Reporting truth on AMLO and the rigged election

17 08 2018

The Nation has some interesting comments on the events at AMLO.

Policeman Romsit Viriyasan “was abruptly removed from his top post at the Anti-Money Laundering Organisation (AMLO) largely because he failed to expedite a number of long-delayed politically sensitive cases, especially since the general election is looming…”.

The Dictator issued the transfer order under the power of Article 44, which allows him to do pretty much anything he wants.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used his unbridled power and then said, unbelievably, that “… Romsit had done nothing wrong…”. He’d been in the AMLO job since 29 June 2018.

Prayuth added that AMLO’s boss had been changed “to make the agency more efficient.” This “abrupt removal followed the August 14 meeting of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] chaired by Prayut and attended by deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, who had reportedly said there was a top-level discussion on AMLO’s leadership change.”

The Nation observes that the removal was “rather unusual.” That’s too bland. This action by The Dictator is “rather usual” in the sense that almost everything the junta does now is highly politicized in the sense that it is meant to consolidate its position going forward.

As The Nation explains, for the junta, “the top AMLO post is crucial, especially in view of the looming general election due some time next year. Hence, the AMLO secretary-general has to be someone who can take immediate action to speed up pending cases that are politically sensitive.” That is, the junta needs to finish off some important political opponents before an rigged election can be held and it can win it.

Apparently, “Romsit had not expedited several pending [political] cases, citing legal and other constraints, which prompted the premier to have him moved to an inactive post in the PM’s Office.”

One case in particular is that against Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of former premier Thaksin, which the junta claims involved “wrongdoing in the state-owned Krung Thai Bank loan fraud case.” But, in addition, the junta wants AMLO to “play a powerful oversight role in the upcoming general election regarding the flow of funds that are used by politicians during the elections.” In other words, AMLO has to be a part of the election rigging, and The Dictator didn’t trust Romsit to do the job he’d be given by the junta.

hHe Nation concludes: “So, there will soon be a replacement as the Prayut government gets ready to hold general elections next year.” Yep, that’s the rigged election (which will only be held when the junta is sure its lot can triumph.

Updated: The yellow threat

4 09 2017

About a month ago we suggested watching the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearing of 2008 prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and three others over their role in an attempt at clearing of PAD protesters had the (former) members of PAD agitated.

The Bangkok Post reports that the former “co-leader and spokesman of … PAD … Parnthep Pourpongpan, is warning of the possible return of yellow shirts if justice [sic.] is not served in a case concerning the 2008 deadly dispersal of the group’s demonstrators.”

This is obviously a political threat. It is an attempt to influence the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), seeking to force it to “appeal against the ruling…”. The NACC has refused and PAD says that’s a “political” decision.

PAD’s threat includes “lawsuits to be filed against the NACC members concern abuse of authority…”.

Panthep claims that there may have been “collusion between government figures and the NACC … to shield some people from legal action…”. He regards this “as organised crime.” He warns that PAD will sort this out. Another threat.

If that is the case, he says, then PAD may have to deal with it. Another threat.

“In the end, if no justice is served [he means PAD gets what it wants], no one can tell whether the PAD will return or not (to an active protest role)…”.

Just to turn the knife a bit more, Panthep went after The Dictator. “He said the government has not yet overcome the influence of the Thaksin system as it has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the people.”

Panthep reckons that the “regime’s policies were rolled out to mainly help capitalists or big entrepreneurs rather than the general public, which widens social disparity…”. There’s something in that. And it’s another threat.

The PAD man warns that the “military regime could seek a compromise with Thaksin’s system as a potential partner in holding political power.” That would surely bring the PADistas back. So it’s another threat.

Update: We should have mentioned that the NACC had 15 days to appeal. It has decided to appeal on just one of the four PAD crackdown cases. The Nation reports that the NACC “agreed with the court’s acquittal of the first three defendants…”. That’s Somchai, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and then-police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan. The NACC is appealing the case of former metropolitan police chief Pol Lt-General Suchart Muankaew. That is not enough for PAD.

Doubling down on double standards

5 05 2016

PPT was interested to read a story in the Bangkok Post that reports there is yellow-shirted opposition to a “move by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to withdraw a case against former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, and three other senior figures who are charged with malfeasance in connection with the bloody crackdown on yellow-shirt [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protesters in 2008…”.

The report states that NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnratchakij set up a panel to study the legal possibilities of charging the senior figures under “Section 157 of the Criminal Code for malfeasance and dereliction of duty and related clauses in the NACC Act and the 2007 charter.”

This is a long-standing case for the NACC since then NACC boss and anti-democrat sympathizer Panthep Klanarongran “made tremendous efforts to push the case to reach the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political-Office Holders.”

The Office of the Attorney-General which initially refused to indict the four defendants (“former deputy prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, and Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muenkaew, former metropolitan police chief” and Somchai). The NACC “then ignored the OAG” and went ahead with the case.

Another Bangkok Post report is about the PAD response. PAD lawyer Nithithorn Lamlua, PAD members and “relatives of those killed and injured Oct 7, 2008 at parliament, submitted the petition to Suthi Boonmee, director of the NACC’s Information and Special Affairs Office.” They oppose the case being dropped.

As we recall it, one person was killed, apparently when hit by a tear gas canister and another was blown up in his own car, which carried explosives. Some serious injuries were seen to result from PAD’s use of ping pong bombs and the use of tear gas. At the time, PAD was trying to “prevent then-prime minister Somchai from delivering his policy statement at parliament on Oct 7, 2008.”

Nithithorn stated that if the NACC dropped the case against Somchai, PAD would bring a malfeasance case against the NACC.

Carefully tip-toeing around claims that the case was being dropped because Police General Patcharawat is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit, Nithithorn said the family name “had nothing to do with” the case. He did say that “the government would be in trouble if this case was treated in a way to destroy the justice process.”

Panthep Puapongpan, a PAD core member, was more upfront when recognized that the NACC is a junta puppet agency when he “said he believed the NACC would not withdraw the case as doing so would destroy the legitimacy and credibility of the government because the present members of the NACC were appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order [he means the military junta].” He declared that if General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Prawit “turned a blind eye to this matter, PAD core members would regroup to demand justice…”.

The junta is already known for nepotism, so it may well sweep this case aside.

But think a bit about this and the double standards involved.

For all of the bleating about this case being “highly sensitive,” important for fighting “corruption,” for the “reputation” of the NACC and so on, all the charges against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban were dropped on the basis that they had no case to answer. They ordered attacks on red shirts that resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries.

Further updated: Anti-democrat shooters again on the attack

18 02 2014

There are a series of stories at Khaosod on the shootings today. These reports confirm tweets by numerous reporters indicating that shooters amongst the anti-democrat demonstrators again opened fire, this time at police.

The Bangkok Post reports on these events, also clearly identifying the shooters as amongst the anti-democrats and acting for them:

As police were firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live munitions at anti-government protesters in the area near Jor Por Ror intersection on Tuesday, they were suddenly targeted by unknown gunmen.

PPT is yet to see any reports of police firing live ammunition. If readers see such reports, email us. The gunmen are not “unknown,” with one identified by name, but with the courts rejecting an arrest warrant.

”After the gunshots by unidentified men [sic.], police stopped their operation and later retreated,” an INN reporter on the ground said. ”I didn’t see where they came from, but their shots went in the diretcion of the police,” he said.

The Post refers to the “popcorn shooter” and says he/they “returned on Tuesday for the first time since the Laksi clash on the eve of the Feb 2 elections, when a photographed hooded-man fired at red-shirts, ending the clash with protesters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). This time there was believed to be more than one shooter.”

The police were acting against the extremist Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand when three of these armed men “set free PDRC co-leader Somkiat Pongpaibul, who was being held in a police paddy wagon on nearby Ratchadamnoen Avenue after being seized by police at Phan Fah Bridge.” Somkiat is a long-time People’s Alliance for Democracy extremist who was, for a while, and Democrat Party MP.

Somkiat said “three men he did not know [sic.] freed him from the vehicle. At the same time there were sounds of gunshots and explosions, and the policemen guarding the detention vehicle took cover, allowing him to escape…”.

Samdin Lertbut, a coordinator of the Dhamma Army, explained that he presence of the men – PPT says they are trained military or ex-military men – “was the turning point…”. Another

Panthep Puapongpan, another PAD member: ”The ‘unidentified forces’ were protecting brothers and sisters of Muan Maha Prachachon,” and warned: ”State authorities now must think twice about their plans…”.

The PAD/Dhamma Army/Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand plans are clear. As PPT predicted in a recent post, anti-democrats have almost nothing left. Violent confrontation may be something the extremists want, but that will only see them lose even more support. Clearly, they have decided on a violent insurrection.

Update 1: Grenade attack on police.

Police and grenade

Update 2: Thai Rath has a series of photos from these events / Another set here / Andrew Spooner has a take on events in Thailand / BBC report with pictures / CNN video report and attack on police / A later CNN report that gets the order of attack correct / men-in-green or popcorn shooters apparently meet with PAD and extremist Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand leader Nittithon Lamlua / Bangkok Post has video and photos /

For the king



Updated: Democrat Party threats

17 08 2013

PPT was struck by a story at The Nation where the Democrat Party is said to have been the organizer of the recent rally that was originally said to have been arranged by the so-called People’s Army.

The story says that Democrat Party leaders led the rally “in a show of force to oppose the amnesty bill now before Parliament.” If it was a “show of force,” it failed as there weren’t many there. The story goes on to say that:

… the opposition [party] has demonstrated its potential to mobilise the masses and lead anti-government rallies. It also wants to prove that many people are ready to come out against the amnesty bill if it appears the government has a hidden agenda to help fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The story then claims that the [so-called] Democrats:

knew that with only 163 votes, they could not stop the government camp from passing the [amnesty] bill, and that its first street rally against the legislation was just an “appetiser”.

Democrat Party boss Suthep Thaugsuban is said to have “warned that … the party was preparing a knockout punch should the bill pass in the third reading [of the bill].”

The reporter reckons that this refers to “mega street protests.” It is added in the “best” tradition of The Nation as a fearless reporter and supporter of yellow politics:

If the government does not keep its word, and instead resorts to underhanded tactics to help Thaksin, the Democrats may not have to resort to mass mobilisation. Other anti-government protesters such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the multi-coloured shirts and the white-maskers would all take to the street to oppose the legislation.

For PPT it is clear that the groups mentioned here are all the same, working together, as they did in earlier years, even if they are all much weakened. But a difference now is that the Democrat Party is ditching its parliamentary role to help bring the old anti-Thaksin alliance back together, threatening violence.

Add to this the People’s Army attempt to mobilize vocational students a la 1976 strikes PPT as being a significant threat of violence.

Interestingly, many of those involved were also privy to the coup planning in 2006. So little seems to have changed for this lot.

Update: As we prepared this post, a new report confirming much of what we said above has become available at The Nation.

The relationship between the Democrat Party and PAD has long been a strong one. Again making that link explicit and formalized, it is reported that the two groups “have agreed to join political forces to fight ‘Thaksin’s regime, Democrat [Party] MP Nipit Intarasombat said yesterday.” Of course, this is no more than a restatement of their long relationship.

Nipit has met with PAD leader Panthep Puapongpan “to discuss political strategy.” Nipit is reported as stating that the two right-wing and royalist groups “had a common ground and it was now time for the two sides to join forces to fight the regime.” Other members of the ill-monikered Democrat Party included none other than PAD speaker and former foreign minister Kasit Piromya, who stated he enjoyed the PAD occupation of airports in 2008, Party secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on, and scion of the rich, Kalaya Sophonpanich.

The two groups plan to bring “unity and political clout” to the anti-Thaksin movement. Nipit even stated that Democrat Party MPs may resign their parliamentary seats to become street activists.

The rejection of parliament is a core PAD theme, and the Democrat Party seems to have decided that they will do the same. It seems that virtually none in the royalist elite can accept the will of the electorate.

“New” anti-government group is old and tired but threatening

26 07 2013

In recent days there has been talk of a “new” anti-government alliance. The Bangkok Post announces a “newly formed anti-government ‘People’s Army [Against the Thaksin Regime]…’.” It may be new in its current form and alliance, and it may excite the scribes in the mainstream media, but it is dreadfully old and corked wine in a not particularly new or even clean bottle.

This “People’s Army” – as much a misnomer as “People’s Alliance for Democracy” – says that it “hopes to mobilise at least 30,000 people to join a rally in Bangkok when the House resumes next week to deliberate the amnesty bill of Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema.” It plans “co-ordinated” rallies and a “big event” on 4 August, aimed at “overthrowing the Thaksin Shinawatra regime…”. In fact, The Nation describes the “People’s Army” as being “formerly known as Pitak Siam…”. And, the group did meet at General Boonlert Kaewprasit’s Royal Turf Club.

But let’s be just a little more generous and agree that there is more to this than just the old men of Pitak Siam. So who are they? The leaders of the so-called new “People’s Army” include:

  • Thaikorn Polsuwan of the PAD in the Northeast;
  • Pitak Siam group under the new leadership of retired Admiral Chai Suwannaphap;
  • the Thai Patriot Network;
  • Card-carrying old man wanting to run Thailand for the monarchy, Police General Vasit Dejkunchorn of the misnamed Thai Spring non-group, said his (non)group would demonstrate against the amnesty bill. Vasit is able to mobilize royalists associated with the old counterinsurgency and mercenary groups from the Cold War;
  • dull royalist Tul Sitthisomwong, leader of the so-called multicolor movement,that is really a bunch of yellow shirts;
  • Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the Green Politics Group, and of PAD; and
  • PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan, who says PAD core leaders are to meet to assess their role.

While the Post says that the “People’s Army” is mobilizing “its” provincial chapters, these are the old PAD  networks.

This coalition is potentially threatening for the Yingluck Shinawatra government. Last time, when Pitak Siam rallied, the the cabinet decided to impose the Internal Security Act in three districts of Bangkok. That was criticized.

PAD and the Constitutional Court

28 05 2013

Previously PPT noted the continuing reliance of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on the courts in their battle to unseat the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government.This reliance is a result of learned behavior and an indication of the relative political weakness of PAD in the sense of its limited capacity to mobilize supporters.

In the most recent instance, the Bangkok Post reports that the PAD has again petitioned the Constitutional Court, pleading for  “an injunction halting parliament’s deliberation of a bill to amend Section 68 of the constitution.” PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan demands that the court should issue the injunction because the government continues to move ahead on constitutional amendment even though the court is considering the “legality of the move to amend the section…”.

The initial move on having the court consider the legality of amendment came from unelected senator and PAD and Siam Samakkhi ally Somchai Sawaengkarn.

As Panthep acknowledges through PAD’s opposition, royalists assert that “the amendment would curtail people’s right to file a petition directly with the Constitution Court against actions suspected of undermining the constitutional monarchy or grabbing power through unconstitutional means.”

This is because a petition would need to be reviewed by the Attorney-General’s office. PAD sees this as an attempt to curtail the capacity it has to stymie elected governments through the activation of the politicized court.

Panthep also asserts that the “amendment to Section 68 could lead to the deliberation of another bill to amend Section 291,” which is currently on hold in parliament due to the Constitutional Court having earlier ruled, quite absurdly, that “the charter could not be rewritten in its entirety without a referendum.” This is absurd as the provision dealing with constitutional amendment says nothing about a referendum. The only constitutional referendum ever held in Thailand was a military junta propaganda exercise.

And just for good measure, PAD requested that their allies at “the charter court … order the 311 MPs and senators who supported the Section 68 amendment bill to withdraw it from parliament.” PAD “is also asking the court to dissolve the Pheu Thai, Chartthaipattana, Chart Pattana, Palang Chon, Mahachon and New Democracy parties for supporting the bill and issuing statements rejecting the court’s authority…”.

Challenging the judges at the Constitutional Court is important because their political bias, corruption and their seeming inability to comprehend the wording of the constitution they are meant to rule on is stifling democratic development. Repeatedly, this set of judges have delivered rulings based on their interpretation of what they believe the royalist-military junta and government would have preferred but didn’t actually write into their constitution.

Fighting amnesty

11 03 2013

As PPT has pointed out previously, the royalist right has decided that the next battle with Thaksin Shinawatra and against the Yingluck government is to be on amnesty. Yes, we know that they have always opposed it, but now they see it as the looming reason for undermining the government.

Deputy House Speaker Charoen Chankomol has been busily sending out invitations for up to 10 or 11 political and politicized groups to come together and consider a way forward.

At The Nation, it is reported that the People’s Alliance for Democracy wants to include eight groups:

the Pheu Thai Party, the red shirts, the Democrat Party, the PAD, the people affected by the political turmoil, Nicha Hiranburana Thuwatham – wife of Colonel Romklao who was killed, the Truth for Reconciliation Committee of Thailand and the anti-government Pitak Siam group.

Immediately, it is clear that Nicha is not a “group,” but the wife of royalist “martyr,” intent on pushing an agenda to exclude lese majeste victims from any amnesty. We guess that the royalist dolts from Pitak Siam are included for the same reason. Even so, this bunch of old soldiers and coup plotters wasn’t a group formed until after the events of 2010. Perhaps this lot are included by PAD because they are allies of both PAD and the old men behind the 2006 military coup.

PAD seems to be engaged in dinosaur crowd sourcing.

In the end, Charoen has:

invited representatives from 11 groups, including the Pheu Thai Party, the Democrat Party, the Bhumjaithai Party, the armed forces, PAD, UDD and Pitak Siam. Also invited are Nicha Hiranburana Thuwatham, representing families of state officials killed on duty at political rallies; business operators affected by political violence; the defunct Truth for Reconciliation Commission; and the multi-colour group, led by Tul Sitthisomwong.

Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha demands “representatives from all the armed forces” involved. He set the tone for the combined royalist approach to amnesty: “Before granting amnesty we have to look into what the laws say what to do about wrongdoing…”.

Despite all of this compromising and inviting, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan declares: “I have a sense that there might be a [political] rally soon.” Remarkably, he accused the Puea Thai Party was “forcing other groups to join in.” We assume he understands that the “Democrat” Party has refused to enter any discussions.

The yellow shirts are likely to oppose anything they think or imagine “affects the status of the monarchy, or any law is passed granting amnesty to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his group.” So amnesty for them is nothing more than an excuse for a fight. At the Bangkok Post, the “Democrat” Party believes that the monarchy is under threat from amnesty and that “Pheu Thai’s real motivation was to whitewash fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and co-leaders of the red-shirt group.” That sounds exactly like PAD.

Also at the Bangkok Post, the “so-called multi-colours,” who are just yellow shirts by another name, “will not take part in a planned discussion of a proposed new amnesty bill … because it is not the right time for it, their leader Tul Sitthisomwong said…”. For the dullard Tul, the right time is after “alleged offenders” have been convicted:

He said what should be done first was to speed up the judicial process against alleged offenders of the laws in connection with political protests. Amnesty should be considered individually after the court delivered a verdict on each one, he said.

According to another report at the Bangkok Post, “the Democrats [meaning the party, for it includes few democrats], PAD, Pitak Siam, Ms Nicha and Dr Tul – have announced they would boycott the meeting.”

Another yellow-shirt front group, the Green Politics Group, had its coordinator Suriyasai Katasila announce that the proposed meeting would “fail because it is driven by politicians with hidden agendas who have failed to gain the trust of the public.” He means the popular and elected government….

In the end, as the Post reports, a half-hearted, half-attended meeting was held to agree with a set of platitudes.

Updated: Who let the boys out?

12 01 2013

All media have been reporting on a “rally” by some 50 soldiers outside the ASTV/Manager office protesting the newspaper’s criticisms of Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha. Prayuth had earlier dismissed the People’s Alliance for Democracy threats on Preah Vihear and belittled the xenophobes. They responded via PAD propagandists at ASTV, which, according to the Post, drawing on classic Sondhi Limthongkul-style mysogynist rhetoric that has Prayuth as an angry woman with a period who has failed as Army commander:

ASTV-Manager issued a statement to counter Gen Prayuth under the headline “Manager or Gen Prayuth: Who is lousy?”

The statement posted on its website,, said Gen Prayuth had failed to protect national interests and solve problems. “If the army chief believes that he knows the problems better than anyone else, why can he not solve them?” it asked.

The problems included failure to put an end to violence in the far South and to protect villagers at the border being attacked by Cambodian soldiers, according to the statement.

In fact, Prayuth deserves much criticism for his often bellicose interventions in the political process and for his role in post-coup politics and events that include the bloody crackdowns in April and May 2010, and he needs to be held accountable for these.

So while the president of the Thai Journalists’ Association has reportedly said: “It is inappropriate for the soldiers to rally against the media outlet. They have no such duty…” is right and PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan is also correct in saying that “soldiers had no right to dictate editorial policy…”, both are being disingenuous. We say this because both the TJA nor PAD have been contingent supporters of media freedom. Both have not howled in protest when red shirt media has been closed and harassed in the past and nor have they been even-handed in protesting political repression more broadly.

That said, the idea that soldiers should rally and threaten a media outlet is anathema to a democratic system. When Army “protesters” rally it is their bosses who should be held responsible. Prayuth must accept criticism, and respond to it in an appropriate manner. He and his top commander must also accept responsibility for the politicized action of soldiers under their command.

Clearly, this protest is not a bunch of soldiers acting politically and independently, for Major General Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 11th Infantry Division, and a man with considerable political lineage and recent history, has again defended his boss by attacking the media, again stating that “he and other troops would not tolerate their superior being insulted and were acting to protect the dignity of the army chief.” This is Army bullying and intimidation, yet again. Also confirming the support for this action is Deputy army commander General Dapong Rattanasuwan who “urged soldiers to show restraint in their protest.”

The soldiers actions are throwbacks to earlier decades when soldiers also protested against civilian politicians and other critics. The Yingluck Shinawatra government, timid in dealing with opponents, and its supporters may be tempted to cheer the Army boss for his quite reasonable support of the government on Preah Vihear.

However, that act of “reasonableness” is also wrong. Prayuth shouldn’t comment on political events at all. Comments should be from the Minister of Defense. The Yingluck government should be aware that this politicized Army must be brought under civilian control and professionalized/depoliticized if democratic government is to be embedded in Thailand. Just getting the military on its side is an act of politicization that will have negative and long-term consequences.

Update: The Post now has a longer story that makes it clear that it was Prayuth who let the boys of the leash so that the Army could again be politically intrusive for two days of “rallying” at ASTV/Manager. Another general, Paiboon Khumchaya, who is chief of the First Army Region, “said he gave the soldiers permission to gather at the newspaper offices…”. Paiboon added: “They asked my permission and I approved it because I could not curb their right to protect their supervisor.” This sounds like the Army inventing a new “human right”! What nonsense!

Meanwhile, Sondhi, reported to be “speaking from California,” which means he’s again raising money from the LA-based yellow shirts, “said he would not apologise for his paper’s stand.” He claimed “many army officers were disappointed with Gen Prayuth for failing to protect the army’s dignity when it was ‘insulted’ by the red-shirts and the Department of Special Investigation, which continues to investigate the army’s role in the political violence of 2010.”

On the green side, the dutiful Army lads “said the article has damaged their morale because the army chief is like their “second father”. They demanded the media outlet issue an apology to the general.” How many fathers can they have. Really, this attitude is childish nonsense whether expressed for a Army boss or a king.

The politics of impunity

13 04 2012

There has been a flurry of anti-reconciliation news of late, and PPT is a little delayed in getting to this post.

A few days ago, Human Rights Watch issued a statement that the Yingluck Shinawatra “government’s new ‘political reconciliation’ proposals will undermine justice by giving immunity to those responsible for human rights abuses during bloody confrontations in Bangkok in 2010.”

PPT isn’t sure why the claim is that these are “new,” as reconciliation was placed on the agenda and politicized by the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. What is “new” is perhaps that parliament is dealing with it. And, as PPT understands it, the proposed amnesty that HRW comments on is for far more than the events of May 2010.

PPT also abhors impunity in these cases, and we recognize that some of the families of those killed in the Abhisit government’s two violent military assaults in 2010 have also stated that they do not want amnesty to allow impunity for those responsible for the deaths in 2010.

HRW rightly points out that the:

Abhisit government charged hundreds of UDD protesters with serious criminal offenses without any basis, but did not file charges against any government officials or soldiers.

However, this statement is an exaggeration:

Since the Yingluck government took office in August 2011, the focus of criminal investigations has shifted entirely to cases in which soldiers were implicated while those involving UDD violence have been ignored.

As we understand it, the slimy lot at the Department of Special Investigation have continued to investigate until early March, but claim little or no evidence. Whether that is politics speaking or the truth, it remains true that the Abhisit government did precious little in tracking down the so-called armed black shirts said to be working with the red shirts.

It is interesting also that HRW also claim this:

The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and the government-appointed Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand are still unable to complete their inquiries into the 2010 incidents due to insufficient support from the government, as well as mistrust and lack of cooperation from participants in the events. The work of the two agencies has also suffered from internal bureaucratic obstruction and a critical lack of political will to investigate government officials and UDD leaders fully and credibly.

The NHRC is simply not a credible organization and was heavily politicized under Abhisit, so we can ignore that group. The TRC is different and we wonder if HRW hasn’t been doing its reading? In the third and most recent report, the Commission states:

2.2.1 TRCT was established by the previous government (that of Abhisit Vejjajiva) which was one of parties in the conflict. This has limited and obstructed TRCT in carrying out its duties but, be that as it may, TRCT carried on adhering closely to the principle of public accountability until gained trust from every party. The most recent election resulted in a new government headed by Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra as Prime Minister. TRCT is pleased that the new government has established a policy of urgently building reconciliation and harmony among the people as well as the restoration of democracy during its first year of office….

Yes, the TRC has been critical of “hurried” reconciliation, but they are not speaking to “obstruction.”

Interestingly, the HRW report coincided with actions by the political opposition that appear to be as much about rewriting of history in the interests of the Democrat Party and in rebuilding rightist political alliances.

At The Nation it is reported that a religious ceremony was organized by the military, “opposition Democrat Party deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij, People’s Alliance for Democracy spokesman Panthep Puapongpan, and multicoloured shirt group leader Dr Tul Sitthisomwong.”

Some of those attending as Korn laid a wreath wore black T-shirts with the message “The truth will be known.” It is a pity that Korn and his allies didn’t seek truth when they were in government but rather sought, as they do now, to obfuscate.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post Korn is reported as stressing that his:

party’s stance … calls for the establishment of truth and facts about political violence before an amnesty should be granted. He said uncovering the truth and accepting it were essential part of national reconciliation and the party considered it a responsibility to help the public find and establish facts.

It does seem just a little odd that Korn says this now but when in power did so little. But that is the elite’s self-given right to say and do whatever they want with no attention to anything other than political gain.

The Post also reports that a related seminar to commemorate the death of Colonel Romklao Thuwatham who was killed in the April 2010 crackdown on red shirts. This seminar was told “the government’s attempt to change the charter and push for a reconciliation bill has come under attack by opponents…”.

And who should be the speakers? Of course it is all the yellow-shirted activists of previous years. And they would never commemorate the murder of scores of red shirts, but commemorate a man “killed in battle” and “fighting for the king” [they are PPT’s words]: appointed Senator Somchai Sawangkarn who “attacked the government for trying to forget the deaths of soldiers in the red shirt protests two years ago.”

The deep, deep yellow Senator Rosana Tositrakul who warned that “people should not be distracted by the multi-pronged tactics deployed by the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The administration’s ultimate goal is to reduce the power of people under the present constitution…”. This from a senator who has supported removing people’s electoral rights! As ever, she warns of Thaksin Shinawatra and “secret” deals that we tend to think she concocts for political purpose.

And then there are the conspiricists, egged on by madright-wing American extremists who argue that the elected government is false: “We need to overthrow the current regime by law, not only through this means, and we also need to bring along the masses…”. This is a call for more PAD-like action.

It seems to us that, while Puea Thai’s reconciliation plan is flawed, the sudden vocal posturing by groups that were silent on these matters when the Democrat Party was in government stinks to high heaven.

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