Anti-corruption lapdog

15 10 2021

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post chastises the completely hopeless National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for being a regime lapdog. The sad thing is that this editorial could have been written years ago. The NACC is not worth the heat off buffalo manure.

In this case – only the most recent of a score of such cases – the Post focuses on the clearing  of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s brother, Gen Preecha, on charges of concealing assets.

On Monday, the NACC commissioners voted 8-1 to clear  against Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, when just a few months ago “the NACC had a different view with all nine commissioners in June unanimously agreeing there were grounds to summon Gen Preecha for questioning.”

Gen Preecha, now appointed by his brother as a senator, “was accused of falsely declaring his assets and liabilities while serving with the National Legislative Assembly” that served the military junta.

Quite simply, Gen Preecha failed “to include his house in Phitsanulok and bank accounts belonging to his wife, Pongpuan, in the couple’s assets list.”

Very basic stuff. He’s either a stupid duffer or, more likely, a creep who thinks he has impunity to do what he wants.

The NACC seems to have decided he’s a stupid duffer, ruling this week that he “had no intention to hide his wealth, and did not gain any benefits from doing so.”

Clean hands?

The now allegedly stupid Gen Preecha had, says the NACC, “misunderstood the asset declaration rule simply because the house in question was under construction at that time.” He still owned it, but the NACC seems to think he just “forgot” it was an asset.

The Post urges the NACC to become “more transparent and, by way of example, it can answer some questions about what criteria it used in judging Gen Preecha’s intentions.” But, of course, the NACC seems likely to refuse to its “investigation.” That’s what it usually does when protecting the regime and its members.

And who can forget that the NACC has still refused to “comply with the Administrative Court’s order for it to release details about its probe into the luxury watches case involving Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan], with the NACC explaining that it cannot disclose details of witness accounts because it might prompt lawsuits.”

Or, it might have to conjure an unbelievable story to cover its tracks and those of regime bosses.

The Post says that: “By failing to be accountable, the commission will become part of the problem it’s trying to solve.” It has been a part of the “problem” for years. It is a joke permitting “good” people/crooks/creeps to feast on the taxpayer.

For that, presumably the commissioners have been or will be rewarded.





Military godfathers and the corruption of parties and politics

26 09 2021

Thai PBS reports on continuing ructions in the Palang Pracharat Party that has Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s underlings pitted against Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. It turns out that the failed plot to unseat Gen Prayuth during the recent censure debate was only round 1 of this fight.

The start of the second round came when plotter and convicted heroin trafficker and “influential person” Thammanat Prompao retained his Party post. It is presumed that General Prawit was behind this. Prawit then doubled-down, appointing “a former Army rival of the PM” as the Party’s new chief strategist. Gen Vitch Devahasdin Na Ayudhya took this “powerful post previously held by the current party leader, Deputy Premier General Prawit…”.

Previously, in 2010, Gen Vitch was assistant Army chief and “was appointed to the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation, which was tasked with handling the red-shirt protests against Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government.”

In that year, Gen Vitch was competing with Gen Prayuth to “succeed outgoing Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda. However, the post was eventually handed to Gen Prayut instead.” This despite Gen Vitch’s long connection with Gen Prawit.

Readers can read the whole story for the details or plow through the most recent post at Secret Siam, which posits a deep and long struggle, including speculation regarding parts played by none other than Thaksin Shinawatra.

One thing is clear: that the rise and rise of the unsavory Thammanat demonstrates how “a powerful political broker” with a criminal past (who knows about the present?) can float to the top through links built through equally unsavory characters in the military (and higher).

The story of Thammanat’s rise is like a Thai version of “The Godfather,” but most of the protagonists are military mafia.

Thai PBS says “Vitch has been close to Gen Prawit since their early years in the Royal Thai Army three decades ago, and reportedly introduced Thammanat to Prawit.” It goes on to say that it was Thammanat who “helped Vitch to get into the ruling party.”

Gen Vitch is open regarding his links to “dark influences,” saying:

he has known Thammanat since the latter worked for his long-time friend Gen Trairong Intarathat. Also known as “Seh Ice”, Trairong once served as an adviser to then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and was described as an influential figure.

So mafia-connected military figures have swirled through various governments for several years. For those who don’t know Seh Ice, his brief obituary says this:

Gen Trairong was born on Sept 1, 1949, the fourth of the four sons of Maj Phone Intarathat, a former director of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, and ML Kanyaka Suthat.

He was a Class 10 student of the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School and Class 21 cadet of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in the cavalry division.

His classmates at the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School included Thaksin, Gen Anupong Paojinda, the current interior minister, ACM Sukumpol Suwanathat, a former defence minister, and Gen Prin Suwanathat, a former transport minister.

He held several important positions in military service, including specialist attached to the Supreme Command, chief of the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, an army specialist, and chief of staff officers for the defence minister (Gen Thammarak Issarangura Na Ayutthaya).

Not long before he died in 2016, he was identified, along with Thammanat, Seh Ice was identified in a military report as an influential mafia boss:

Two of four people reportedly named as “influential criminal figures” on a military document deny any wrongdoing, saying there is not a shred of truth to the allegation.

“That’s ridiculous, and I’m wondering which [security] people think like that,” former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, said yesterday….

The three others named in the document are Karun Hosakul, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang district; Capt Thammanat Prompao, a former close aide to Gen Trairong and said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, who is alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Capt Thammanat, a former military officer, said he had contacted 1st Division commander, Maj Gen Narong Jitkaew, to ask him about the document and was told the information came from an intelligence report and there were no plans to summon him.

And, here’s an AFP report from 1998, with Thammanat playing a lead role:

BANGKOK, Sept 9 (AFP) – Eighteen middle-ranking Thai military officers are being investigated for links to an international heroin trafficking operation, the supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces said Wednesday.

General Mongkol Ampornpisit said the officers had been re-admitted into the military in the past two years and the scandal, the latest in a series to rock the Thai military, had prompted him to order that all recently re-admitted officers have their backgrounds checked.

“I have submitted the names of all re-admitted officers for the last two years to have their criminal backgrounds checked with the police,” General Mongkol told reporters, without elaborating on the heroin trafficking allegations.

He said he hoped the move to vet officers would help contain one of the biggest scandals to hit the Thai military establishment in many years.

The revelation of the heroin investigation follows another scandal involving an army captain at the centre of a murder probe, who had previously served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking.

Mongkol conceded the military had been lax when re-admitting Captain Patchara [Thammanat] Prompao into the armed forces after he was fired twice and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Patchara is now in detention awaiting trial in a civilian court after he surrendered to police on Monday to face charges that he raped and then beat a male academic to death.

In June, amid a drive was to make the armed forces more accountable, the government demanded the military disclose the contents of secret bank accounts they had been allowed to keep.

Earlier this year the armed forces were accused by opposition politicians of involvement in vast illegal logging operations in northern Thailand.

So many connections, so many charges – none of which have held up in the Thailand. That’s what a mafia system is about and this is how it works. More tellingly, the military continues to reward crooks who slither to the top.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School has recognized Thammanat as and outstanding alumnus:

The controversial soldier-turned-politician was nominated for the award this year, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the usual annual ceremony to present the award to him and other outstanding Afaps alumni has been postponed until next year….

It is said Thammanat has declined the award, but the “honoring” of one of its most corrupt alumni is a telling indictment of a corrupt organization. The military (and police) cannot tell right from wrong, and instills this “value” in its new officer cadets.





Reflecting the regime V

22 09 2021

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that begins:

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has no reason to stall the Administrative Court’s order for it to release details about its probe into the luxury watches case involving Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon.

The NACC suffered a setback already when the court agreed with an online media outlet that requested the information.

It goes on to say that if the hopeless NACC “makes a further attempt to keep under wraps information about the probe which led to its decision to dismiss accusations that Gen Prawit gave a false wealth declaration by failing to include 22 luxury watches and rings,” then it “will risk losing [its]… credibility in performing their duties as graftbusters.”

We think the Post editors have lost their marbles. No one thinks the NACC has any credibility. It is a puppet organization. It is a sham anti-corruption organization.

Gen Prayuth and the NACC boss

The Post does list the feeble mumblings of senior NACC officials trying to avoid the court order. As usual, the regime and its puppets show no respect for the law.

Meanwhile, the reports of corruption and impunity are so common that no one seems to be flabbergasted any more. It is normal that the pigs feast.

How’s the “former Pol Col Thitisan “Joe Ferrari” Utthanaphon” coming along? Recall that Joe murdered a man. We were told that he was immediately a “former” cop after the killing. But, then, the “Police Serious Disciplinary Review Board has filed a complaint against …[Joe] and six subordinates…”. Deputy Inspector General Sarawut Kanpanich described them as “the seven police officers,” saying they “had committed serious disciplinary offences. ” His Board is about to “consider the evidence plus clarifications before presenting it to police chief Suwat Chaengyodsuk for a final decision on whether the accused should be discharged from office or fired.” The cover-up continues. Where’s the NACC?

And how about the long streak of stinking buffalo manure that is the case involving Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya? He killed a policeman and fled the scene.

After years of cover-ups, delays, and deliberate incompetence, Nate Naksuk, a former deputy attorney general, decided “to drop charges against the Red Bull scion in the infamous 2012 hit-and-run case.” Rather than being investigated by the NACC, he’s “being probed for severe disciplinary wrongdoings…”.

This a a bit of a turnaround after an earlier committee “ruled … that Mr Nate did not commit serious disciplinary violations over his decision not to indict the Red Bull heir…”. The Public Prosecutor Commission … meeting chaired by former attorney-general Pachara Yuttidhammadamrong” changed this decision. But only ” nine of the 13 commission members in attendance found that in deciding not to indict Mr Vorayuth, Mr Nate had acted without thorough judgement and had been careless.”

So off this small piece of the Red Bull collusion and cover-up goes off to yet another “probe team,” wasting more time, more money.

All of this stuff just goes on and on. Its boringly predictable, murky, and gives criminals and the corrupt carte blanche.

Thank the military for this state of lawlessness.





The rotten system II

17 09 2021

The smell from the rotten system is overpowering.

Remember the case of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and his two dozen luxury watches? He said he had borrowed the watches from a former classmate, Patthawat Suksriwong, who was dead, but that he had returned them. Remember how the National Anti-Corruption Commission exonerated him on unexplained – some might say, bogus – grounds?

That smelly story is back. Thai PBS reports that the “The Central Administrative Court has ordered Thailand’s anti-graft watchdog, the … NACC…, to reveal its findings from an investigation into the expensive wristwatches seen being worn in public by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit…”.

The court seems to recognize that the NACC is so politically-biased that it is widely viewed as a regime tool when it “ruled that, the disclosure of the findings…, including witness testimonies and Gen Prawit’s own testimonies, will demonstrate the transparency and accountability of the NACC and will enhance public trust and confidence in the agency.”

The NACC says it is considering what to do. We might guess that it is seeking advice from the likes of regime legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit himself.

Remember Pol Col Thitisan Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” recently caught on camera suffocating a man to death with plastic bags while “interrogating” a suspect and trying to extort money? You might think that Joe learned his plastic bag trick from watching gangster movies. But it seems he may have been trained by the police. Prachatai reports on “the case of Somsak Chuenchit and his 12-year effort to bring the police officers who tortured his son by beating and suffocating him with plastic bags during an interrogation.” The report states:

On 28 January 2009, Ritthirong ‘Shop’ Chuenchit ,18, was returning from a cinema in Prachinburi Province with a friend when he was stopped by the police. His clothing and motorcycle helmet reportedly fit the description given to police by a woman who had earlier been the victim of a gold necklace-snatching.

At the police station, the woman identified Ritthirong as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. Whenever Ritthirong chewed holes in the plastic bags to breathe, more were placed over his head.

Chuenchit survived but was framed and traumatized.

Remember the activists kept in jail for months when arrested and refused bail? Prachatai reports that the Court of Appeal granted bail to activists Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Nutchanon Pairoj on 15 September, after having been denied bail several times. Several other activists continue to be detained without bail, including Arnon Nampa and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa. A rotten regime prefers that its opponents remain in jail, face never-ending repression and under threat.

The regime is rotten, the system is rotten.





Reflecting the regime IV

10 09 2021

Beyond the headlines, what does Wednesday’s sacking of Deputy Minister for Agriculture Thammanat Prompao tell us about the regime’s rotten political system?

He was sacked as deputy minister, along with Deputy Labor Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat, via an announcement in the Royal Gazette on Thursday following a “royal command” issued on Wednesday, that “stated that the prime minister said it would be appropriate if some ministers were removed for the sake of government.”

When asked, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he had his own reasons for the changes.” Thammanat remains, for the moment, secretary-general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, but that is unlikely to last long.

Thammanat released a “resignation” letter just before the official announcement that he’d been sacked.

Was he booted because of his shady background as a convicted heroin trafficker. Nor for his unusual wealth. Nor for lying about his education credentials. Nor for his underworld links via the lottery. Nor for links with a murder.

No, Thammanat was sacked for insufficient loyalty to Gen Prayuth:

Speculation is rife that the sackings have something to do with the alleged campaign to challenge the prime minister’s power. The campaign’s aim was said to replace Gen Prayut and rebuild a government that would result in a cabinet reshuffle, where certain key politicians in the PPRP, who are now deputy ministers, would be elevated to full ministers of A-grade ministries.

As one of those ministers, Thammanat “stands accused of manoeuvring the ouster campaign which allegedly involved a number of PPRP heavyweights and renegade members of micro-coalition partners and politicians in the main opposition Pheu Thai Party.” Thammanat wanted to be Minister of the Interior, which carries immense power and handsome rewards.

Clipped from Khaosod

It seems that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is another target as the two sacked ministers were close to Prawit. A party source said that Prawit’s position “hangs in balance following the dismissal of the pair who are his close aides.”

This is exactly the kind of party system that the military junta designed. This is how it works. Multi-party coalition governments mean there is always maneuvering for position and fortune. Allies fall out and become opponents. Money and power make the cement that holds coalitions together. Leaders must always watch their back, wondering whether friend or foe will stab them; usually the former.

Political instability in such a rotten system defaults power to the military chief and palace.

The system is corrupted and encourages criminals and other “dark influences” to seek power for the funds that inevitably flow from ministerial position.

This is the junta’s legacy for Thailand’s political system.





Updated: Lawfare and constitution

26 06 2021

The regime is now a lawfare regime. This means that it misuses the legal system against an “enemy,” seeking to delegitimize them, wasting their time and money, and repeatedly harassing them. Like other repressive regimes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government seeks to prevent and discourage civil society and individuals from claiming their legal rights, even when these are supposedly granted by the junta’s 2017 constitution.

Such lawfare is “especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It is rule by law rather than anything remotely close to rule of law.

King PenguinAs democracy activists seek to reactivate a movement that was attacked by a myriad of legal cases and detentions, their rallies are now met with multiple legal cases: the pure definition of lawfare.

Like other despotic regimes, the protesters face, according to Deputy Royal Thai Police Spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a “health safety announcement issued by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.” We guess that the leaders of one of the rallies, who are on bail, will find themselves targeted for more jail time. It is the way authoritarians use the law.

It is worth recalling that the protesters chose to rally on what used to officially be National Day. As the king has demanded, 1932 is a memory that only the public can keep alive, with the regime simply ignoring the date after years of removing its symbols.

1932 began an era of constitutional innovation and ended absolute monarchy, with small steps taken to establish the rule of law.

As the relatively small rallies went on, in parliament, a farce played out. The regime has, from time to time, indicated that it wants some constitutional change, mainly to further its already mammoth electoral rigging. But, as anyone who has followed politics since 2007 knows, the royalists, rightists and military allow no changes that might level the playing field. The lies on constitutional change began with the 2007 constitutional referendum and the brickwall to change has been strengthened by a biased Constitutional Court.

Pretending to promote constitutional change, 13 constitutional change bills were introduced. All but one was rejected by a joint sitting of the elected lower house and the junta-appointed senate. The legislation this hybrid “parliament” approved “would raise the number of constituency MPs from 350 to 400 and restore the old selection formula for 100 list MPs.” All this does is make regime thugs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Thammanat Prompao more powerful as they redevelop money politics.It also opens the opportunity for MP and party purchasing on a grand scale.

Those who link this change back to earlier times, miss the changes that have taken place under military regimes and ignore the way that state resources and the misuse of law have made the the regime all but impregnable in the next election.

These commentators should also consider that the appointed senate makes a mockery of parliament. The senators, who all owe their positions to the military junta and the thugs running the current regime, essentially voted as a bloc.

Bencha Saengchan of the Move Forward Party correctly states: “Last night’s vote shows that parliament is a drama theater that lacks sincerity towards the people…”. But that’s way too mild. This regime will have to be forced out, laws changed, constitutions rewritten, monarchy tamed or deleted, and the thugs imprisoned. It is the only way to roll back 15 years of rigging and corruption.

Update: For an example of horrendous “journalism,” see the Bangkok Post’s About Politics column. It is usually rightist tripe, but this week’s column is a doozy. Somehow it manages to ignore all of the regime’s efforts to rig constitution and elections and to blame the opposition for failed constitutional reform. Quite an act of political contortion.





Updated: Mafia control of ruling party

19 06 2021

As expected, convicted heroin trafficker and Deputy Agricultural Minister Thammanat Prompao has been “elected,” unopposed to be secretary general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).

The rise of the criminal to one of the top positions in the party confirms the descent of the country into the hands of a mafia of murderers, drug traffickers, and royalist thugs.

The rise of the criminals pushes aside all pretenses of “normality” in a party concocted to keep the military junta of 2014 and associated royalists in power.

Convicted drug trafficker Thammanat is elevated to this position because he is the son of party don and corrupt Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Corruption lives

Gen Prawit is party boss and Thammanat is his consigliere. Gen Prawit has virtually adopted Thammanat as a son, placing him in line to run the mafia party’s next election campaign. He chose Thammanat because it is not votes that will win the election, but the pilfering of candidates from opposition parties and converting them into seats for the mafia party.

That job requires an enforcer, a moneybags, and a persuader all rolled into one. Or, as the Bangkok Post puts it, “Thamanat … [is] a skilled political fixer…”. It observes:

The Phayao MP’s rise to the new position underlines the increasingly dominant role of the Prawit camp in the party and the diminishing power of the Sam Mitr group. The change was widely anticipated after Thamanat had been assigned to take charge of by-elections contested by party candidates.

The party is now officially the party of Thailand’s mafia, which stretches across military and police and into the palace, all profiting from rents, protection and monopoly.

The extent of Prawit and Thammanat’s control of the party/mob is shown in the fact that the latter “was unopposed in the voting for secretary-general as his was the only one name proposed. He received 556 votes, with 14 voided ballots and 23 abstentions.”

Thammanat has emerged as a key political operative whose skills are valued by Gen Prawit. He is said to control a faction of a dozen or more northern MPs, and he has also made some forays into the South, to the dismay of the Democrat Party,,,”.

Thammanat explained the power structure: “We have Gen Prawit Wongsuwon as the centre of power. We have to consult him on everything that will move us forward…”. The aim will be to snaffle sufficient MPs from other parties that Palang Pracharath will get a majority in the next parliament.

Thai PBS says that the “ruling party’s latest internal reshuffle indicates it desperately wants to win the next election, amid speculation that the national poll will be called early.” To do this it needs “Thammanat, who is ‘decisive, fearless and reliable’, to inject confidence and trust [and fear] into its own MPs, politicians from other parties and voters.” He’s and “influential” figure, a dark influence: “an influential charismatic person in charge of election campaigns in constituencies…”.

As reported by the Bangkok Post, the third leader of the mafia is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, and the mafia party unsurprisingly announced it will support him for another term. If this comes to pass, Gen Prayuth will be prime minister for at least 14 years. 

The choice of Thammanat reflects the arrogance of the former military bosses Prawit and Prayuth and the desperation of the royalist bloc to maintain control. As it did in the 1980s, this requires an alliance of palace, military, and dark influences. However, the alliance developed by Palang Pracharath, bringing two of the three into the party as leaders, arguably strengthens the party. At the same time, it makes Thailand a mafia state, in the hands of thugs and criminals.

Update: To see how some others feel about the gangster and the gangster party, try Cod Satrusayang’s op-ed on the arrogance of the mafia regime as it rigs the system for yet another rigged election.





ARTICLE 19 on deepening censorship

18 06 2021

We reproduce a recent ARTICLE 19 statement:

Thailand: Proposed initiatives to combat ‘fake news’ undermine freedom of expression

Proposed government initiatives to address ‘fake news’ would further curtail digital rights and freedom of expression in Thailand, said ARTICLE 19. In recent weeks, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) has disclosed plans, including new regulations under the Computer Crimes Act, that would tighten governmental control over social media platforms and impose additional barriers to online expression. The Ministry should abandon these efforts in favour of an approach that respects the human rights of social media users and others expressing controversial or critical opinions.

“Official actions to combat ‘fake news’ are often less about preventing online harms than expanding State control over the internet,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “While we have not yet seen the proposed new regulations, recent actions and statements by government officials are cause for alarm.”

On 20 May 2021, MDES announced plans to update ministerial regulations under the Computer Crimes Act to address the dissemination of false information. The Ministry expects to complete a draft of the new regulations later this month.

The announcement by MDES comes amid a number of government actions ostensibly aimed at combatting ‘fake news’. On 14 May 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan instructed the Anti-Fake News Centre to intensify its efforts to combat ‘fake news’. On 18 May Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed an executive order establishing the Committee on Suppression and Correction of Dissemination of False Information on Social Media. On 27 May, Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, established three new sub-committees: one for the supervision of social media, one for enhancing law enforcement measures to prevent and solve problems on social media, and one for drafting ministerial regulations under the Computer Crimes Act. And on 8 June, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence assigned the Council of State to review Thai and foreign laws, with a focus on regulating social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Officials were specifically instructed to review Indian legislation, a concerning development in light of recent measures taken there that violate free expression and privacy rights.

While neither MDES nor other government bodies have provided much information about the proposed regulations under the Computer Crimes Act, statements by Chaiwut have offered clues about what to expect. He announced the new regulations using language concerning the collection of network traffic data. Late last month, Chaiwut stated that the Ministry may require social media accounts to be registered with true names and ID information. He further mulled the possibility of requiring social media companies to establish offices in Thailand.

Moreover, recent actions by Thai authorities give an indication of what to expect from the increased focus on ‘fake news’. On 2 June 2021, a court ordered Facebook and internet service providers to block or remove eight Facebook accounts for allegedly spreading ‘fake news’. These include the accounts of political commentator in exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun and the Royalist Markeplace group he founded—both likewise targeted last year under the Computer Crimes Act and the subject of a legal complaint against Facebook—as well as the account of journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall. These accounts are notable for featuring critical commentary on government officials and the Thai monarchy.

The proposed new regulations would add to a number of existing mechanisms to monitor and punish vaguely defined ‘fake news’. In 2019, Thailand established the ‘Anti-Fake News Centre’ and in 2020 the Technology Crime Suppression Police Bureau was set up to monitor cybercrime, including ‘fake news’. Thailand employs a number of hybrid measures to combat ‘fake news’ that rely on artificial intelligence and human analysts to monitor social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms. Thailand’s application of these methods to target social media users has come under criticism by human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Rather than addressing these criticisms, the proposed changes raise fresh concerns.

In light of other measures to collect and track personal data, MDES’s suggestion of the need to collect additional network traffic data raises concerns over the risk of interference with the right to privacy. Thailand already requires SIM cards to be registered with national IDs or passports. Beginning last year, Thailand also rolled out a facial recognition system tied to SIM card registration in the southern border provinces, which disproportionately targets ethnic Malay Muslims who are already subjected to other biometric data collection. While it is unclear how Thailand will force telecommunications and internet service providers to collect and hand over user data under the new regulations, adding data retention and handover requirements enhances government capacity for surveillance and risks stifling expression.

MDES’s suggestion that it would like to see social media companies establish offices in Thailand is worrying. ARTICLE 19 has previously raised concerns over domestic incorporation requirements, which put local staff members at risk and give governments greater leverage over social media platforms.

It is unclear exactly how real-name registration requirements for online activity could be implemented in practice, but MDES has reportedly acknowledged it would seek cooperation from social media platforms and related online services. However, this also raises questions about the risk of penalties should such platforms refuse to comply with government demands that do not comply with international standards.

In a 2017 Joint Declaration, four special mandate holders on the freedom of expression noted, ‘general prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘false news’ or ‘non-objective information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression’ and found that they ‘should be abolished’.

In a 2013 report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression held that ‘real name registration requirements allow authorities to more easily identify online commentators or tie mobile use to specific individuals, eradicating anonymous expression’. And in 2015, the Special Rapporteur added that ‘privacy interferences that limit the exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression…must not in any event interfere with the right to hold opinions, and those that limit the freedom of expression must be provide by law and necessary and proportionate’. The categorical denial of anonymity online risks infringing on the ability of social media users to hold and form opinions and engage in free expression.

In light of these concerns, MDES should abandon plans to introduce additional restrictions on internet freedom under the Computer Crimes Act and should instead amend the law so that it complies with international human rights standards.

“Misinformation is a real problem and Thai officials are right to be concerned,” said Bugher. “However, policy measures that rely heavily on censorship, surveillance, and criminal sanction shut down public discourse, contributing to the mistrust and secrecy that feed misinformation. The Thai government should instead focus on transparency, the dissemination of accurate information, and creating an enabling environment for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”





Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





Further updated: Heroin smuggling approved

5 05 2021

In one of its more deranged and highly politicized decisions, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Deputy Agriculture Minister and soon to be boss secretary-general of the ruling Palang Prachart Party Thammanat Prompao who “pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into Australia” can retain his cabinet post.

Like the regime’s leadership, the court decided that spending four years in a “Sydney jail is not a breach of the constitution.”

Convicted heroin smuggler

Section 98 of the constitution states, in part, that one is prohibited from exercising the right to stand for election in an election as a member of the House of Representatives if they have been sentenced by a judgement to imprisonment and imprisoned by a warrant of the Court.

But, the hopelessly biased Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that while Thammanat “had admitted to his Australian conviction … the … court could not recognise the authority of another state.”

The court stated:

We cannot implement the verdict of foreign courts, and we cannot interpret the verdict of foreign courts as having the same power as our courts…. The verdict of any state only has effect in that state.

The report quotes political commentator Voranai Vanijaka who says the verdict was more “proof there’s no rule of law in Thailand, only the rule of power”. He added:

Over the past year and a half, Deputy Minister Thammanat has become a key power player and deal maker for the [Prime Minister] Prayut [Chan-o-cha] regime…. He’s too valuable. He knows it. The regime knows it. The Thai people know it. The decision is to no one’s surprise.

Sadly, he’s right.

Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk said:

This outrageous ruling nonetheless confirmed that he was sentenced [to prison] in Australia, which means his parliamentary testimony denying it is a lie.

With this shocking ruling by the Constitutional Court, now all sorts of criminals convicted in foreign courts could run for a public office in Thailand without a worry. Crimes committed outside of the motherland, no matter how serious they are, don’t count in the Thai realm of justice.

Sadly, he’s right.

Thammanat is now fabulously wealthy. No one has questioned that. It could reasonably be described as unusual wealth.

No wonder so many young Thais are despondent about a country run by military thugs, criminals and mafia figures.

Update 1: Thammanat seems to lead some kind of exalted existence. Prachatai has a story of Samart Jenchaijitwanich, Assistant to the Minister of Justice, who “has submitted his resignation letter to the Minister after Phalang Pracharat Party voted to remove him from all positions in the government and the party.” He was “Director of the Complaint Centre of Phalang Pracharat Party, a government whip, president of an anti-ponzi scheme committee, and member of other Phalang Pracharat Party committees.”

Samart was outed by Sira Jenjaka, a Phalang Pracharat MP, who “revealed that he [Samart] cheated on an English exam by sending a proxy to take the test for him. The test was a part of the requirement for a PhD at Ramkhamhaeng University.”

It was a “Phalang Pracharat investigative committee led by Paiboon Nititawan [that] voted unanimously to remove Samart from all political positions in the government and the party.”

As far as we can determine, Samart has not been charged or convicted of anything.

In comparison, Thammanat, in addition to his conviction for heroin trafficking, has a fake degree and has repeatedly lied to parliament, the media and the people. He also managed to barely escape a murder charge a few years ago. We know that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan loves, promotes and protects Thammanat, but his ability to avoid political damage suggests even more powerful support.

Update 2: The fallout from the Constitutional Court’s bizarre decision continues. Social media is scathing, parodying the decision, damning the court, and slamming the regime. The commentary is equally scathing. As Thai PBS puts it, the decision “has sparked outrage and ridicule and has added to the feeling of hopelessness…”. It cites Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University and an interpreter of Thailand for the English-speaking world: “This is arguably Thailand’s lowest point in its international life.” Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubol University, said the verdict “continue[d] to undermine the legal system of the country …[and] is not based on facts.”








%d bloggers like this: