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.





Updated: A decade of PPT

21 01 2019

A decade has passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand. We admit our huge disappointment that we are still active after all these years.

By this, we mean that PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners, its military dictatorship and political repression would have been a thing of the past. But political dinosaurs flourish in Thailand’s fertile environment filled with fascists, royalists and neo-feudalists. Sadly, the political climate in  the country is regressing faster than most pundits could have predicted.

When we began PPT on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor, publicizing a spike in lese majeste cases to an international audience. Instead, a decade later, we are still at it and dealing with the outcomes of royalist politics gone mad. We now face the repressive reality of the continued dominance of a military dictatorship, brought to power by an illegal military coup in 2014. This regime is underpinned by a nonsensical royalism that masks and protects an anti-democratic ruling class. Royalists have fought to maintain a royalist state that lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few.

In “protecting” monarchy, regime and ruling class, the military junta has continued the politicization of the judiciary and is now rigging an “election” that may, one day, be held, if the king finally decides that he will allow an election. That “election,” embedded in a military-royalist constitution, will potentially be a political nightmare, maintaining military political domination for years to come.

A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream.

When we sputtered into life it was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes and hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology. Those perceived as opponents of the military and the monarchy were whisked away into detention, faced threats and surveillance and some have died or been “disappeared” in mysterious circumstances, and continue to do so in recent months.

This royalism and repression has also strengthened the monarchy and the new monarch. The junta has supinely permitted King Vajiralongkorn to assemble greater economic and political power. It has colluded with the palace in aggregating land for the monarch that was previously set aside for the public. It has colluded in destroying several symbols of the 1932 revolution, emphasizing the rise of neo-feudal royalism that leaves democracy neutered.

On this anniversary, as in past years,  we want an end to political repression and gain the release of every political prisoner. Under the current regime, hundreds of people have been jailed or detained, subjected to military courts and threatened by the military. The military regime is not only illegal but is the most repressive since the royally-appointed regime under Thanin Kraivixien in the mid-1970s.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, both conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a new political dark age where the lese majeste law – Article 112 – has been a grotesque weapon of choice in a deepening political repression.

From 2006 to 2017, lese majeste cases grew exponentially. Worse, both military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than that,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the lese majeste law has been extended. Thankfully, in 2017 we were unable to identify any new lese majeste cases and some in process were mysteriously dropped. We don’t know why. It could be that the military’s widespread crackdown has successfully quieted anti-monarchism or it might be that the king wants no more cases to get public airings and “damage” his “reputation.”

The last information available suggest that there are at least 18 suspects accused of violating Article112 whose cases have reached final verdicts and who remain in prison.

As for PPT, despite heavy censorship and blocking in Thailand, we have now had more than 6 million page views at our two sites. The blocking in Thailand has been more extensive in 2018 than in past years. This is our 7,999th post.

PPT isn’t in the big league of the blogging world, but the level of interest in Thailand’s politics and the use of lese majeste has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to political repression and lese majeste than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of these issues is far more critical than it was.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through all the attempts by the Thai censors to block us. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

As in the past we declare:

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

Charges against political activists must be dropped.

All political prisoners must be released.

The military dictatorship must be opposed.

Update: We completely botched the number of views at PPT. We have amended above to 6 million, not 3 million as we originally had.





Waiting for the royal decree, repressing and cheating

18 01 2019

The guessing game about the missing royal decree and the election date continues.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has joined in, slapping the Election Commission back in its place, proclaiming that “March 24 would be the most suitable poll date compared to other potential dates such as March 3, 10, and 17. The earlier dates do not leave enough time for election campaigning…”.

Recall that when the royal decree did not emerge on 2 January, as promised by the junta, the junta repeatedly stated that the EC was responsible for choosing a date. Now it seems that’s not the case.

Interestingly, Wissanu also loudly declared that he “believed the royal decree calling for the election of MPs is likely to be announced in the Royal Gazette next week.”

Let’s see.

A footnote to this suggested date is “if the poll is held on March 24, the EC will have less than 60 days to endorse at least 95% of the poll results.”This, some say, may leave the EC with “little time to investigate election law violation cases and issue yellow or red cards to election candidates and poll winners who violate the poll regulations.”

That may suit the junta and its devil parties.

Meanwhile, the junta’s security authorities are honing the skills they developed during the rigged 2016 constitutional referendum.

A Prachatai report recounts a story of “people claiming to be plain-clothes Special Branch police officers” seeking to limit the political freedoms and participation of those the junta considers opponents.

Mimicking the repression and silencing of 2016, the plainclothes men”visited Body Fashion (Thailand) Ltd., Bangplee Industrial Estate, Samut Prakan Province” where they demanded access to three “Triumph International Thailand Labour Union members: Konchanok Thanakhun, Tueanchai Waengkha and Pimai Ratwongsa.”

These officers were intent on letting the unionists know that they are under surveillance. They wanted to “discourage” the unionists from participating in pro-election protests. In another action of intimidation, they took photos of the unionists.

The unionists had previously been arrested in 2016 after they “campaigned with members of the New Democracy Movement and distributed leaflets providing information on the constitution referendum.”

Cheating, lying, rigging and repression seems normal for the military junta.





More charges dropped

16 01 2019

On Wednesday, the Bangkok Military Court “dismissed the case against 19 leading red-shirt members charged defying the ban on political gatherings in organising the launch of a centre to monitor the 2016 charter referendum.”

Like the recent case against academics and others in Chiang Mai, the court’s decision follows the junta’s “revocation of its order prohibiting a political gathering of five or more people.”

The junta’s charges were not necessarily meant to do more than repress and intimidate, so even if the charges are now dropped, the effect of the charges was to prevent the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship from monitoring the junta’s rigged constitutional referendum and to prevent campaigning against the junta’s constitution.

Sound familiar?

Of course, all charges like this should now be immediately dropped.