashing barbarism

9 05 2017

Prachatai reports that “[t]wo belligerent youths have entered Chulalongkorn University to look for Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a progressive student activist recently elected as the Student Council’s president of Chulalongkorn University.”

On 8 May 2017, two thugs “rode a motorcycle onto the university’s campus in Bangkok and visited the Political Science Faculty to look for Netiwit.” These thugs “reportedly used threatening language to ask for the whereabouts of the student activist.”

Netiwit filed a complaint with police, stating:

Please give me and the new generation opportunities to prove ourselves. If [you] think differently, it is alright, but we should talk if [you] really love Thai society. Do not let the world and other people see that our society is a barbaric one that favours violence. I am afraid of course, but I shall continue to fight….

This threat came after The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha publicly criticized and chastised Netiwit.

We have seen this unleashing of thugs before. In a post in 2012, we said

PPT doesn’t think it a coincidence that as the Army chief [General Prayuth Chan-0cha] returns to threatening behavior that the (relatively quiet) Nitirat group receives threats. At Prachatai it is reported that on 17 August, members of Nitirat “went to Chanasongkhram Police Station to file a complaint after mysterious men had been seen at their [Thammasat University] offices taking photographs of their schedules to meet students.”

Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut told Prachatai that “similar incidents had seemed to happen more frequently lately at the campus in Tha Phrachan.”

This followed an attack by two thugs on a motorcycle on Worachet, who was beaten up. Prayuth had led a coterie of right-wingers and royalists in criticizing and chastising Nitirat and Worachet for proposing changes to the lese majeste law.

In other words, as well as unleashing official thugs on a daily basis against political opponents, General Prayuth now has form for inciting vigilantes. That behavior is in line with political tactics used by Thailand’s military over several decades.

Thailand under military regimes is violent and barbaric.





End judicial harassment against student activists

12 08 2016

As usual, we re-post an Asian Human Rights Commission appeal:

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-099-2016

10 August 2016
THAILAND: End judicial harassment against student activists

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding student activists who have been arrested in Thailand. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), only one day before the referendum, the Thai authorities arrested two pro-democracy activists in Chaiyaphum province, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-constitution flyers.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The Provincial Court of Phu Khiao ordered the remand in custody of two student activists for distributing vote-no leaflets in Phu Khiao market, Chaiyaphum, claiming a grave offence had been committed. One of the students ‘Pai’, a core member of the Northeastern New Democracy Movement (NDM) activist group, has refused to bail himself and is on hunger strike now. The other student, Palm, has been bailed out.

On 8 August 2016, at 12:20 p.m., in the pretrial hearing room of the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao, police officials from the Phu Khiao Police Station, Chaiyaphum province, had filed a request for remand in custody of Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa, aka “Pai”, a student of Khon Kaen University and a member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and Mr. Wasin Prommanee, aka “Palm”, a student of Suranari University. The two suspects were arrested while distributing leaflets relating to the referendum in a market in Phu Khiao municipality in the late afternoon of 6 August 2016. They were initially held in custody at the Phu Khiao Police Station, and refused to bail themselves.

According to the police’s motion of pre-trial request, it was described that the arrest was made on 6 August 2016 at around 17:00, after police from the Phu Khiao Police Station, police investigators, and administrative officials of the Phu Khiao District had been informed that some individuals were distributing leaflets urging people to reject the Draft Constitution on Satharana Road, Ratbamrung, Moo 1, Tambon Phak Pang, Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum province. At the crime scene, they found the alleged offender no. 1 and the alleged offender no.2 distributing the leaflets and other documents on the road. The officials identified themselves and then asked to conduct the search which had led them to the discovery and seizure of incriminating evidence including (1) 128 copies of the vote-no leaflets, (2) 16 copies of the statement by the Nitirat Group, and (3) one copy of a booklet explaining the reasons against the Draft Constitution. The alleged offenders no.1 and 2 were then arrested with the evidence and both had denied the charges.

According to the inquiry officials, the alleged offenders were accused of committing an offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (1) and Section 61 paragraph 2, punishable by not more than ten years of imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Baht and against the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25 punishable by not more than six months of imprisonment or a fine of not more than 1,000 baht or both.

The inquiry officials claimed the investigation was not done and they needed more time to examine four more witnesses and to wait for the criminal background check of the suspects, so the remand in custody should not be granted. In addition, it was indicated in the remand request that since the offences carry a high penalty rate, there is a fear of flight and the tempering with evidence or the commission of other harmful acts. The alleged offender no. 1 (Jatupat) also had a pending arrest warrant by the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station for his previous violation of the Head of the NCPO Order, and should the Court grant him a temporary release, the police should be notified.

Both Jatupat and Wasin pleaded against the remand, claiming the information from the four witnesses had no major bearing on the investigation and the background check could have been done by the officials without having them remanded. Also, they have no reason to flee since they both need to go to school. As to the outstanding case at the Muang Khon Kaen Police Station as claimed by the inquiry officials, they explained that the case has not been indicted and it is a politically motivated case as well.

Based on the remand request of the inquiry officials, the Court has found the two alleged offenders had committed a grave offence carrying not more than three years of imprisonment and therefore granted the remand in custody as requested for 12 days from 8-19 August 2016.

After the remand was granted, Wasin asked to apply for bail, while Jatupat refused to do so. The bail bond worth 150,000 baht was placed with the Court as sureties to have Wasin released. Meanwhile, Mr. Wiboon Boonphatthararaksa, father of Jatupat and attorney for both Jatupat and Wasin, revealed that prior to his arriving at the Court this morning, the police had further interrogated the two suspects and pressed more charges against them for refusing to have their fingerprints taken. They refused to have their fingerprints taken claiming they had done nothing wrong. Both also had refused to bail themselves while in police custody and had started a hunger strike since 10:00 a.m. on August 7. Jatupat asked Wasin to bail himself out in order to resume his study, while he himself insisted on not applying for bail and would continue to be on hunger strike while in custody at the prison. He wants to affirm his innocence and wants to test the integrity of the law enforcement process and the justice process.

Around 15:00, the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao had Wasin released and he would be discharged at the Provincial Court of Phu Khiao, while Jatupat would be brought to the District Prison of Phu Khiao. After the release, Wasin was asked to report to the Court on 22 August 2016. Wasin revealed that Jatupat wanted it known to the powers that be that “arrest us if you can, lock us up if you can, but we shall continue to fight”.

The offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61(1) relates to an act to cause disturbance to the referendum voting and against Section 61, paragraph 2 having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum.

The same documents had previously landed the NDM activists in jail in two other occasions already, including the distribution of the documents at Kan Keha Bang Pli Community, Samut Prakan, and the search of a pickup truck in Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi. Cases have been reported against other students for organizing the activity “speak for freedom, the Constitution and the E-san people?” in Khon Kaen. The NDM members have all denied the charges and insisted that their documents are neither distorted nor rude.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The following are the names of the arrested activists:
1. Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa, 25 years, currently detained at the District Prison of Phu Khiao
2. Mr. Wasin Prommanee, 20 years, on temporary release with conditions imposed by the Phu Khiao Provincial Court

And, the following are the details of the charges:

1. THE CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM ACT B.E. 2559 (2016)
Section 61 states any person who commits following acts;
(1) To cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting
(2) […]

Anyone who publishes text, images or sound, through either newspaper, radio, television, electronic media or other channels, that is either untruthful, harsh, offensive, rude, inciting or threatening, with the intention that voters will either not exercise their right to vote, or vote in a certain way, or not vote, shall be considered as a person causing confusion to affect orderliness of voting.

Any person commits the act to cause confusion to affect orderliness of voting shall be
punished with imprisonment of not exceeding ten years and a fine of up to 200,000 Baht.
The Court may order to revoke his/her right to vote of not exceeding five years.
If the offences are committed by a group of five persons or more, each person shall be punished with imprisonment of one to ten years, a fine from 20,000 to 200,000 baht and a10-year revocation of voting right by court.

2. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COUNCIL FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORM (CDR) NO. 25 ON THE PROCEDURE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM DECLARED ON 29 SEPTEMBER 2006

Any person who is accused of committing criminal offences has a duty to give fingerprints or footprints in criminal proceedings as ordered by prosecutors, judges or police investigators. Whoever violates such order shall be punished with imprisonment of not exceeding 6 months and/or fine of not exceeding 1,000 Baht for disobeying the order of the officials by refusing to give their fingerprints.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately withdraw the case and end any ongoing investigation into the two student activists.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion expression and seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: End judicial harassment against student activists

Name of victim: 1. Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa and 2. Mr.Wasin Prommanee
Names of alleged perpetrators: Police Officers
Date of incident: 6 August 2016 to the present
Place of incident: Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum province, Thailand

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the Thai authorities’ arrest of two pro-democracy activists in Chaiyaphum province, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-constitution flyers. All of them are charged with violating Section 61 of the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016) and the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 25/2549 (2006). They are subject to the Phu Khiao jurisdiction and, if found guilty, could face up to ten years of imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Baht, and also have their right to vote revoked by the Court.

With regards to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) s’ plan, the date 7 August 2016 was scheduled for the constitutional referendum by the Thai Military government. Before the date, the New Democracy Movement (NDM), a group of student activists and other activists, formed at the first anniversary of the coup d’état in late June 2015, started their campaign to encourage people to cast their votes to reject the draft constitution as they are of the opinion that the draft is undemocratic.

In using the Order of the NCPO no.3/2015 and the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), the authorities have restricted anti-draft groups from expressing their views. The NCPO no.3/2015’s original intent was to prosecute actions intended to undermine or destroy peace and national security while the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016)’s intent was to ensure “Free and Fair” concept in the referendum process. However, I wish to point out that, both legislations are being used to prevent the NDM and other pro-democracy groups from running campaigns from distributing anti-constitution flyers. As a result, according to a Thai lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), as of 5 August 2016, 195 people have been prosecuted for publicly opposing the draft constitution.

In the case of Mr. Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa and Mr. Wasin Prommanee, I wish to note that they are an example of pro-democracy activists in Thailand who continue to struggle with rights to freedom of expression. After distributing leaflets to the general public, the two individuals were bought to the Phu Khiao District Police Station. Then, as the subjects of an unfair trial process, they were taken into custody and charged with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 and the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) No.25/2549 (2006).

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1. The Commander of Royal Thai Police to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the two student activists who were trying to campaign for the referendum on the draft constitution;

2. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the two student activists and unconditionally drop all charges against them;

3. The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission to urge the Royal Thai Police and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to take prompt action to protect the two student activists who were trying to campaign for the referendum on the draft constitution.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND
Tel: +662 283-4000
Fax: +662 282-5131
Email: panadda_d@opm.go.th

2. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +662 2516 831
Fax: +662 2053 738

3. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662 142 1444
Fax: +662 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

4. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +662141 3800, +6621413900
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

5. Pol.Capt. Rangsan Eiamtaisong
The police investigator of the Phu Khiao District Police Station
Phu Khiao District, Chaiyaphum province 36110
THAILAND
Tel: +66 44 878 128
Fax: +66 44861 563

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)





Nitirat and the referendum

26 07 2016

Nitirat, which some time ago issued an analysis of the flawed military charter, recently held a meeting Thammasat University that made demands of the military junta.

The Bangkok Post reports that Nitirat and others demanded a more participatory charter-drafting process. More interestingly, they also demanded that the “regime must step down and let the people take part in a process to draw up a new constitution if the draft charter is shot down in the Aug 7 referendum…”.

The call was from “[f]orty-three civil, academics and student groups [which] also issued a statement opposing the draft charter.”

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a Thammasat University law lecturer and member of Nitirat, “told the seminar the regime must relinquish its power and must not be involved in the process to draft a new constitution if the draft charter is voted down.” He added that, if the referendum fails, the “2014 interim charter … must be abolished and replaced by an interim charter drawn up by the public to pave the way for the general election.”

His colleague Worachet Pakeerut warned that it is still “unclear if the referendum will take place as planned given that the leader of the National Council for Peace and Order [junta] has power under Section 44 … to decide whether to postpone the referendum.”

One journalist stated:

… it was Nitirat group leader Mr Worachet who stole the show not just for explaining clearly how the draft charter is undemocratic but also for rekindling the fight for democracy and rule of law that seems to have weakened after years of repression.

If the regime was watching how people reacted to Mr Worachet’s speech — the standing ovation and cheers — it should be worried, very worried.

The response on Worachet’s role initially came from Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. He declared that the law professor “might be prosecuted under the Referendum Act for campaigning for ‘vote no’.” Wissanu said that Worachet “told the audience while he was on stage that they should vote against the draft constitution, which could be viewed as a violation of the Referendum Act.”

In his speech, Worachet also remarked, that: “If the draft charter fails to pass the referendum, the legitimacy of the NCPO will be called into question…”.

Our view is that “win” or “lose,” the junta, its draft charter and the referendum are all illegitimate. At the same time, we agree with the groups at the seminar that a No vote is necessary as well as a close watch on the junta “fixing” the result.





Junta’s convenience and law

1 07 2016

At PPT we’ve recently had several posts that have commented on aspects of the militarization of the law under the military dictatorship as well as its concoction of “laws” that serve its interests, mainly by allowing the ready repression of opponents.

The Bangkok Post recently reported on how such circumstances are manipulated for junta convenience for the web. Sawatree Suksri, a law lecturer at Thammasat University and member of Nitirat observes that website administrators have their pages “shut down by authorities [and] do not have a fair chance to defend their rights in court…”.

Officially, a court order is required to shut down a web page or site, but seldom do the authorities bother with a legal case. Sawatree states that:

In most cases, state agencies demanding the removal of specific content do not file legal charges against the administrators. They simply gather evidence and forward their request to the court, which will in turn issue an order….

This process allows no opportunities for the legality of the closure to be challenged.

She noted that a “page from the Nitirat website has been blocked for the past two years. Still, no formal complaint has been lodged against us.”

That page” contained a transcript of the Khana Rasadorn’s declaration when they abolished the absolute monarchy in Thailand in 1932, which was simply a piece of historical evidence,” but it had been blocked.

Nitirat was unable to “appeal against the court’s decision because there had been no hearing. As it was a court order rather than an administrative order, they could not file a complaint with the Administrative Court.”

Just one more example of how the junta manipulates law is a tool for repression, usually with the connivance of the judiciary and military courts.