Failure upon failure

2 08 2021

One of the things about a military and palace-backed regime is that, except in the most dire of circumstances, it tends only to get shaky when it loses the support of the upper crust. Is the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reaching that point? It should be as failure after failure piles up, while the regime concentrates on political repression rather than virus suppression.

As infection numbers look set to go over 20,000 a day in the official tally, the government stumbles along like a drunk without shoes. Just this weekend, it has extended the lockdown after earlier extending emergency powers. The problem for many is that these powers seem to do nothing to stem the virus but do seem to add to repression. In addition, the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed swell by the day. The regime seems to lack a plan for any other measures to mitigate the virus or to help those impacted.

But the failures and fumbles keep increasing. The botched vaccine rollout continues to suffer supply constraints – thanks in part to the failures at the royal Siam Bioscience. On the weekend, a “shortage in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines led to the weekend closure of 25 vaccination centres in Bangkok, while the “Mor Prom” app also cancelled all bookings scheduled for Friday and Saturday and has yet to resume offering new appointments.”

This horrid effort is made worse by corruption. Most recently, it is reported that “[a]t least 7,000 people have bought Covid-19 vaccination slots at Bang Sue Grand Station that were illegally acquired through a loophole in the the national vaccine recipient’s database…”. Forgive our cynicism, but the cops said several days ago that they had cracked the case, so should anyone be surprised if this isn’t a higher-ups scam? It seems 7,700 shots have been sold at 1000 baht each.

Despite the increased repression, nationwide protests were held on the weekend, mainly involving people in cars and on motorcycles. On protester spoke for many:

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

Red shirts back. From Thai PBS

According to Thai PBS, the “car mob” rally saw:

the gathering together of well-known leaders of anti-government and anti-establishment groups, such as Nattawut Saikua, former secretary-general of the now defunct United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red-Shirt movement, Ratsadon leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Anon Nampa, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka Pai Daodin of the “Thalu Fah” group, Sombat Boon-ngarmanong of Sombat Tour and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the We Volunteer (Wevo) guards.

Nattawut said “the Red-Shirt movement is back in business and demanding the ouster of the prime minister.”

What will the powers-that-be do as the movement gains support as the government flails in failure?





Revolving injustice door

3 04 2021

Some readers might have seen reports in some media and ion social media that Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of WeVo political group, was granted bail yesterday. He was. But he was immediately rearrested.

Bail was granted by the Criminal Court because the only charges were manufactured illegal association crimes under Sections 209 and 210 of the Criminal Code. The charges carry so little punishment if proven that his bail was just 45,000 baht. The court would have looked more ridiculous than it already is if it hadn’t granted bail. In addition, he’d already been held in prison for more than three weeks.

But, of course, this is the post-dictatorial dictatorship, and so to continue the political repression, Piyarat was rearrested before he left the jail, on “a court-issued warrant for alleged lese majeste, and violating the computer crime law during the launch of his political campaign in Kalasin province.”

It is really very predictable, with the regime determined to lock up as many of the protesters as possible, and lese majeste, they think, works just nicely for this repressive task.





Updated: Concern for 112 detainees

26 03 2021

There is reason to be concerned for the safety of those accused of lese majeste and currently detained without bail in several prisons.

The Bangkok Post reports that these members of the Ratsadon group “are being detained at five prisons while police prepare the cases against them…”. The report lists some of them:

Six were being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison, he said. They are Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Piyarat “Toto” Jongthep, Patiwat “Bank” Saraiyaem, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpatararaksa, Arnon Nampa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, alias “Ammy The Bottom Blues”, is being held at Thon Buri Prison, and Panusaya “Rung” Sitthijirawatanakul at the Central Correctional Institution for Women.

In Pathum Thani province, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak is detained in Pathum Thani central detention centre, and Promsorn “Fah” Veerathamjaree of the Ratsadon Mutelu group is in Thanyaburi Prison in Thanyaburi district.

Release our friends

There are several reasons for concern for the safety of these political detainees. First, Corrections Department deputy director-general Veerakit Hanparipan has revealed that his department lacks coordination and standard operating procedures. Second, it is a “policy” to separate the detainees as a means to break their spirit and to prevent them from supporting each other. Third, lawyers and families are having great difficulty visiting the detainees. Fourth, political detainees are being treated as common criminals. Fourth, Thonburi Prison is said to be a problematic location due to it being in a high-risk Covid zone.

All of this amounts to lese majeste torture.

There is special concern for Parit, “who is on a partial hunger strike…”. Veerakit told reporters that Penguin “continued to refuse solid food.” He added that he has become “weakened from refusing food” and that “Parit was instead given bread, milk, sweet drinks and mineral water to prevent his blood-sugar level falling too far.” Veerakit also revealed that “Parit had a rash on his chest. Prison officials had given him medication.”

Update: Concern for Penguin is increasing. He’s “been on hunger strike for over two weeks,” and is experiencing weakness. He has “allowed doctors to conduct a blood test for the first time on Saturday night, after suffering from fatigue, increased dizziness and dehydration.” As a result, he’s now being administered glucose and fluid intravenously.





Updated: Political prisoners and political trials

16 03 2021

A mass hearing of 22 political prisoners took place yesterday at the Criminal Court.

Thai PBS reports that Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak made the it clear that it was a political “pre-trial” meeting. It states that the defiant Parit “caused a brief commotion during a hearing … when his request to make a statement was rejected by the court…”.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Parit read a prepared statement in which he criticised the role taken by the courts in the conflict.”

The judge “interrupted him and warned that if he continued, the court would order a meeting behind closed doors with Mr Parit alone. He then ordered the defendants out of the courtroom and suspended the hearing.”

Court officials tried to rush Parit out of the court room, “causing a commotion as other defendants tried to shield the defiant protest leader.” He stood on a chair to ask “why the court didn’t grant him bail while is still not convicted of a crime…”.

He “announced his intention to go on hunger strike in prison until his request for bail is granted…”. In fact his demand referred to all 22 prisoners.

Parit’s statement is at Prachatai.

The court did agree “to requests by Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, alias Pai Daodin, and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep to be transferred from Thonburi remand prison back to Bangkok remand prison.”

Parit’s defiance is brave but may well lead to an intensification of lese majeste torture.

Indeed, last evening, detainee Arnon Nampa wrote a letter through his lawyer saying he was in fear when officials and others tried to take detainees out of their cells at midnight for a “COVID test.” These thugs were armed guards, some with no identification. He ended his letter: “Please save our lives…”.

Update: We see that the authorities at the Bangkok Remand Prison have concocted a half-baked story about Arnon’s concerns. Krit Krasaethip, commander of Bangkok Remand Prison, said the prisoners returned from Thonburi Prison – Pai and Mike – were “being moved to isolate them.” He said they had to be “quarantined in isolation units” because “Thon Buri Prison … is in a high-risk Covid zone, so [the prisoners] were required to have Covid-19 tests and be quarantined in Zone 2.” He added that the “pair were to be moved from their quarantine room on the ground floor to another quarantine room on the second floor but refused to leave, so prison guards agreed not to move them to avoid problems.”

Does any of this make any sense? Why were they transferred to a high-risk area in the first place? Why put prisoners from a high-risk area in the wrong kind of cell? Why not take them directly to quarantine? And why decide to do this in the middle of the night?

Just to make it all more odd, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said the incident prompted him to order “prison authorities to install more surveillance cameras to monitor cell block activities.” How does the prison story fir with that?

 





Lese majeste and cruelty III

13 03 2021

Yet again, the royalist courts have “rejected the bail applications by four core leaders of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group on the grounds that there is no justification for changing the court’s previous order to remand them in custody.” This refers to Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, and Piyarat Chongthep.

The new applications for bail “were filed today by Mr. Krisadang Nutcharat, a lawyer from the Centre for Human Rights Lawyers, and a group of lecturers from Thammasat and Mahidol universities.” Krisadang said “that he and the lecturers were seeking bail for the three students, namely Parit, Panusaya and Chatuphat, because they are about to take examinations.” The case of Piyarat has to do with “pre-emptive” arrest (as far as we know he has not been charged with 112).

In another report, it is stated that “Kritsadang also complained about Mr Parit’s transfer to Area 5 of the prison, usually designated for inmates already convicted.” He condemned this action, making an argument of the presumption of innocence. We doubt the royalist courts even know what this is as they take orders from the top.

The pattern emerging is one of lese majeste torture, seen in several earlier lese majeste cases. Keeping them locked up and seeking to separate them from their fellow political prisoners is a way to break their spirit and solidarity. It is also reflective of the nastiness seen in other cases involving those who “cross” the king.