Updated: Intimidation intensifies

27 04 2016

The military dictatorship appears to have moved into a period of even deeper repression and intimidation. Part of this has to do with the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra. Some of it has to do with the junta cracking down on widespread opposition to it charter and its anti-democratic intent. And there may be other motivations that have to do with junta fears.

We can’t post on all of the reports of this new and deepening intimidation. Rather, we provide a listing of recent reports. It quite a list over just a week. The pattern is clear. As Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk stated that a “climate of fear” is “growing in the country ahead of the referendum.” He added that the “junta is mobilising state machinery and everything is being used to promote the draft constitution while people who oppose the draft are being targeted…”.

In fact, as we will show below, as bad as this is, in fact, the intimidation is broader than this.

The junta has threatened Bencharat Sae Chua, a lecturer of Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. The lecturer is distributing information for a vote against the military’s draft charter has been threatened with Section 61 of the Referendum Act of 2016. This could mean up to 10 years in jail.

Puea Thai Party members have been targeted. It is reported that some 300 police and soldiers searched the homes of two politicians among others in Nakhon Sawan, accusing them of being “influential” figures. The military barred reporters from the houses they searched.

Earlier today it was reported that at least four people were abducted by the military in the early hours of the morning. Two men were abducted in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The four are accused of being red shirts.

Within a couple of hours, the number abducted by the military rose to eight, with the military then saying they held 10 persons. Two of those abducted worked closely with red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan. Of the 10, eight were taken in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The two in Khon Kaen were accused by the military of “belonging to the New Democracy Group and the Resistant Citizen Group led by Anon Kampa.”  Activists called for protests.

At least some of those arrested seem to have been subject to complaints by the hopelessly biased puppet Election Commission. It  filed its first charges under the new referendum law that criminalizes political commentary. The charges were against a Facebook group for posting “foul and strong” comments criticizing the military’s draft constitution. The puppet EC claimed that the Facebook page had used “aggressive, harsh and rude language to urge readers to vote against the draft constitution to be put to a public vote Aug 7.”

Earlier, it was reported that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan stated that both the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the red shirts were under investigation for “announcing their stands on the draft constitution.” So far we can find no evidence of action against the PDRC.

A couple of days ago, the military “indicted six activists for demanding an investigation into the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal.” Those indicted are reported to be “Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from New Democracy Movement, Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and core leader of Resistant Citizen, Kititach Suman, Wisarut Anupoonkarn, Koranok Kamda and Wijit Hanhaboon…”.

Last week, in Udon Thani, soldiers intimidated anti-mine activists ahead of a planned forum on the environmental effects of a potash mine in the province.

Around the same time, Watana Muangsook complained that “certain people pressured the Charoen Pokphand Company (CP), one of the biggest conglomerates in Asia run by the family of his former wife, to convince Weerada Muangsook, his daughter, to leave the country.”

In the south, the military has summoned the leader of a sea nomad community on Rawai Beach in Phuket, to a military camp. There he was intimidated by the military who accused of violating a junta order which gives almost absolute power to soldiers with the rank of sub-lieutenant upwards to maintain national security.

Update: Members of the Neo-Democracy Movement and the Resistant Citizen group organized a protest against the arrests at the Victory Monument.Police grabbed and detained 16 of the protesters at the Phaya Thai police station. They were detained for protesting by standing still in a group.





Demands on junta

27 04 2016

A joint statement has been issued on the constitutional referendum by an unusual group of 108 persons (105 in some reports) and five organizations. What is unusual is that the 108 includes persons from all sides of politics in the usually divided country. The group made four demands:

1. The referendum must be conducted in a free, transparent, and fair manner in accordance with international principles and standards.

2. In the process towards the referendum, there must be open and inclusive debates, participated by those who agree and disagree with the content of the draft constitution. Voters must have access to accurate, comprehensive, and thorough information on the draft constitution, as well as, a safe and public space to voice their disagreements under the laws.

3. People have legitimate rights to freedom of expression and to voice their opinions constructively on the draft constitution which is the highest law of the country. Such basic political rights which shall be protected. Suppression on people’s rights to express their views on the draft constitution by using measures related to security, including taking people to detention in the name of attitude adjustment is not only a violation of basic human rights, but also delegitimises the referendum process as a whole.

4. Before the referendum is conducted, there must be clearly defined options for what happens in case the draft constitution does not pass the referendum, in order to reach a consensus on a constitution agreeable to all sides. People of all groups and all sides must be able to debate and to propose these options freely and constructively.

While the statement and its demands challenge the junta, it does appear to accept the notion that a referendum can be held to complete a process that has been illegitimate from the beginning.

The group read its statement to the public “despite Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon’s warning ahead of the announcement that such a move would break the referendum law.”





Jokers and dictators

26 04 2016

A couple of times in the recent past we have mentioned that the military junta has a habit of making its “spokesmen” sound like stand-up comics.

Because the various members of the junta come up with such ridiculous claims and suffers such pathetic meltdowns, these untrained mouthpieces have to devise ways to “explain” the nonsensical bile and ludicrous claims. The result is often very much like a stand-up comic who fails. All he can hear can only hear is crickets chirping.

DeerThe most recent example is on the Thaksin Shinawatra and the junta’s deer-in-headlights claims that he is behind anti-coup, anti-junta and anti-charter activism. It was Thaksin, they said, who was paying lobbyists to spread bad news about the junta and its work.

The Democrat Party was strong in its support if the junta’s claims.

As we showed – along with many others – the so-called evidence actually supported Thaksin’s statements that he wasn’t using lobbyists against the junta.

At the time, we also stated that we were pretty sure that the Democrat Party’s and the junta’s “evidence” was probably emanating American right-wing conspiracy theorists working for and with yellow shirts.

In a comical report at Khaosod, dumpy Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan seems to point in this direction, saying “the alleged evidence” that “exposed Thaksin’s link to the lobbyists” is from “foreign media.” Perhaps he reads New Eastern Outlook when he’s in Russia. Prawit was defending The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha: “He spoke based on the information that foreigners published…. He didn’t come up with it on his own. Foreign media wrote about it.”

This is where the junta spokesmen come in. Junta spokesman Piyapong Klinpan “explained” it, “We have already collected some documents, but it’s just we cannot disclose them at the moment…”.

Hilarious, yes indeed. Hilarious in the sense that the junta thinks anyone will believe them. Or, maybe, there is a group of rabid yellow shirts who feed on this kind of nonsense.





Updated: Watana and protests

20 04 2016

Watana Muangsook, taken into custody on Monday, appears to remain under military detention at an undisclosed location, perhaps at a base in Kanchanburi. It was a busy day for Watana, activists and junta thugs.

In a recent post, we pointed out that when junta minion Wissanu Krea-ngam and and the junta’s General Prawit Wongsuwan talked about a law preventing discussion of the military’s draft constitution, we assumed they referred to the draft awaiting royal signature. In Watana’s case, however, the junta has another (non-)law in mind.

Prachatai reports that the junta has announced that Watana “may face two years imprisonment for violating the regime’s announcement [Announcement No. 39/2014].” Under the military dictatorship, an Announcement has the power of law.

This announcement – effectively a military decree – “states that people who have been released after detention by the authorities must strictly comply with the conditions set upon the release or risk being imprisoned for up to two years or fined up to 40,000 baht of both.”

Like many others, following the 2014 coup, Watana was “forced to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the regime, promising to steer clear from all political activities.” Under the military dictatorship, a forced undertaking can be considered law-like.

Watana has been “forced to sign several MoUs with the regime after h[e] was summoned for attitude adjustment sessions on many occasions. However, he never complied with the MoU, but continue to criticise the NCPO[ the junta].”

The junta now claims – the report says “clarified” – that the “latest detention of Watana is not related to his criticisms on the latest draft constitution…”. If that is so, then the junta needs to say exactly what it is that he is accused of. Frankly, we believe the military junta is making this up as it goes along.

Following Watana reporting to the military and being taken into custody, the Bangkok Post reports that a “lawyer Anon Nampa, a core member of the Resistant Citizen Group, posted a message on Facebook on Tuesday calling for supporters to rally in white at the Victory Monument at 6pm if former commerce minister Watana Muangsook was not released.” He wasn’t released.

Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit immediately declared that “the rally would not be allowed.”

Dumpy and dopey, Prawit falsely declared: “We have not infringed on anybody’s rights. We have only asked for cooperation regarding the expression of opinions, as we are the holders of state power.” Prachatai reports that his “regime does not care about criticism from human rights groups and other nations.”

Perhaps he was referring to the fact that Watana’s daughter “has submitted a letter to the European Union office in Bangkok to push for her father’s release.” She also planned to “go to the US embassy in Bangkok on Wednesday morning and to other places until her father is released.”

Remarkably, the junta responded to the EU by media, with military puppet Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai at his condescending, racist and ridiculous best: “Westerners may not be familiar with Thai history. Therefore, they may not understand the country’s current situation…”. We aren’t sure the junta understand Thai history. We are sure the EU Office in Bangkok understands the military’s authoritarian puppetry.

Meanwhile, Khaosod reports that the “Pheu Thai Party on Tuesday issued a statement demanding Watana’s unconditional release…”. That will get no response from the junta. Delusional and dumpy Prawit was reported as whining about Watana and others criticizing the junta: “At this moment, 70 million people are happy…”. He lied again when he stated: “We aren’t using any double standard. Anything causing damage or conflict in this land cannot be done.”

Because Watana was not released, the call by activists to meet at Victory Monument saw people converge at the giant traffic circle.

Protests

Another Khaosod story reports that “[s]ecurity forces surgically removed several activist leaders gathered at Victory Monument this evening, effectively nipping a planned protest in the bud.”

Many protesters “wearing white T-shirts, had melded into the busy crowd of rush-hour commuters Tuesday but were apparently left without a clear plan of action after at least four organizers were whisked away by police.”

Junta thugs took away “Siriwith Seritiwat of the New Democracy Movement, Arnond Nampa of Resistant Citizens, Aramis Akahad and Wannakit Chusuwan…”.

Helpfully, Khaosod uploaded “three live broadcasts” emanating  from the protesters and activists, here, here and here. There are more photos at the Neo-Democracy Facebook page.

Protests

Using the three-finger salute “associated with defiance to the military regime, several dozen protesters shouted ‘Free Watana’ until they were cleared out by crowd control officers, who numbered in the hundreds, with numerous police vehicles waiting nearby. No uniformed military personnel were visible.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the four activists “were detained for several hours…” and released without charge. Their response was to call for daily protests at 6 p.m. each day until Watana is released. They say the “daily protests will consist of people standing in a visible location to call attention to their complaints about the military’s use of secret detention against its critics.”

Update: It seems we were right in supposing that the military puppet Foreign Minister Don was condescending, racist and ridiculous when dealing with the EU. Prachatai reports that when he met with Jesús Miguel Sanz, the Ambassador of the EU to Thailand, Don’s “history” turned out to be reheated junta propaganda. Don apparently “explained to the EU Ambassador about latest detention of Watana … who is currently detained in a military base outside of Bangkok.” We would have liked to have heard that, for as far as the public is aware, the charge against Watana is that the junta is not happy with him.

The puppet Foreign Minister “told the EU Ambassador about crucial role of the military and the political reform roadmap of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [they mean the military junta] because the EU might not understand the whole situation…”. We are sure they understand very well the nature of the repressive and regressive military regime.

Like his puppet masters, Don stated that “Thailand has no problem with human rights.” If it weren’t so serious a matter, Don’s ventriloquist dummy act would be laughable.





Looking after the family’s interests II

18 04 2016

The Ministry of Defense has declared that nepotism in the Army is normal.

According to a report at Prachatai, the Ministry “has defended the appointment of the junta’s leader’s nephew to an army post, saying that it is normal for the army to replace retired army personnel.”

We think the Ministry is not simply covering up. While there might have been some thought that someone would complain about The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha handing his some an Army commission and salary, the Ministry really does think this is normal. It is normal because it is standard practice in the military. The top brass probably do it all the time, as Preecha has claimed.

Ministry spokesperson Major General Kongcheep Tantrawanich declared “that such appointments are necessary to maintain and improve the capability of the Thai Army.” Given the capacity of the Army for improving the incomes of officers, accumulating that unusual wealth in the family makes accounting sense.

Prachatai states:

Isara reported that such appointments occur via a process in which the authorities in the military issue job qualification documents in accordance to the qualifications of certain people connected to high ranking officials, ensuring that certain posts are reserved for well connected persons.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that General Preecha “the permanent secretary for defence, has come out to defend his son’s appointment as an officer in the 3rd Army amid allegations of nepotism.”

He claimed his son “had been properly recruited by the 3rd Army to fill a vacant post as civil affairs officer” and reckoned he had the right “qualifications for the job as he had experience working in public relations with the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) and he was a graduate in mass communication.”

He did not say how many qualified applicants there could have been if he hadn’t handed out the job to his son.

This is starting to sound like a cover-up. Maybe The Dictator is ticked off by Preecha’s initial truthfulness?

He had said he’d given it to his son. Preecha’s new story is one of process and procedure. Who does he think he is kidding?

Now he says all “[a]pplications for military positions were usually screened by a committee and it was his job as defence secretary to approve proposals made by the committee, as assigned by the defence minister…”.

He does not say that his boy went through this process.

General Preecha then made some remarkable claims: “that in fact his son did not want to be a soldier, but he had wanted him to take a military job because it was more secure than being an employee at PTT.”

His son doesn’t want to be an military officer. Preecha, who has a hand in running the country reckons PTT is insecure? Who does he think he’s kidding? PTT is one of Thailand’s largest companies, operates internationally and pays well.

He said he asked his son to apply when there was a vacant position.

Again, this seems like a claim that he didn’t simply give his son the slot, contradicting his earlier “it’s normal” statement about nepotism.

He adds that brother Prayuth “had no objection to him doing this [giving his son a job], as long as it was correct and legitimate.” He does not say if it is “correct and legitimate” to do the “normal” thing and give his lad a commission.

Getting deeper into the cover-up, Preecha re-defines his earlier statement of “normal,” stating that :[i]t is normal for children of high-ranking military officers to join the military when there are openings available.”

Who does he think he is kidding? That horse has bolted.

Furthering the cover-up, General Prawit Wongsuwan “told reporters he saw nothing wrong with the appointment.”

The pattern has been seen before: recall the initial statement of truth on Rajabhakdi Park – yes, there was corruption – and then the long, long cover-up that no one believes.





Murderous thugs

12 04 2016

PPT has some readers who get agitated when we point to the fact that Thailand’s military has been, since its modern birth in the nineteenth century, a force for internal security. These readers get angry when we observe that this has meant that the military enjoys such impunity that it literally gets away with murder. Thousands have fallen victim to this murderous gang over the decades.

The most recent bunch of murderous thugs seized control of government in May 2014.

The Bangkok Post seems to agree on some of this, turning on the military over the death of a recruit as a result of torture.

The Post editorial begins with this:

It was a shocking revelation that the commander of today’s Royal Thai Army had to publicly order his officers not to murder or torture fellow soldiers. Yet that was the order issued last week by army commander Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, and shown to the public.

While suffering historical blindness, saying that the military has a tradition of “142 years of serving the nation,” the editorial seems shocked that the “army has officers and men capable of killing their own service members.”

This is faux shock. After all, torture is standard operating procedure for the military when dealing with the elite’s political opponents. More importantly, though, revelations about this kind of pathological behavior used against recruits have been around for decades. Ask any male villager who has been called up in the national draft and they can tell of such incidents. (The rich and even the middle class can avoid duty in the ranks through favors and pay-offs.)

The Post knows all of this. It rightly observes that “the army by its traditions treats such premeditated murders gently.” For torture and murder, the Army confines perpetrators to their barracks for 30 days. In other words, the corrupt military condones murder and torture and grants its murderers and torturers impunity. It does this because it must maintain servility and hierarchy. It considers the murderers and torturers loyal and that they are doing their duty.

And if it wasn’t clear enough, we can repeat it: murder is a “tradition” in this corrupt organization that values only loyalty, subservience and hierarchy. Murder is a tradition in the monarchy’s military.These thugs, murderers and torturers protect the monarchy as the cornerstone of an edifice of corruption, impunity, power and exploitation.

The Post also says this:

Gen Teerachai and his superior, Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, appear in denial about a key fact. The Royal Thai Army suffers and perhaps condones such vicious attacks on its men and women — and especially its recruits. “Incidents like this are rare,” said Gen Prawit, who is clearly at the top of the current military hierarchy. But this hardly fits the known facts.

Credit social media once again with quickly assembling a number of actual and recent videos of soldiers beating conscripts. Recruits often are forced to strip, and are beaten and kicked. The compilation is difficult to watch. The last video shows the beating death of Pvt Wichian Phuaksom, also in the South, in 2011.

The videos confirm such incidents are not rare, as Gen Prawit says. It is even worse, knowing that this is the filmed tip of this violent iceberg. One must guess how many beatings were not taped and completely covered up.

We have chosen not to link to the videos. It is crystal clear that General Prawit, one of the coup leaders and a leader of the military junta is a liar.

The Post is right to demand better: “the army must clean house on this despicable matter.” But here’s the rub. The Post cannot call a spade a spade:

The murder and beating were premeditated acts. They deserve courts martial, just as if they had occurred outside the army camp by civilians. The military is a unique institution, but it cannot harbour men who believe they have the right to kill and maim fellow soldiers. No such licence can exist anywhere in Thai society.

The fact is that Thailand’s military is corrupt and incapable of reform. It has political power and is run by thugs who got to the top of a rotten organization because they do what is required. They sit atop an organization that is the elite’s enforcers, torturers and murderers.

In this context, PPT wonders if the Post understands its own words:

In their high positions, Gen Prawit and Gen Teerachai represent the entire nation. They are commanding officers, men and women responsible for defending the nation against all enemies, including gross indecencies against their own fellow service members. Army discipline obviously needs full-scale reform. Pvt Songtham must be the last Thai soldier killed by his fellow men in uniform.

Thais should be ashamed that thugs “represent the entire nation.” Reform is a word much loved by the military junta. In Thailand it has come to mean a return to the values of loyalty, subservience and hierarchy that serve to maintain exploitation and subjugation, and it is this system that requires thugs, murderers and torturers.





Just say NO

8 04 2016

This is another “catch-up” post and is thus quite long.

Accused by the military junta of being under the influence or in the pay of unnamed (meaning Thaksin Shinawatra) puppet masters, activist students have been relatively quiet for a while. Their return to activism was very public.

On Tuesday, no less than “three groups of student activists were led out of a conference room after they successively interrupted [military sycophant] Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the junta appointed Constitution Drafting Committee, at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus…”.VOTE NO

Meechai was interrupted first by the high school students of Education for the Liberation of Siam. After they were ejected, members of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, moved to the front of the stage “in masks of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha with a banner saying ‘Vote No’ to protest the draft constitution.”

Then, as Meechai concluded his talk, Neo-Democracy Movement activist Sirawith Seritiwat “and several of his counterparts appeared holding a protest banner and tried to ask Meechai questions. They were quickly swept out by the university staff…”.

Meechai’s response was to blame “a certain political party” of “trying to disrupt a CDC campaign to educate the public about the draft constitution…”. Some wags might think he meant the Democrat Party, but he is more a far more predictable puppet than that. He accused the students of having “acted on the order of someone else…”, meaning Thaksin and the Puea Thai Party.

Meechai declared that these parties opposed the junta’s draft charter because it was written to “stamp out corruption and keep the government’s exercise of power, particularly budget spending, in check.” It seems that those in the junta and those like Meechai who “work towards them” have convinced themselves of this in “explaining” opposition.

Like voters in previous election, it seems, the students are duped, paid and/or ignorant.

One student has declared these accusations nonsense. Parit Chiwarak, secretary general of Education for the Liberation of Siam, declared: “I didn’t take anyone’s money to protest…”.

He had something to say about the CDC. His group protested the charter’s reduction in funding to school education. He was asked about the reasons for this. The Khaosod report states:

Some have speculated that the decision not to fund the last three years of high school education under the new charter draft might be the desire of the junta, who appointed all the charter drafters, to create less-educated and more governable citizens.

Parit said this is “a frightening prospect.” He added: “It’s possible but I can’t confirm it. If this is the real rationale behind, it means the attitude of the charter drafting committee is scary and they must be a long-term threat [to society].”

Soon after these events, Khaosod reports that the Neo-Democracy students “chose a crowded public event on a national holiday today in the capital to open their campaign urging the public to reject the draft charter.” This was the National Book Fair the National Convention Center on Chakri Day.

(The day commemorates the founding of the current dynasty. Fittingly, the day marks a military coup that brought the first Chakri king to the throne.)

The students launched a campaign that they say will continue until the referendum. The message is: “Vote No, Don’t Accept an Unchosen Future.”

They pointed to “seven flaws of the charter.” Khaosod reports these as:

permitting a non-MP prime minister, an appointed senate, ongoing use of the junta’s absolute power, reduced social benefits, an unelected committee empowered to seize control from a civilian government, placing civil servants above citizens and a less representative district MP election process.

They might have added that the charter’s spawning and birth in a military junta, midwifed by junta puppets, means the charter and the junta’s referendum are illegitimate.

Immediately following the students’ campaign was launched, the junta became inflamed. The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said “he would order an investigation into who is supporting groups campaigning against the charter…”. He bleated: “There must be someone [behind the students]. Everyone knows, why do you want me to answer who they are?” He means Thaksin, “whose political dynasty the military has attempted to dismantle.”

Dumpy Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan immediately declared that “all public actions regarding the draft constitution, whether in support or opposition, were strictly prohibited.”

The junta was soon in another authoritarian tizzy. It is “threatening to take action against the people behind the protest on Tuesday at a forum held by the charter drafters at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus.” Prawit babbled about “a hidden agenda behind the protest but he could not blame the student activists who took part,” implying that they were misled and juvenile. Even so, the police were investigating “crimes.”

The junta’s fear of opposition soon saw another set of its puppets at work. The National Legislative Assembly has decided that any person or party “disrupting” the referendum on the draft constitution will get 10 years in jail.

Now tell us we are wrong, but didn’t junta allies and all of those anti-democrats deliberately and violently disrupt the 2014 election? And wasn’t it the military and other royalists in the judiciary who declared all of this disruption legal?

The bill says that disruption includes: “creating disorder, telling lies, and using force to prompt eligible voters not to vote, to vote in any way or to choose the no-vote option in the upcoming referendum.” It continues to say that this includes “disseminating any text, picture or voice message via any media that is false, aggressive, rude, instigating or coercive in order to persuade eligible voters not to vote, to vote in a particular way or to choose the no-vote option in the referendum.” Readers can see how the junta can interpret and manipulate under such vague “laws.”








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