Further updated: Bombs, “elections” and anti-democrats

27 05 2017

No diehard anti-democrat wants the military junta to hold an “election,” even one that is fixed in a way that allows the military to continue to control politics for years to come.

At the Bangkok Post, Surasak Glahan admits to being

mystified by [anti-democrat] Suthep Thaugsuban’s plea last week for Prime Minister and NCPO [junta] head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the top job for five more years without the need for elections. He must have drunk himself in oblivion, I thought, as critics and even some supporters of the regime started to voice their rebukes over its failure to deliver in key areas, from the economy to so-called national reform, security to happiness-making, as the NCPO marked its third anniversary on Monday.

But then, when trying to wear the hat of either the military or one of its No.1 cheerleaders like Mr Suthep, who led street protests in 2013-2014 that gave the pretext for the coup, I began to realise that the NCPO has delivered numerous achievements.

He goes on to list these “achievements”:

… there has been drastic political reform. A new constitution was drafted by accidental hero jurists, appointed by the military, and smoothly passed in the [rigged] referendum last year.

The new charter will entrench the military power for at least five more years, allowing it to select 250 senators who will be much more powerful than their predecessors.

Decentralisation has been compromised. Elections of local administrators have been frozen.

The charter and several NCPO orders have lurched Thailand backward into a political system applied four decades ago…. If you are nostalgic about the past, now it is your chance to live it.

… military-appointed lawmakers … know best what needs to be drafted to govern the ways we live without having to consult us or seek the nod from our representatives. Notably, they have invented and revised laws to save us from cyber crimes and other security threats. We just have to sacrifice our privacy and risk being branded as criminals.

The most outstanding … victory was its ability to successfully remove all the hurdles put up against the 36-billion-baht submarine procurement plans by previous elected governments.

The list is long and I have to stop here before feeling suffocated.

You get the picture. More and more military rule and political repression.

The prospect of the military staying in power for years also means that military factionalism is assured. Military factionalism is probably linked to recent bombings.

Yet the military is blaming others. So are the anti-democrats who see the bombing as an opportunity to extend military rule. For the military and the anti-democrats, as allied groups, the “natural” enemy is anyone considered Thaksin Shinawatra-related.

So Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul is named. Naturally enough, he denies it and he “condemned those who were involved in the hospital explosion.” He adds that he “would have bombed Government House, not a hospital…”. His view is that the culprits are in the military.

That said, Ko Tee sought another opportunity to anger the bears in green, poking them with a claim that “he is mobilising resistance against the government.” He says these are “civilian warriors” training in the jungle. But, he says, his group is small and not yet ready to attack the “bandits [junta] out of the country…”.

**The other supposedly anti-regime “suspects” are a couple of former generals in their 70s and 80s, associated with Thaksin.

**Neither General Prayuth nor General Prawit Wongsuwan seem to have been particularly to be involved in cabinet discussions and considerations of the bombing. Indeed, that both have been away from Bangkok speaks louder than words.

Bombs might be about army factionalism yet the general interest of the anti-democrats and military is retained: no elections.

Update 1: We managed to garble a sentence or two and have rewritten and marked this with **.

Update 2: PPT was struck by a single line in an op-ed by Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey:

One has to consider who is the real beneficiary of these kinds of unrest. Is it the people who are looking forward to elections or is it the people who want to hold on to power?





Lawless concoctions and political repression

24 05 2017

The military dictatorship is able to arrest anyone it like. It has been active. It has rounded up hundreds and sometimes released them without charge and other times has had them jailed. Some of the “threats to national security” are jailed and lost from the media almost without trace.

Like lese majeste cases, sometimes the secrecy involved is such that commentators have no idea what the junta’s crazed notions are in arresting people. Sometimes the junta claims a “plot” has been uncovered and, more often than not, these are figments of warped military minds or are actually junta plots to gain political ground.

Back in August 2016, we discerned some cracks in the junta’s make-up and posted about a regime “lost in its own machinations, repression and lack of intellectual capacity for arranging its political future other than by further repression.”

Back then there had been some bombings, and of “new” targets. There were arrests. More than a dozen suspects were arrested and accused of plotting. Soon the Deputy Dictator revealed that these were not bombers but a dangerous group seeking to overthrow of the military-royal regime.

General Prawit Wongsuwan and police entered a time warp, declaring the detainees “communists.” At the time, there were 13 men and four women, mostly elderly. They were said to be members of “Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party,” a group no one had ever heard of.

They  were claimed to be “hardcore reds” active in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani and coordinated by masterminds who were influential politicians in southern border provinces. These bizarre claims continued with the dictatorship saying that the Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party was a nationwide network, except in the lower South, but that they were not red shirts.

Our comment was that no sensible person can believe such inventive, throwback nonsense. We said that the inventiveness of the regime is so ridiculous that we wonder if they are taking mind altering drugs.

As it turns out, it was only on 24 May 2017 that the military court decided to “release” them. (The report is unclear as to whether the 17 were jailed or on bail.)

Why were they discharged by the court? Simple: insufficient evidence.

This is just one story of a regime that treats the law as a tool of repression. Its own illegal acts come with impunity and it has repeatedly concocted plots, fiddled with evidence, tortured and, in lese majeste cases, reinvented the law in bizarre ways.





Junta, dictatorship, coup

23 05 2017

Since the 2014 military coup, we at PPT have regularly used the appropriate terms for designating Thailand’s current government: military junta and military dictatorship.

It seems that the junta and its dictators are uncomfortable with such terminology.

Khaosod reports that the words “dictatorship, coups and military juntas … are banned…”.

The “organizers of a two-day discussion marking the three-year anniversary of the May 22, 2014, military coup” have been told they may not speak these words.

Pro-democracy activist Chonticha Jangrew “said she was given the choice Sunday by a senior-ranking military officer speaking on behalf of the junta: Don’t speak those words or risk having the event canceled.”

This is apparently a real story not some late April Fools’ Day joke. The joke and the fools are the junta.

The organizers felt they had to agree with the order and implied threat. Showing the ridiculousness of the order, “on Sunday, the first day of the symposium, speakers resorted to raising placards printed with the words instead.”

The day after, “Chaiyan Ratchakoon, a sociologist at Phayao University in the north, circumvented the ban Monday afternoon at Thammasat University by using alternative words.”

Instead of “coup” became “illegal regime change.” Chaiyan asked: “Do we really want coercion by the use of guns? How will this differ from those who rob banks?”

Chulalongkorn University historian Suthachai Yimprasert ignored the ban. He said:

…Thailand is the only country on earth today ruled by a military dictatorship. He said the junta leaders grew up during the Cold War and still cling to that mentality. He said no one believes the promises of junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who keeps postponing promised elections.

He added that “trying to ban the use of some words” was “mafia-like.”

Another speaker, Piyarat Chongthep argued that “the rule of law has been replaced by whatever the junta dictates…. We’re in a realm that we don’t quite know what’s permissible and what’s not,” adding, “[t]his is a situation where the ceiling is getting lower.”

Kornkot Saengyenpan, who also spoke, observed:

Dictators try to make us accustomed to whatever they impose, but only with limited success. We must do whatever it takes to not get used to Prayuth’s lies…. They have to go, not next year but now! We have waited for three years, and they can’t make us get accustomed to [military rule].

About 45 people attended on Monday, with another 15 being “plainclothes soldiers and police recording and observing.”

Destroying the rule of law, illegally seizing power, corruption, using torture, murdering and imprisoning the young and mopping up for a vile king are the hallmarks of Thailand’s military dictatorship.





The king’s laundry II

21 05 2017

Immediately after writing our last post and wandering off for a bowl of noodles, we saw the Bangkok Post’s front page story of the day. We delayed this new post a couple of hours, and assume that many readers will have already seen this story. That said, it is such a display of political madness that we simply have to post on it.

The story claims that the police believe they are going to be “clamping down on lese majeste offences by shifting their focus to viewers of illegal content even if they do not post or share it.”

According to Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, “lese majeste cases involve three groups of people: the producers of illegal content; the viewers who leave comments, share content or click Like; and those who read or view without interacting.”

It was only a few days ago that the cops agreed that merely clicking “like” did not necessarily constitute lese majeste. But following the Facebook debacle, it seems that the dragnet is being thrown much wider. So wide that whatever skerrick of legality remained with lese majeste cases will be completely erased.

The Central Investigation Bureau chief warned that “users of social media will be treading a narrow path as police plan to target viewers in the crackdown even if they do not interact with those illicit webpages.”

If they can’t get at those overseas producing anti-monarchy content, the police plan to threaten every Thai using Facebook.

The police threaten: “The third group simply follows and watches. They leave no comments. Police are acquiring tools to identify this group of viewers and investigate why they like watching [the content]…”.

Yes, the police are now claiming that they are going to be “investigating” psychological motives, online accidents and curiousness because “[w]atching lese majeste content may be deemed wrongdoing.”

Of course, this sounds legally ridiculous, but that is the nature of lese majeste under the military dictatorship seeking to launder the internet of material on the king that is considered officially unacceptable.

Law and logic are no part of lese majeste. It is a tool for extreme political repression and for getting rid of those the king no longer finds acceptable

Given that even the dopes at the CIB are not going to throw hundreds of thousands into jail – at least not yet – they say they will “warn them first.”

This seems unlikely. It is claimed for example that hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions have viewed recent material on the king that the military dictatorship wants to scrub and erase from the collective Thai mind. If they are to be “warning” them all, the police would have to forget murder, rape, drug trafficking, traffic problems and several other areas where they make money.

However, the police corrected their statement just a few words later, saying “not all viewers will be warned.” Who won’t be warned? Political opponents will be at the top of the list. But the police, presumably with training in clairvoyance, will “screen those who have the potential to commit offences.” They claim that this “procedure will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and information from an investigation will be taken into account.”

Burglars and bank robbers will be free to commit their crimes because, if this police horse manure was true, no cop will be available for any other work. They will all be the king’s internet slaves.

Again, what the military dictatorship is doing is creating a climate of fear. They do this by declaring that every Facebook user in Thailand a potential criminal.





Military rule continuing

21 05 2017

A story reproduced in a Malaysian newspaper begins this way:

Thailand enters its fourth year under military rule Monday with the junta firmly entrenched in power and prospects for the return of democracy bleak despite promised elections at the end of next year, rights activists say.

Briefly, the article notes that the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly “swiftly passed an array of laws aimed at gagging dissent, in a country that already had strict Lese-Majeste laws forbidding insults to the royal family.” The junta also ruled by decree.

The story is of repression: “Since the coup three years ago, the junta has detained 597 people, including politicians, activists and journalists, according to iLaw…”. It adds:

Among them, 82 were held for violating Lese-Majeste laws, under which offenders can get as many as 15 years in jail for sharing a story on Facebook, while 64 were hauled up for sedition, iLaw figures show.

As we have stated before, we think these figures are underestimates.

The story quotes national human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit: “The issue of concern is the snuffing out of freedom — [freedom] of speech, to hold demonstrations, peaceful public gatherings…. Human rights defenders are intimidated or prosecuted…”.

The Financial Times points to a critical transition:

A more unpredictable dimension for the junta is the arrival of the new king and the next phase in the military-monarchy alliance that has long underpinned the power of both. The generals clashed with Facebook this week as they stepped up efforts to scrub the Thai internet of commentary and images that were potentially embarrassing to the monarch. But the king has also been flexing his muscles independently, bringing various royally-linked institutions under his direct control and securing late changes to the constitution that increase his authority.

The junta is probably hoping for another royal death so that they can seek to further manage this relationship and maintain authoritarianism.

 





Updated: Remembering and anti-remembering

20 05 2017

The military junta tried to prevent all commemorations of deaths and injuries resulting from its murderous 2010 crackdown. The photos below are of Rajaprasong, where the military and police closed off public areas, fearful of commemorations.

Despite this, there were small events, as shown here:

Another commemoration was disrupted by official thugs.

Update: Khaosod also has a story on the junta anti-remembering. But even they have faulty memories, forgetting who was army boss at the time.

The main point is that on 19 May 2010, then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban ordered then-army chief General Anupong Paojinda  to clear out remaining protesters. General Prayuth Chan-ocha led the operation. In it, 41 civilians died on that one day, and one soldier was killed by friendly fire. Another 60 had dies in events leading up to the clearance over April and May. Then, as the report succinctly reports it:

Four years later on May 22, 2014, Prayuth staged a coup to seize power from the elected government and installed himself as prime minister.





Updated: No remembering allowed II

18 05 2017

Not so long ago we posted on the military junta’s continuing efforts to censor and repress, several times going into royalist overload, and to seek to “control” history.

We mentioned the political vandalism of the 1932 plaque, several other events the dictators think best forgotten and swept under a military tarpaulin. The protesters killed in April and May 2010 were also noted as something the military junta wants its own story to prevail.

The most recent example of the junta’s efforts to control the history of its murderous past are seen in a Prachatai report.

It begins:

Uniformed and plainclothes officers have fenced off a plaque commemorating a teenager shot seven years ago during the government’s crackdown on red shirt protesters, lurking on as loved ones commemorated the boy’s passing.

On the evening of 15 May 2017, family and friends gathered around a footpath along Bangkok’s Ratchaprarop road to remember Samaphan ‘Cher’ Srithep, who was shot there fatally seven years ago as authorities were dismantling the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (known as the ‘red shirts’). Samaphan was only 17 years old.

The junta’s thugs tried to fence off the area where Samaphan was shot. Following that “scores of both uniformed and plainclothes officers stayed to observe the commemoration event.” This “observation” was, in fact, just one more act of political intimidation.

Update: Khaosod reports that the junta remains determined to prevent any commemoration or remembrance of its murderous crackdown on red shirt protestors in May 2010. To prevent this, it closed public areas around Rajaprasong.