Defending Buddha Issara

11 04 2017

Buddha Issara is a despicable fascist and anti-democrat monk. He has lauded gunmen, acted with thugs, praised the military dictatorship, extorted hotels, accused opponents of lese majeste and been an ardent supporter of the ridiculous law, taken the law into his own hands, and supported vigilantes.

In short, he’s a detestable person and worse as a monk. Yet, in this post, PPT will support him. Why? Simply, because he’s accused of lese majeste in a case that warrants no legal attention.

Prachatai reports that on “10 April 2017, Wichai Prasertsutsiri, coordinator of the Centre for the Promotion of Buddhism Foundation, filed a complaint under Article 112 of the Criminal Code … against Buddha Isara at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.”

They accuse the “ultra-royalist monk and a key leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), of royal defamation over a ritual to bless Buddha amulets.” Wichai claims that “on 30 May 2009 the monk performed a ritual to bless Buddha amulets engraved with the monograph of the late King … before selling them to his disciples.” Yes, that’s 2009, eight years ago.

The complainant says that the royalist monk “used his own blood to bless the amulets.” This, apparently is the cause of the allegation, with Wichai claiming “[s]uch action was defamatory to the … monarchy since the amulets were engraved with the royal monograph…”.

What a load of buffalo manure. Wichai is like many others who lash out at others using this feudal and ridiculous law, making up ever more balmy claims about what “defames” a royal.

The detestable monk responded that “the ritual was performed to honour the monarchy, adding that the plaintiff just wanted to find a way to attack him.” We are sure the latter is true, while the former is as balmy as Wichai’s accusation.

Of course, the “police accepted the complaint and said they will investigate the matter.” They have to for they are too spineless to just tell the accuser to go home and stop being ridiculous.





A couple of corrections

26 03 2017

On a Sunday, as we read a few stories that continue to keep us glum about Thailand’s prospects for some political progress, as opposed to regression, we came across a couple of stories that appear to us to requires a little corrective attention.

The first is at Prachatai. Kornkritch Somjittranukit has a story on red shirt renegade Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee as public enemy no. 1 for the old guys running the military junta. A couple of things bothered us a bit. One was mention of the 2009 Pattaya events without noting the role played by the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban and his then new best friend Newin Chidchob who goaded and challenged red shirts with their own blue shirts, many of them being military and police in different clothes.

PDRC shooter

On the 2014 People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) seizure of the Lak Si District Office to prevent the 2 February election, mention is made of a “violent clash with Ko Tee and his supporters from Pathum Thani. The sound of gunfire came from both sides.” The latter is true but ignores something. After that event it was officially stated:

A police forensics director stated that his team’s investigation showed “39 shots have been fired from the position of PCAD protesters, and 3 shots from the direction of pro-election protesters.”

The second story is at the Bangkok Post. Editor Umesh Pandey briefly recounts the actions taken over the past few years as pro-Thaksin election winners were ditched, missing the important 2008 judicial coup. What bothered us was the headline, “Army needs to learn to be neutral.”

While the article doesn’t exactly amount that, the idea that the military could be neutral is baffling in the extreme. The military is now, after more than half a century of pro-monarchy and pro-elite military is firmly attached to the side of privilege, hierarchy, wealth and repression.





Updated: Suthep demands more dictatorship for longer

18 03 2017

The People’s Democratic Reform Foundation (PDRF) is the legalistic renaming of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee to allow it to keep operating under the junta it helped seize power in 2014.

It is still led by Democrat Party stalwart Suthep Thaugsuban, who “left” the party to arrange his anti-democratic actions opposing elections and the elected government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. Its bosses remain those anti-democratic elite and Democrat Party (former) members, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Akanat Promphan, Chitpas Kridakorn (Bhirombhakdi), Thaworn Senniam, Nattapol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Julsai and Sakoltee Patthippayakul.

It was this group that recently met with representatives of the military junta for “reconciliation talks.”

Readers might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that, almost three years after he got the coup he wanted, Suthep “remained firm in its stance of ‘reform before election’, saying it did not mind a delay in the holding of the next election.”

Suthep and his clutch of anti-democrats also declared their full support for “absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter” and claimed it “was not a problem for reform. Suthep said it as an opportunity for the junta to effectively reform the country.” We know he supports the murderous military and we guess he would also support military courts, torture and all manner of draconian measures against his political opponents.

Of course, we also know that Suthep hates elections, not least because his party never won one in its own right, and repeatedly hung off the military and royal coattails.

Likewise, it is no surprise that this group of anti-democrats “admitted to being fans of junta head General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the desire to complete key reforms.” Why wouldn’t they be? It was Suthep who claimed that he had worked since 2010 with General Prayuth on ways and means for preventing a Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned government from getting elected and then, if it did, on bringing it down.

Suthep and his cronies met with the junta’s people for “four hours of reconciliation talks” after which Suthep declared or maybe even threatened: “We’ve made the point in the meeting that the masses expect the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the government led by [Prayuth] to finish the reforms so the country can continue as a democracy with the monarch as the head of state.”

Suthep, who spent many years as a Democrat Party powerbroker and politician chortled about “politics” being a problem: “Politics has to serve the people. In the past, it was [dominated by] politicians and financiers as well as interest groups. It’s never about the people…”. Because his party was resoundingly defeated time and time again, we can understand his reluctance to accept the will of the people.

Remarkably, as if Thailand’s elite is still under threat, he grasps the monarchy shibboleth by the throat and thunders: “Most importantly, political parties must be run by people who support democratic rule with the monarch as the head of state, not a republic.”

That purported danger justifies for Suthep, and his gaggle of anti-democrat scions of the elite, continuing military dictatorship. He reckons “the people” don’t want an election any time soon.

If the message wasn’t clear, Suthep stated: “The PDRF has no concerns over the NCPO staying in power so long as it works to push reforms.” He added that his support for “the military and Gen Prayut … was never hidden…”.

Update: And just in case anyone was wondering, the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep declined “to say whether his group would accept the outcome of the next election in the event that the Pheu Thai Party wins the poll.”





“Reforming” almost everything

9 03 2017

Royal edicts are proliferating, removing royally-bestowed titles on Wat Dhammakaya monks. That they had them in the first place raises a question or two about regime and palace transitions over the past few years.

Meanwhile several of the monks have appeared in court, (seemingly not defrocked).

The junta says the standoff with Wat Dhammakaya will end in five days. How, exactly, we are not told, but it may be that troops and police will reoccupy the temple and arrest monks and their supporters. There are already more than 340 cases against the temple, 20 arrest warrants have been issued and a further 70 summons orders have been issued.

We all know that the military dictatorship tasked itself with an anti-democratic agenda of “reforming politics” when it seized power, and that this was in line with the demands of anti-democrats like the Democrat Party and its scion the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by Suthep Thaugsuban and others. One of the “others” was the fascist monk Buddha Issara. He has also been prominent in pushing for the end of Wat Dhammakaya.

What we may not have expected was that the military dictatorship would decide to “reform” Buddhism in Thailand as well, although an article at New Mandala recently suggested this.

Now this new reform cat is out of the bag. In a report at The Nation, it is said that the junta will “soon propose that the Supreme Sangha Council [SSC] and the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) speed up reforms in Buddhism…”. As is its habit, the junta has formed a “reform panel” and the SSC has “assigned three senior monks to join [it].”

“Reforming” Buddhism, “reforming” politics and maintaining control of the state and its budgets is a practice the interventionist and murderous army has long benefited from, along with its palace allies. “Reforming” the military and the monarchy is not on the cards.





Red, black and yellow

1 02 2017

Thailand’s “justice” system continues to work on political cases that the military junta has pursued.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced two ‘men in black’ to 10 years in jail for having in possession and carrying weapons during the 2010 red-shirt political violence while acquitting three others due to lack of evidence.”

The five were arrested and paraded by the police a couple of months after the 2014 coup. The police dressed the detainees in a kind of MiB uniform of black clothing, red armbands and ribbons, forcing them to wear balaclavas.  It then made the detainees “re-enact” alleged “crimes,” including taking them to the streets and having them pose with grenade launchers and assault weapons. (Our earlier posts are here, here and here.)

mib

The five defendants are “Kittisak Soomsri, Chamnan Phakeechai, both 49, and a 43-year-old woman, Punika Chusri. The other two are Preecha Yuyen, 28,… and Ronnarit Suricha, 37…”.

The prosecution alleged that:

the five defendants and other suspects who are still at large or died carried weapons, ammunition and explosive devices such as M79 grenade launchers, M16 and HK33 assault rifles at Khok Wua intersection and on Tanao Road and Prachathipatai Road in Bangkok on April 10, 2010 when security forces clashed with the red-shirt protesters at the intersection. Five soldiers and 21 civilians died, including a Reuters journalist.

In the court, Kittisak and Preecha were convicted on charges of being armed without licenses. Earlier terrorism charges were dropped. The two received sentences of eight years in jail for having weapons and explosives and two years for carrying firearms in public places without permission.

The court heard witnesses and considered evidence that “Kittisak, the first defendant, played a role in supplying weapons to the protest site held by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on April 10 [2010].”

His sister told the court she saw Kittisak with a black bag with a rifle barrel coming out of the top “in a room.” He then took the bag and left for the red shirt protest. Another witness was a soldier who stated that he saw “a rifle inside the slowly moving van when Kittisak opened its door near Democracy Monument.” Another report has the soldier saying Kittisak had the rifle in his arms.

Kittisak claimed “he was tortured by authorities to confess but the court found his arguments groundless.”

As for Preecha, the court heard testimony from two plainclothes police officers. They said they:

saw a group of black-clad men armed with AK assault rifles and wearing balaclavas walked into the rally area. The red-shirt security guards asked to see their ID cards but the men said they did not bring any with them. The policemen then removed balaclava from one of the men in black and seized his gun. They later identified Preecha as him.

The officers were about to remove balaclava from another man when an explosion went off and all the men in black ran away. Preecha argued the photo of him in black attire and after his balaclava was removed was doctored but the court was not convinced.

Another report states that in Preecha’s case, the “judges cited as prime evidence photos claimed to be of Preecha wearing a stocking cap taken by police officers in plainclothes and the fact that Preecha admitted that he was a red-shirt guard.”

That all seems like pretty flimsy evidence, but these are Thai courts. Given that the court acquitted the others for lack of evidence, we can only guess that that evidence is virtually non-existent.

Lawyers said those convicted would also appeal. Those acquitted were detained pending the state’s appeal.

In another Bangkok Post report the Civil Court ruled that “five leaders of anti-Thaksin [anti-democrat] groups [had] to pay more than 95 million baht for damages caused by occupying the Energy Ministry’s compound during a 2014 mass protest.”

A pittance in the scheme of things and a sentence designed for political impact rather than punishment.

The defendants were Rawee Maschamadol, Thotsaphon Kaewthima, Itthabun Onwongsa, Thawatchai Phromchan and Somkiat Pongpaiboon, the latter being a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

They led People’s Democratic Reform Committee protesters in actions that cut power to state offices and occupied state properties.

An appeal is likely.

The report adds:

In a similar case in 2015, the Appeal Court ordered 13 former co-leaders of the yellow-shirt PAD, to pay 522 million baht to Airports of Thailand after being found guilty of leading a number of demonstrators to close Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports during their protest in 2008.

Does any reader recall if any payment was made?





Things that make you think

15 01 2017

There lots of stuff that goes on in the junta’s Thailand that causes you to wonder and think about motivations and machinations.

PPT’s perusal of the Bangkok Post today produced two such moments.

The first Bangkok Post story had us wondering…

The first paragraph was pretty much palace propaganda-like, with the king reported as having “reiterated the importance of children, urging the government to enhance the education system as a key part of the country’s development…”.

Prayuth Puppetry

Who is the puppet?

That’s pretty standard. But then we learn that this is not the king speaking, but The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Speaking at a ceremony marking National Children’s Day, The Dictator becomes the voice of the king and explains an apparently close relationship:

“… the [k]ing told me many times to give priority to children both in terms of education and the country’s development. He also wants the government to enhance the discipline of Thai children, which will result in orderliness and knowledge development of Thai people….

That sounds a lot like Prayuth’s voice rather than the king’s.It does seem a little out of the ordinary for a premier to speaking for the monarch. Is Prayuth out of line? Or are he and the king best buddies?

Just for good measure, The Dictator invokes the dead king: “During the rest of my term in office, I want all Thais to do good to follow in the footsteps of the late monarch, who was always concerned about his people…”. That is more the invocation we are used to from prime ministers.

The second Bangkok Post story is a tale of two parties and had us thinking of double standards and political machinations.

The About Politics column reflects on the floods in the south.

(Naturally enough, these floods can’t be blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra was the case in 2011. This time the culprit is not a government or a party, but the weather.)

The story praises “recovery operations” and singles out the so-called Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation.

Who is the puppet?

Who is the puppet?

This is the “foundation” established by anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban, as a post-coup vehicle for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and others who temporarily or momentarily left the Democrat Party in order to engage in street activism to prevent elections and bring down an elected government.

Unlike the Puea Thai Party and red shirts, the Democrat Party and the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation have not been sued, harassed, arrested, jailed and suppressed by the junta. After all, they did a lot to foment the coup that brought the military thugs to power.

Suthep and other “key leaders of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have sprung into action, including Chitpas … Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi], Chumphol Julsai and Isara Somchai” have been active in the region.

Most important has been Witthaya Kaewparadai, described as “Suthep’s right-hand man in this operation.”

As is well known, Witthaya is a former Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat. This former MP is said to have been an asset in relief operation having “helped boost the efficiency of distribution of essential supplies.”

Like us, many readers will wonder at this. The junta doesn’t like “politicians” meddling in anything. But, then, Witthaya is also a “member of the coup-appointed [puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA),” and this “secures coordination among state agencies and the military which need a go-between to bring help to where it is needed.”

Readers are then told that:

Since the PDRC protests, Mr Witthaya has remained active in his constituency, but his focus has been on community work. He has founded a cycling club where members do the necessary legwork to keep fit and the brainwork by discussing problems facing their community. This cycling club is said to be the biggest in the region.

The reports goes on:Kissing soldiers

The Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation’s contribution to flood rescue and relief operations can be no less; most of the flood victims are the very same people who kept the group’s street protests going in Bangkok during 2013-2014.

In other words, the PRDC-Democrat Party are catering to their members and supporters.

Imagine what would happen if a former MP from Puea Thai who was also a red shirt was doing something similar in the north or northeast. Sedition charges would be pending!

We learn more about these double standards when the report states:

While the former PDRC leaders are out there working in flood relief operations, the Democrat Party which has a political stronghold in the region is helping quietly, staying out of the spotlight due to a political ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

But they are indeed working there, with the PDRC. An unnamed source says: “People think the PDRC and the Democrat Party are no different. It doesn’t matter who leads the flood relief efforts…”.

“Election” preparations and electioneering are permitted in the south. Indeed, the military and junta facilitate them.

Double standards? You bet.

These double standards are reinforced in another story, in the same column, about the problems facing Puea Thai.

The party has few resources left and former party MPs are complaining that they are being left to their own devices and resources, with little help from the party or the “party’s heavyweights.”

Party leaders are tied up in a myriad of legal actions – hundreds of them – brought by the junta.

The longer the junta delays an “election” – some now suggest 2020, only partly tongue-in-cheek – the worse it gets for Puea Thai. And don’t think the junta doesn’t know this. All the talk of cremations delaying the “election” or the king making changes will be used as excuses for no “election.” However, one thing the junta wants is for Yingluck Shinawatra’s case and related cases against Puea Thai to be concluded this year.

The junta believes these cases will cause the collapse of Puea Thai. Once that happens, the junta can better control the “election” outcome.





Accountability gone missing

13 11 2016

The Bangkok Post’s Achara Ashayagachat had a useful article a few days ago that we didn’t see until it appeared in the Myanmar Times. It was undoubtedly as resonant there as it was in Bangkok.

She begins by noting the “strength” of Thailand’s military dictatorship, despite “the serious problems that have rocked the country…”. For three years, the regime has been “without real political challenge…”.

Achara observes that the “regime’s strength is partly down to the fact that our society lacks genuine checks and balances.”

The “parliament” is the “coup-installed National Legislative Assembly” which is a puppet rubber stamp for the regime.

She says that “similar institutions, are not in a position to go after the leaders or any other military members.” We assume she means all of the so-called “independent agencies” which have been made regime tools.

In civil society, “[c]ivic groups and individuals that have campaigned for key issues in the name of democracy have faced threats and intimidation under Section 44.”

What happened to the much-hyped “middle class,” claimed by some to be a ballast for democracy? Achara refers to “the indifference on the part of the middle class, especially those who joined the shutdown campaign spearheaded by the then-People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) during the marathon protest against the Pheu Thai government in 2013-2014…”.

Baffled, Achara states: “It worries me that people, undoubtedly ultra-conservationists, have sold their democratic principles and become submissive, allowing the regime to get away with whatever it wants.”

Examples include corruption and nepotism in the regime. The anti-democrats campaigned against an elected government, complaining of corruption. When the military is corrupt, they seem to just shrug their shoulders and accept the corruption of “good people.”

“No one is held accountable…”.

The regime stumbles, fumbles, grabs lucrative positions and pockets cash, but “[n]o one seems to care…”.

No one seems bothered by double standards in law, in policy or in the regime’s copying of the very policy that the middle class claimed to “hate” and the military regime is prosecuting – the rice subsidy scheme.

Achara is also “sadden[ed]” by “seeing portions of the middle class trying to monopolise loyalty to the monarchy, and go on a rampage to indict people on lese majeste offences.” She refers to “fears that a vicious witch hunt is under way.”

Finally, she notes the dictatorship’s attacks on the media, where “the regime is only fond of the docile type.” Under pressure and sometimes as members of the regime-loving middle class, the media has generally toed the regime’s line. She writes of “obedient compliance.”

The result is a regime built on repression and double standards that is not subject to even a modicum of accountability.