Updated: Cracking down II

12 09 2021

As we have posted several times, the regime has adopted more aggressive repression, extending from protesters to the media. This is reflected in a Prachatai Facebook post on arrests and intimidation on Saturday, reproduced in full:

51 people have been arrested following a clash between protesters and crowd control police at Din Daeng.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that they have been notified at around 23.45 on Saturday night (11 September) that 51 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors and were taken to the Paholyothin Police Station. 23 of those arrested were adults and taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, while the remaining 22 people were taken to the Don Mueang Police Station.

Volunteer medics in the area have also been detained. According to iLaw, 25 volunteer medics were taken to the Din Daeng Police Station. The police took record of their information, but did not charge them.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

During the clash, which began in the evening, crowd control police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, who retaliated with firecrackers and other small explosives.

Crowd control police were also reported to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into nearby houses and apartment buildings. They also threatened to arrest residence who came to force the officers out of their community, claiming that they were out past curfew.

According to The Reporters’ live broadcast, crowd control police also ordered a group of journalists gathering near the Din Daeng District Office to sit down and end their live broadcasts while the officers check their IDs.

The Reporters posted on their Facebook page at around 22.40 that they have to end their live broadcast as the police ordered journalists to leave the area or they will be arrested for breaking curfew.

The Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding area have been the site of daily clashes for the past month, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. TLHR said that at least 225 people were arrested during the Din Daeng protests in August alone, at least 15 of whom were under 15 years old and at least 62 were between 15 – 18 years old.

Update: Also at its Facebook page, Prachatai provides more information:

To express objection toward the police brutal arrest and protest crackdown last night, people rallied at Din Daeng Intersection and Ratchaprasong Intersection to protest.

As of 19.30, no clash has been taken place in either locations. Explosive sounds were heard and some small fire were seen set on the road of Din Daeng. The organizer at Ratchaprasong were brought to Pathum Wan police station.

On 19.45, rubber bullets were shot at the protester at Din Daeng.

On Saturday night, (11 September) 78 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors. Some of the arrested reportedly stated that they were either passerby, vendors, motorcycle taxi or people who went to the protest to find food giveaway.





Faking fake news

11 09 2021

The regime’s efforts to stifle dissent and anti-monarchism has long targeted online discussion. Because of the way that international apps and sites work, this now involves loyalist, royalist courts issuing orders under legislation that delineates so-called fake news. This resort to the courts has been a constant since the 2014 military coup, deepening since the rise of student-led protests.

Prachatai, using work by The Reporters, show that “between 16 – 22 August, the MDES [Ministry of Digital Economy and Society] reported that they have found 44 URLs which they claimed to be spreading fake news, and that they are in the process of requesting a court order to block at least 145 URLs.” Of course, this is in additon to hundreds and thousands already blocked.

In this latest bunch, most are Facebook pages. While it is no surprise, many of these pages are by political activists. What is something of a surprise is that well-established online news sites and those of journalists are also being targeted. This suggests a growing appetite to further censor the media. We would guess that the confidence to take such steps is to bolstering the regime’s more aggressive street-level tactics to repress demonstrators.

Among them is Prachatai’s own Thai language Facebook page and the Facebook profile of their reporter Sarayut Tungprasert. Other media included are “Voice TV’s Talking Thailand Facebook page and the Progressive Movement’s Facebook page.” Other pages listed are:

The Facebook pages for academic in exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun, photographer Karnt Thassanaphak, actor and pro-democracy protest supporter Inthira Charoenpura, and activist Parit Chiwarak are all included on the list, as well as the Facebook pages for activist groups Free Youth, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Dome Revolution, and Thalufah. The Facebook group [belong to Pavin] Royalist Marketplace is also listed.

17 Twitter accounts appear, including those of human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa, Thalufah and UFTD, as well as @ThePeopleSpaces, an account which often runs discussions relating to politics and the pro-democracy movement on Twitter’s Spaces platform.

Prachatai states that it “does not know which piece of news led to the Facebook page and Sarayut’s Facebook profile being included on the list.”

While the king has not been seen for several weeks – is he in Thailand or holidaying in Germany? – his minions are hard at work erasing anti-monarchism.





A violent interlude II

15 08 2021

Sunday saw another of the now almost daily protests against Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime. In recent days, the locus for police crackdowns on rallies has been the Din Daeng area. The Bangkok Post reports:

Violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police resumed around the Din Daeng intersection on Sunday evening to round off the biggest day yet of “car mob” rallies.

Some of the protesters riding motorcycles and cars arrived at the intersection after joining the car mob rallies which converged at key locations including the Ratchaprasong and Lat Phrao intersections.

Around 5pm, a group of mostly young protesters broke away from the main parade rallies and gathered at Din Daeng intersection where confrontations with police have occurred over the past week.

The Post states that protesters initiated clashes. PPT wasn’t there, but that’s not what we saw on live broadcasts. It is true that perception of incidents depends a lot on where reporters are during an event.

That said, the Post generally presents regime perspectives and seems keen to present the protesters as violent.

Other reports present a different perspective. For instance, Prachatai, reporting on Saturday’s protest states:

What promised to be a peaceful march to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s house by the Talu Fa (Pierce the Sky) group made no more headway than other protests earlier this week. The protesters withdrew after police used force to keep them from reaching their destination.

At that protest – a series of multiple events – it is reported that when “some of the protesters tried to tear down the [now usual] container blockade, police responded with tear gas, affected many of those marching.”

Clipped from Prachatai

In all of this, the issue of political violence is being widely discussed among activists. Interestingly, it is reported that:

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar, who co-organised Sunday’s car mob rallies, arrived at the scene amid boos and jeers as he tried in vain to persuade the protesters to go home.

Earlier in the day, Mr Nattawut promised the movement’s wider rallies would be peaceful. He also said protesters would avoid confrontations with police and stay away from politically sensitive places, including Government House and the prime minister’s residence.

There’s clearly a generation gap on what matters, with the younger generation of activists more clearly focused on the anachronism that it the monarchy and more clearly identifying their opposition to the monarchy-capitalist-military alliance that has been dominant for decades. As well, there is a festering resentment of an older generation that has already capitulated several times over.





Royal wealth extraction

19 01 2021

Readers may recall the demonstration at the Siam Commercial Bank, where the king is the largest shareholder, when activists “demanded public oversight of … Vajiralongkorn’s vast wealth…”. In our view, the king’s control of huge wealth is as significant as his political meddling. And, perhaps more important than his personal wealth, and how he and his forebears got it, is the huge piles of taxpayer’s money that “supports” the monarchy.

Helpfully, and in the current circumstances, bravely, Prachatai has posted on these topics.

On the money sucked from the taxpayer, the Prachatai report states:

In summary, in 2021, various agencies allocated budget related to the monarchy, all of which total approximately 37.228 billion baht or 1.12% of all the national budget (3.3 trillion baht), divided into 20.653 billion baht in direct expenses and 16.575 billion baht in indirect expenses.

That’s a lot of money – more than $1 billion! Helpfully, there’s considerable detail, all extracted from the Budget Bureau’s reports. The report states that “many of the projects among the indirect expenses are for the public benefit.” We are not convinced. After all, money sucked out of the public purse to glorify the monarch is money lost to other possibly good purposes.

The Royal Offices alone get more than 8.98 billion baht in 2021, up almost 17% over 2020. Meanwhile, the Thai economy languishes and millions are struggling to make ends meet. By 2024, this budget is forecast to increase to almost 10.7 billion baht by 2024, up almost 40% over 2020.

We at PPT also wonder if the figures mined by Prachatai are complete. For example, does it include the budget for the hugely expensive royal projects? Our feeling is that the monarchy eats far more taxpayer wealth than we are seeing here.

Further information on how the monarchy accumulated its wealth is covered in a second Prachatai report. This is mainly focused on historical wealth. We guess it is too difficult and potentially dangerous to add up Vajiralongkorn’s many property grabs.





Updated: Another day of defiance

17 10 2020

The past 24 hours have been a churn. The regime is struggling to control defiant students who appear far more nimble and far smarter than the regime’s leaders. The regime’s response is repression.

The most startling events were the demonstration last evening, where thousands of mostly young people, organized through social media and smart phones, assembled at the Prathumwan intersection, leaving the authorities looking daft as they surrounded and barricaded the Rajaprasong intersection (where they expected the rally).

The chants of “release our friends,” “Prayuth out,” and “ai hia O” were lound, even though the event was largely leaderless.

The police then marched down the road and “dispersed” demonstrators using water cannon laced with dye and chemicals. The police looked comical when their first effort to use the cannon resulted in the police spraying themselves.

The regime denies the use of chemicals, but all reporters at the scene said the water caused itching and irritation to eyes. Police arrested some people, some seen being thrown into police vans. Most protesters decamped via Chulalongkorn University.

The police used were reportedly Border Patrol Police, infamous for their murderous role in 1976. But these are the police the regime considers sufficiently loyal.

Reporters were not safe from the arrests. Prachatai announced that one of its reporters, Kitti Pantapak “was arrested in front of MBK Centre while reporting live on Facebook about the police crackdown…”. He was “wearing a press armband from the Thai Journalist Association, a symbol that separates the protesters and media.” He was taken to “Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani, where other protesters were also detained.” At 2am he was released after being fined.

Earlier in the day, police invaded a press conference at the headquarters of the Progressive Movement, “with a search warrant, interrupting a press conference called by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.” He was “speaking against the state of emergency and legal action taken against protesters accused of causing harm to … the Queen.”

The search warrant was issued under the state of emergency. (For critiques of the emergency decree, see here and here.)

Because there were so many reporters at the conference, the police raid was livestreamed. Piyabutr was heard urging the police to take the side of the people, “instead of following orders from their superiors.” The officers were clearly embarrassed and were repeatedly on the phone to their superiors. They eventually left seemingly finding nothing, but the threat to the Progressive Movement was clear. The regime sees a plot, with the students being led and funded by the Progressive Movement.

Update: In the post above, we had missed The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s response to calls for him to resign, as reported by Khaosod:

“Let me ask you what I did wrong? What did I do wrong right now? Can I ask you?” Prime Minister Prayut said to reporters in the first news conference since he declared a “severe emergency” over Bangkok.

When a reporter suggested it was because Prayut has been a Prime Minister for too long, the general replied, “Have you listened to monks’ prayer? Have you visited a temple at all? I guess you don’t often visit a temple, that’s why you are like this.”

“Listen to the prayers … don’t be careless, because people can die today, or tomorrow,” Prayut said, hours before a new protest is planned in Bangkok’s city center. “As the prayers go, don’t be reckless with your life. Prepare to die any moment, by illness or whatever.”

He went on, “Do not trifle with the powerful Grim Reaper. Death may come today, or another day. Everyone can die at any moment.”

 





Updated: Army lies

12 10 2020

Army trolls

A few days ago, we posted on Twitter’s revelations that the Royal Thai Army has at least 926 accounts used in “information operations” against anti-government figures and opposition politicians. Naturally enough, the military and its regime responded. And, this bunch of dullards did so only they can.

The Bangkok Post reported that the regime and Army “have slammed Twitter, accusing it of unfairly linking them with nearly 1,000 accounts which the social media giant took down for being propagandist.” Yeah, right. Remember that this is a regime that has jailed hundreds for posts on social media. They claim they can track social media accounts, but, apparently, the company Twitter can’t. Seriously, how stupid are they and how stupid do they think Thais are?

The Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta went on the attack, seeming to acknowledge that the Twitter accounts belonged to the military, but blasting Twitter for not complying with orders issued by the regime’s tame courts “to take down accounts which contained defamatory content against the monarchy.” Some dolt must have told the minister that attack was the best form of defense.

It’s always about the monarchy when these dopes try to repel criticism, reverting to Pavlovian responses.

As it so often does, the Army simply denied it had any “information operations.” How thick are these people? It was only in February that official budget documents revealed such information operations.

To “help” out, deputy army spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong decided to deny by stating something that’s true but irrelevant: “Unidentified user accounts had nothing to do with any official account of the army.” Ah, that’s the point of these operations; they are not meant to be official.

Khaosod reported that the accounts “were using randomized usernames and they had zero to 66 followers. The oldest account was created on May 27, 2014, five days after the coup which brought PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to power, while most of the accounts were created between Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020.” It added that the majority of the 21,386 tweets by the accounts “promoted the works of the army and praised the monarchy with messages such as ‘Great work!,’ ‘I’m with you,’ and ‘Long live the king’.”

They became particularly active after “the mass shooting in Korat by a disgruntled soldier in February, in which they tried to disassociate the army from the shooter and honored the military’s role in bringing down the shooter.” Many of the messages attacked “opposition politicians, such as Thanathorn Juangruangroongkit and Pannika Wanich, the former executives of the now-disbanded Future Forward Party.”

Khaosod also pointed out that the Army’s cack-handed effort to distance itself from “Twitter’s accusations do not sit well with multiple reports that show army units routinely engaging in online information campaigns aimed at discrediting the opposition and upholding the Royal Family.” Back in 2016, “then-army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart confirmed the force is engaging in information operations to suppress distorted information and create ‘better understanding’ with people on social media.”

In other words, they are liars. Indeed, damned liars.

Update: When they are not lying, they are shutting down stuff. Prachatai reports that its “video of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa in which he addresses monarchy reform is inaccessible…” on YouTube.  A “YouTube spokesperson has stated via email that it is operating in line with a Thai government request.” In other words, YouTube is working hand-in-glove with liars, trolls and dictators. In fact, the regime seldom uses a court order when requesting blocking: “According to the Google Transparency Report … during 2009-2019 the Thai government submitted 964 requests to delete content…. Of the requests, only 62 were endorsed by the Thai courts…”. Shameful that YouTube goes along with such rubbish.





With several updates: Royalists, recycling and ratbag rightists

31 08 2020

Watching the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group “rally” on Sunday was reminiscent of some of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee events. There was some yellow, some whistles, old head and arm bands, and the white, flag-themed t-shirts all seemed recycled from Suthep Thaugsuban’s efforts to overthrow an elected government and/or provide the political space for a military coup.

Thai PBS reports that mostly aged royalists rallied in support of the absent monarch and the junta’s constitution and to demand strong legal measures against student and pro-democracy activists. It was a full bag of rightist demands, recycled from earlier movements going back to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the military-backed rightists of earlier decades.

Former Democrat Party member, former Action Coalition for Thailand member, and long-term yellow shirt Warong Dechgitvigrom led the rally, and denied he planned and “confrontation” with rallying students and other pro-democracy groups. He did not say that his assigned task is to rally support from the right and royalists and to provide a potential base for further military-backed intervention, should that be deemed necessary by the powers that watch over him and his ilk.

Like his predecessors, Warong blamed all of Thailand’s “troubles” on “politicians,” accusing them of “plunging Thailand into deeper political divide, separating the old and new generations.”

His claim was that his ragtag ratbags had:

come together to protect the [m]onarchy, to retain the Thai identity, to do away with all forms of monopoly, to attain career equality for all Thai people, through the application of technology, and to enhance national prosperity via a sufficiency economy.

He also called for the “Education Minister and all university rectors” repress the student-based activism by not allowing space for rallies and to stop “lecturers, who may harbor anti-[m]onarchy leanings, from ‘brainwashing’ their students.” In this, he is recycling rightism from the 1970s.

In addition, Thai Pakdee planned to recycle rightist demands on the Japanese Embassy to stop Pavin Chachavalpongpun criticizing the monarchy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s Jatuporn Promphan, who has sounded rather royalist of late, said Thai Pakdee had “an extreme right-wing agenda, similar to a combination of the former Nawaphol, Red Guard and Village Scout groups.” We are not sure how Red Guards get into the mix, but his reference to Thai rightist heritage is apt.

The recycling of rightists and their rhetoric is dangerous, often leading to the unexplained/uninvestigated bashing of regime critics, probably by rightists working with the authorities.

It is dangerous also for regime and monarchy critics who live in exile. Rightist rhetoric gives cover and justification for the several enforced disappearances in Laos and Cambodia. These are very likely black ops by the Thai military operating on orders from the regime and the palace.

These acts of violence have been meant as “warnings” to anti-regime and anti-monarchists, to instill fear and to silence them.

Getting away with abduction, torture and murder in “brother authoritarian” regimes is relatively easily arranged, often a quid pro quo for similar operations by those regimes in Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

But it seems that this is not enough. The regime’s panic about anti-monarchy exiles in Japan, the USA and Europe is heightened, probably provoked by recent activism targeting the king in Germany.

The Nation reports on recent efforts to threaten those overseas based critics. Jom Petpradap, a “journalist living in exile in the United States has accused the Thai government of making veiled threats to his life and safety.” He has received a “package sent to him from Thailand [that] contained threatening materials” that made it clear that he is under surveillance and being followed.

Other exiles and outspoken monarchy critic Andrew MacGregor Marshall have reported similar packages and/or stalking.

Rightists in Thailand are also recycling Alt-Right inspired propaganda.

Thisrupt has a limited report on this development, noting that these conspiracy-based “revelations” of “plots” against the right’s Thailand mirror efforts in the 1970s to link student movements to international communism and efforts to overthrow the monarchy.

Something called “Thailand Vision” has been claiming a “plot,” backed by the USA – claimed to be promoting a “color revolution” in Thailand – and funded by Thai and international billionaires and capitalists. Like racists and rightists elsewhere, George Soros is identified as one of the culprit. Soros is remembered by Thai rightists as a culprit in the 1997 economic crisis. But his real “crime” is support for liberal causes.

In an elaborate concoction, Thailand Vision actually recycles claims made in earlier years by a self-exiled American, yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist who has been writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche. and with connections to Alex Jones and much of the anti-imperialist alt-right.

In earlier times, it was Thaksin Shinawatra who was the “culprit” in motivating the international liberal/globalist conspiracy to bring down the monarchy. Now it is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and international capitalists “behind” NGOs and international “co-conspirators” like the German newspaper Bild (for its tabloid journalism n the king in Germany), Business Insider, PixelHELPER, Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even Netflix!

In Thailand, “co-conspirators” include almost all of the NGOs and other organizations that are not rightist and sufficiently royalist, including the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Thai Volunteer Service, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL), Union for Civil Liberty, Prachatai, 101.world and The Isaan Record.

This might all sound bizarre, but in the recent past, such conspiracy nonsense has gained traction among former leftist yellow shirts like the late Kraisak Choonhavan and the regime/junta.

Recycling propaganda is about promoting notions of “threat” and mobilizing rightist reaction.

Update 1: We missed a Khaosod story about the ultras on Sunday. As well as one rally speaker – the youngest – seeming to incite violence and, later, calling for military dictatorship, coupled with a “Down with Democracy” screech, “speakers dish[ed] out conspiracy theories that implicate the governments of the United States and other Western countries in the ongoing anti-government protests.” Celebrity Hatai Muangboonsri said onstage: “Western powers want us to be divided. They encouraged a mindset that hates the pillars of our country…”. The reaction from the US Embassy was predictable. There’s also a strain of pro-China agitation from the ultras, who have mostly opposed Hong Kong democracy protesters.

Update 2: Two stories at The Nation deserve some attention. The first is about a street sweeper attacked outside the Thai Pakdee rally at the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Din Daeng. He was allegedly beaten up “because he was wearing a red shirt.” The story states: “It is assumed that the guard of Thai Pakdee royalist group may have assumed that Sukhon [the man beaten] had worn red to show he was associated with the anti-coup red-shirt movement.” The second story is a most unconvincing “denial” by Warong. Yellow social media is denigrating the cleaner as a “red buffalo” who got what he deserved as a Thaksin supporter. Fascism is on the march.

Update 3: In another story at The Nation, Student Union of Thailand spokesperson Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul insisted that the only people “behind” the student protests were the students themselves. She was logical in pointing out that the use of social media to raise political awareness among students and the young generation means that the students have a lot of supporters: “It wakes up many people. There are a lot of people who think like us.” She added: “It is human nature that if we know that many people share our views, then we have the courage to speak out … our fear is lessened…”. She added that she doesn’t even know all of the groups who associate themselves with Free People. Unlike Russian-paid trolls and yellow-shirted dolts, she’s brave, smart and appears (rather too) innocent.

Update 4: We added a link to Update 1 and corrected a point there.

Update 5: The Nation reports that Warong has “denied that the 15-year-old who posted a message on Facebook Live encouraging dictatorship was a member of his group.” He declared:  “he is not our member. I don’t know. Go ask him. He’s just a kid”.

Clipped from Khaosod

As the above picture shows, Warong is dissembling. He’s shown pulling a Thai Pakdee shirt over the lad’s yellow shirt. He’s applauded and lauded. Warong is trying to mislead people because he doesn’t want Thai Pakdee portrayed as it really is: an undemocratic, pro-military, pro monarchy mob that promotes the dictatorship.





State violence from past to present

16 04 2020

Prachatai has an excellent long read “Songs, tales, tears: State violence in the periphery from past to present.”

We strongly recommend this article as it reminds us all of the violence of Thailand’s military and royalist state.

It begins with a brief account of a recent act of violence in the deep south when the military slaughtered four men working in the forest:

The state gave out information that it was a clash between paramilitary Rangers and RKK armed forces. Later, the Human Rights Protection Committee, appointed by the Fourth Army Area Commander, concluded the soldiers mistook the dead men for terrorists and they were killed as they were running away. However, the families of the deceased insisted that all the young men possessed nothing but tools for cutting wood and chainsaws.

None of the men was shot running. All “were shot in the head; two of them sitting crossed-leg on the ground, leaning forward.” In other words, they were executed in a manner that has been seen in the past.

The article then recalls four other examples of the military’s murders, including the notorious red drum murders where villagers were burned alive.

Clipped from Prachatai

The article concludes with a note on impunity:

There has been no punishment for those responsible for these events, so it is hard for Thai society to learn lessons in order to prevent violence in the future.





Prachatai’s documentaries

15 03 2020

If readers haven’t seen them, we want to draw attention to three documentaries recently posted to Prachatai. They are:

Talk for Freedom by iLaw and Prachatai. Described as a new documentary that tells the story of Mafang and Pai Dao Din, two of the participants in the Talk for Freedom public forum on the draft of the 2017 constitution at Khon Kaen University on 31 July 2016, who were prosecuted by the NCPO for violating the NCPO 3/2558, which prohibited a political gathering of more than five people. Of course, Pai Dao Din went on to serve time for lese majeste.

Wound of the Soul is a documentary by The Pen that tells the story of the effects of national security laws, such as martial law, emergency decree and the Internal Security Act, on those who live in the Deep South.

Humans of Muang Phia is by the New Isan Movement and Prachatai and tells the story of the Hak Ban Koet group’s fight against the Mitr Phol sugar factory and biomass power plant project and for their right to take part in making decisions about what happens in their hometown.





Military business

18 02 2020

There’s quite a lot of useful discussion of military business following the Korat shootings.

The Bangkok Post has a story on the remarkably – almost unbelievably – quick transfer of a range of land and business holdings to the Treasury:

The army has struck a deal with the Finance Ministry’s Treasury Department on the management of its commercial welfare projects and its commercial use of state land to ensure transparency and regulation compliance.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on Monday will pave the way for the transfer of state land and commercial businesses to the Finance Ministry and allow most of their revenue to go into state coffers.

Among the assets under the MoU were more than 100 petrol stations, retail shops, flea markets, boxing stadiums, golf courses, horse racing tracks and hotels — located on army land leased to it by the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department is also expected to step in to tackle problems of encroachment on 700,000 rai of army land by the public. The illegal occupants will be allowed to continue to use the property but be required to pay rent under a three-year contract.

This is all a bit too startling to believe, not least because all other reports have been that money would continue to flow to the Army. And the, in the same report, we read:

army chief-of-staff Gen Teerawat Boonyawat said the MoU paves the way for the discussions about how these commercial entities will be managed going forward.

We hope some investigative journalists are watching and tallying this exercise.

Meanwhile, Prachatai has two excellent reports on the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project. As one of the two headlines has it, “No coup, no project.”

While there’s a lot that’s wrong with the EEC, one element of it has been the land grabbing by the military and the conversion of military facilities into commercial ventures.

Much more needs to be known about the role of the military in the EEC.

And then there’s the Bangkok Post comment about Deputy Dictator PM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan:

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, … has turned a gigantic army welfare housing into the Office of the Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation under his long-standing chairmanship. The 75-year-old deputy prime minister defiantly disputed claims that he resides there, saying he is only using it as the foundation’s office. Is this correct? Or is Gen Prawit enjoying undeserved privileges? The army has to clarify this, too.

The military only seems to be revealing what it feels it needs to in a PR exercise. There needs to be independent oversight of exactly what’s going on.