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.





The king’s political and economic grabs

18 02 2020

Prachatai has an important assessment of the reign of King Vajiralongkorn, so far.

Naturally enough it focuses on his efforts to accumulate political and economic power.

As the article is free to access in Thailand, we will not reproduce or summarize it here.

It is the most complete accounting of these acquisitions that we have seen in English and its is a sad listing of royal greed.





Isan memory

26 01 2020

As a kind of pushback on the re-feudalization being pushed by military-backed regime and the king’s palace, Prachatai curates an excellent Thai-language discussion of memories of the 1932 revolution and it memorialization in the northeast. Worth a look even if Thai is not your language.





Remembering I

11 01 2020

After posting about the erasure of history and memory, PPT was delighted to come across Prachatai’s 2019: สำรวจภูมิทัศน์การเมืองไทยช่วง ‘รอยต่อ’. For those readers who can navigate this Thai-language article, the reward is some excellent and sometimes brave analysis of recent politics.

Two illustrations sum up an effort to revive history and memory. The first is of the trail of military coups and unelected senates/senators, appropriately marked with crowns.

The second illustration is of the kings land grabbing and the text includes a listing of some of these. Of course, there’s been much more, some of which hasn’t even been mentioned in the media. This is an ongoing accumulation that should be closely watched in 2020 :





That plaque

19 07 2018

We won’t repeat the story of how the plaque commemorating the 1932 Revolution, people’s sovereignty and the end of the absolute monarchy disappeared.

No one has officially claimed responsibility for that act of political vandalism and the plaque being replaced by one extolling the wonders of royalism.

Interestingly, in a story at Prachatai, there’s an official clue as to the status of the thieves and vandals. (We must add that we are pleased that the English version of Prachatai has suddenly made a comeback after a hiatus over the past months or so.)

A second part of a report on a seminar that assessed the 1932 Revolution reports the presentation by former lese majeste prisoner and longtime activist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk:

Somyot stated that today he came [to the seminar] with a police car leading him. He considered it was a great honour for the police officers show respect to him by asking him for details and asking about certain matters that are inappropriate to be speaking about.

We would have guessed that the police wanted to silence him on lese majeste, the monarchy or his case. But no: “The issue they asked him to not talk about was the disappearance of the Khana Ratsadon plaque.

That suggests to us that the junta must have authorized the plaque’s removal or is officially covering-up for the real culprit. (Many assume that King Vajiralongkorn ordered its removal.)

Somyos went on to explain that:

… the disappearance of the plaque is nothing new because there have always been attempts to destroy the symbols of the 1932 revolution all the time, including the misrepresentation of the history of 1932 as premature where the revolution went ahead even though King Rama VII was getting ready to bestow democracy. The … date of the national day has been changed and Khana Ratsadon architecture such as the Supreme Court building, has been destroyed.

Ever a political optimist, Somyos explained:

As for the missing plaque, … its disappearance today is alright. When one day we have democracy, and a government, we can install a new one. At least it can be an ideological symbol of democracy and Khana Ratsadon.

We can only hope he’s right and support those who favor electoral democracy of military dictatorship.