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.





Further updated: Lese majeste after the reign

18 10 2016

It looks like there is to be no let up in the use of lese majeste. Both Matichon and Thai Rath report that “Justice” Minister Paiboon Khumchaya, who is yet another General, is looking at royalist mobs and thinking that this provides him with license to (again) seek out and prosecute persons deemed unduly critical of the king, even if they are overseas. The General seems to imply that, in addition to making representations through diplomatic channels, overseas “offenders” may be tracked by “agents.”

One of the cases he seems to refer to is in Phuket. One report, in the Phuket Gazette, refers to lese majeste charges being laid against Suthee Arammetapong. He was one of the people chased down by royalist mobs after the king’s death. Prachatai has a similar story. Yet its report states:

… Pol Maj Gen Teeraphon Thipcharoen, Commander of Phuket Police [arrived], with about 30 police officers and soldiers arrived at the scene and attempted to pacify the crowd [mob].

He told the crowd that the Facebook message does not seem to violate Article 112 directly, adding the police could make an arrest when the allegation is investigated and seems sufficiently substantiated and after the court grants an arrest warrant for the suspect.

Dissatisfied, the mob wanted lese majeste blood. The report states that “the crowd agreed to disperse after the intervention of Surathin Lien-udom, former key leader of the [anti-democratic] People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)…”. He gathered up “four people from the mob to Mueang Phuket Police Station to file a lèse majesté complaint against the accused.”

That accusation is now being investigated.

Vigilantism and state repression seem required for a nation that now views all as black and white.

Update 1: Vigilantism is swelling in Thailand. Rightist foreigners associated with the Democrat Party and the broad anti-democratic movement are calling for harassment of foreign journalists. By far the most despicable case is the beating and humiliation of a 19 year-old worker in Chonburi.

Not only was the vicious mob attack livestreamed over Facebook, but it is clear that his employer – Thai Steel Cable – first alerted the mob to the alleged lese majeste by the young man and then told the mob where to locate him. The company sacked him and the company’s HR manager stated that he “would want to beat the crap out of him…”.

A photo later circulated on social media showed Jirawat in the back of a police vehicle, but the officer in charge of the case would not discuss the case other than to say police are investigating it.

Khaosod reports that “[n]one of the vigilantes involved in these incidents is known to be under criminal investigation for any crimes.” In other words, vigilantism is promoted and condoned, including by Minister Paiboon.

Update 2: The Nation reports on these matters. One notable paragraph states:

Overseas commentators are also being monitored. Minister in the PM’s Office Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said the government had noted six social media users who live abroad making inappropriate comments online. The government would use intelligence and security agencies to deal with them, said Suwaphan, who is also a secretary to the command centre monitoring the situation.





Finishing off Puea Thai

14 08 2016

Now that the military dictatorship has pushed through its constitution in a period of deep political repression, the next phase in the military’s roadmap (our use of the term, not their use) is to politically cripple or eliminate the “Thaksin regime.”

As demanded by the anti-democrats, much has already been achieved by the regime in this direction. However, as the junta prepares for an election, it will seek killer blows.

Yingluck Shinawatra is likely to be jailed and/or subjected to crippling fines. A swathe of other court cases are grinding on, and the political repression of Puea Thai Party politicians and red shirt sympathizers is likely to deepen.

Most recently, as the Bangkok Post reports, the politicized National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has come up with a scheme to know out dozens of former Puea Thai MPs in one go.

It is reported that the NACC is “set to investigate a group of 40 former Pheu Thai Party MPs who tabled a controversial 2013 amnesty bill for abuse of authority…”.

Of course, the idea that MPs can be held to be corrupt for introducing a bill to parliament is absurd. But this is The Dictator’s anti-democratic Thailand.

That the bill was never passed by parliament and was withdrawn makes the absurd into something more … what’s crazier than absurd? We are lost for a description that is adequate.

Apparently, the “inquiry panel,” was set up in response to “complaints from the Democrat Party before the May 22, 2014 coup…”.

At the time, the anti-democratic Democrat Party was working with the anti-democratic street protests led by “former” members of the party. It was their provocations and vandalism of parliament and the rule of law that led to the military coup.

According to the report:

The 40 former MPs have been accused of abuse of authority when they signed in support of the amnesty bill and put forward the bill for deliberation by the House of Representatives during the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra.

They include Mr Worachai [Hema], who proposed the original bill, and Tasanee Buranupakorn, vice-president of the Chiang Mai provincial administrative organisation and former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai.

Tasanee was “arrested last month for her alleged involvement in letters containing allegedly distorted information on the draft charter discovered in Chiang Mai during raids.”

Expect more of this as the regime sets out to ensure that it and its proxies win any election the junta decides to hold. As with the charter referendum, the repression is likely to render any election illegitimate.





Election Commission thuggery I

11 06 2016

A couple of days ago we posted on anti-democrat and anti-election Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn and his self-contradictory claims about constitution and referendum songs.

The clownish Somchai said the the EC’s ditty, that denigrated northerners and northeasterners in terms that echo of the infamous “uneducate” and “red buffalo” taunts of the military-backed and supported anti-democrat People’s Democratic Reform Committee, was just fine. He declared that “people are sometimes too sensitive and pay attention to trivial issues.”

Almost in the same breathe, he then damned another ditty, available on YouTube, charging that the “clip is … using rude words and influencing people in how to vote in the referendum.” He declared that the EC was after those responsible for the clip – the anti-coup Resistant Citizen group. Apparently, the EC and puppet Somchai was not “too sensitive” and that this was not a “trivial issue.”

Double standards? You bet! But puppets like Somchai can’t see this because, as well as being groveling bootlickers, they are not interested in law, logic or justice but loyalty, hierarchy and class privilege.

Prachatai reports that the junta’s EC thugs have been thwarted in their initial efforts to attack Resistant Citizen’s and the more than 20 people involved, including “Anon Nampa, Sirawit Serithiwat, Sombat Boonngamanong, Parit Chiwarak and Nattapat Akhad,” who are seen in the video.

Key members of Resistant Citizen, a well-known anti-junta activists group, and other leading pro-democracy activists might be charged with Computer Crime Act over performing in a music video on the draft constitution referendum.

Somchai has wallowed in sorrow as he revealed “that from the investigation the video clip was posted on YouTube from the first time on 13 April 2016, which was before the Draft Refere[du]m Act was enacted.” Much to his disappointment, this means that the “people involved in its production and those who posted the video for the first time will not be charged with the Draft Referendum Act.” That is, under the Referendum law that is meant to speed the junta’s military charter to a vote without citizens hearing any detailed criticisms.

But such legal barriers are not about to hold back determined anti-democrats like Somchai. He knows that the law is simply a tool for the junta and its minions to use in repressing opposition.

He gleefully announced that they “might instead be charged under the 2007 Computer Crime Act or for violating the orders and announcements of the National Council for Peace and Order …[he means the military junta] instead.”

Somchai also threatened thousands of others, saying that those who had shared the music video after 23 April 2016 “might be charged for violating the referendum act…”.

The military’s thugs are everywhere, threatening, oppressing and suppressing.

 





Two years of military dictatorship

22 05 2016

There has been quite a torrent of articles assessing the two years that have passed since the illegal seizure of power by the military junta that continues to rule Thailand. So much so, that PPT doesn’t feel the need to add to the tragic and dark story. Rather, we’ll link to a number of the recent stories that have appeared.

The Bangkok Post has had a series of lengthy articles assessing the junta and the past two years. One of them is about the treatment of political dissidents, where the Post refers to “hundreds” of arrests and cases “that reflect the …[junta’s] efforts to suppress freedom of expression.” There’s plenty more that readers can track back through recent issues.

Khaosod has an assessment of what it says were eight promises made by The Dictator when he “unveiled his policy objectives to his rubber stamp parliament shortly after it named him prime minister, his speech took nearly two hours.” It’s a mixed bag, but we regret that elections are not mentioned. That’s a big promise that was in a supposed “road map” that gets altered as often as the junta feels necessary. A second Khaosod article, this one by Pravit Rojanaphruk, advises that no one should believe the junta.

The Asia Foundation has found its voice. Back in 2006, it was supportive of the coup. This time it seems to take a different view. Here’s a snippet from the conclusion:

While speculation points to a variety of plausible scenarios, the deepest worry is that little will change whatever the referendum result. If the constitution passes, the NCPO may be in no rush to enact the extensive body of election and other “organic laws” that must be in place before an election is held. Alternative scenarios include public rejection of the charter, setting the country on an uncharted course of continued military rule, or cancellation of the referendum by the NCPO if the military leaders sense growing public unrest in the lead-up to August 7. Sadly, none of these prospective outcomes ensures Thailand’s release from the stubborn grip of authoritarianism and guided democracy – a prospect that seemingly weighs in a climate of creeping malaise and dwindling hope that observers sense among Thais across all strata of society – a mood that some observers suggest may portend unrest.

Global Risk Insights is a publication that looks at political risk news and analysis. It has turned its eye to Thailand and lists three near term risks: Yingluck Shinawatra’s show trial, the death of the king and succession and the referendum on the military’s charter.

The Southeast Asia Globe talks to some academics who are often also commentators. No one could really argue with the final statement from one of them: “Thailand is going backwards.” In a similar vein, Australia’s New Matilda looks at Thailand and Cambodia, apparently in lock-step on the authoritarian road.

AP has a useful account of “Why Junta Rules Thailand, With No End in Sight.” It observes that the “coup really was traditional ruling elite’s latest and most decisive intervention in what is now a decadelong war for political power with billionaire telecommunications tycoon-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra.” It concludes: “Thailand’s ruling generals have made clear they are not planning to yield control anytime soon. Initial plans to hold an election in 2015 were deferred until 2016, and are now deferred again until 2017.” And, as we know, this deferral may be extended even further.

AP has another story where they get opinions from various persons seems as somehow representative of particular interests. The one we found most revealing was from palace-connected coup supporter and wealthy businessman William Heinecke. It reflects that fact that most royalists and pretty much all of big business remain firmly behind the junta:

There certainly has been change. Bangkok if we remember correctly was almost at a standstill. No one could vote, an election couldn’t take place, traffic was blocked, protests were ongoing. So we’ve seen a return to stability. And that’s always good for business…. When you see instability on the streets, and in the mass media worldwide, it affects our business in every possible way. There’s a lack of confidence, there’s a lack of tourists, the economy was being strangled.

I think we’ve seen a return to normalized business. I think there has been significant improvement. To me, I know of no one that’s concerned about the protection of their rights — in terms of living peacefully, going about their business. Yes, if you say, ‘Do I have the right to rally in the streets?’ you may not, but to me that’s less critical than it is to make sure we can all continue with business and to make sure we can provide education for our kids…. Is it perfect? I’m sure it’s not. Is it better than it was? I think it is.

In contrast to this exceptionally wealthy capitalist and anti-democrat, Prachatai has a series of interviews with others who were outspoken in the anti-democrat movement of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Environmentalist Prasitchai Noonual joined the PDRC and opposed projects that “favoured investors but would be harmful to the local environment.” Back then on the PDRC stage he declared:  “Today, we are carrying out a significant mission to uproot the Thaksin regime…”. Now he says “he has realized that he was wrong, since the junta has favoured foreign investors to an even greater extent … allowing investors to build anywhere and ignore the surrounding communities.” Recognizing that he was a political ninny, he says: “the junta is much worse [than Thaksin-dominated governments] because people were able to stop some government projects during Thaksin’s time, but never under the junta.” Supat Hasuwannakit is a medical doctor and activist who worked with the PDRC. He says:

Two years later … people are now fed up with the junta but they don’t dare to express their anger due to the intensive suppression of free speech. This anger, however, will manifest itself in the August referendum, meaning that people show their approval or disapproval of the junta through the ballot box.  …[P]ublic assembly is how the people bargain with the state, but that is hardly possible under the junta…. Let’s hold an election now. We’re sick of the junta. At least under an elected government, we can criticize, express ideas, and negotiate. Doing such things is very difficult under the junta…. This is a big lesson for all Thai people, that we might despair of representative democracy but a coup d’état is absolutely not an option in any way.

From this, we presume Supat must never have read a book about military authoritarianism or studied the role of the military in Thailand. That’s also true of student anti-democrat Thatchapong Kaedam who seems to remain a ninny:

After observing the junta administration for two years, Thatchapong told Prachatai that he was disappointed because it has failed to deliver what it promised to the public – that it would reform the country before an election. According the draft charter, it is obvious that reform will happen after the election. Moreover, the reforms will be carried out by an unelected government and junta-appointed political bodies, not by the people or civil society.

“Back then, I always believed that a coup d’état would never happen again in this country. One had just happened in 2006 so I thought the military would not do it again. But of course, I was disappointed…”. Thatchapong added that the junta’s intimidation of ordinary people will heat up political conflict. It is, however, not a conflict between the red shirts and the yellow shirts, but rather between the people and the dictatorial regime.

Boonyuen Siritham is a former senator and appeared on the PDRC stage. Her networks have suffered under the junta, so she has an altered view: “We use to call the former PM ‘the dumb girl’ but I’m not sure whether we now have a dumber PM or not, since our lives have more suffering than during the dumb girl’s government…”. We can’t help but observe that many “activists” simply personalize politics. Big pictures and grand ideas seem to rank lower in politics for them.

In all of this it is noticeable that it is Channel NewsAsia that reminds its readers that this military junta has blood on its hands. The report is of the failure of justice for the victims of the 2010 crackdown on red shirt protesters and reminds us that the “military’s leaders also stated they would bring about reconciliation while in power.” We doubt any red shirts ever believed this. Indeed, the junta has gone out of its way to deepen the political divide by targeting red shirts and the Puea Thai Party.

And, we should not forget the academic “media.” As we noted a couple of weeks ago, the Journal of Contemporary Asia has a special issue on Thailand’s authoritarian turn. Two of the articles are for free download.





Updated: Intimidation intensifies

27 04 2016

The military dictatorship appears to have moved into a period of even deeper repression and intimidation. Part of this has to do with the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra. Some of it has to do with the junta cracking down on widespread opposition to it charter and its anti-democratic intent. And there may be other motivations that have to do with junta fears.

We can’t post on all of the reports of this new and deepening intimidation. Rather, we provide a listing of recent reports. It quite a list over just a week. The pattern is clear. As Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk stated that a “climate of fear” is “growing in the country ahead of the referendum.” He added that the “junta is mobilising state machinery and everything is being used to promote the draft constitution while people who oppose the draft are being targeted…”.

In fact, as we will show below, as bad as this is, in fact, the intimidation is broader than this.

The junta has threatened Bencharat Sae Chua, a lecturer of Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. The lecturer is distributing information for a vote against the military’s draft charter has been threatened with Section 61 of the Referendum Act of 2016. This could mean up to 10 years in jail.

Puea Thai Party members have been targeted. It is reported that some 300 police and soldiers searched the homes of two politicians among others in Nakhon Sawan, accusing them of being “influential” figures. The military barred reporters from the houses they searched.

Earlier today it was reported that at least four people were abducted by the military in the early hours of the morning. Two men were abducted in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The four are accused of being red shirts.

Within a couple of hours, the number abducted by the military rose to eight, with the military then saying they held 10 persons. Two of those abducted worked closely with red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan. Of the 10, eight were taken in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The two in Khon Kaen were accused by the military of “belonging to the New Democracy Group and the Resistant Citizen Group led by Anon Kampa.”  Activists called for protests.

At least some of those arrested seem to have been subject to complaints by the hopelessly biased puppet Election Commission. It  filed its first charges under the new referendum law that criminalizes political commentary. The charges were against a Facebook group for posting “foul and strong” comments criticizing the military’s draft constitution. The puppet EC claimed that the Facebook page had used “aggressive, harsh and rude language to urge readers to vote against the draft constitution to be put to a public vote Aug 7.”

Earlier, it was reported that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan stated that both the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the red shirts were under investigation for “announcing their stands on the draft constitution.” So far we can find no evidence of action against the PDRC.

A couple of days ago, the military “indicted six activists for demanding an investigation into the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal.” Those indicted are reported to be “Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from New Democracy Movement, Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and core leader of Resistant Citizen, Kititach Suman, Wisarut Anupoonkarn, Koranok Kamda and Wijit Hanhaboon…”.

Last week, in Udon Thani, soldiers intimidated anti-mine activists ahead of a planned forum on the environmental effects of a potash mine in the province.

Around the same time, Watana Muangsook complained that “certain people pressured the Charoen Pokphand Company (CP), one of the biggest conglomerates in Asia run by the family of his former wife, to convince Weerada Muangsook, his daughter, to leave the country.”

In the south, the military has summoned the leader of a sea nomad community on Rawai Beach in Phuket, to a military camp. There he was intimidated by the military who accused of violating a junta order which gives almost absolute power to soldiers with the rank of sub-lieutenant upwards to maintain national security.

Update: Members of the Neo-Democracy Movement and the Resistant Citizen group organized a protest against the arrests at the Victory Monument.Police grabbed and detained 16 of the protesters at the Phaya Thai police station. They were detained for protesting by standing still in a group.





More anti-democrat support for the junta

25 04 2016

The anti-democrats associated with the Democrat Party seem to be throwing their support behind the military junta. The pathetic Abhisit Vejjajiva mumbled something about the draft charter having  undemocratic elements but, as usual, didn’t say if he supported the charter. No surprise there.

Also not surprising is the support of Suthep Thaugsuban. He speaks for many in the official Democrat Party and for the broader flock of anti-democrats.Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in Bangkok

The Bangkok Post reports that Suthep, now chairman of the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation (the residue of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee), “has declared support for the draft constitution, saying it is suitable for the current situation in the country.”

In other words, Suthep and his followers are fully supportive of the military-dictated constitution, prepared by a puppet drafting body which, if passed in an illegitimate referendum, promises to remove virtually all the hallmarks of a democratic constitution. No surprise there.

Suthep was speaking at a press conference. Yes, we know, such public campaigning is meant to be banned under the junta, but it deals only in double standards.

According to the report, Suthep “was full of praise for the draft charter…”. For Suthep, the draft charter, provides “a way out without requiring another coup if a similar crisis as in the past occurred.” In other words, the charter will embed military supervision and control for years to come, backed up by interventionist and elite institutions such as the judiciary.

In essence, Suthep feels that the Thailand is better under an authoritarian regime. He praised the appointment of senators and the likelihood of an unelected premier.

The junta will be pleased.