Repressing red shirts

25 07 2017

The military dictatorship and a gaggle of anti-democrats seems petrified that red shirts are re-mobilizing.

Yet a report at The Nation suggests that the official red shirt capacity for mobilization is limited following more than three years of repression.

This report is about the most recent jailing of red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan. He’s just the “latest – and most senior – red-shirt leader to be sent to jail, and this seems to be further weakening the movement.”

The report states that “at least 12 leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) had been sentenced to imprisonment in separate cases. Some of them are serving time in prison while others have appealed the court verdicts against them and have been released on bail.”

The Supreme Court sentenced Jatuporn to a year in jail for “defaming” former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. At the time, we commented that despite two courts rejecting accusations against him, the junta’s more politically predictable Supreme Court jailed red shirt leader.

As we noted, plenty on Abhisit’s side of politics were able to defame red shirt leaders and their supporters and used state power to murder dozens of them, but it is Jatuporn who has been jailed.

The military and the royalist elite fear Jatuporn because he is a powerful orator and organizer. They have jailed him several times in recent years. The Nation states that this jailing is “the fourth time he has been put behind bars over the past decade.”

A search of our many posts on Jatuporn shows how dogged his opponents in high places have been. The Dictator has been keen to have in in jail over the past decade.

Since its coup in 2014, the military dictatorship set itself the task of destroying the official red shirts.





Fear and repression II

25 07 2017

As PPT said in a recent post, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” that give the military dictatorship the shakes are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and its associates. Despite more than three years of heavy duty repression, the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise again.

Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra have again been warned against participating in public gatherings when the Supreme Court hands down a ruling on her controversial rice-pledging scheme next month.

The new warning is from The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha said that “security [he mean repression] remains the top priority for the regime and anyone who attempts to challenge the law [he means the junta] by mobilising a crowd with malicious intent would face legal consequences [he means repression].”

General Prayuth is flummoxed and worried by “reports that huge crowds would show up to extend their support to Ms Yingluck on Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down its ruling.” His response is: “You can love anyone [he means Yingluck], but [you] shouldn’t cause trouble for others [he means the junta and its minions at the court] or undermine the law. If anyone mobilises crowds they must know they are breaking the law…”.

Somewhat oddly, Army boss and junta secretary-general General Chalermchai Sitthisart seemed less worried, simply saying that the junta “will have to ‘regulate’ people who arrive to support Ms Yingluck next month.” He then made a very unusual remark: “The NCPO [junta] does not prohibit people from coming to support her in good faith but any organised gatherings are against the law…”.

Who does one believe? The point about “organizing” and “mobilizing” seems clear, but one general is saying stay home and the other is saying come if you are mobilized.

Even odder, “Gen Chalermchai insisted the NCPO will not dispatch soldiers to block her supporters from Pheu Thai or red-shirt strongholds…”. That seems to contradict earlier reports.

Echoing some of his anti-democrat members, (anti-)Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva reckoned that gathering supporters of Yingluck at the court was an “implicit threat …[and] may be an attempt to pressure the judges.”

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has begun the process of seizing Yingluck’s assets, “based on an administrative order,” seeking some $1 billion “in compensation for her alleged dereliction of duty in the rice-pledging scheme.”





Updated: Fear and repression I

24 07 2017

Talk of “reconciliation” seems pointless in the junta’s dictatorship. The task of the junta has been to repress those it identifies as “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.” As it was largely through the efforts of the anti-democrats, led by the (anti-)Democrat Party, that paved the way for the 2014 military coup, it should be no surprise at all that the coalition of military and anti-democrats coalesces to continue the fight against those “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.”

As everyone knows, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and associates. After more than three years of heavy duty repression designed to decapitate these groups, there is limited evidence that they retain much capacity for mobilization. Yet the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise against them.

As reported in The Nation, the pending verdict against Yingluck Shinawatra, due on 25 August, is causing considerable angst among the ruling regime and its anti-democrat allies.

This deep anxiety was inflamed by the sight of “[h]undreds of Yingluck’s supporters [who] gathered at the high court last Friday during the last hearing of the case against her.”

The Democrat Party, never very popular anywhere except in the previous palace hierarchy and among the royalist military, immediately went back to their rhetoric of anti-Thaksinism that has been a feature of their efforts to bring down each elected government since 2001. They claimed that “many of the supporters travelled together in an arranged trip from the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.” In other words, they reflexively denigrated their opponents as unthinking and unintelligent people/buffaloes, led around by money and bosses.

At the same time, Somchai Sawaengkarn, reported as “a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” but in fact a former unelected senator, dedicated anti-democrat, anti-Thaksin campaigner for more than a decade, hard core royalist and prone to accuse opponents of lese majeste, claimed “that he has learned of a plot to incite riots in a bid to overthrow the government and the NCPO [he means his buddies in the junta].”

Somchai has concocted plots in order to denigrate political opponents in the past and we assume he’s at it again. “Good” people like him are skilled liars but usually claim they do it for the greater “good.” This usually means ousting an elected government, supporting the crown or lapping the military boot or, as in this case, encouraging it in political activism. This is why he invents a plot: “They will try to bring down the government and the NCPO [junta] through riots. Hard-core groups that are their allies have clearly said that they want to wage a ‘people’s war’…”. He predicts a “mobilization” of 10,000 people.

While we might hope he is right, based on previous “inventiveness” by Somchai, we can be reasonably sure that, tongue on military boot, he’s making this up to encourage his junta allies in further political repression.

Indeed, the military thugs are already at work.

The Nation reports a source in the ruling junta as revealing that the military and its bureaucratic handmaidens are “closely following movements by certain groups of people ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the case against former prime minister Yingluck…”.

That source adds that “Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, in his capacity as secretary to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed the local peacekeeping forces to monitor the movements of ‘all groups involved’ over the next month…”.

The Army’s regional commanders have been ordered “to make sure any suspicious movements are under their microscope…. If the local peacekeeping forces, which were formed after the military coup in 2014, discovered any plan to mobilise large groups of people into Bangkok, they would need to persuade their leaders to cancel such a trip…”. That will mean detentions, threats and other forms of repression. Indeed, the leaking of these orders are a part of that repression.

Military officers have already “been dispatched to different areas of the country in an attempt to persuade Yingluck’s supporters not to come to Bangkok … [and t]hey are going to meet with local community leaders and administrators and ask them to ‘create a better understanding’ among the local residents.” The order is that there “should be no mobilisation of the masses…”. In other words, the military presence at all levels is being heightened and the threats made real.

Update: Part of the fear of Yingluck’s supporters seems reflected in the estimates of the number who showed up last week. The Bangkok Post reports almost 1,000. The official red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have warned The Dictator that his threats inflamed the situation and brought out even more supporters. More threats and intimidation could would damage the junta.





Repression and the nature of dictatorship

23 07 2017

About a week ago we posted on the statement by 176 of the 500 or so academics who attended the International Conference on Thai Studies. Later, we posted on how the military junta’s thugs could not ignore the “challenge” posed by the academics and their mild call for the return of freedom of expression.

According to a Bangkok Post editorial, the testy dictatorial regime can’t help itself in “responding”with negatives. It is its nature as a dictatorship.

That Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart has dismissed the academic call “comes as no surprise.” As the Post states: “His response perfectly reflects the military regime’s unreasonable fear and outrageous blockade of ‘different’ opinions.”

We have occasionally agreed that the junta is fearful of losing its power but we think the political repression is the nature of the dictatorship.

The “[m]any people [who] have been harassed, threatened, arrested and detained…” is the way a dictatorship deals with anyone considered “oppositional.”

The academics “asked” the junta to “give people back the freedom to express their opinions without fear of punishment or reprisal.”

It also asked they be granted full and free access to information and facts, and that prisoners of conscience — those jailed for their religious, political or other views — be released from jail or detention, among other issues.

None of this is going to happen under a military dictatorship.

Indeed, “at the Chiang Mai conference,” the junta had “[p]lainclothes officers record… who was in attendance and what they discussed.”

From Ugly Thailand

There can be no academic freedom and no freedom of speech. Indeed, the Post says, “Thai society has fallen under strict military control.”

We’d say it didn’t “fall” under military control. In fact, it was a planned military coup, planned by the current junta and coordinated with its tycoon, royalist and anti-democrat allies. Those groups don’t want a “democratic” politics that they are not sure that they can control.

Where the Post goes seriously wrong is in thinking that “democracy looms after the promised elections next year.” What looms is years of elite, royalist and military control of politics camouflaged as an electoral “democracy.”

After all, that was the very point of the coup in 2014.





Smacking down academics

19 07 2017

It took a while, but 176 academics attending the International Conference on Thai Studies eventually issued a statement regarding academic and other freedoms.

Some might have thought that Thailand’s military dictatorship might have ignored the rather mild statement. After all, the junta likes to say that it doesn’t repress speech even if that is a lie. Ignoring the academics might have been something of a PR “victory” for the junta.

But this underestimates the nature of the regime and its repressive apparatus.

Prachatai reports that junta minion and Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai Putthiphong Sirimat “has threatened three academics who allegedly put up banners against the junta that they will be summoned by the military.”

This junta toady has “submitted a letter to the Ministry of Interior reporting three academics who allegedly put up banners reading, ‘an academic forum is not a military barrack’, at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai.”

The detestable junta posterior polisher “identified the three as Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist from Thammasat University; Pakawadee Weerapaspong, an independent writer, activist, and translator; and Chaipong Samnieng, a lecturer of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Chiang Mai University.”

Acting as a junta snitch, Putthiphong declares that the three “used an academic forum to engage in anti-junta activities.”

It seems that the military bootlicker is angry that “the three have always been involved in movements against the junta through the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANCR).” So, like the junta itself, Putthiphong believes they should be punished” for not understanding their place in the junta’s hierarchy.





Scholars speak up

17 07 2017

As readers will know, we have been goading the scholars attending the International Conference on Thai Studies to take a stand against the military dictatorship and its repression.

We are pleased that some 180 have taken a stand.

Prachatai reports that this number of academics have called on the junta to return freedom, academic and of speech, rights and liberties to the people.





Free Pai XVI

16 07 2017

The military dictatorship’s jailing of  Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa (or Pai) is an example of how the junta engages in selective political repression.

The first political activist to be charged and jailed on lese majeste charges during the reign of the loathsome King Vajiralongkorn, his arrest was a act of political repression, singling out Pai among thousands who shared a BBC Thai story about the king. Pai has now been held in jail for more than six months awaiting what will surely be a conviction.

Of course, the “authorities” want him to plead guilty so that they can jail him without a trail.

The junta’s regime is interested in repression and uses the law as a gangster uses a gun.

In this story of repression, double standards and manipulation of the law, as The Nation reports, international activists are now working to bring attention to Pai’s sad and sorry case.

These activists have launched a campaign called “Bring the World to Pai” to tell the stories of Jatuphat and other political prisoners, while telling the world about the political situation in Thailand under the military dictatorship.

The brave young activists, “identified as Cat, Chris, Austin, Jay, and Effy from Australia, England, Canada, Malaysia, and Vietnam” actually “visited Pai at Khon Kaen Central Prison on Friday.”

Pai was said to be “in good spirit and told his international friends, with one of his fists up in the air, to encourage young people everywhere to carry on their struggle for freedom and democracy.”

This expression of “solidarity with Thai activists opposed to the military-backed regime” puts the conference delegates at the International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai to shame. So far, PPT hasn’t heard a peep from these academic tourists about the grave political situation or about political prisoners in Thailand. There’s still time for some kind of statement from them, but so far it has been silence, which the junta must appreciate.