The Dictator and his law

12 09 2017

The Dictator and his military junta are particularly keen on the law. They have used it extensively in their self-initiated battles against Shinawatras, red shirts, the Peau Thai Party, students, local communities, republicans, and anyone else conceived of as an enemy or potential threat.

This is why The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “stressed that justice is a crucial part of human rights protection, saying that everyone must go through the process equally and face the consequences if they are found guilty of wrongdoing, regardless of their social status.”

On the face of it, none of this would seem to apply to General Prayuth and his military dictatorship or their allies. After all, the junta seized state power in an illegal coup, it has abused human rights and it has lasciviously bathed itself and its allies in rule by decree, martial law, impunity and double standards.

A Bangkok Post picture

But, then, one must remember that all the junta members and supporters think the law is a tool for repression and order that falls to those who control the state.

But even then, when The Dictator states that his “government [he means the junta] pays attention to human rights protection and instructs investigations into allegations concerning the issue,” he’s lying. In fact, his regime has repeatedly affirmed that it has little understanding of human rights.

Clearly, however, when General Prayuth, who also commanded troops that gunned down dozens of civilians in 2010, spoke of law and justice, he was thinking of those now declared “fugitives” – Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

He did, however, get closer to truth when he acknowledged that human rights “allegations need to be delicately handled when it comes to the performance of state officials.” What he means is that impunity is the rule and that state officials only get into trouble when their actions don’t help their bosses or when they forget to pass on required loot.

On double standards, the general mischievously declared:

It’s not that the poor commit wrongdoings and they will definitely go to jail, while the rich will not. The fact is that the rich have often fled the scene, and that’s why we see that they don’t go to jail. It’s not a problem with the justice system…. The law is not there to bully anyone. If one commits wrongdoings, he or she must go through it and fight for justice….

Prayuth’s regime has shown that this is untrue. Yes, some of the rich do flee, but sometimes that suits the regime and sometimes it suits the rich. But it is the double standards that are most evident. Slow investigations, withheld evidence, cover-ups, and so on. And, significantly, the regime uses (and abuses) the law to bully and silence opponents. It also uses it to benefit itself and its allies.

Thailand’s justice system was wobbly before the coup. Since the coup it has become an injustice system.





The Economist on the military dictatorship

25 08 2017

Bits from The Economist’s latest edition:

Having been one of South-East Asia’s freest countries two decades ago, Thailand is now among the region’s most repressive….

Since its introduction, Section 44 has been invoked more than 150 times. A constitution adopted a little over a year ago allows the junta to keep using the legislation until a new government is formed after a general election due to take place next year. Other statutes ban gatherings of more than five people, prevent critics of the regime from travelling and allow civilians to be tried in military courts for sedition. Computer-crime regulations curb online activity. And more than 100 people have been arrested under lèse-majesté laws since the junta took power. More than half of them are now either awaiting trial in prison, or serving jail terms for peccadilloes such as “liking” things on Facebook deemed by the junta to be offensive to the royal family. (At the time of the coup in May 2014, just six were behind bars for lèse-majesté.)

The persecuted include activists, journalists, academics and even formerly powerful politicians….

The suppression of civic life bodes ill for Thailand’s democratic prospects. Even if the thrice-delayed general election is held, politicians will be fearful of expressing themselves openly and challenging the junta’s policies.

That seems to be one of the points of the extensive political repression.





Junta repression deepens VI

22 08 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship seems to be in a panic. As we recently posted, some of this seems to be caused by Yingluck Shinawatra’s upcoming verdict. But there’s more going on.

The Criminal Court has “sentenced Watana Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai Party figure and former commerce minister, to one month in prison, suspended for one year, and fined him 500 baht for contempt of court after broadcasting via Facebook Live at the court.” He was also ordered to “delete the clip from his Facebook page.”

The report at the Bangkok Post states that the “sentence was handed down while he was waiting for the court’s decision on whether to detain him on charges of inciting public chaos, breaching Section 116 of the Criminal Code.” It adds that that “charge is in connection with a case involving the removal of a memorial plaque commemorating the 1932 Siamese Revolution.”

A charge related to the plaque is quite bizarre given that the state has not acknowledged that the plaque was stolen or officially removed. Yet complaining about this historical vandalism is considered sedition. That the removal coincided with the royalist ceremonies associated with the junta’s faux constitution is evidence of official efforts to blot out anything not royalist or military in political life and memory.

Watana points out that:

…[T]he Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on Monday submitted a request to detain the politician from Aug 21-Sept 1. Mr Watana was awaiting the ruling on that matter when he started filming in the court.

Earlier at the police station, Mr Watana acknowledged the charge of importing false information into a computer system in violation of the Computer Crime Act after he posted content relating to the plaque’s replacement on his Facebook page.

He was temporarily released on 200,000-baht bail for both charges.

He said it was not common for TCSD investigators to summon someone again after the person has already acknowledged the charges again him.

Mr Watana also said the detention request is intended to hinder him from giving moral support to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court this Friday.

Then there are those academics and others who attended and organized the International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University. They have reported to police and been fingerprinted while denying charges brought against them.

Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University, met Chang Phuak police with Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai and Thiramon Bua-ngam after the summons had been issued for them on Aug 11, almost a month after the four-day 13th International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University ended on July 18.

They face charges of assembling of more than four for political activities, which is prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order.

As with the fit-ups of Pravit Rojanaphruk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Chayan is being fitted up. He had nothing much to do with those protesting the military’s surveillance of conference attendees. The other four are also being fitted up as there were others who held the signs and appeared in photos, and these persons have not been summoned by the police.





Junta repression deepens V

22 08 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship seems to be in a panic.

As we recently posted, some of this seems to be caused by Yingluck Shinawatra’s upcoming verdict. In that post, it was reported that police were to block entry to the government complex where the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions will convene.

We also reported statements that the police are about to set up road blocks nationwide (well, where they think the oppositional red shirts are located) to prevent people traveling to Bangkok for that verdict. As it turns out, it is military thugs who are setting up check points.

The Bangkok Post reports that troops began “setting up checkpoints on all key roads leading to Bangkok Monday to screen people heading to the capital…”.

The report adds that “[c]heckpoints are also being constructed in provincial areas and plainclothes police dispatched to provide security outside the capital…”.

Checkpoints are threatening for many, not least because troops can be trigger happy. Recall that no investigation has been completed regarding the apparent extrajudicial murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae, gunned down by troops months ago at a checkpoint.

In addition, “[o]utside Bangkok, officers are tasked with looking for potential ‘troublemakers’ among Ms Yingluck’s supporters.” In red shirt areas, the repressive actions are deepening: “… a 700-strong security force made mostly of soldiers was recently dispatched to Udon Thani…”.

At the court itself, the “Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) has decided to increase the number of officers in and around the court on Friday from 2,500 to 4,000. They will be supported by three helicopters, 20 riot-control vehicles and four ambulances…”.





Junta repression deepens IV

21 08 2017

The military junta’s fears for 25 August have reached the stage where it is going to set up nationwide roadblocks to prevent persons its thugs believe to be Yingluck Shinawatra supporters getting to Bangkok.

The Nation reports that police “plan to set up checkpoints at every gate of the Chaeng Wattana government complex, with only the main gate near the administrative court open.” In addition, “security checkpoints would be set up in various areas across the country starting on Wednesday.”

The police state that “[a]ny suspicious movement would be blocked and the people involved could be detained.”

This is a threat but also one that is likely to be carried out. The junta seems desperate.





Further updated: Protesting ICTS charges

18 08 2017

Sent by a reader:

Statement by participants at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies on the Summons and accusations against fellow participants

We the undersigned express our alarm and dismay at the Summons issued by Col Suebsakul Buarawong, deputy commander of the 33rd Military Circle in Chiang Mai, to Dr Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam. They are accused of violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief’s Order No.3/2015, Thailand’s military regime’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons. Conviction on the charges issued against these five scholars carries a potential six months in prison.

The International Conference on Thai Studies is the main international scholarly forum for presentation and discussion of research on Thailand. It has been held every three years since 1981, hosted by universities in Thailand, Australia, China, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. In July 2017 the conference was hosted by Chiang Mai University and achieved a record turnout of 1224 participants. The conference was a resounding success. It was marred only by the intimidating presence of uniformed and non-uniformed security personnel.

The intimidating presence of security personnel at ICTS13 and more generally at scholarly events is in direct contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. It also contravenes the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Thailand has also signed, and which guarantees academic freedom.

We call on the military government of Thailand to:

  1. Immediately withdraw the summons and implied charges against Dr Chayan
    Vaddhanaphuti, Ms Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Mr Chaipong Samnieng, Mr
    Nontawat Machai, and Mr Thiramon Bua-ngam.
  2. Cease forthwith the intimidation of academics and students in their conduct of
    scholarly teaching, research, public discussion and debate, on- and off-campus.
  3. Cease the restriction of free and open discussion on pressing issues of concern to the
    wider Thai public, in line with Thailand’s international commitments.

Dated Friday 18 August
Signed by 291 ICTS13 participants

(ไทย version and Signatories to the Statement can be downloaded as PDFs.)

Update 1: A reader has sent us another statement by academics on the summoning of Thai academics and students from the ICTS by junta thugs. This one is an international effort. But to do what, we are unsure. It weakly expresses concern about the events and it is unclear who it is addressed to. Pussy-footing around the military dictatorship seems all academics are able to do, fearing for themselves and perhaps Thai colleagues.

Update 2: Another petition signed by more than 400 academics worldwide has been posted at New Mandala. It is a little stronger, expressing “alarm and dismay.”





Junta repression deepens III

18 08 2017

In an earlier report at the Bangkok Post, Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan claimed:

Just over 1,000 people are expected to turn up at the Supreme Court next Friday to lend moral support to embattled former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra as she hears the court’s ruling in the rice-pledging case…”.

No doubt he reckons all of the repression and suppression that the military regime has engaged in will deter many of those who would have shown up. Threats, armed military patrols in villages and towns considered “red,” and charges against van drivers have all been a part of the efforts to repress.

A later report at the newspaper is saying that more than “2,500 police will be sent to the Supreme Court where crowds of Yingluck Shinawatra supporters are expected to lend her moral support next Friday…”.

The Army will also provide “security,” meaning that there could be more than 3,000 officers to “manage” the just over 1,000 people Prawit reckons will show up – three officers to each Yingluck supporter.

This is probably another attempt to dissuade her supporters showing up through the threat of heavy suppression.

But it seems the police didn’t read Prawit’s statement and they think more Yingluck supporters will show up. The police will set up “choke points,” to check each person who attends and will keep them behind barriers, threatening them with charges if they go beyond these.