Questioning elections and the corrupted charter

4 03 2018

In an important modulation of tune, some in the media are beginning to question what the call for a junta “election” means.

Prachatai has an editorial – not common for them – which reminds readers of the twin calls made by the activists calling themselves the Democracy Restoration Group:

… The DRG has proposed two main ideas — firstly, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must hold an election in 2018, and, secondly, it must cease its efforts to hang on to power after the election.

“When we have elections, when we have an [elected] cabinet, the NCPO has to step down by default; this is the first step of building our democracy,” DRG leader Anon Nampa said during a speech at the protest on 24 February at Thammasat University. “Second step, … all NCPO orders and announcements that limit our rights must be amended by a parliament that we elect. This is the importance of elections.”

It says the second step is being largely ignored in the media and by the broader public and advises: “Pro-democracy activists should remind the public more that the election will not lead the country to a brighter future if the military still retains power in Thai politics.”

In the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson writes of advance election rigging, using all the state’s means and resources and a dirty tricks campaign. All designed to keep The Dictator and his junta mates in power after the junta’s “election.”

These warnings need to be taken seriously. But more attention should also be given to the 2017 constitution and its long-term rigging of the political system for the benefit of the ruling classes and their cronies. It should not be forgotten that the “referendum” for the junta’s constitution was neither free nor fair and that the constitution results from a series of mutinous and illegal actions by the military dictatorship.

Part of the “fix” that the constitution puts in place is the near impossibility for any elected government to alter the junta’s basic law. Yet any “elected” government that is not the devil spawn of the junta must do away with this corrupted charter.





Getting headlines wrong

21 04 2017

Brief corrections to two stories in the media that mislead, both noted by PPT readers.

First, at Prachatai, there’s a report headlined “Junta blocks Youtube channel of exiled Thai journalist.” This is a story that reports the censorship of a YouTube channel run by exiled journalist Jom Petpradab called Jom Voice. He makes his program in the US and is critical of the regime. The story adds:

In 2014, after he was summoned by the junta, he fled Thailand to live in the US where he founded Thaivoicemedia.com, a web-based Thai media outlet in exile. The website is also blocked by the government.

Correction: As far as we are aware, the blocking of a YouTube channel is the work of YouTube, a Google subsidiary. The military dictatorship’s minions might have asked for the blocking but it is Google’s YouTube that does the blocking.

Google’s policy states:

Government requests to remove content
We regularly receive requests from courts and government agencies around the world to remove information from Google products. Sometimes we receive court orders that don’t compel Google to take any action. Instead, they are submitted by an individual as support for a removal request. We closely review these requests to determine if content should be removed because it violates a law or our product policies. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive in six-month periods.

The latest report we could find at Google is for the end of 2015 and then they counted nearly 5,000 government requests for censorship. No information was listed for Thailand. It states that: “From July to December 2015, the top three products for which governments requested removals were YouTube, Web Search, and Blogger.” It adds: “From July to December 2015, governments from around the world requested that we remove 6144 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 4242 items—3498 due to legal reasons, and 744 found to be violations of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”

Google has been named previously as working with the military dictatorship.

Second, at the Bangkok Post, there’s a headline “Future govts ‘won’t face curbs’.” It’s first paragraph states: “The government has given assurances that a bill supporting its 20-year national development blueprint will not restrict future elected governments from making changes to the plan as they see fit.”

The puppet National Legislative Assembly, without a single dissenting voice, voted “to accept the government’s bill setting out action plans for national reforms for deliberation…”.

But here is how junta minion Wissanu Krea-ngam is actually reported:

… Wissanu … told the meeting that the national strategy bill will set out action plans for long-term national development as stipulated by the new constitution.

Mr Wissanu allayed concerns that the 20-year national development strategy will cripple future elected governments’ ability to run the country.

The bill still allows future governments to adjust the 20-year plan to suit changing circumstances both at home and abroad, though any changes must be in line with the law and the constitution, he said….

…[H]e said, a range of measures will be in place to enforce compliance with national strategy, including warnings and coercive measures.

If state agencies fail to comply despite warnings, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will be asked to take action against the chiefs of those agencies, Mr Wissanu said.

This plan is deemed to take precedence over all others. It is binding on all agencies,” Mr Wissanu said.

Correction: Wissanu actually warned future “elected” governments that will most certainly be restricted from making any changes to the military junta’s plan for 20 years.





Tens, thousands, millions and billions

5 04 2017

How many extrajudicial killings have there been? No one seems to know precisely, although Prachatai has a story about some of them. One issue with the story is that the author repeats inaccurate figures on Thaksin Shinawatra’s War on Drugs, almost doubling the number killed in that grisly campaign. We would think the more accurate figure of about 1,300 was brutal enough and demonstrated the capacity of the police and military for extreme violence.

How many conscripts are slaves? With the recent attention to conscripts being treated to “strict discipline” involving inhumane beatings, torture and murder, and with the unusually wealthy Army boss doling out chump change of 100,000 baht to the family of the latest murdered conscript, the feudal system of conscription has come under scrutiny.

One interesting observation is at Prachatai, reporting a former Democrat Party MP, who states that “more than half of Thailand’s military conscripts end up as servants for high ranking military officers.” Compared with the men who die from “strict discipline,” these 40,000-80,000 guys are lucky. That said, they face the degradation of having to grovel before military thugs and their families. Anyone who lives near an officer knows that he or she will have 3 to 6 servants provided to them.

How much can they spend on military kit? Thinking about the commissions, there’s the 36 billion baht about to be forked out on Chinese submarines and then there’s the two billion baht spent on 10 extra VT-4 tanks from China to replace the decades-old M41 tanks from the USA. The earlier purchase of 24 tanks at about 5 billion baht. Expect more as the top brass cash in before an “election.”

How many read the BBC on the king? Readers will know that student activist Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa has been singled out for a lese majeste charge and rots in a junta cell awaiting his further framing. He was charged after sharing a BBC Thai story on the king, (some) warts and all. The BBC now says that its story “broke records as the site’s most popular story, accumulating millions of views despite the article’s eventual censorship.” It says it has “received over 3 million views and counting…”. Tell us again why the military dictatorship singled out Jatuphat? It can’t have much to do with this story! Watch a documentary on Jatuphat here.





A couple of corrections

26 03 2017

On a Sunday, as we read a few stories that continue to keep us glum about Thailand’s prospects for some political progress, as opposed to regression, we came across a couple of stories that appear to us to requires a little corrective attention.

The first is at Prachatai. Kornkritch Somjittranukit has a story on red shirt renegade Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee as public enemy no. 1 for the old guys running the military junta. A couple of things bothered us a bit. One was mention of the 2009 Pattaya events without noting the role played by the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban and his then new best friend Newin Chidchob who goaded and challenged red shirts with their own blue shirts, many of them being military and police in different clothes.

PDRC shooter

On the 2014 People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) seizure of the Lak Si District Office to prevent the 2 February election, mention is made of a “violent clash with Ko Tee and his supporters from Pathum Thani. The sound of gunfire came from both sides.” The latter is true but ignores something. After that event it was officially stated:

A police forensics director stated that his team’s investigation showed “39 shots have been fired from the position of PCAD protesters, and 3 shots from the direction of pro-election protesters.”

The second story is at the Bangkok Post. Editor Umesh Pandey briefly recounts the actions taken over the past few years as pro-Thaksin election winners were ditched, missing the important 2008 judicial coup. What bothered us was the headline, “Army needs to learn to be neutral.”

While the article doesn’t exactly amount that, the idea that the military could be neutral is baffling in the extreme. The military is now, after more than half a century of pro-monarchy and pro-elite military is firmly attached to the side of privilege, hierarchy, wealth and repression.





Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





Deleting news and suppressing freedom of expression

26 12 2016

PPT has chased this story – deleted from Prachatai – for a few days. Finally, with our thanks and appreciation, a reader came up with it. This is the deleted story:

Court orders NGO to delete report criticising its judgement
Submitted by editor4 on Thu, 15/12/2016 – 18:15

A court has threatened to prosecute a lawyer for contempt of court after Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) published a report criticising the court’s decision to deny bail to an anti-junta activist.

On 14 December 2016, Phra Khanong Provincial Court ordered the TLHR to delete an online report about the court denying bail for Piyarat Chongthep, a pro-democracy activist prosecuted for tearing a referendum ballot on 7 August. The court threatened to prosecute Piyarat’s lawyer for contempt of court if the TLHR did not delete the report.

The TLHR then conceded to the court’s order before the court granted bail for Piyarat and his two friends on the same day with 200,00 baht as surety for each suspect.

The deleted report contains details of the trial and comments from TLHR staff criticising the court’s judgement to deny bail to the three suspects on 13 December. On that day, two university lecturers had used their academic positions to submit bail requests for the three. However, the court denied bail, reasoning that the lecturers are neither relatives of the three or their employers.

The TLHR report argues that official regulations do not state that bail guarantors have to be a relative or employer of suspects.

While bail was eventually granted, the situation is that reports of reports of bail being denied are now deleted. Courts, monarchy, military and regime are all on a list of bodies that cannot be criticized.





Updated: No torture reporting

28 09 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has prevented “an Amnesty International seminar today on torture and other abusive practices in Thailand, arguing that the foreign speakers do not have work permits.” The event was to launch a report on torture in Thailand covering the last two years.

The Amnesty International team said: “The authorities do not want to cancel the event but they asked that the foreign panelists do not speak during the panel discussion…”. Yet all the panelists were foreign nationals.

The report is said to provide “details [on] 74 cases of alleged torture of detainees, in the far South and [of] political activists, at the hands of Thai soldiers and police.”

The junta continues to use Cold War methods to “protect” itself and its murderous police and military.

The Asian Human Rights Commission produced a “press release from Prachatai.”

————-

FORWARDED PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-FPR-032-2016

THAILAND: Thai authorities prevent press briefing on state-sponsored torture

Police and public officials have prevented a press briefing of Amnesty International (AI)’s about state-sponsored torture, saying that AI speakers might be charged for not having working permit.

On 28 September 2016, at Four Wings Hotel in Bangkok, Special Branch police officers and officials from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare intervened at a press briefing of an AI report titled “Make Him Speak by Tomorrow”: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Thailand.

The report documents 74 cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of soldiers and the police, including beatings, suffocation by plastic bags, strangling by hand or rope, waterboarding, electric shocks of the genitals, and other forms of humiliation.

The Thai authorities said that they are not barring the press briefing, but the AI speakers from the UK might be arrested if the briefing continues because they do not have a work permit.

In the report, AI states that since seizing power in a 2014 coup, Thailand’s military authorities have allowed a culture of torture and other ill-treatment to flourish across the country, with soldiers and policemen targeting suspected insurgents, political opponents, and individuals from the most vulnerable sections of society.

“Thailand may claim to be tough on torture, but actions speak louder than words. Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.

Update: AI have made the Executive Summary of their report available in Thai and English.