When the military is on top XV

1 03 2018

Soldiers have forced villagers in Phayao to cancel plans to “submit a petition, which urges the authorities to stop prosecuting them for [allegedly] violating the junta’s order.”

The prosecutions resulted from support to the We Walk march.

When the petitioners arrived at the office where they were to lodge their petition, “soldiers and police officers, some in plainclothes, intercepted them and told them not to submit the petition.” Further intimidating them, the police and military thugs “invited the villagers to talk at a military camp…”. The villagers refused!

However, after over three hours of “negotiations, the villagers decided “to cancel the plan to petition.”

This is just one more example of the ways in which the military seeks to restrict, repress and oppress.

Dictatorship permeates universities

16 02 2018

We have previously posted on the takeover of university administrations by royalists and ant-democrats. The motivation for this concerted effort at control was to prevent students becoming political activists who challenge royalist and military regimes.

The most recent example of this reactionary administration comes from Khon Kaen University, often described as an island of yellow in a sea of red.

Despite two rulings by courts that the People Go/We Walk march should be unhindered, administrators have “denied a request to host an academic seminar on the last day of the ‘We Walk’ long march tomorrow…”. The administrators say this is “to protect the university’s reputation…”.

We guess they mean their reputation with the military dictatorship.

It is reported that the university administrators felt the need to “consult” with the military on their decision.

Lines are being drawn I

15 02 2018

A couple of weeks ago, the Administrative Court handed the activists on the “We Walk” march an important victory when it ruled that the walk to Khon Kaen could continue as it was a peaceful march. The court ruled that it should proceed without interference from the authorities.

Further, the Court on ruled the police should facilitate members of People Go Network to carry on their march.

The police and military have essentially ignored the courtthat’s what lawless regimes do – and while not stopping the march, have persistently harassed walkers and their supporters every single day of the march.

Even while ignoring the court, the junta’s thugs have gone back to the courts to appeal the earlier judgement.

However, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the lower court’s ruling protecting marchers. Police have again been ordered “not to block or obstruct their gatherings and to provide them with conveniences and security until Saturday, the last day of the march.”

Yet the court also threw the junta a way to block when it said that “if the … activists violated the laws, police could set new conditions, order them to stop or ask the court to put an end to their activities.”

It would seem that the junta could attempt to manufacture a reason to close the walk down.

At the same time, the junta has thrown down the gauntlet to other activists by filing charges against 50 persons who led or participated in the protest at the Democracy Monument on Saturday. The charges range from sedition to “violating the junta’s ban on protests.”

At the same time, the junta continues to separate protesters it considers anti-democrat allies from those opposing the junta. Anti-coal protesters from the south get special treatment, with the junta agreeing to “open to direct talks with hunger strikers opposed to the construction of coal-fired power plants in the south.”

As he urged the arrest and jailing of others, The Dictator has said he is “worried” for the well-being of the anti-coal protesters.

The junta is still going after kids and flouting the courts

8 02 2018

We hope Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense, reads this. General, this is how the military regime you said displayed a “commitment … to democracy.” Here’s what democracy looks like in the junta’s Thailand.

Yesterday we had brief reference to arrests in the north:

In Phayao, police arrested 14 activists of the People Go Network and involved in the “We Walk” anti-government campaign. As has been the case in previous movements that have displaced military regimes, several of those arrested were farmers and students. The junta fears such alliances.

The Nation has further details about this political repression, which reports that it is the military that is taking action. It has accused the 14 of “organising an activity that might affect national security.”

Thailand’s national security must be balancing on a knife’s edge as the 14 farmers and students, including a 16 year-old, “a minor with intellectual-development problems…”, undertook “a 500-metre march in Phayao’s Phu Sang district.” That would be a walk of about two minutes, at a leisurely pace on a dusty village road.

The 14 now stand accused of “violating the ban by the National Council for Peace and Order [that’s the military junta] on political rallies…”. The report explains that “[i]f convicted, they face a jail term of up to six months, a maximum fine of Bt10,000 or both.”

Under orders from the junta’s military thugs, cops arrested 11 of the “marchers” on the evening of the “march” and kept them in jail overnight and they finally got bail the next day.

Recall that the Administrative Court issued “an injunction to protect the We Walk activities…”. Little things like court rulings don’t bother a lawless regime.

How’s democracy in Thailand looking to you Gen Dunford?

Trusted forms of repression

7 02 2018

It was only a day or so ago that various junta allies reckoned that the activism that has bubbled up over the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watches and the “delays” to the “election” timetable would fade away.

It hasn’t and the junta is trying to erase activism. It is engaging in its trusted forms of repression: even deeper censorship of media and websites it finds critical and arresting and charging people.

Voice TV has again been taken off the air. This is the fourth time the channel has been suspended by the junta’s minions. This time, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission cited a program in October 2017 as the reason for the 15-day ban. Any excuse will do.

In Phayao, police arrested 14 activists of the People Go Network and involved in the “We Walk” anti-government campaign. As has been the case in previous movements that have displaced military regimes, several of those arrested were farmers and students. The junta fears such alliances.

The farmers’ group reportedly told police they joined the march because they had been oppressed by local, powerful landlords who charged them with trespassing on private property, despite their claims that the land actually belongs to them.

All denied the charges against them.

In Bangkok, the Democracy Restoration Group called off a news conference “following a police warning not to hold the event or risk violating a junta ban on public gatherings.” The activists “had planned to hold a news conference at the Maneeya Center in Bangkok – home to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) – to call on the junta to keep its promise of an election this year…”. It seems that the FCCT was targeted by the police.

Also in Bangkok, police have charged all of the “39 demonstrators who protested on a skywalk near Pathumwan intersection on Jan 27 against a recently announced delay to the upcoming general election.” The charge is “illegal assembly.” The demonstrators also belong to the Democracy Restoration Group.

The junta thugs are seeking to silence dissent with constant harassment and a flurry of law cases that get very expensive when bail and fines are considered. Junta thugs also bring constant pressure on the families of activists.

The lawless regime

4 02 2018

PPT has long pointed to the lawlessness of the military dictatorship. It was an illegal and subversive act – a military coup – that brought it to power. The junta then enacted its own decrees and made itself and its illegal actions “legal.” Since then, the junta has regularly ruled by decree and martial law, used military courts for civilians, acted against its own constitution, failed to provide evidence in murder and torture cases, used the dubious and draconian lese majeste as a weapon against political opponents, concocting cases, arrested people on bogus charges, abducted others and much more.

As the regime digs in against political opponents (and even some supporters gone bad) it is now ignoring the courts it has previously able to direct as puppets. All in the cause of maintaining the military dictatorship and covering-up General Prawit Wongsuwan’s corruption on luxury watches.

Prachatai reports that “[d]espite a recent ruling from the Administrative Court ordering the authorities to facilitate the civil rights march, local authorities in Nakhon Ratchasima have pressured the civil rights march to leave the area two days earlier than planned.”

On 1 February 2018, about 10 local government officials visited participants in We Walk, A Walk for Friendship at a temple in Nakhon Ratchasima and asked them to leave the temple earlier than planned.

According to Eakachai Issaratha, one of the marchers, the participants planned to stay for three nights at Wat Non Makok temple in Non Sung District before continuing their journey to Khon Kaen and the abbot of the temple had agreed to shelter them. However, about 10 local government officials visited the temple and told the march organisers that they could stay for only one night.

The officials claimed that there was a resolution from a meeting of soldiers, police officers, district officials, village heads and subdistrict heads, to allow them to stay for only one night. The marchers could not stay in the area for 3 nights, because the district and provincial officials felt uncomfortable.  The decision to let them stay in the area was not for the abbot alone to make, but rested also with the local administration.

It seems the junta and its minions can just ignore the Administrative Court and its ruling that the We Walk march should continue under a notion of the right to freedom of assembly and its order that the authorities should not to obstruct the march.

Lawless regimes are dangerous.

Digging in or grave-digging? I

31 01 2018

When a regime comes under pressure and feels that pressure, it usually responds in a couple of ways. One way is to change what it’s been doing so as to assuage some of the criticism. Another is to dig in and attack critics and ring-fence the regime with barbed wire, sometimes metaphorically and sometimes for real. It is often difficult to distinguish digging in from political grave-digging.

Thailand’s military dictatorship is taking to ring-fencing. As we noted yesterday, the regime has gone after anti-coup activists. It is reported that it is also using its “law” – decrees and special powers – to hobble the People Go Network. The junta has declared that “eight participants [leaders] must report to the authorities or arrest warrants will be issued for them…”. Flying in the face of real law – indeed, ignoring law – where the Administrative Court ruled that the “We Walk” could continue their peaceful campaign without interference by police as they walk to Khon Kaen. The junta has reaffirmed that the walk is an “illegal assembly as it violated a years-long ban on gatherings of five or more people for political purposes.”

We have long shown the junta to be essentially lawless, and this is another example of it quoting “rule of law” when it thumbs its nose at law. A lawless regime is a dangerous regime.

At the same time, the junta is trying to manage its supporters, who have also become restive. The proposed coal-fired power plant in Songkhla has seen coup supporters opposing the junta. The junta has had several of them arrested and vowed to have the project built. Southern anti-coal demonstrators showed up for a sit-in at Bangkok’s Government House. The outcome is The Dictator’s sudden statement that the project may have to be shelved. That back-down shows double standards and demonstrates weakness.

A related strategy is for The Dictator to appeal to his political base of anti-democrats. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who illegally seized the state in May 2014, has begged for “more time” so his military dictatorship can “continue laying the foundations for the country…”. He begs for the chance to ensure that Thailand remains a military-dominated state. He acknowledged that people have lost “hope in him or his government,” but begged for a renewed enthusiasm for military dictatorship.

He lied that his only promise was “to improve people’s lives and make them happier.” He ignored his repeated betrayal of promises on an “election.” The Dictator reckoned that people should forget about the junta’s “election” and consider if “the country more happy and peaceful now?” He asked: “Has the economy improved? Have many problems been solved? Though it’s not that much, it has resulted in more happiness for many people. This is my promise. I’ve done what I can…”. He knows that continuing dictatorship relies on enough people accepting material progress over the ballot box.

Digging in or digging his regime’s grave? There’s still a long way to go.

Further updated: Sparks beginning to fly

28 01 2018

Quite some time ago we said that, as in the past, the spark that lights a fire under Thailand’s military dictatorship might come from something quite unexpected.

We think we might have seen that spark and it may be two events that have begun to tip the political balance. One is Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury timepieces. It isn’t so much that he’s seemingly corrupt. After all the timid middle classes and the wealthy capitalist class “understand” corruption and it is a price they are ever willing to pay so long as they can continue to prosper. And, if the corrupt are “good” people, then it’s okay. What has led to a beginning of an unraveling of this political relationship is Prawit’s arrogance about his massive watch collection and the demonstration (so far) of cover-up and impunity. This taints the junta as self-serving, grasping and certainly not “good” people.

The second spark is the continual delay in the holding of an election that is neither free nor fair. The middle and capitalist classes were fully prepared to accept the junta’s manipulated constitution, its forcing of the constitutional referendum, the tinkering with the details, a senate that maintains military political dominance and human rights restrictions. However, as well as the political repression of the lower classes, they wanted something of a say in politics via that unfair election. By delaying numerous times, the junta is displaying arrogance and a craving for power “unsuited” to the middle and capitalist classes.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The peeling away of support even sees diehard yellow shirts, the boosters for the coups of 2006 and 2014, criticizing the military junta it bet on for turning back the lower class political tide. It also sees cracks appearing in the junta’s domination and control both in events and institutions. We have posted on the “We Walk” march and its court victory. Some of the NGOs involved in that event were those that were present at the birth of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in 2006. For some of those yellow shirts, there is disappointment in the regime for not doing sufficient political cleansing. More disappointment comes from the decisions by the junta to allow legal pursuit of PAD and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Such legal cases are not just a disappointment but construed as a betrayal.

In this context, the re-emergence of political protest is telling. First We Walk and now the student activists. It isn’t that these students haven’t pushed the junta before. In fact, they have been regular opponents, but they have faced numerous legal cases, arrests, abductions and so on. The Bangkok Post reports their most recent event this way:

The Democracy Restoration Group, led by Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat and Rangsiman Rome, posted on Facebook on Friday asking people who share the same views to join them at 5.30pm at the BTS skywalk near the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre.

Pathumwan police said they did not try to stop the campaign so long as it did not block traffic.

Around 100 people came to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre at 5.15pm while police stood by and took photos of the participants. Many of them showed the sign “Election 2018” or show its photo on their mobile phones.

Core leaders of the group took turns giving speeches.

Interestingly, the demonstrators emphasized not just elections but watches.

Update 1: A reader emailed us saying that we missed one of the most important bits of the linked Bangkok Post story. That reader is right that we should have specifically noted that the rally brought together stalwarts of both red and yellow shirts, with ultra-nationalist yellow shirt Veera Somkwamkid and red shirt iconoclast Sombat Boonngamanong. That is an unexpected alliance. Yet it is just this kind of unusual alliance that has underpinned anti-military movements in the past.

Update 2: An updated Bangkok Post report has more from Veera. He declared: “There are no colours right now…. It’s all about joining hands and removing corruption from the country.” He added: “The problem is we cannot rely on the government because they are in fact the ones who are not transparent.” The principal organizers, the New Democracy Movement declared “it will continue to pressure the government and Gen Prayut to dismiss Gen Prawit and to keep his promise to holding the election this year. They will gather again in the same spot on Feb 10.” Meanwhile, in Songkhla, “members of 19 civic organisations walked from Hat Yai municipality to Sena Narong army camp in Hat Yai to voice their grievances over several state projects in the South and to support the [People Go Network/We Walk group].”

Junta gets a slap

27 01 2018

The activists on the “We Walk” march have been handed an important if  temporary victory by the Administrative Court.

It has ruled that they may “continue their peaceful campaign without interference from the police” as they walk to Khon Kaen.

The Court on “issued a court order to the Royal Thai Police to facilitate members of People GO Network to carry on their long march…”.

The court order states that “police should refrain from conducting any operation against the exercise of freedom of expression by the activists until the end of the march on February 17.”

To be frank, this is not unexpected given the coalition of activists and intellectuals involved. At the same time, the military junta is highly embarrassed.

Updated: Harassing, repressing, intimidating

26 01 2018

In a recent post, PPT noted the support being given to We Walk marchers. The junta is harassing and repressing supporters of the march.

Prachatai reports that when the marchers were in Ayutthaya, “police officers searched their supply trucks and briefly detained four protesters for interrogation.” The cops also put pressure on the temple that sheltered them, forcing the marchers to leave early.

Phra Yongyut Thipako, the abbot of Wat Pang Ngun temple in Phrae joined the marchers for a short time. Promptly the police interrogated him. When the monk the went to give a Dharma lecture at a Bangkok temple, “officers from the National Office of Buddhism visited him at the temple and asked his reason for joining the march.”

You get the picture.

Another case of intimidation involves HIV activists. The report says that “police and soldiers have created the climate of fear among HIV activists…”. The report states that on 25 January 2018, “police and soldiers visited members of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Sisaket and Surin Province. The intimidation occurred after the network signed a statement of FTA Watch, urging the junta to stop prosecuting the organisers of the civil rights march ‘We Walk’…”. The report continues:

Nimit Tian-udom, director of Aids Access Foundation, told Prachatai that in the morning, police officers and soldiers visited hospitals in the provinces and asked the hospitals’ director to summon the network members for interrogation.

Nimit added that provincial officers from Ministry of Social Development and Human Security also summoned the network’s local leaders to question about their reason for signing the petition. “Those who were summoned has no involvement with the march. They’re just members of the group which signed the statement,” stated Nimit.

To avoid further problems with the authorities, some HIV groups decided to halt their daily activities, such as visiting the house of people with HIV and giving advice for those who came to the hospitals, Nimit pointed out.

The intimidation is blatant. As blunt and as threatening as the junta can be, this is sinking very low.

Update: Prachatai reports that, as the military junta intimidates, activists have “planned to march in Bangkok and Hat Yai every Sunday to show support to the embattled ‘We Walk, Walk for Friendship’ marchers…”.  They “plan to host regional activities like this every Sunday until the marchers reach the destination at Khon Kaen.” Other solidarity events will include, in Korat, “a seminar on universal healthcare scheme, one of the welfare policies that the junta tries to abolish. There will also have an event to collect signatories against the junta’s effort to amend the National Health Security Act.”

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