Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





Keeping it junta

19 05 2019

As the junta’s Palang Pracharath party maneuvers stealthily toward establishing a “new” government there are several indications that very little is going to change.

We have already seen how the Senate has been packed with junta cronies, including relatives, generals and flunkies from the last junta-selected puppet National Legislative Assembly. Nepotism and cronyism were characteristics of the military dictatorship up until now. That’s only going to deepen and extend.

The senate

Part of the “negotiations” among junta-loving parties has to do with the allocation of cabinet slots. That’s because, as in the past, before the 1997 constitution, coalition governments were a grand buffet, with prime cabinet spots meaning a party could make cartloads of money to prepare for the next election or pay MPs to stay in line or both. That’s happening now.

As that happens, we read that The Dictator, who still hopes to be made premier by all his flunkies in the Senate, wants “the Defence and Interior ministries in the next government to ensure national progress…” to remain with junta figures. So it could well be that the aged watch-man Gen Prawit Wongsuwan remains in that post, to repress and sanction at will, and to use all the military’s resources to ensure the “new” government looks pretty much like the military dictatorship.

But don’t be surprised if its Gen Anupong Paojinda in that slot as the Deputy Dictator is struggling with health. If not defense, then Anupong probably stays at Interior where he’s been responsible for neutralizing the red shirts and helping out with election rigging.

And the repression, opacity and secretiveness of the regime is likely to continue.





Akechai bashed again

13 05 2019

While engaging in enforced disappearance and (probably) in political murder of those considered opponents of the regime and monarchy, the military junta also allows vicious assaults on opponents.

Regime critic Akechai Hongkangwarn has been viciously viciously assaulted for a seventh time.

This assault took place in broad daylight, in front of witnesses and in front of the Bangkok Criminal Court at about 8.30 am on Monday. As in some of his previous assaults, four men wearing motorcycle helmets attacked him for several minutes and then fled the scene.

As the report observes, “[w]ith the exception of a man convicted in 2018 of punching Ekachai, most of the attackers were never caught or prosecuted.” Our guess, and it is no more than that, is that the most of the helmeted attackers are in the pay of some military agency.

This is how the junta’s Thailand operates: nepotism and favoritism for supporters and assault and death for opponents.

 





Updated: Get rid of the junta

19 03 2019

Perhaps the best that can come from the junta’s “election” is a massive vote for anti-military parties a massive vote for anti-military parties, even if those parties are flawed in some ways.

To remind us why this military junta and its government should be sent packing  it is worth recalling disappearances:

  • It is now two years since the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017. What happened when the military involved were “investigated”? Nothing at all, mainly due to cover-ups.
  • The disappearance of all “investigations” of allegations of the junta’s corruption.
  • The missing 1932 memorials while unthinking conservative royalism is promoted.

That’s just a sampler.

Then there’s the repression. One example of many relates to the use of computer crimes laws, recently made worse. And, it is important to recall that this repression is not just directed at the junta’s political opponents.

This is emphasized in a recent and long article at Coda.It begins with the story of the hopelessly flawed Thai police going after a 19-year-old British tourist who claimed she had been raped while visiting Koh Tao. As the report observes, the “allegation was serious and the response was rapid, but not in keeping with the norms of a rape investigation. The local police first denied that the rape had occurred; they also described her accusation as ‘fake’.”

They then went after some overseas dissident media: “In an another remarkable move, police also obtained warrants to arrest the editor of an online Thai newspaper in Britain and the administrator of a dissident Facebook page in California, both of whom had shared or reported on the case.” Followers in Thailand were arrested.

The message was clear to the Thai media: self-censor. Not surprisingly, “there has been little domestic news coverage of the case, even as it has been widely reported in Britain and the United States.”

One of those targeted was “Pramuk Anantasin, the California-based administrator of the CSI LA Facebook page, which has hundreds of thousand of followers and regularly shares stories that are censored in Thailand…”.

But the article points to a different reason for the crackdown: protecting the Chinese tourism market:

To understand Thailand’s censorious response to the alleged rape case, it is important to go back to another tourism-related event which took place around the same time, but one that received even less attention. On July 5, 2018, shortly after the rape, a tour boat sank off the Thai resort island of Phuket, killing 47 of its 93 passengers, nearly all of whom were Chinese. The incident was widely covered in China and, in the coming months, resulted in a large drop off in inbound tourists.

But CSI LA is not off the hook. The head of the junta’s “Judge Advocate General’s office, Col Burin Thongprapai, lodged a complaint Monday, after the Facebook page said the photos ‘proved’ soldiers had been ordered to vote for a certain political party, believed to refer to the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party…”. The military denies and then sues for “defamation.”

Whether the particular story is true or not, it remains clear that the military leadership has made it absolutely clear who they think the people – including soldiers, sailors and airmen and airwomen – should vote for.

This is a regime that needs to be ousted. Is it possible? We hope so.

Update: The Nation has an AFP story on why the junta should be sent packing. It is headlined “Deaths, jail and cyber spies: The dangers of dissent in Thailand.”





No criticism of the emperor-dictator permitted

6 02 2019

Quite late in the piece, the junta lifted laws on public assembly and political commentary for its “election.” Yet this counts for nothing, with the junta continuing to harass and repress.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that police had “arrested five people who showed up at Government House to call for the prime minister to resign.”

These activists and students were making the simple point that Gen Prayuth Cha-ocha should “resign as prime minister and chief of the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta]… now that the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has formally asked him to be its prime ministerial candidate…”.

The Post states that these “activists were responding to Gen Prayut’s challenge for anyone to dare oust him…”. So they did.

This prompted police to charge them “with violating Section 10 of the 2015 Public Assembly Act, punishable by a fine up to 10,000 baht.”

It seems no one can criticize the emperor-dictator or the king. Reflecting this, it is reported that authorities have sought to limit “satirical displays at a traditional football match due to take place this week…”. That comes from the horse’s mouth: Gen Prayuth.

He tried to explain that this was not a ban but student organizers have said that they were told  “not to create floats poking fun at the prime minister and cabinet ministers.”

The emperor-general-dictator-general-prime minister wants no criticism of him as he races for his position to be continued for several more years.





With 3 updates: Regime fails

5 02 2019

In the last few days there have been several events and announcements that point to failures by the military junta. They are among many regime failures since 2014.

First, the regime has failed on corruption. Of course, it came to power, like several past military regimes, to end corruption. As in the past, as now, this has not meant corruption by the military and regime itself.

Second, now shackling and dressing him in prison garb, the regime has failed to end the detention of Hakeem al-Araibi. A recognized refugee, for still unexplained reasons, Thailand is pandering to the monarchy in Bahrain in dealing with Hakeem. He would be a political prisoner in Bahrain, and that’s why he is a designated refugee. Thailand’s regime has failed to comply with international law. He’s now detailed for another few months in a Thai jail when he should be living freely in Australia.

Third, on political prisoners, activist and lese majeste detainee Jatupat Boonpattararaksa has had two charges of illegal assembly dropped by a military court. Similar charges against six other activists were also dropped. The court had no option as these charges became unenforceable several weeks ago. However, others continue to languish in prison on lese majeste and political assembly charges. The justice system under the junta has failed.

Update 1: The Hakeem al-Araibi case has become so bizarre for the regime that it is coming up with completely ridiculous stories to justify its inability to behave according to international norms and law.

First, there’s Thailand’s head of immigration Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, known by his real nickname, “Big Joke.” He’s dissembled on how Hakeem’s case is different from that of Rahaf Mohamed. It is, but his explanation is ridiculously daft. He says Hakeem’s case is different “because Hakeem had an arrest warrant out for him… [and] Hakeem was the subject of an extradition request…”. Of course, under international law, neither is legitimate. In other words, Thailand’s junta and its officials are acting for Bahrain, but not saying why they are doing this. Our guess is that they cannot say because the explanation leads to the king’s palace.

Second, the “Australian government … urged Thailand to exercise its legal discretion to free a refugee football player who lives and plays in Australia and told a Bangkok court that he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain.” Ridiculously and breaching international law, Thai foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, again stated that “Australia and Bahrain should resolve the issue in discussions between themselves…”. Minister Don seems to ignore the fact that it is Thailand that arrested Hakeem and now holds him. It is Thailand’s responsibility to make a correct and legal decision.

Such a ludicrous statement by a minister would be inexplicable for any normal administration. It is unbelievable that the Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has to point out that “Thailand’s office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand’s Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases. This was also confirmed by the prosecutor in the context of yesterday’s hearing…”.

Dressing and shackling Hakeem is a part of the junta’s effort to portray him as a criminal rather than a refugee. How much deeper can this regime dig itself into a royalist quagmire?

Update 2: And it gets worse for the junta. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said “he was ‘disturbed’ to see Araibi with shackles on his feet when he arrived at the Criminal Court on Monday.” Talking on national television, he added: “I thought that was very upsetting and I know it would have upset many Australians, and I respectfully reminded the Thai prime minister that Australians feel very strongly about this…”.

Update 3: A potential football boycott of Thailand has begun:

Football Federation Australia announced Wednesday it had scrapped the game against China, a scheduled warmup ahead of next month’s qualifiers for the Asian under-23 championships.





Human rights gone

3 02 2019

The record on human rights under the military dictatorship has been worse than abysmal.

Both accredited refugees and those seeking refuge have been “disappeared” or have been returned to the countries they fled. In most cases, it seems likely that deals have been done between the dictatorship in Thailand and dictatorial regimes in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China.

Uighurs have been deported back to China, sometimes chained and hooded, and en masse. Chinese dissidents have suddenly “disappeared” in Thailand to reappear, in China, in the custody of officials, suggestive of deals being done between regimes to allow foreign forces to operate with impunity on Thai soil. Cambodian dissidents have been deported back to prisons in their country.

The there seem to be deals done that allow Thai hunter-killer squads to operate in Laos, torturing and murdering.

Recently, Thailand has cooperated with Bahrain’s monarchy is arresting and seeking to extradite a dissident footballer who has refugee status in Australia. Thailand doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Bahrain, but they still plan to send him back. Rightist officials in Australia seem to have facilitated this situation.

And, now, the news that former Vietnamese political prisoner, Truong Duy Nhat, has “gone missing” in Bangkok.

There’s a pattern emerging regionally. Presumably the reason for dictatorial regimes cooperating is to allow them to threaten and silence all dissidents, at home and abroad.