What drives the junta?

22 09 2016

We know that the military junta is driven by 19th century notions of monarchism, Thainess and hierarchy. Those beliefs have led to several murderous attacks on civilians and years of degenerate military rule.

At the same time, recent reports point to some of other notions that drive the junta.

Several reports in recent days remind us that the military and the current junta are driven by nepotism and corruption. Military dictators have always managed to become “unusually wealthy,” enriching their families and followers along the way. The junta defends its own in such matters and, as was the case under past military regimes, allegations of nepotism and corruption are seldom allowed to stick.

The military junta is also driven by revenge, often steamrolling law and procedure in the process. A recent report demonstrates this in the case of the desperation to punish Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother. Among others, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is “investigating” former prime minister Yingluck in 15 cases.

Supa Piyajitti is chair of 6 of the sub-committees investigating allegations against Yingluck. In another, Vicha Mahakhun, a former NACC member is chair of a sub-committee. Both Supa and Vicha “testified for the prosecution in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in the rice-pledging case.”

The military regime’s desire for revenge leads them to appoint compromised investigators.

More recent reports demonstrate that the military regime is also driven by fear. They fear (and loathe) political opposition.

Nuamthong, taxi and tankPrachatai tells us that the regime prohibited the commemoration of Nuamthong Praiwan’s suicide. He was the taxi driver who opposed the 2006 military coup, making his own death a protest against military intervention.

Also at Prachatai, we learn that the fearful regime’s “[l]ocal officials in the restive Deep South … have barred civil society groups from hosting an event celebrating World Peace Day, despite having previously granted permission to the event.”

Monarchism, Thainess, hierarchy nepotism, corruption, revenge and fear. Quite a list, and we reckon readers could add to the list.

 

 





Remembering Nuamthong

31 10 2015

Opposition to the 2006 coup was steeled by the suicide of taxi driver Nuamthong Praiwan who first drove his taxi into a tank to show his opposition. Not long after, he hanged himself from a pedestrian overpass.

Nuamthong, taxi and tankSoon after the May 2014 coup, some students ignored a ban and demonstrated against the military and its coups. They used the bridge where Nuamthong took his own life to oppose the coup.

Today, on the 9th anniversary of Nuamthong’s passing, the Bangkok Post reports that a “group of pro-democracy activists paid their respects … amid tight security…”. Police posted notices proclaiming Article 44 prohibiting gatherings. Soldiers also observed.

They were joined by “some red-shirt members” and together “placed flowers at the spot where the taxi driver hanged himself from the pedestrian flyover in front of the Thai Rath newspaper office on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Bangkok.”

The Post also reports that former premier Yingluck Shinawatra posted Nuamthong’s last letter to Facebook and stated: “Nine years ago today he died. I respect the great mind of Uncle Nuamthong, who sacrificed his life in pursuit of democracy. I hope his spirit will see the return of democracy soon…”.





Protecting juntas as a species

3 11 2014

Opposition to the 2006 coup was made steeled by the suicide of taxi driver Nuamthong Praiwan who first drove his taxi into a tank to show his opposition. Not long after, he hanged himself from a pedestrian overpass.

Nuamthong, taxi and tankSoon after the May 2014 coup, some students ignored a ban and demonstrated against the military and its coups. They hung banners denouncing the 2006 coup on the 8th anniversary of the military takeover.  One banner was outside Chulalongkorn University. It read: “8 Years, 19 September, the slain democracy is still dead.” Another was hung “right in front of the headquarters of Thai Rath newspaper.” It stated: “Mr. Thai Democracy, Born 24 June 1932. Died 19 September 2006…”. The bridge is “where taxi driver Nuamthong Praiwan hanged himself to death in protest of the 2006 coup.”

Nuamthong’s suicide note “stated that he wanted to prove to a high ranking army officer who said that no one would die for their ideology.”

According to Prachatai, on Friday, some 100 of police officers were deployed at the “Uncle Nuamthong Pedestrian Bridge” to “prevent democracy lovers from commemorating the suicide of the taxi driver, who hanged himself at the bridge to protest against the 2006 military coup.”

They prevented seven “student activists from the Thai Student Center for Democracy (TSCD) [who] came to lay a wreath at the bridge” from entering the area of the bridge. Not deterred, the students began to observe an hour’s silence, but the police stopped them and eventually sent them back to university in taxis with police.

The police, using martial law, stated that no one is allowed to hold anti-coup activity. PPT takes this as a statement that all juntas and coups, a bit like the monarchy, have to be protected.

Protecting the junta





Enforced historical amnesia I

20 09 2014

There is something of a theme emerging from recent posts as the military dictatorship seeks to expunge the past and “create” a future that is retrogressive and authoritarian. The Dictator thinks that Thais have gotten off track by embracing civilian politicians and electoral politics, and he is railroading them back on the repressive, oppressive path of authoritarianism. We gather that he believes “real Thais” are naturally obsequious, hierarchical and brainless.

PPT posted recently on General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s underlings rewriting history to excise that nasty politician who seems to always have the electoral support of the masses. We also posted on The Dictator’s distaste of discussions about any kind of dictatorship, which seems his preferred mode of governance. Banning academics and students from discussing dictatorship is rather like burning books.

Snail Trail

Thammasat royalist administrators

More recently, Khaosod has reported that royalist Thammasat University administrators “have preemptively banned any political events commemorating the massacre that took place inside the university on 6 October 1976, presumably to comply with the military junta’s ban on all political activities.” Of course, these slithering administrators know what The Dictator wants, and they leave snail trails all the way to his highly buffed rear end.

The 6 October Massacre is but one particularly brutal action by the military and ultra-royalists that resulted in the murder of perhaps hundreds of students at Thammasat University.

Rather than honor the dead, Thammasat administrators prefer to honor the dictator and the system that is responsible for thousands of dead Thais, all fallen before the guns of the murderous military.

They dishonor their university.

Thai Rath Newspaper

6 October 1976: Thai Rath Newspaper

Usually, the deaths of the 6 October martyrs is “commemorated by activists and survivors of the incident at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus. In previous years the event has featured religious ceremonies dedicated to the dead, political exhibitions, and academic seminars about the massacre.”

But not this year. The military hates the event and considers that it “saved the nation and monarchy” in 1976 – there’s a theme to their coups, justified as saving the ruling establishment.

Spineless academics join in. Yellow-shirted Nakarin Mektrairat, a deputy rector of the university, justified the unjustifiable, saying that “the ban on political activities is necessary” because “in previous years there have been [activities] that caused problems and division.” This is buffalo manure. Here is a historian, who ought to know better, simply making stuff up in order to ingratiate himself to the military.

The only light in all this royalist claptrap and authoritarian murk is that some students have ignored the political ban and are demonstrating against the military and its coups.

They hung “two banners denouncing the 2006 coup in Bangkok today, on the 8th anniversary of the military takeover.”  One banner was in front of Chulalongkorn University. It read: “8 Years, 19 September, the slain democracy is still dead.” Another was hung “right in front of the headquarters of Thai Rath newspaper.” It stated: “Mr. Thai Democracy, Born 24 June 1932. Died 19 September 2006…”. The bridge is “where taxi driver Nuamthong Praiwan hanged himself to death in protest of the 2006 coup.”

Police officers hurriedly removed the banners.

The “Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) took responsibility for the banner on Viphavadee Road, and said the banner in central Bangkok was hung by an affiliate student group, the Chulalongkorn Community for the People (CCP).” THe students stated:

“Today is the 8th anniversary of the coup, the day that led to the first loss of Thai life because of the coup, Nuamthong Praiwan,” the statement says. “And it is not the only life that was lost. So many other lives were sacrificed in the violence that escalated after the coup.”

It continues, “The TSCD is hereby using the opportunity of the 8th anniversary of the 19 September coup to remind all Thais of the vile and undeniable consequences of military coups.”

These students are brave and defiant. All power to them as they battle enforced historical amnesia!

 





Army and Ukraine purchases

5 01 2013

What is it that sees the Royal Thai Army buying a considerable amount of its kit from the Ukraine?

Thai generals shopping in the Ukraine

Thai generals shopping in the Ukraine

In earlier posts, PPT has discussed the purchase of armored personnel carriers from the Ukraine. Back then, we first posted about the lack of transparency on military spending that saw the account of the army “seeking approval to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it has yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered three years ago.” Apparently, according to a Bangkok Post story, “[then] army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to spend his forces’ leftover funds for this year on 121 APCs from the Ukraine, which has yet to deliver the 96 vehicles ordered in 2007.” The story on the APCs became a long one. As might be expected, there were questions regarding cost and possible corruption and commissions and the billions shoveled to the military by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Naturally, there were also problems with the APCs suggesting issues like those surrounding the Army’s infamous deflating, crashing, and senseless purchase of a zeppelin from a non-company in the U.S.

At the Bangkok Post there is a report that Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha says the Ukraine will deliver its first batch of T-84 Oplot battle tanks in May. The first post PPT had on this was back in May 2011, when the Abhisit government rushed to spend money and to buy more support from the military in a 18-hour marathon cabinet meeting that, amongst other spending, included  “a budget of 7 billion baht for the army to buy 54 T-84 OPLOT 54A tanks from the Ukraine…”.

Nuamthong, taxi and tank

A Wikipedia Commons photo

Tanks in Thailand are synonymous with the military coup. They are most often used in Thailand when the Army is thinking about or engaged in a coup.

One of the most significant moments in the development of opposition to the 2006 coup was when on 30 September 2006, Nuamthong Praiwan drove his taxi, spray painted with the words “[CDR is] destroying the country,” and “Sacrificing life”, into an M41  tank at the Royal Plaza. Nuamthong, who later committed suicide in another political statement against the coup, said: “I did it intentionally to protest the junta that has destroyed our country, and I painted all the words myself…”.

It seems that five tanks will arrive in May, with another 50 tanks due by the end of 2015. The army has ordered a grand total of 200 of these tanks. Like the zeppelin, it seems that the Thai military is the only buyer for this tank, at least at present. To us, that solitary fact should sound alarm bells that ring out with sounds like “corruption” and “commissions.”

T-84_Oplot_main_battle_tank

In coup livery?

Add that to the fact that Prayuth has “had requested a speedier delivery of the battle tanks.” Recall that the delivery of the APCs was repeatedly delayed while the Army ordered more even when not a single APC had been delivered and there were problems with the engines. Another tell-tale sign  of “issues” is Prayuth’s need to affirm that “he had inspected an Oplot tank during a recent trip to Ukraine and believed the army was getting good value for money in terms of firepower and combat capabilities.” As the Post reports, the “procurement drew criticism from soldiers when the deal was announced in 2011.”

Some in the timid Yingluck Shinawatra government must be thinking that they may see the tanks clattering on Bangkok’s streets against an elected government some time in the future or whether they may be used to threaten Cambodia in a PAD-inspired, xenophobic border clash.





Final update: Korat, Bangkok and Srisaket

19 09 2009

Prem, double standards and protests that “improve the situation”

In this post PPT summarizes some of the reports on protests in Thailand on the 2006 coup anniversary.

Korat: The Nation (19 September 2009: “Red shirts end protest in Korat”) reports on the red shirt rally that was meant to be at the residence of Privy Councilor President General Prem Tinsulanonda in Nakhon Ratchasima. Prem is reportedly in the town. Protesters, said in one report to number 4,000 (Monsters & Critics) apparently failed to reach the compound “as they faced with barricades and hundreds of police” and joint forces of “police and soldiers [that] set up a blockage on a road leading to Gen Prem’s residence…”. The protesters called on Prem to stay out of politics and demanded that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call an election. Many of the protesters then departed for Bangkok and the rally there.

Bangkok: Red shirt protesters were reported (The Nation, 19 September 2009: “No march to Prem’s residence”) by police to have decided not to rally at the army house Prem occupies. They said this was because he wasn’t there. However, the huge security presence was also daunting.

A separate report in The Nation (19 September 2009: “Hooligans ordered to incite unrest : Suthep”) says that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has claimed that several groups of unidentified “hooligans” have “received orders to create unrest during the red shirted protest on Saturday in Bangkok…”. Abhisit went further claiming that these groups were going to set off bombs (see the Bangkok Post report in the next paragraph). The last time this happened, in Pattaya in April, the “hooligans” were pro-government blue shirts reportedly organized by Newin Chidchob, apparently with Suthep’s blessing. Citing “intelligence reports,” Suthep said that the groups “were ordered to create violence” during Saturday’s rally, and added that the authorities had the “groups were under close watch.”

The Bangkok Post has a telling headline (19 September 2009: “Bangkok peaceful, yellow shirts riot at the border”). More on Srisaket below. The Post reports that: “the government imposed the draconian Internal Security Act once again for the latest red shirt demonstrations and deployed more than 9,000 soldiers and police to guard key locations.” PPT has emphasized this, noting an increase from previous reports.

At teh red shirt rally, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Jatuporn Promphan,  in pouring rain and flooding told a crowd estimated at more than 5,000: “We came here today to mark the third anniversary of the coup, which has caused huge damage to the country…”. He demanded that  Abhisit resign and hold elections, and added: “This will be a peaceful protest and will end by midnight if the government does not use violence…”.

Srisaket: Meanwhile, the People’s Alliance for Democracy rallied some 5,000 supporters to their ultra-nationalist rally claiming that Thailand is losing territory to Cambodia in Srisaket province at the Preah Vihear Temple. The Nation (19 September 2009: “PM worries on clash in Si Sa Ket”) reports clashes between PAD and local villagers. Abhisit is said to have “expressed concerns” and is said that “he did not want to see Thais clash among themselves.” Abhisit wanted “peace talks” with PAD (Bangkok Post, 19 September 2009: “PM orders peace talk with PAD”). This is unremarkable because the close relationship between PAD and several senior Democrat Party leaders and Abhisit himself. He wanted the PAD leadership consulted. PAD leaders Chamlong Srimuang and Suriyasai Katasila urged that Abhisit send a representative to talk with Veera Somkwamkid, a PAD key member who led the rally, and Abhisit seems to have followed their advice. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep, who is meant to be in charge of security in Bangkok (see above)  is also said to be in charge at Srisaket.

Thai TV reported that many villagers were injured in the clash with PAD. Clashes between PAD and local villager also occurred the last time PAD rallied in this area. According to Bangkok Pundit, the pro-PAD ASTV/Manager proclaimed that: “Those who love the country were … hit on the head and many injuries.”

The Bangkok Post report noted above (19 September 2009: “Bangkok peaceful, yellow shirts riot at the border”) stated that television “showed yellow-clad protesters armed with sticks beating local villagers and Thai riot police, who pushed back with shields.” It also reported that catapults and sticks were used by both sides before police separated them. It confirmed that a number of villagers were injured in the clash. According to the Post, local residents “living near the disputed border area opposed the protest by the yellow shirts protesters as they believed it could impact Thailand’s cross-border trade economy and relations with Cambodia.” The BBC has some footage.

Apparently, “PAD demonstrators broke through barricades and marched towards the 11th century temple…”. Breaking news from the Bangkok Post (19 September 2009: “Anupong: Don’t enter disputed border”) has army chief General Anupong Paochinda warning and pleading with PAD protesters, lamely saying: “The protesters can say they love the country but going into the disputed area would be dangerous and there could still be landmines…”. He warned them that they might be arrested by Cambodian authorities (not Thai authorities?). Associated Press reported that the Cambodian security forces would certainly act if the yellow shirts entered Cambodia.

Anupong asserted: “The army will act in accordance with the government’s bilateral negotiation plan. We are now working on it and we will not do anything beyond this course…”. Remarkably he is also reported to have said: “protests can take place if it can help improve the situation.”

Update 1: When PPT checked at 8:30 p.m. Bangkok time, reports were coming in that some red shirt protesters got to Prem’s Bangkok residence. They carried a 500-metre-long banner saying “we want the 1997 charter back.” The group rallied for about an hour, apparently without incident (The Nation, 19 September 2009: “Red-shirt protesters disperse from Prem’s Sisao residence”). At the main rally, a red-shirt leader, Natthawut Saikua, waited for Thaksin’s video speech at at 8:30 p.m. and, contradicting earlier statements, promised a further march on Prem’s residence. Another leader, Jatuporn, threatened to prolong the protest if police use the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against protesters. He was apparently responding to police statements that if the protesters turn violent, they would use water cannon and the LRAD.

At 7 p.m. the police estimated a crowd of 20,000. This number is confirmed in an AFP report (Brisbane Times, 19 September 2009: “Rival protests rock Thailand on coup anniversary”).

That report also updates the situation at Srisaket. It says that “[s]tick-wielding protesters from the movement clashed repeatedly with riot police and with villagers who were trying to keep them out of the temple area…”. It adds that the provincial governor said that: “[d]ozens of people were wounded, with 20 people hospitalised including one villager who was shot in the neck…”. Apparently PAD protesters withdrew when “the army agreed to allow 30 of them to go to the Thai territory near the temple on Sunday and read out a declaration…”.

Updates 2/3 (11 p.m. & 1:45 a.m. Bkk time): During the UDD rally, red shirts “mourned for the death of a taxi driver who hung himself to oppose the Sept 2006 coup. The UDD donated 50,000 baht to his wife on stage.” This refers to Nuamthong Praiwan, who first crashed his taxi into a tank. When he’d recovered he then committed suicide as an act protesting the coup and for democracy.

Thaksin spoke by video link, claiming to be “somewhere near Thailand.” He said that things had “not improved three years after the coup,” that “the people became poorer and became less happy after the coup,” and he called on the Abhisit government to “dissolve the House and called for charter amendments for a fresh start in politics.” He is also reported to have stated that: “At present, there are injustice and less human rights and freedom the Thai society” and pointed to the conflict in Srisaket. The Nation now has more on Thaksin’s speech. He apparently also pointed to double standards, human rights and fairness: “They accuse me of interfering with independent organisations, and what about the situation these days? They accused me of interfering in the mass media and what’s going on today?” He also promised to return soon.

There was no violence, no bombs, and no incitement by third parties reported in Bangkok or Korat. Violence appears to have been limited to the PAD in Srisaket.

On PAD in Srisaket, The Nation (20 September 2009: “17 injured in clash near Preah Vihear”) reported that 17 were injured there. It reports that teenagers “armed with sticks and slingshots attacked the yellow shirts as they marched through their village to Preah Vihear.” The villagers “feared [the rally] could spark a war with Cambodia. The villagers have already suffered from the temple being closed, which has cost them income from the lack of tourists. Access to their farms has also been blocked by the military since last year.”

The report says that “thousands of PAD protesters … managed to break the police and villagers’ barricades in Si Sa Ket’s Ban Phumsarol to reach the gate of Pha Mor Ee Daeng, next to Preah Vihear temple.” PAD leaders claimed that the “villagers were misinformed about the PAD mission.” PAD wanted the Abhisit government to “evict the Cambodians…”. The Srisaket governor “Rapee Phongpuphakit had lengthy negotiations with Veera but failed to get the protesters to leave the site.”

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep, still in Bangkok, claimed to not understand the PAD’s intent: “I don’t understand what is the purpose behind their protest…”.

Update 4: The Bangkok Post (20 September 2009: “PAD protest ends in bloodshed”)reports that martial law has been declared in Srisaket, but it remains unclear if this is the situation.

The report says that the government compromised with PAD allowing 76 PAD representatives “read aloud a prepared statement today at Pha Mor E Daeng, which is close to the disputed area.” Abhisit Vejjajiva said “giving the PAD its say could help restore peace.” He also promised that Anyone who “broke the law at the gathering would be punished…”.

The Post points to the role played by “so-called PAD guards” when the demonstrators “were stopped by hundreds of villagers…”. The “PAD guards broke through the barricades, taking protesters to a forest fire control station where they were prepared to spend the night.”

Following talks with “Suranaree Task Force commander Maj-Gen Chavalit Choonhasarn held talks for two hours after which the protesters retreated to the Sisa Asoke Buddhist community, which is a branch of Santi Asoke with close affiliations to the PAD.”

Meanwhile, Santi Asoke aficionado and PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang “distanced all five PAD leaders from the Preah Vihear campaign,” saying that they were not leading the protests at the border.

In the face of the government’s lack of even-handedness in dealing with the two groups, it is likely that the red shirts have gained some political ground vis-a-vis PAD and the government.