On the unelected

22 04 2015

As many will have recognized, one of the aims of the draft constitution is to limit the role of elected politicians. This is in line with long-standing royalist ideology.

Hence, is is unsurprising that one of the leaders of the military dictatorship should express support for an unelected premier.

At Khaosod it is reported that the current draft does “not explicitly require Prime Ministers to be elected Members of Parliament. The current draft only stipulates that a Prime Minister be appointed by a majority of MPs.”

General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy chairman of the junta, has declared that this step away from parliamentary and democratic practice is to allow parliamentarians – who will not all be directly elected – to choose an “appropriate or neutral” person as prime minister “in the event of a political deadlock.”

He added: “I think it is not a big deal at all…”. It probably isn’t when it is considered that Prawit has been party to an illegal seizure of state and is a leader of an authoritarian military regime.

Even one of the puppet members of the  NRC, Direk Tuengfang, can point to the problem:

No one will believe you that such open-ended language will solve any crisis…. It will only open a special opportunity to pressure the parliament. In the end, we will have Prime Ministers who do not come from elections by the people.

Exactly right, and we seldom agree with anyone in the NRC.

 





Dense dictators II

27 03 2015

General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta minions have had what they must think is a bright idea.

As the United Nations, human rights organizations and a few brave protesters have focused on martial law, the military dictatorship’s collective mind has lumbered into “think” mode and decided to replace martial law with a law that is not called martial law but which has all of the same powers. Brilliant!

The Nation reports that states that “he was thinking [sic.] of replacing martial law with other laws including giving himself ‘absolute power’.” He made the point by pointing at his head, suggesting that he really does believe he thinks.

But this is a serious report. The Nation reports that the dictatorial clique want to replace martial law “with either Emergency decree, the Internal Security Act, including Article 44 of the Provisional Constitution, which gives the NCPO head ‘absolute power’.”

Prayuth stated that whatever measure he chooses, the “new law would be equal to martial law…”. Mostly unremarked by human rights organizations, “Article 44 gives the NCPO leader [Prayuth] ‘absolute power’ to issue any order ‘for the sake of reforms in any field, the promotion of unity and harmony amongst the people of the nation, or the prevention, abatement or suppression of any act detrimental to national order or security, royal throne, national economy or public administration, whether the act occurs inside or outside the Kingdom.” That same constitution makes every Order by the military dictatorship “lawful, constitutional and final.”

Deputy Prime Minister and General and member of the junta Prawit Wongsuwan let the cat out of the bag, explaining: “We are trying to reduce pressure. The United Nations asked us to [find a new law].” We would be surprised if the UN did give such advice, but understand that the dullards of the military dictatorship interpret advice that way.





Bombs, red shirts, martial law and torture

19 03 2015

PPT has held off posting on the recent arrest of persons allegedly involved in an incident where a grenade was lobbed into a car park at the Bangkok Criminal Court on 7 March 2015. We held off because, as is often the case under the military dictatorship, the information released appears politically compromised, partial and the details of the case/s contradictory and suspicious. We made similar comments when the police made statements about bombs at Siam Paragon. It has also been a developing story, and our account does not include even a proportion of the material available.

Bomb networkAs much as we’d like to support a movement against the junta, the story the junta and the police are weaving is anything but believable. As seems usual in such cases, the police have a network diagram, which we reproduce here. The previous claims about networks have all proven unfounded and were concocted by military and military-backed regimes for political gain, smearing opponents.

Not coincidentally, along with the bombers’ plot, pinned to red shirts, the military has “discovered” a small cache of weapons, mostly BB guns, in a temple they claim linked to red shirts in the northeast (although, the temple is actually in Saraburi…, but, hey, this is “military intelligence” at work). The really big “evidence” seems to be a pin with Thaksin Shinawatra’s image on it. This sounds like yet another arranged discovery meant to link red shirts to political activism against the military dictatorship. We simply find it impossible to believe a military with a huge record of deception, lies, murder and concoction of “evidence.” We wish there was an organized movement against the military dictatorship.

For PPT, the plot had a whiff of fish from the beginning, which according to the police and military, goes back to the Siam Paragon case. It got even whiffier when The Bangkok Post reported that the military junta was using the “plot” to seek the extradition of Manoon Chaichana (we know him as Anek Chaichana) said to be a lese majeste suspect, from the United States “as he also faces an arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the grenade attack at the Criminal Court.”

The junta has been trying to extradite lese majeste suspects who have fled the country, but with no success. This is mainly because those other jurisdictions do not recognize the feudal lese majeste law. So tying Manoon to a bombing case seemed rather convenient. Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said the junta “would seek the cooperation of the country where the suspect lives.”

The cops say Manoon “gave financial support for the grenade attack…”. They also mentioned his leadership of the Thai Alliance for Human Rightsand linked the suspects to it. The Thai Alliance for Human Rights was formed in San Francisco in October 2014. The Alliance includes both Anek and Chupong Thithuan, both accused of lese majeste, in multiple cases. The police accuse this group of attempting to “raise public panic.” There are said to be 14 in the group.

One of the early reports on the arrest of the suspects in Thailand also caused us to think of fish. The military claimed to have a tip-off that there was to be an attack on the Court and soldiers lay in wait for the suspects to arrive and throw a grenade into a pretty much vacant car late at night, seemingly not trying to cause any damage. They were promptly arrested after a brief shoot out. Even if the military did have “intelligence,” and they rarely do, this bomb plot seems entirely different from that at Siam Paragon, which was conducted during the day with many people around. The similarity is that neither seemed designed to kill.

Then things got even more smelly when Nattathida Meewangpla was suddenly abducted by the military, who denied it was them, and then produced her – a witness to military crimes – as a suspect in the “bombing plot.” In the Bangkok Post it was reported that police said that “Nattatida was in the same group of people accused of attempting to hire others to launch grenade attacks at five locations in Bangkok last month. Targets included the 11th Infantry Regiment, Lumpini Park, the Chatuchak MRT station, the Criminal Court and the parking lot of the Siam Kempinski Hotel near Bangkok’s Siam Paragon shopping mall.”

Finally, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights claim that some of the suspects have been tortured (see the press release below).

Abduction, torture, lese majeste, police and military. That’s quite a combination. And, it all allows for the maintenance of martial law.

Press Release

Investigation of alleged torture against suspects of the Criminal Court Bomb urged, Martial Law must be lifted

For immediate release on 17 March 2015TLHR

          A bomb exploded inside the compound of the Bangkok Criminal Court on 7 March 2015 and nine suspects have been arrested so far. Today, 17 March 2015, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has received complaints from four of the suspects in this case including Mr. Sansern Sriounruen, Mr. Chanwit Chariyanukul, Mr. Norapat Luephon and Mr. Wichai Yusuk. It was alleged in the complaints that the four suspects had been subjected to torture including being hit, punched, booted in their head, chest, back and threatened with an assault in order to extract information from them. In addition, some suspects were electrocuted leaving visible traces on their skin while being held in custody invoking Martial Law during 9-15 March 2015.

          TLHR is gravely concerned about the use of Martial Law to hold a person in custody and to prevent the person from communicating with his or her relatives and lawyers during the seven days. Previous detentions invoking Martial Law since the coup have taken place in undisclosed facilities and were conducted without transparency and accountability. The latest case of its kind of the detention of Ms. Nutthathida Meewangpla which was made known later that she had been subjected to military custody. The deprivation of liberty of a person invoking Martial Law may give rise to arbitrary exercise of power, torture and ill treatment, and enforced disappearance. Torture inflicted on a person while being held in custody is considered a gross human rights abuse and is a breach to obligations regarding the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) to which Thailand is a state party and was obliged to follow since 1 November 2007.

          TLHR demands the following from concerned agencies;

          1. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must bring to a halt the invocation of Martial Law to suppress any criminal act since the police are already able to invoke their power as per the Criminal Procedure Code to effectively apply for arrest warrants and to investigate the case.

          2. The Department of Corrections which supervises detention facilities must ensure access to independent and impartial physicians of the four suspects. They along with other suspects in the same case should have access to physical and mental examination so as to create a guarantee against any possibility of being subjected to torture and ill treatment during the time Martial Law is imposed.

          3. The Royal Thai Police must conduct an investigation and collect evidence related to the abuses committed against the four suspects and to bring to justice the perpetrators.

With respect of people’s rights and liberties

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)





Further updated: “Managing” witnesses to military murder

16 03 2015

Under martial law, the military dictatorship can do pretty much what it wants. Of course, when it comes to politics and political murder, the military has long had impunity. No military officer is ever brought to justice for political crimes. While several court inquests have found that soldiers were responsible for the deaths of some of those killed in the crackdowns on red shirt protesters in 2010, no one has yet been convicted for these deaths.

That said, there has been some activity against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, who were the civilian leaders of the Democrat Party government that was put in place by the military and its palace allies in late 2008, and which presided over the crackdown. Most recently, the National Anti-Corruption Commission has declared that the two should face “abuse of power” charges for overseeing the crackdown.

Abhisit’s response brought the military back into the picture with statements about and by Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan and Anupong Paojinda and their roles in the murder of red shirts.

Probably not coincidentally, it is now reported that an important witness to the events at Wat Pathum Wanaram has been taken away, allegedly by military officers. Khaosod reports that volunteer nurse Nattathida Meewangpla, “who witnessed the killing of two fellow medics by soldiers in a Bangkok temple during the 2010 crackdown on Redshirt protesters has been abducted from her home by security officers…” on 11 March.

Family members report that “Nattathida received a phone call from men who said they wanted to visit her home and discuss a possible land purchase. However, the potential buyers turned out to be two soldiers and three plain-clothed security officers, who arrived at Nattathida’s house and ordered her to come with them for interrogation.” These men declared “they didn’t need a warrant to detain Nattathida because they were acting under martial law…”.

Her family states:

“They simply told her to bring some clothes. They didn’t say on what charges they arrested her…. They didn’t say where they were taking her, and they wouldn’t let us photograph them. We have been too afraid to tell the police.”

Col. Winthai Suwaree, the spokesperson for the military dictatorship, “denied that soldiers detained Nattathida, and suggested that ‘individuals with ill-intention’ might have falsely claimed to act in the junta’s name in order to ‘mislead society’.” Given the military’s dark and bloody record, few might have believed him. Fewer still when he made the ludicrous claim that “every action and mission of the security officers is in accordance with boundary of the laws…”.

Update 1: In the last paragraph above, we have the words of junta mouthpiece Col. Winthai Suwaree. Reports of this case now demonstrate that the junta spokesman is a liar who should never be believed. Khaosod reports that Nattathida has now “emerged from six days of military detention today, a day after the junta denied any involvement in her arrest.” Never believe a bunch of liars in green uniforms who think the public is dense and stupid, and not just those who vote for Thaksin Shinawatra parties; they think everyone is as dense as the military bosses. She was taken on Tuesday to police headquarters “in a van belonging to the 11th Army District.” It is not clear that she has been charged with any crimes.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post now reports that Nattathida is alleged to have “colluded with suspects in the March 7 Criminal Court bombing.” Police claim she was in a “money trail” linking the bombers. So far, we see no reason to believe anything in this, not least because the people telling the story are demonstrated liars.





Revised: 2010 justice or the end of old politicians?

27 02 2015

Back in 2010 when the Abhisit Vejjajiva government planned the crackdown on red shirt protesters, the military commanders of the murderous operation were Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Anupong Paojinda and Prawit Wongsuwan.

Khaosod reports that the National Anti-Corruption Commission “has begun impeachment procedures against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban for authorizing a military crackdown on Redshirt protesters in 2010 that left over 90 people dead.”

While we welcome any legal measures that give attention to the military’s murder of its own citizens in 2010, we remain bemused by the notion that a former premier can be retrospectively “impeached” years after they have left office.

The NACC states that Abhisit and Suthep “should be charged” with “abuse of power” for “failing to stop” the use of “excessive violence” in the crackdown on red shirts. The junta puppets in the National Legislative Assemblywill consider the cases and the leaders of the Democrat Party led government could be banned from politics for 5 years.

For us this is insufficient. The two former leaders of the (anti)Democrat Party and its military commanders should face a murder trial.

We note that Suthep has been in a monastery since the coup, “avoiding politics.” We can only guess that there were reasons for this hide related to the military’s renewal of its political mandate via the coup.

Interestingly, on the “men in black” that the military and Abhisit and Suthep have always claimed, with almost no evidence, caused some or all of the deaths, the NACC says the red shirt protest area “was not wholly composed of violent or armed elements, but also demonstrators without weapons, and other civilians who were not related to the rallies.”

It also noted “previous court inquests that have attributed the deaths of some civilians to security officers.”

Khaosod also reports that Abhisit whined that military commanders should be questioned about their role.

Remarkably, The Dictator, General Prayuth, has said that”he is willing to provide testimony to Thailand’s anti-graft agency about his role as a top army commander in the 2010 military crackdown…”. As far as we can recall, he’s never been “willing” before, and has been downright hostile to any investigation.

Prayuth was asked if the “investigation will affect the reputation of the military,” and he responded with his usual line: “How will that affect the military? The officers were performing their work.” He then got excited about men in black, demanding very loudly:

“I want to ask you about this fact: were there armed people among the civilians? Were there? Answer me loudly. Were there Blackshirts among the Redshirts? Did they shoot at the soldiers? If so, then it’s over.”

No one seems to have ever identified, arrested or investigated a man in black.

We can’t imagine the NACC doing this investigation without the permission of the military dictatorship. So what is going on?

We do know that the military leadership hates all civilian politicians. It is particularly concerned about pro-Thaksin Shinawatra politicians because they win elections. However, it also dislikes those who can mobilize people, like Suthep. We also know that the military dictatorship also wants to clear the political decks to smooth the path to military-dominated politics in the future. Is this the way they do it?





Updated: When transfers are acceptable

12 01 2015

Back in May 2014, then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was dismissed by a verdict of the Constitutional Court. Her “crime” was to transfer one official, or as the New York Times stated it, “having impure motives when she transferred a bureaucrat three years ago.” Reasonable commentators referred to this verdict as biased, politicized and ridiculous.

Yet if the Constitutional Court declared her single act improper then, what should it say now about what the Bangkok Post says: is a set of transfers impacting “73 positions at the Metropolitan Police Bureau … and 130 positions at the Central Investigation Bureau…”? We ask because that Post says these transfers “involve many officers from the old power clique of the Yingluck administration.”

We know that the Constitutional Court will say nothing. Because this court is politically biased towards anti-democrats and royalists, it is more likely to cheer the police transfers.

Double standards define Thailand’s judiciary and there is no justice.

The new officers brought in are mostly close to General Prawit Wongsuwan and worked for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Part of the changes taking place also owe something to palace house-cleaning.

Update: Interestingly, the Bangkok Post reports that the puppet Constitutional Drafting Committee is to give the Constitutional Court the power that the royalists have long begged the king to provide under Article 7 of the last couple of constitutions. Rather than have the monarchy step in – and the royalists won’t trust it when the old man is dead – the Constitutional Court will step in to “solve” political crises. This seems to have been the king’s desire since 2006, and the royalist puppets are keen on engineering it.





Listening to military groupies and others

3 01 2015

When an academic is introduced as a “security affairs expert,” PPT usually writes them off as military groupies, not necessarily with a sexual connotation, but in the context of hanging on every word and everything from the most self-important generals, no matter how banal or corrupt they are.

At the same time, because they are groupies, they often hear interesting whispers or provide insights into the usually warped minds of those who expect to be obeyed. A perfect example is Panitan Wattanayagorn at Chulalongkorn University. He’s only interesting when he reveals little secrets he’s picked up while slithering about with his bosses.

We are not sure about “an expert in security affairs from Rangsit University,” Wanwichit Boonprong, from Rangsit University, quoted in a report at The Nation. This academic has previously written on the military (downloads a PDF) and has been quoted in 2014 in the media, yet he is new to us.

Wanwichit says that the “military is expected to have increased political roles in this new year…”. That is hardly worth saying, for the next year will see it consolidate its role as the major political power, in partnership with a weakened monarchy.Nor is the claim that “martial law … is likely to be retained for a long time, to help ensure that the military will have the power to deal with unexpected problems when they arise.” The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has told us that. Martial law is also useful for the quick silencing of dissent on the military dictatorship and the monarchy.

Wanwichit’s statement that “martial law would serve as its [the junta’s] ‘fangs and claws’,” seems entirely appropriate. He observes that “arrangements had been made … to increase the military’s power. These included the junta’s orders to expand the martial court’s authority to try cases involving lese majeste and war-grade weapons, as well as the upgrade of military districts into military circles to allow increased roles in civilian affairs.”

Wanwichit is undoubtedly correct to expect that “many military commanders, as well as senior bureaucrats, [will…] become senators…”. The political future remains in the past. He reckons that the “military should be able to control the [political arena] in 2015. They will continue to get cooperation from many sectors…”. We don’t agree entirely on this for the patern so far has been for increasing disaffection, and as it becomes clear how much control the military will have, even some of the anti-democrats will wince.

More interesting is the claim, attributed to “a high-ranking officer in the armed forces,” that “there is a unity problem among top commanders in the Army…”. We are not convinced, but these reports keep popping up. The source states: “There are uncertainties in the Army.” It is added that “the current Army might seem to be united but in fact potential conflict is brewing under the surface. This is because the Army is now controlled by three different and powerful figures.”

Wanwichit is cited as identifying a “a key weakness in the junta is the fact that all the problems will push towards … Prayut[h].” Why is this a problem in a dictatorial arrangement? Wanwichit says, “The prime minister’s mood changes quite easily and this makes it easy for him to be the target of criticism…. Without relegation [delegation?] of power to other people, particularly over security matters, there will be negative consequences on the government and the Army.”

Wanwichit considers that Army boss General Udomdej Sitabutr, also deputy defence minister, “needed to be given more responsibility on security matters.”

The third figure is General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and defence minister.

One conflict is considered to “stem from a contest to become the next Army chief between two leading candidates – Prayut’s brother General Preecha Chan-o-cha and General Teerachai Nakwanich – who are both assistant Army commanders-in-chief. Teerachai is Udomdej’s former classmate from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”

Something to watch, but we have the feeling that the big issues in 2015 will be the military dictatorship’s capacity to mange succession and conflicts with broader “civil society,” most especially with the groups that prepared the ground for the military coup in 2014.








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