Secret meetings at the junta’s processing terminal

17 06 2017

Readers may recall that four months ago it was reported that an iLaw study pointed to the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly who were being paid large amounts of money for seldom appearing at the NLA. Immediately, the details of “leaves” taken were considered “secret.”

Clean hands?

At the time, the limelight was on The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, who had a record of nepotism and other allegations of corruption, all of which seem to have faded away or that he’s wriggled out of. It helps to have your sibling lording it over the country. It can make you rich and gets you off all kinds of potential charges.

Preecha hardly ever attended the NLA, but pocketed the salary, which was on top of numerous other salaries he collected because he has multiple positions, all state sinecures.

PPT guessed that Preecha would get off this one and continue to receive money for nothing because can “leaves” are secret. We predicted an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”

Sure enough, almost immediately, that statement was made by none other than Deputy Dictator and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that “it is not a problem that General Preecha Chan-o-cha, the former Defence permanent secretary and brother of the prime minister, takes frequent leave from legislative meetings…”. But he did say that “a committee is being set up to examine the case.”

Less than a week later, the vice president of the military’s NLA said “an internal review” found the seven members in question had in fact met the minimum participation requirements and would not be dismissed. No details were provided so we can assume this was all fudged and fabricated.

As might be expected under the military dictatorship, things went quiet and it was all forgotten. Preecha and his fellow non-attendees still pocketed the money.

The story returned yesterday, and readers will not be amazed to know that Preecha and his buddies have been officially cleared.

The NLA told the media that “the seven members, including former Army Chief General Preecha Chan-o-cha, did not breach the regulation.”

The reason for this was that “they sometimes had to perform their normal duty as state officials…”.

Of course, this is a nonsensical response that, on the face of it, ignores the NLA’s own rules.

However, we will never know what actually happened or get any further detail because “the meeting was held in secret for one hour today [Friday].”

Yes, that’s how the military dictatorship works.

Just to confirm suspicions that this was a concocted result, the “NLA also voted in favour of amending its work procedure rule, removing clauses which set out the number of times a member fails to vote that would cause membership to be nullified.”

That is clear. Loud and clear. The NLA is a rubber stamp for the junta almost always voting unanimously for laws handed down by its paymasters.

This decision acknowledges that the NLA is irrelevant; it doesn’t even need members present to do the junta’s bidding. In fact, calling it a “rubber stamp” assembly is giving it too much credit. It is an expensive processing terminal.





Washing away the blood

12 06 2017

There’s no debate. In April and May 2010, the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime ordered troops to clear red shirt protesters. Those military actions left about 100 dead and thousands injured. Almost all of the dead were civilians.

Abhisit’s then deputy  Suthep Thaugsuban says he gave the orders. That a prime minister shirks responsibility for the work of his government is a clear statement of Abhisit’s gormless egoism. In any case, it means little in a context where the regime had established the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations as a collective organization for making decisions on the crackdowns. As premier, Abhisit established CRES and was part of it while Suthep was its director.

Other members included then Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, now Deputy Dictator, then Army boss General Anupong Paojinda and former Department of Special Investigation boss Tharit Pengdit. Its secretary was the notorious fabricator, Thawil Pliensri.

The Army, Abhisit and Suthep have repeatedly claimed that soldiers weren’t responsible for any deaths, blaming “men in black.” This despite the fact that, for example, courts finding soldiers responsible for many of the deaths and that more than 100,000 live rounds were used in 2010, with more than 2,000 sniper rounds used.

The Abhisit and Suthep denial of responsibility has gone on for years and the “justice” system has agreed with them, kind of. The “justice” system has said they gave “legal” orders.

Prachatai reports that the Supreme Court “has accepted a lawsuit against a former chief investigator who dared to accuse Abhisit and Suthep of murder for ordering the bloody military crackdown on anti-establishment red-shirt protesters in 2010.”

That “investigator” is the eel himself, the former DSI boss, Tharit. Since the 2014 coup, the junta, royalists and the elite have vigorously gone after Tharit for his perceived betrayals.

The accepted lawsuit is against Tharit and his deputies and a couple of investigators. It is stated that the “four comprised the team tasked with investigating the violent crackdown on the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) demonstrators, the main red shirt faction, between April-May 2010.”

Now that the “justice” system dismissed all charges against Abhisit and Suthep, often based on false evidence, including from Thawil, those two Democrat Party bosses and supporters of two military coups are seeking restitution of their “reputations.” They accused the DSI team of “corruption and propagating false accusations against them, claiming that the DSI did not have the authority to investigate the crackdown in the first place.”

Both the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court dismissed charges against the four, but the Supreme Court has done its job and agreed to hear the “case.”

Given that almost everyone involved in the murderous crackdowns is a part of the military junta or worked hard to promote its coup, that the “justice” system supports them should be no surprise. After all, Thailand has double standards precisely to serve the interests of the great, the “good” and the wealthy.

We can now expect that the Supreme Court will continue to punish Tharit and launder the blood from the clothes of those who ordered the murderous crackdown.





Updated: Guns and grenades II

5 06 2017

The military’s response to the guns and grenades arms trading events of recent days is interesting.

For a start, as The Nation reports, the “National Council for Peace and Order has instructed regional Army officers to investigate recent cases of weapon trafficking.”

Yes, that’s the military junta telling its minions to “investigate” itself. Military “investigating” military is the basis of these events. The military has long demanded this privilege, but in the current circumstances, where the military controls government, all ministries, and so much more, accusations of conflict of interest seem too limited. The military state suffocates everything. It is a military dictatorship.

Statements that Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, who is the junta’s “secretary,” “telling officers to get tough on criminals who tried to avoid detection by new methods such as using social media and couriers to transport drugs and weapons” misses the issue completely.

But that’s the point. Deflect criticism by focusing on methods, not the culture of impunity that has allowed virtually every senior military officer to become wealthy beyond their salaries. The military is built on the corruption that comes with its political interventions.

General Chalermchai is said to have “also expressed concern that the recent case suggested weapons trafficking in border areas was occurring and urged officers at border checkpoints to screen vehicles for illegal items without exception, including state-issued cars and civilian automobiles that display government stickers…”.

What he is saying is that he’s disappointed that this trafficking has hit the headlines. Such headlines have occurred regularly over the decades – back to the 1940s – and they go away and the trading goes back to “normal,” largely controlled by the military and police.

The point elsewhere response has also come from the jewel and gold encrusted Deputy Dictator, General Prawit Wongsuwan. He “ordered officers to pay special attention to the southern border provinces especially during the fasting month of Ramadan…”. No one has mentioned southerners in these cases, but the General seems to want false leads.

The response of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to the arrest of one of its officers with multiple war weapons is telling. Among other largely secret roles, ISOC is a specialist anti-democrat organization that arranges “third-hand” political interventions. It seems to want to create the impression that the soldier involved with the weapons was carrying a false ISOC ID card. They know that this excuse has worked previously.

And, there’s no more news about Vice Adm Rattana Wongsaroj’s role. He’s the marine commander for Trat and Chanthaburi provinces who reportedly rushed to the navy site where the officer found smuggling weapons was being held.

While on such matters, a footnote: what happened to all those corruption cases around Rolls Royce? No news? Is that really surprising to anyone?

Update: The military brass, keen to throw all and sundry off the scent, have made claims that weapons trafficking is by implicitly claiming their own innocence: “Military top brass on Tuesday vowed to suppress illicit arms trade by some low-ranking soldiers who have been involved in stealing and selling state weaponry online and across the border.” When one of those involved in recent cases is an ISOC intelligence officer, the scent should be leading to the top brass.





Another bomb

31 05 2017

After a fourth bomb (that we know of) was located near the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station, it seems clear enough that the military junta’s “explanations” are confused and confusing and the “investigations” are a mess.

The clip from the Bangkok Post website gives the flavor of this, with a story that the bombings cases was “solved” (that’s the earlier story) and then the story of the new bomb, found before it exploded.

The “Bombing solved” story was of national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda saying: “Police believe they have identified the culprits behind a bomb attack at Phramongkutklao Hospital…”. That story also had Deputy Dictator and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan claiming “about 50 suspects were in custody and awaiting interrogation over the explosion at the dispensary’s waiting room…”.

The second story, a few hours later, is of the new bomb, although seemingly slightly different in construction. In that, the very same police boss states that “no connection has been found between the discovered bomb and the hospital blast at this stage of the investigation…”. He then added that the “recent series of explosions in Bangkok could have been politically motivated or designed to discredit the police.”

Given that the police are pretty much discredited already, the latter motive can probably be dismissed.

Meanwhile, the response of The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to suggest that the recent bombs have more to do with internal conflicts than what the junta describes as “politics.”

After all, the cabinet and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda are pushing ahead with promoting The Dictator’s “four questions” rather than doing anything too serious about bombs. The Dictator himself claims to be taking a break from speaking, grumbling: ““I have been attacked for so long. Is that fair to me?”

Yes.





Further updated: Bombs, “elections” and anti-democrats

27 05 2017

No diehard anti-democrat wants the military junta to hold an “election,” even one that is fixed in a way that allows the military to continue to control politics for years to come.

At the Bangkok Post, Surasak Glahan admits to being

mystified by [anti-democrat] Suthep Thaugsuban’s plea last week for Prime Minister and NCPO [junta] head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the top job for five more years without the need for elections. He must have drunk himself in oblivion, I thought, as critics and even some supporters of the regime started to voice their rebukes over its failure to deliver in key areas, from the economy to so-called national reform, security to happiness-making, as the NCPO marked its third anniversary on Monday.

But then, when trying to wear the hat of either the military or one of its No.1 cheerleaders like Mr Suthep, who led street protests in 2013-2014 that gave the pretext for the coup, I began to realise that the NCPO has delivered numerous achievements.

He goes on to list these “achievements”:

… there has been drastic political reform. A new constitution was drafted by accidental hero jurists, appointed by the military, and smoothly passed in the [rigged] referendum last year.

The new charter will entrench the military power for at least five more years, allowing it to select 250 senators who will be much more powerful than their predecessors.

Decentralisation has been compromised. Elections of local administrators have been frozen.

The charter and several NCPO orders have lurched Thailand backward into a political system applied four decades ago…. If you are nostalgic about the past, now it is your chance to live it.

… military-appointed lawmakers … know best what needs to be drafted to govern the ways we live without having to consult us or seek the nod from our representatives. Notably, they have invented and revised laws to save us from cyber crimes and other security threats. We just have to sacrifice our privacy and risk being branded as criminals.

The most outstanding … victory was its ability to successfully remove all the hurdles put up against the 36-billion-baht submarine procurement plans by previous elected governments.

The list is long and I have to stop here before feeling suffocated.

You get the picture. More and more military rule and political repression.

The prospect of the military staying in power for years also means that military factionalism is assured. Military factionalism is probably linked to recent bombings.

Yet the military is blaming others. So are the anti-democrats who see the bombing as an opportunity to extend military rule. For the military and the anti-democrats, as allied groups, the “natural” enemy is anyone considered Thaksin Shinawatra-related.

So Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul is named. Naturally enough, he denies it and he “condemned those who were involved in the hospital explosion.” He adds that he “would have bombed Government House, not a hospital…”. His view is that the culprits are in the military.

That said, Ko Tee sought another opportunity to anger the bears in green, poking them with a claim that “he is mobilising resistance against the government.” He says these are “civilian warriors” training in the jungle. But, he says, his group is small and not yet ready to attack the “bandits [junta] out of the country…”.

**The other supposedly anti-regime “suspects” are a couple of former generals in their 70s and 80s, associated with Thaksin.

**Neither General Prayuth nor General Prawit Wongsuwan seem to have been particularly to be involved in cabinet discussions and considerations of the bombing. Indeed, that both have been away from Bangkok speaks louder than words.

Bombs might be about army factionalism yet the general interest of the anti-democrats and military is retained: no elections.

Update 1: We managed to garble a sentence or two and have rewritten and marked this with **.

Update 2: PPT was struck by a single line in an op-ed by Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey:

One has to consider who is the real beneficiary of these kinds of unrest. Is it the people who are looking forward to elections or is it the people who want to hold on to power?





Further updated: Junta in disarray

25 05 2017

If the information in a Bangkok Post story is to be believed, Thailand’s military dictatorship is in disarray. It may also be that its factions are coming apart. We certainly hope so, but acknowledge that the junta’s survival instincts have kept it together for three years.

The first signal of disarray is that the usually hopeless police are showing signs of even greater capacity for the inane than usual.

They claim to have “created a sketch of a person suspected of being involved in the Phramongkutklao Hospital blast…”. Yet they have not released it and cannot confirm when they might make it available even when they plan to use it to get an arrest warrant.

The police lamented that “the case is not easy to crack…”. These guys are dolts and worse.

A second signal is the claim that the military has detained a suspect. The police say they know nothing.

A third signal is that it seems that “security authorities [were] … tipped off about possible attacks. They did nothing even when three letters tipping them off were received. Maybe they are too busy seeking out lese majeste suspects to worry about bombs.

A fourth signal is that both The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator skipped town. General Prayuth Chan-ocha headed south and General Prawit Wongsuwan was in Europe for what authorities finally said was medical treatment. That’s after a cabinet meeting decided not to discuss the bombing.

Fifth, and most telling of splits, the detestable 1st Army commander Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong made big claims.

First, he declared he had “information that up to four ill-intentioned groups are behind the explosion at the army-owned hospital.” Second, he said “he also had information that the explosion was not carried out by foreigners, but was the work of Thai citizens.” Third, he boasted about his knowledge of the bombers: “We’ve got their names…”.

Who are “we”? Why is that Apirat’s “we” are not working through legal channels to arrest the “known” perpetrators?

We think he’s probably looking around to decide which political opponents to fit them up for the crime. But let’s go with Apirat’s own story: “I am waiting for the order from the deputy prime minister [Prawit Wongsuwan]. I am ready to take action against these groups immediately and mercilessly as soon as he gives me the orders…”.

Prawit…. There you have another clue to the disarray and factional competition.

Update 1: Meanwhile, The Dictator is dancing. We are left to wonder why he reckons the bombing is unimportant when Apirat wants to slit throats.

Update 2: Of further evidence of disarray, Prachatai reports that Army Gen Charlermchai Sitthisart claims exiled red shirt Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is a “suspect” in the hospital bombing. He then added:

Ko Tee is just one suspect…. I can’t answer anything because we suspect everyone and I can’t say things randomly until we have enough evidence to identify … A random guess will not benefit society.





Lawless concoctions and political repression

24 05 2017

The military dictatorship is able to arrest anyone it like. It has been active. It has rounded up hundreds and sometimes released them without charge and other times has had them jailed. Some of the “threats to national security” are jailed and lost from the media almost without trace.

Like lese majeste cases, sometimes the secrecy involved is such that commentators have no idea what the junta’s crazed notions are in arresting people. Sometimes the junta claims a “plot” has been uncovered and, more often than not, these are figments of warped military minds or are actually junta plots to gain political ground.

Back in August 2016, we discerned some cracks in the junta’s make-up and posted about a regime “lost in its own machinations, repression and lack of intellectual capacity for arranging its political future other than by further repression.”

Back then there had been some bombings, and of “new” targets. There were arrests. More than a dozen suspects were arrested and accused of plotting. Soon the Deputy Dictator revealed that these were not bombers but a dangerous group seeking to overthrow of the military-royal regime.

General Prawit Wongsuwan and police entered a time warp, declaring the detainees “communists.” At the time, there were 13 men and four women, mostly elderly. They were said to be members of “Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party,” a group no one had ever heard of.

They  were claimed to be “hardcore reds” active in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani and coordinated by masterminds who were influential politicians in southern border provinces. These bizarre claims continued with the dictatorship saying that the Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party was a nationwide network, except in the lower South, but that they were not red shirts.

Our comment was that no sensible person can believe such inventive, throwback nonsense. We said that the inventiveness of the regime is so ridiculous that we wonder if they are taking mind altering drugs.

As it turns out, it was only on 24 May 2017 that the military court decided to “release” them. (The report is unclear as to whether the 17 were jailed or on bail.)

Why were they discharged by the court? Simple: insufficient evidence.

This is just one story of a regime that treats the law as a tool of repression. Its own illegal acts come with impunity and it has repeatedly concocted plots, fiddled with evidence, tortured and, in lese majeste cases, reinvented the law in bizarre ways.