Updated: PAD, police and courts

26 08 2010

Ever so slowly, the cases against People’s Alliance for Democracy, including the one we posted on recently, are inching forward. Like pulling teeth, some 79 PAD leaders are due to finally appear that the Crime Suppression Division to answer charges related to the siege of the two Bangkok airports in 2008. The same report in the Bangkok Post implies that the civil case against PAD’s airports’ occupation, brought by the Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited is moving ahead. No predictions on outcomes.

One of the interesting aspects of the Post report is that the police are expecting PAD supporters to show up at the CSD. Presumably that emergency decree for red shirts cannot be applied to the yellow clad one….

Update: The Nation reports on the event as PAD leaders including Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang attended the CSD. Sondhi seemed convinced that this was the beginning of a very long process:  “I come today to give my statement to police as I have been charged for terrorism and myriad offences – this is going to be a long story…”. He said the though the police were trying to frame him. Sondhi alos claimed that some PAD leaders would refuse to report to the police. According to the Bangkok Post, only 59 of the 79 reported to police, although 5 had reported before the due date. All those who reported denied all charges.

In another Bangkok Post story (which includes a photo gallery), Sondhi said “he will file both criminal and civil lawsuits against Pol Lt-Gen Somyos Phumphanmuang, an assistant police chief who is in charge of the case against PAD co-leaders and supporters involving the blockade of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in late 2008.”

Only about 100 PAD supporters “in multi-coloured shirts” turned up to support their leaders.

Other PAD leaders who showed up included: Somkiat Pongpaibul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Maleerat Kaewka, Saranyu Wongkrachang and Anchalee Paireerak.

What has happened to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya?

Thai Airways and PAD

9 12 2009

It is a busy news day, and PPT hopes that readers will click back through the stories we are posting. The Nation has a rash of quite bizarre op-eds and reports in its 10 December issue, with the op-ed writers being more frenzied in their anti-red shirt tales than usual.

In this post, though, we half wonder if there is a tiny connection between two of their stories.

The first, widely-reported story, is of Thai Airways International seeking civil damages of 575 million baht from the leaders of the People’s Alliance of Democracy (PAD) for their occupation of Bangkok’s airports last year (10 December 2009: “THAI seeks Bt670m in compensation from PAD leaders”). The Aeronautical Radio of Thailand filed another case against Chamlong and 13 others seeking more than 103 million baht.

The cases name PAD core leaders including Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Phipob Dhongchai, Somsak Kosaisuk, Somkiat Pongpaiboon and Kasit Piromya. Somkiat is a serving Democrat Party parliamentarian and Kasit is Democrat Party foreign minister. Their first hearing is scheduled for 22 February, but dates slip.

For example, last year, “one day after the PAD seized the airports, the Airports of Thailand Company filed a civil case against 12 leaders of the group seeking Bt150 million in damages,” but nothing much has happened. Meanwhile, the “police officer in charge of investigating criminal charges against the PAD leaders said yesterday the probe was almost complete and that the investigators were analysing recordings of protest leaders addressing the crowds. A year on and little is changed in the police department.

It might be speculated that Thai Airways moved, at the very last opportunity, because the official investigations are going nowhere.

The second story at The Nation (10 December 2009: “Has THAI chairman lost his luggage?”) has Thai Airways International executive board chairman Wallop Bhukkanasut is being accused of malfeasance and abuse of his position. The claims are from the airline’s union, which was strong  in support of PAD and reportedly facilitated the airport occupations. The speculation is that this story is an internal board conflict at the airline, with Wallop on a different side from the new company president Piyasvasti Amranand.

That’s probably the story, but the coincidence is interesting to say the least.

Update: We found this comment from a reader interesting and want to pass it on to our readers: “Let’s not forget that the new THAI president, Piyasvasti Amranand, is a political appointee: his wife is a Democrat Party MP, and his period in the sun as head of NEPO (the National Energy Policy Office) was largely under Dep PM Savit Bhodhivihok of the Democrats.  And furthermore, he has major issues with Thaksin because Thaksin more or less fired him from NEPO, due to policy disagreements (Thaksin wanted a unified and strong EGAT, Piyasvasti wanted the English model of many mini EGATs).  Piyasvasti has been floundering in various senior private and quasi-government sector appointments so far, and this is by far his most significant appointment.  Due to this back history, I suspect that if not for significant foreign shareholdings of THAI’s stock, the airport hijacking issue would be swept under the carpet.”

PAD and the Democrats aligned

7 11 2009

The Bangkok Post (8 November 2009: “Cancel other pacts, financial aid projects to Cambodia, PAD urges”) again shows how PAD and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government come together. Leaving aside the direct linkages through dual memberships, this article has PAD calling on the government to cancel all its agreements, including bilateral aid, with Cambodia “to show its displeasure, after Cambodia hired former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser…”.

PAD also supported the government’s decision “to cancel a memorandum of understanding on development of an overlapping maritime area in the Gulf of Thailand.”

The Democrat Party has already announced that the government will “review all MoUs signed by the Thaksin administration with Thailand’s neighbour. They must be reviewed to protect Thailand’s interests” according to Democrat spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks, who regularly speaks for PAD-like political positions. Forgetting all of the taunts by his yellow-shirted compatriots, Buranaj blames Thaksin for souring bilateral relations with Cambodia.

Update: Unlike the red shirts who are greeted with the ISA and massive police and military forces when they rally at Government House, PAD gets invited in for a chat with Abhisit (Bangkok Post, 9 November 2009: “PAD: PM must get back at Cambodia”).

PAD’s Phibop Dhongchai called on the “government to revoke all bilateral projects with Cambodia and financial assistance for the neighbouring country” and demanded that the “government drive the Cambodian army out of the disputed border area around the ancient Preah Vihear temple.”

As would be expected from this prime minister, after a 30 minute meeting, Abhisit “promised him that he will raise the group’s demands at the cabinet meeting tomorrow.”

Double standards and PAD

26 09 2009

PPT has been pointing to the Democrat Party-led government’s double standards when dealing with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and with the red shirts. Our most recent post on this is here, where we pointed to the compromises Abhisit Vejjajiva needed to make to a movement that he supported and which supported him.

This compromised position has also been seen in the speed at which red shirts are taken to court versus the deliberately slow and soft approach to PAD cases such as the occupation of Bangkok’s airports.

Now, more than a year after PAD’s illegal siege of Government House, it is reported that the PAD leadership has acknowledged police charges on this matter (The Nation, 26 September 2009: “Yellow shirt leaders acknowledge police charges”). The Government House occupation began on 26 August 2008 and ended on 1 December (the report says 3 December, but see here and various news stories).

Five PAD leaders –  Chamlong Srimuang, Somsak Kosaisuk, Phipop Thongchai, Democrat Party MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon and Suriyasai Katasila all denied any wrong-doing when they “reported to police yesterday to acknowledge charges related to trespassing at Government House last year.” The sixth leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, “sought and received police permission to surrender at a later date due to a trip abroad.”

The police charges, if they ever lead to a conviction, have relatively low penalties that would inevitably be whittled away in appeals processes.

PAD and constitutional amendments

8 09 2009

Bangkok Post (8 September 2009: “Cabinet calls joint session for charter debate”) reports that PAD – or is it the New Politics Party? – are opposing the Democrat Party-sponsored attempt to get a joint sitting of parliament to make some amendments to the military-contrived post-coup 2007 Constitution. The Post also has an editorial on the issue.

No surprise there. PAD have long supported this essentially anti-democratic document. But their opposition is not just spoken and this will pose problems for the Democrat Party. PAD may have been a puppet of conservatives in the militaryt and palace, but it is also a loose cannon and not a puppet of the Democrat Party, even if it has many firmly yellow supporters in that party. At the same time, Democrat Party members of parliament are not sponsoring the amendments (see below).

The cabinet has called for a joint session on constitutional amendments, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that “the joint meeting could take place sometime next week…”. He also claims to want the public to debate this, but  through which mechanisms remains unclear. Abhisit has mentioned the idea of a referendum, which was the military’s idea last time around and supported by conservatives.

Interestingly, Abhisit said “that the Democrat Party was ready to support charter amendments even though no party MP had signed the amendment motion, adding that he would not oppose the formation of a new constitution drafting assembly.” PPT has added the emphasis here.

However, PAD has “reaffirmed its opposition to constitutional amendment and planned to gather 20,000 signatures to back a petition to remove the MPs and senators who support the charter amendment motion filed with the parliament on Monday.”

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul said the petition would seek the “removal of the 152 MPs and senators who sponsored the charter amendment motion…”. Sondhi’s opposition was supported by other PAD leaders like Pibhop Dhongchai who claims the current charter “was designed to deal with corrupt politicians…”, and Somsak Kosaisuk who said any amendment by “parliamentarians was clearly for self-interest,” and added that “PAD protesters would be ready to turn out in force against it…”.

The PAD-Privy Council alliance re-energized

30 07 2009

It appears that the signature campaign for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra by the UDD is re-energizing PAD and the privy council. The Bangkok Post (30 July 2009: “Pardon fight gains pace”) reports that the PAD leadership has had an emergency meeting.

The Post reports that: “The People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Privy Council and the Bhumjaithai Party have made clear they oppose the petition and are pressing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to prevent it going ahead.”

PAD leader Phibhop Dhongchai said “the petition was a political move that would affect the monarchy and the judicial process as well as national security. The petition would put national security at risk by worsening the rifts between members of the public…”. He added that the “government is obliged to protect the monarchy and the country’s judicial system…”.

A military source reportedly “close to Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda said Gen Prem was concerned about the strategy of Thaksin’s supporters. He was reluctant to take action however as it concerned political conflicts, the source said. He said some privy councillors who were former military top brass had questioned why the government and the military were doing nothing to stop the red shirts from submitting the petition.”

As usual, the myth that the monarchy is not involved in politics was raised: “They viewed the petition as an attempt to possibly drag the monarch into politics and put pressure on him.”

It was reported that a “Privy Council source said Gen Prem had raised the issue of the red shirts’ petition at the Privy Council meeting on Tuesday. However, the Royal Household Bureau yesterday denied the council had discussed the issue. The bureau’s comments were seen as an attempt to protect the Privy Council from attack for interfering in politics.”

It may be a bit late for that and in any case, it seems to be a deliberate lie for “Privy Councillor Pichitr Kullavanijaya yesterday insisted members of the Privy Council had agreed the royal pardon move was inappropriate.” In addition, the “Privy Council source said Gen Surayud Chulanont, a privy councillor and former prime minister, had raised the issue with army chief Anupong Paojinda, asking him what the army could do about it.”

Gen Anupong reportedly “told Gen Surayud that although the military was concerned the royal pardon petition could trouble His Majesty, it could not do anything directly because the petition was a political move, the source said. The only way to block the red shirt campaign was to mobilise social pressure against them, Gen Anupong was quoted as saying.”

Assassination attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul

17 04 2009

Bangkok Post reports an assassination attempt on Sondhi Limthongkul. He is reported slightly injured. Sondhi is the recognized leader of the PAD/yellow shirts, self-proclaimed royalist and owner of ASTV Manager.

Update: More stories are now available on this. The Times (17 April 2009: “Thailand’s Yellow Shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul survives assassination attempt”) reports that Sondhi “is in hospital recovering from surgery after gunmen wielding automatic weapons ambushed his car and sprayed it with bullets early this morning.” It says that “The tycoon’s media network reported that more than 100 bullets were fired by the gunmen and AK-47 and M16 shells were found around the car. Mr Sondhi’s bodyguard and his driver were also injured, his driver seriously.” A PAD supporter claimed: “Everyone knows who did it…. It’s bloody Thaksin. He will do anything, even burn his own country down.”A PAD spokesman has said that the assassins were probably police or military (Bangkok Pundit quoting Matichon).

The Nation (17 April 2009: “Sondhi in safe condition now: doctor”) says this was a “gangland-style shooting”, reporting a PAD spokesman as describing the event: “at least two attackers riding on a pickup blocked Sondhi’s vehicle who was on Samsen Road, heading to Manager newspaper office in Banglampoo area early Friday morning. The attackers then shot four tyres of Sondhi’s vehicle before stepping out of their car and sprayed more bullets on the car. The attack lasted about five minutes and the attackers went back to their pickup which sped away along Tevet Road.”

The Bangkok Post (17 April 2009) has: “Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, known as Seh Daeng, said he was not involved in the attempted murder of People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limthongkul in Bangkok on Friday morning.” Seh Daeng was, during the PAD demonstrations, close to the red shirts. It has another report here.

Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times (18 April 2009: “Shooting the messenger in Thailand”) has also written an article about the assassination attempt. Crispin includes information that we have not seen elsewhere.

One issue to be raised regarding Crispin’s report is the apparent ease with which he has transformed claims by unnamed sources into factual accounts in this account. PPT would prefer that allegations remain just that.

Crispin is claiming that a guerrilla war has been launched in Thailand by the UDD, a claim also taken up by PAD (see below). That may turn out to be correct. However, PAD is making slightly different version of the story (The Nation, 17 April 2009: “PAD suspects political motivation”).

PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila says that: “The gun attack was barbaric, inhumane and politically motivated…”. He added that “PAD leaders suspect certain political cliques conspired to shoot down Sondhi.”

But rather than linking the attack to smuggled weapons, Suriyasai observed that the “shooting with assault rifles bore the hallmarks of work by men in uniform, as ordinary gunmen would not risk carrying out the job during emergency rule.” He called for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to “overhaul the personnel in charge of security affairs.”

PAD co-leader and Democrat Party MP, Somkiat Pongpaiboon said “the country had turned into a killing field, as indicated by Sondhi’s shooting.” Like Crispin he sees “guerrilla warfare, involving teams of assassins for killings.”

Significantly, Somkiat called for “the removal of the national police chief, military commanders, the director of the Armed Forces Security Centre and the director-general of the National Intelligence Agency.” Supporting this position and accusation, PAD co-leader Pibhop Dhongchai said “he found it hard to believe the military had no knowledge about the attack on Sondhi.”