The human rights farce that is the NHRC

29 09 2013

PPT and many others have long pointed to the failure of the National Human Rights Commission. Its political makeup and position is royalist and miltiarist, which means that it protects the “rights” of abusers and the “rights” of the state.

The head of the NHRC, Amara Pongsapich, not that long ago, stated that the Commission was bored with the criticism it had faced, all of it valid criticism: “We’ve been criticised too much already and do not want to be bothered any more.”

In recent days Phayao Akkahad, mother of volunteer medic Kamolkade, murdered during the 2010 crackdown on red shirts protests ordered by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has met with Amara to request that her Commission “push for a bail release for the Redshirts currently imprisoned for their alleged crimes during the protests.” Khaosod reports that she “pleaded” the bailing of the still detained red shirts.

She had to explain to the hopeless head of the NHRC that bail is a right under the constitution and should have bail in order to be able to prepare for their legal cases when they eventually come to court. She also pointed out that yellow shirts are always granted bail and have their cases conveniently postponed.

Hopeless Amara “promised Ms. Payao that the Commitee [NHRC] would look into the matter, and assuring her that it is within the ability of the NHRC to push for the prisoners′ release.” But she sounded oh so Abhisit when she declared: “the process would not cover all protesters, as those who ‘committed criminal acts’ would not be released.” Of course, yellow shirts charged with criminal acts walk free.

Why the Yingluck Shinawatra government has not bailed these remaining red shirts is a matter of conjecture. She and her cabinet and party deserves as much criticism as the failed NHRC for gutlessness on this matter.


Real amnesty?

19 07 2013

A few days ago at the Bangkok Post it was reported that relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown by the Army and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government on red shirts are to submit an alternative amnesty bill to parliament, which has six other amnesty bills to consider.

Phayao Akkahad, whose daughter Kamolkade was killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, said the relatives’ bill meant that: “People from all colours will be absolved of any offence they committed or had committed against against them, except for core leaders…”. The relatives’ bill will “seek to bring to justice those who made the decision” on the crackdown. It would also “allow judicial lawsuits to be pressed against persons or groups that killed people and/or damaged private property” and “does not prevent private entities whose properties were damaged in the unrest from launching civil suits against vandals or arsonists…”. Importantly, the relatives have specified “which actions, not persons, will be granted an amnesty…”.

The relatives have now submitted their draft bill to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

PPT thought this proposed bill made sense. Hence, we were somewhat surprised when, at The Nation, Democrat Party leader Abhisit was reported as being “prepared to back an amnesty bill proposed by relatives of the victims of the 2010 crackdown, provided the government withdraws all previous versions of the amnesty bill proposed to Parliament.”

But at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the reprehensible royalist added an important caveat: “the bill needed to make sure that those involved in corruption and offences against the monarchy are not included under the amnesty.”

Everyone knows that the corruption bit refers to Thaksin Shinawatra. But the monarchy bit is part of the never-ending project to re-energize a declining monarchy that royalists consider central to their world.

PPT wasn’t alone in its surprise, for the Democrat Party immediately came under heavy criticism from red shirt-hating royalists.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut was quick to dismiss “criticism that the party has supported an amnesty aimed at exonerating those involved in instigating public disturbances during the 2010 political violence.” He pointed out that his reading of the relatives’ bill was that it “clearly separates offences in violation of the emergency rule and minor offences during the 2010 unrest.”

Bright yellow unelected Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn attacked the Democrat Party and called for it “to clarify its stance on the people’s amnesty bill.” His reading of the bill is that it is “modelled on an amnesty bill proposed by the Nitirat group” and “seeks to grant an amnesty to offenders who violated Section 112 [lese majeste] and to those who set fire to government buildings.” Oops, the royalist whip has been cracked.

Chavanond had Abhisit and the Democrat Party immediately in reverse, saying “the party will not support an amnesty for these violations…”. In other words, Abhisit is not (now) supporting any reasonable amnesty bill, and neither is the Democrat Party.


Opposing impunity

3 06 2013

In one of our recent posts, PPT commented on the Army’s continuing efforts to maintain the impunity it has historically had when murdering its own citizens. One of the concerns amongst red shirt groups and others who saw family and friends gunned down in 2010 is that some of the proposed amnesty bills will result in political and military leaders being immune from prosecution. Unfortunately, this is a real possibility, and in recent days the families of some of those killed have spoken out.

At Khao Sod it is reported that Elisabetta, sister of murdered photo-journalist Fabio Polenghi has “expressed her opposition to any bill that will grant amnesty to those responsible of the military operation which resulted in her brother′s death.” She states she has particular concerns about a draft bill proposed by deputy premier Chalerm Yubamrung,

which would grant amnesty to all those involved in political cases from 2006 to 2010 including former PM Abhisit Vejjajeeva, who had been charged with murders for his role in ordering crackdown against the Redshirts; the military would also benefit from the amnesty.

She pleaded with ruling party parliamentarians, “insisting that absolving the authorities of their responsibility would destroy every effort she and other families of the victims had been putting into their quest for justice in the last 3 years.” She was not opposed to an amnesty for leaders once they had been convicted.

Elisabetta added that she supported an “amnesty bill that helped political prisoners who were jailed for their roles in the 2010 protests.”

An interesting footnote to the story is that Abhisit has contacted Elisabetta, seeking a meeting. She invited him to join her at the event this report comes from, but he declined.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, it is reported that relatives of some of the victims from 2010 have also expressed opposition to Chalerm’s draft bill and any others that grant amnesty to murderers. Nurse Kamolkade Akkahad was killed, and her family has been at the forefront of moves for accountabuility. Her brother Nattapat and mother Phayao held a press conference to express opposition. They “also called for the removal of Tarit Pengdith, head of the Department of Special Investigation, from its team probing the killings.”

Phayao expressed the family’s position:

first, they confirmed that they did not ignore people now imprisoned due to accusations during “Black May” protests in 1992 as they stated that they would support the people’s bill. Secondly, they reject both the National Reconciliation Bill and the Amnesty Bill, as they don’t want to see culprits get off without being punished for their actions. Thirdly, they said if the head of the DSI (Department of Special Investigation) remained, the truth would not be revealed. DSI chief Tarit Pengdith should resign, as Tarit was part of the Centre of Resolution for the Emergency Situation – and thus a suspect in terms of those responsible for killings.

Nattapat said the government and red-shirt leaders had ignored them: “We feel like being a political piece of meat, that we have no meaning to them – they’re just using us if they feel they want to.” He also said of the military: “I’m not afraid of you”.

Thaksin Shinawatra is on record as having “told his red-shirt followers he favours an amnesty bill that excludes not only protest leaders and those responsible for the crackdowns, but also himself.” If this was not more than a bit of political blarney, Thaksin needs to say it again and again. The state’s impunity must end.

Remembering 2010

19 05 2013

As another anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s army-led crackdown on red shirts is upon us, it is worth recalling that it is only a year or so ago that the Department of Special Investigation reported its investigations of the deaths.

DSI stated back then that state authorities “may be responsible for the deaths of at least 25 people…”.

Since then, while the DSI under the Yingluck Shinawatra has made some moves towards having Abhisit and Suthep Thaugsuban held responsible, it seems the army brass is again sitting in the world of unconscionable impunity (more on this below).

A series of recent reports reflect on the tragic events of 2010 and on the events since.

At the Red Shirts blog, it is reported that on 12 May 2013, a hearing finally:

took place at the Bangkok Criminal Court on the investigation and autopsy reports concerning 6 corpses found inside the Pathumwan Temple grounds. These victims were shot dead during the government suppression of the UDD protest on May 19, 2010.

Police investigators found bullet holes and:

reported that many more bullet holes could be found all over the temple grounds. Bullet holes were found on a metal sign in front of the temple, on the wall of the temple, on the advertisement sign under the BTS sky train, on the sky walk connecting the sky train stations, on the overpass and many more on the concrete platforms of the sky train.

Soldiers denied investigators access to the sky train tracks and the sky walk area.

Police ballistic analysis showed “23 bullet holes found on the temple grounds and Rama 1 Road …indicated that these shots had been fired from a higher angle and definitely not from a horizontal line of fire.” There was no evidence reported of shots from inside the temple.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the “parents of a boy who was killed as security forces moved in to clear the Ratchaprasong area … claim …  not enough is being done to find the people responsible for their son’s death.”

Pansak Srithep, was the father of 17-year-old Samapan, his only son. Samapan was killed on Ratchaprarop Road, where several people were shot dead. Pansak said “it has been draining for him and other families of those killed during the unrest to struggle to find witnesses willing to appear in court.”

Pansak “wants the government … to do more to help, and said investigators could do more to help with the court cases.” He claimed the Yingluck government “lacked the will to help…”.

The Bangkok Post states that there are currently “37 cases are at the initial inquest stage,” while “[a]nother 15 cases, including the death of Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto and six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram, are at a stage where authorities are still determining if the security forces were responsible.” Another four cases “are awaiting a decision from prosecutors as to whether they will proceed,” and five others, “including that of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdiphol, known as Seh Daeng,” are at initial stages of police investigation.

The family of Kamolkate Akkahad, a medic shot at Wat Pathum Wanaram, are “also dismayed by the slow progress…”. They “will not join the main [official red shirt] stage during the event on Sunday.”army-snipers

At Prachatai it is reported that on 29 April, “the Criminal Court began an inquest into the deaths of Mana Saenprasoetsi and Phonsawan Nakhachai who were shot at Bon Kai on Rama IV Rd on 15 May 2010…”. They were two of 16 killed at this location, where video evidence shows army operations, including snipers.

Mana “was fatally shot in the back of the head near the mouth of Soi Ngam Duplee … while he was trying to help people who had been shot there.” Phonsawan, who was assisted by Mana later succumbed to his stomach gunshot wound.

Mana’s  mother Naree stated he was shot “while holding a red-cross flag in his hand”and helping two others who had been shot.

Soon after his death, the authorities (mis)used photos of Mana to justify actions that took place some distance from where he was shot.

Another story at the Bangkok Post directs attention to red shirt dissent on the Puea Thai government’s amnesty push:

Some red shirts see the proposal championed by Deputy Premier Chalerm Yubamrung as a betrayal because it would cover senior Democrat Party figures who were in government when the military crackdown on the Bangkok rally took place three years ago Sunday.

Of course, the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra lot oppose amnesty as a move to bring the man home. Thaksin is due to address supporters via videolink this weekend.

As PPT has stated several times, a blanket amnesty “would simply perpetuate the culture of impunity in Thailand, where senior figures rarely take responsibility for anything…”. The report adds:

Prominent scholars have been criticising the Pheu Thai flip-flop in social media forums. They include Nitirat Group core member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul; Thammasat University scholars Kasian Tejapira and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Hard-core red-shirt activists Nithiwat Wannasiri, Jittra Kotchadet and Suda Rungkuphan also oppose the Chalerm plan.

 They say the party is betraying the red-shirt rank and file, as if a hundred deaths and a thousand injuries were simply the price to pay for the party’s compromise with the old establishment for the sake of its own survival.

PPT reiterates that those responsible for the murder of civilians must be brought to justice as an important step to rooting out the culture of impunity that state officials and the military has when murdering civilians.

Targeting Tharit

4 01 2013


The story at The Nation on Phayao Akkahad, mother of the murdered medic Kamolkade Akkahad going after Department of Special Investigation chief, Tharit Pengdit is telling for its clarity and precision.

Kamolkade was probably killed by Army shooters, who shot her five times, as she tended to wounded at Wat Pathum Wanaram as the Abhisit Vejjajiva government cleared red shirt protesters in May 2010. Phayao states that Tharit, a member of the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), which was responsible for ordering the crackdown, “cannot be absolved from his responsibility for the people killed in … 2010…”. As the report has it, “Payao explained that if other CRES members were found guilty, there is no reason why Tarit should not be held responsible as well.”

Phayao wants the Yingluck Shinawatra government to remove Tharit and “complained that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then-deputy Suthep Thaugsuban were not detained like other red shirts when the DSI accused them of having the intention to murder in relation to the 2010 crackdown.”

Finally, she wants “all Army officers involved in ordering and carrying out the alleged shooting of protesters in 2010 should also be prosecuted.” She is correct when she observes that: “If we don’t prosecute soldiers now, then they will end up engaging in such ‘operations’ again and again…”.

Intimidating the relatives of the dead

7 09 2012

As we recently posted, Asia Provocateur (Andrew Spooner) has moved. His first post there deserves attention.

He reports that , the mother of murdered medic , and a campaigner for justice for her daughter and others killed during the events of April and May 2010, is receiving threats. It is explained that: “Payao told me this morning that she has been harassed continually since 2010 but that the tone of the harassment is becoming ‘more aggressive’.”

… with some callers even claiming to be Thai Army officers. The call I received on 3rd September threatened to murder my whole family if I didn’t stop pursuing justice for the death of my daughter. The second call was this morning [7th September], it sounded like the same man, and repeated the same threats. But this time he sounded very angry and became abusive.


With a major update: Some red shirts bailed/ICC case

25 06 2012

Some readers may have missed a report buried in the Bangkok Post that makes two critical points.

First, it states that “a court in Mukdahan agreed … to release 13 jailed red shirts on bail of 2 million baht each.” They should be released today as the “Rights and Liberties Protection Department and the Lawyers Council of Thailand will put up 26 million baht…”.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said:

the department and the lawyers’ council would also earmark funds to seek bail for 18 other red-shirt protesters who are in jail for similar offences in Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Maha Sarakham. The lawyers’ council will also proceed with a bail request for 14 other red-shirt suspects detained in Bangkok.

Then there is this cryptic note: “Authorities have yet to decide whether they will seek bail for suspects accused of defaming the monarchy…”, citing the minister.

The second note states:

Tida Tawornseth, chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, said yesterday she would go to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands on Tuesday to tell the international community via the court that there were plots to kill people in April and May 2010, referring to the crackdowns on red-shirt protesters.

Both notes are worthy of more attention and should readers have more information, please email us:

Update: The Nation includes a report on the continuing efforts at the International Criminal Court. It reports the mother of slain nurse Kamolkade Akkahad will provide a statement to a prosecutor at the ICC in the Hague. Phayao Akkahad’s daughter was murdered at the Pathum Wanaram temple. Recent reports and most of the evidence suggests that Army shooters killed Kamolkade on 19 May 2010.

It seems that the ICC is investigating the complaint lodged on behalf of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship in January 2011.  However, it seems clear that the ICC has not yet accepted the case.

Phayao, who said “she did not care about the amnesty law,”  stated:

I’m going there as a victim who had to face the loss. I want to give the information to the prosecutor, as my daughter should not have died at the event. Didn’t the Red Cross sign mean anything to the (Thai) state officials? My daughter was a volunteer. She graduated in nursing. I will speak via a translator without a script….

She added: “The government must care about people’s feelings. The justice process must go on so the cases go to court. Don’t just let the people forget it…”.

The report notes that red-shirt leaders Weng Tojirakarn and Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn were also traveling to The Hague.

Updated: Prayuth as tough guy

26 05 2012

Was there anyone who didn’t know that Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha had no regrets about the deaths of civilian red shirt demonstrators in 2010? Probably not. But just to confirm his position, the Bangkok Post reports that Prayuth “has rejected a call by the mother of a volunteer medic killed during the political violence in 2010 for him to apologise.”

PPT was sure that Prayuth would do this. He has shown no remorse; indeed, his position has been hard and unsympathetic to red shirts from the beginning. We assume he hates every one of them.

Responding to Phayao Akkahad, mother of volunteer nurse Kamolkate who was shot and killed inside Wat Pathum Wanaram on May 19, Prayuth declared that as he “had already expressed his condolences to those directly affected by the political violence from March to May in 2010,” so there was nothing else for him to do.

As usual, the loudmouthed general managed to bellow that: “… among the victims were soldiers. Is there anyone who wants to apologise to them?” He apparently “insisted soldiers were simply doing their job during the operations.”

In a truly unfortunate sense that’s true as the Army has, over several decades, repeatedly gunned down civilians and had impunity for its murderous ways.

Update: A reader points out that PPT should mention one attempt to assess the military’s murder toll in its efforts to defeat political opponents. The PDF 60 Years of Oppression and Suppression in Thailand is a compilation of political assassinations and extra-judicial killings since 1947.

Puea Thai failing red shirts on justice II

28 04 2012

In the first part of this post PPT outlined red shirt challenges to Yingluck Shinawatra’s Puea Thai government as the government has shown amoebic political backbone as it betrays basic notions of justice and announces its political decision to capitulate to the royalist elite. We continue that story here.

It seems that Yingluck is, if not deaf to red shirt criticism, then conveniently hard of hearing, for she and three of her deputies slithered off to visit Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

At The Nation it is reported that Yingluck “requested permission to consult … Prem … in the future on affairs of state…”. No, not hard of hearing, but deaf and dumb.

Photo from The Nation

Yingluck apparently met Prem for about 15 minutes with her three deputies and then was treated another 30 minutes with the grand old almost-devaraja.

Readers will be pleased to know that the “elder statesman smiled while sending off his visitors…”. But what was he thinking?

There was a lone protester outside Prem’s free digs. He carried a placard “calling for action over the deaths of 91 people killed during the 2010 unrest and riots. Police asked him to leave and there was no outbreak of violence.” No outbreak of violence? PPT imagines that the only violence would have been if authorities beat him up. What sort of “reporting” is this?

After the visit, Yingluck apparently really was dumb, refusing to answer “a reporter’s question on whether her meeting with Prem went well. She simply smiled and waved cheerfully to reporters while walking away.” But waht was she thinking?

According to one of the deputies, “Yingluck had told him she had offered more government assistance to Prem’s charity projects, including those aimed at residents of the deep South.” More taxpayer’s money down the drain, this time just for an almost royal rather than a real one.

Just like a royal, “General Prem gave his blessing to the prime minister and wished her good health. He also asked her to take good care of the people…”. And the royalist reckoned that Thaksin sought to act like a royal!

Of course, the deputy dolts continued to claim that the meeting “had no political significance.”

Perhaps they mean that focusing on Thaksin Shinawatra’s recall to the royalist elite after 6 years in the sin bin isn’t in any way political, just personal.

Puea Thai failing red shirts on justice I

27 04 2012

It is well-known that lese majeste detainees and convicts have been effectively abandoned by the Puea Thai government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. The government has shown no political backbone on the existing cases. But others are now being betrayed – along with basic notions of justice – as Puea Thai gets cosy with the royalist elite.

At The Nation a group of relatives of a slain medical volunteer are planning to ensure that political amnesia is prevented in their search for justice.

Phayao and son Nattapat Akkhad are campaigning not just for their daughter and sister who was gunned down by Army troops at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, but all those who lost their lives during the Battle for Bangkok.

On Thaksin Shinawatra’s call for “national reconciliation,” Phayao says: “We have sacrificed enough. It cost the life of a child…”. Further, “[h]er son went on to say that Thaksin should not be using people’s lives as a bargaining chip for his amnesty.” And they have a message for “then-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and the Army:

Politicians make mistakes. When they have made a mistake and it led to the loss of lives, they should take responsibility like a man … they are already suspects in society.

Phayao and two other families “are still actively pursuing justice.” They are not getting any help from the Puea Thai government, but are resolute:

Our fight is about setting a precedent. Those who ordered the killings must be taken to justice and serve their penalties. The truth can reveal who the mastermind was and who had carried out [the killings]. If you ask me if the country would move forward once the truth is uncovered, I would say yes! Nobody has been punished [for killing protesters in the past], but this time they must be punished….

Phayao said that “she and her son would keep a watchful eye on the issue and be ready to stand in opposition if the administration fails to find justice for those killed in 2010.”

At the Bangkok Post, the story is a little different, with Phayao quoted as stating that:

it was indecent for parliamentarians to ask the red shirts to forget what happened. It’s ridiculous that some MPs are suggesting to us to let bygones be bygones and that [red shirts] should help move the country forward….

She “rebutted the notion that the red shirt movement was divided as the Yingluck government appeared to be leaning toward Gen Prem [Tinsulanonda].”

What might be missed in understanding the significance of this challenge to the Puea Thai government is contained in a separate Bangkok Post report, as “[a]bout 200 red shirt supporters and political prisoners advocates gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection yesterday to commemorate the 27th birthday of … [Kamolkade]…”. It is pointed out that:

The gathering, held on the footpath opposite the Police General Hospital, coincided with the meeting between the Yingluck cabinet members and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.

Phayao, speaking for the group, read a four-point demand:

  • the government grant amnesty to political offenders since the Sept 19, 2006 coup;
  • speed up investigation into the killings of more than 90 people during the April/May 2010 crackdowns on red shirt demonstrators;
  • pay compensation to those affected by the political demonstrations since the Sept 19 coup; and
  • follow the recommendations of the Nitirat group which called for all judicial decisions that were a consequence of the coup to be nullified.

The post continues to look at Yingluck’s political decision to announce the s apparent capitulation of her government, party and family to the power of the royalist elite.

%d bloggers like this: