Virus failure

5 05 2021

Readers may recall that, a couple of days ago, in posting on military budgets, we observed that key supporters of the current regime were Sino-Thai oligarchs and their conglomerates. They are handsomely rewarded for their loyalty to military and monarchy.

As we noted then, several times already this group has come to the rescue of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime, most recently offering more virus help to the government in a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccination from June. Special mention made of billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group.

With the developing virus cluster around Klong Toey, it is reported that Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) has “launched a mass vaccination scheme to support the government…”.

The conglomerate has “set up a mass vaccination facility at Lotus Rama IV, aimed at vaccinating at least 1,000 people per day, said Suphachai Chearavanont, CEO and executive chairman of CP Group.” This will go on for a couple of weeks

This is described as “a model of collaboration among the private sector, social activists, and state agencies to minimise risks and curb the outbreak…”.

Rather, it is a statement of the regime’s vaccine rollout failure, bedrocked in the king’s “vaccine” company. More than this, as Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha gave himself total control and authority over the virus response, it is his personal failure.

Of course, CP is also a vaccine company, owning a Chinese producer. Can we assume that the vaccine it is using is from its own stocks?





HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

Human Rights WatchHuman Rights Watch has released a statement on the continuing detention of political activists. We reproduce it in full, including with links HRW had embedded:

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively.

The charges against Parit, Panusaya, and others should be dropped for violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Until then, bail should be provided for all those detained under the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. Hunger strikers should be transferred to a hospital for medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

On March 8, 2021, the Bangkok Criminal Court ordered Panusaya, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and Panupong Jadnok into pre-trial detention on lese majeste charges connected to the speeches they made demanding reforms of the monarchy during a rally on September 19, 2020. The cases follow the court’s February 9 decision to order four other prominent democracy activists – Parit, Arnon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem – into pre-trial detention on similar charges.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The activists were also charged with sedition under Criminal Code article 116, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. These cases are just the latest in which Thai activists charged with lese majeste have been detained for lengthy periods that could go on for years until their trial is concluded, Human Rights Watch said.

Except for Patiwat, who gave a statement in court on March 29 that he would no longer participate in rallies and other political activities or make public comments about the monarchy, the court has repeatedly denied the activists’ bail requests, saying they are likely to commit the alleged offenses again if released.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in November, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged at least 82 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

In a February 8 statement on the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions and harsh prison sentences the courts have meted out to some defendants. On January 19, a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert, received an 87-year prison sentence, later halved after she pleaded guilty.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should stop this witch hunt against peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Adams said. “The government should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”





Virus of double standards V

15 04 2021

The Bangkok Post has a useful editorial that points to the double standards being applied by the regime in dealing with the virus outbreak.

It refers to “growing concerns over possible foul play in the investigation process concerning the [Thonglor] clubs where the bug spread.” It mentions “blatant breaches of the law by the management of two exclusive clubs, namely Krystal and Emerald, as well as its staff and patrons.”

It doesn’t discuss how it is that these clubs can be so blatant but everyone knows that the police collect “rents” from all entertainment venues to “allow” rules to be bent and to enrich senior police.

The editorial then moves on to the main issue the minister involved. No names, but it is probable they mean Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. It is stated:

Instead of ordering a probe into a Covid-infected minister who was said to have visited one of the clubs — with all of their reckless violations of disease prevention measures — and who may potentially be a super-spreader, Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha chose to protect his minister. He made a tongue-in-cheek comment, saying cabinet ministers shouldn’t be naughty.

The police sprang into action to cover their posteriors and those of higher ups by charging the clubs’ managers – employees, not owners. But:

Instead of taking a harsh line, the police seemed to adopt a low-key approach, which is unusual given the high-profile nature of the case.

The managers were sentenced in record time, with this action causing “suspicion to arise that the quick action was intended to avert public attention from the real culprits.” And guess what?

The owners are said to have strong connections with the powers-that-be, particularly a high-ranking police officer, Pol Maj Gen Pantana Nuchanart, who is known to be a shareholder in one of the clubs. The officer, attached to the Central Investigation Bureau, told Isra News Agency he was only a partner in a restaurant of one of the clubs.

The editorial focuses on the police and says little more about the “naughty” minister or ministers. Why is Saksayam permitted to apparently skirt laws that other Thais must follow. Why are so many police now infected and/or quarantining? Is the super-spreader responsible? Why is it only small fry and demonstrators who seem to be under the law?





Virus of double standards III

12 04 2021

As the virus surges across the country, even more double standards are revealed. One is highlighted in a Bangkok Post editorial that questions Thailand’s lagging vaccination program, where the king’s company, subsidized with taxpayer funds, is still several months away from producing any vaccine.

The program was, in principle, meant to target “frontline health workers [as]… the top priority, followed by vulnerable groups such as patients with acute and chronic diseases, people with possible exposure to Covid-19, those who live in particularly at-risk areas, and also people living and working in tourism destinations set to open for foreign visitors.”

But, as usual, the powerful are cutting in and grabbing the shots ahead of everyone else. The expected “celebrity” shots have included The Dictator and some royals – we guess that the rest of the latter have been vaccinated. When the execrable Princess Sirivannavari got her first AstraZeneca shot, the accompanying story “explained” that the shot was “suitable for those who have a high risk of infection from interacting with patients or those who travel frequently and interact with many different people,” suggesting an odd reason for the Princess jumped the queue.

But it is the generals and other junta-appointed supporters of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the Senate who get the Post’s attention.

Japanese cats

Senators voting

The Post reports that “wrong priorities sparked an outcry from several MPs who raised the matter with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, asking why MPs have not been vaccinated, like those in the Upper House.” This complaint revealed “that those 250 military-appointed senators have received their jab, while many more deserving groups have missed out.”

While almost everyone in the country thinks politicians should join others in getting the vaccine when it is due to them, the Post points out that elected MPs “who have to meet their constituents think they deserve early vaccination. That’s quite different from appointed senators who are not responsible to voters in any constituency.”

In fact, the unelected senators are responsible to The Dictator they dutifully selected as prime minister and to their bosses in the military.

Of course, there’s now considerable speculation that, “[a]s all Covid-19 vaccine distribution is controlled by the government,” there must be “someone powerful” who allocated “500 doses of the vaccines (two doses a person) to a group not on the priority list.”

The editorial concludes:

The privilege afforded this special political class is appalling…. It’s a shame that the 250 senators acted selfishly, taking supplies that would have been been saved for those on the frontline. And anyone who had a hand in this happening must also be condemned.

Indeed, but this is just another example of the double standards that infect the royalist-military cabal.





Updated: Virus of double standards I

10 04 2021

The double standards that characterize Thailand’s legal system run through the bureaucracy. No better example of this is seen in the treatment of the virus infected. No that Thailand’s good work – most of it due to health professionals – is being undone, with outbreaks across the country, in the police force, among senior corporate types and with half the cabinet in isolation.

This outbreak seemingly stems from entertainment venues visited mainly by the rich and powerful, including members of parliament and officials, and perhaps even a minister or two.

But there’s a cover-up and the reasons for it remain opaque and might be interpreted as pure blockheadedness but which display the usual characteristics of impunity and double standards.

Recent reports illustrate how the blockheads are also thin-skinned.

It was reported on Wednesday that Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, is infected with Covid-19 and has been admitted to Buriram Hospital for treatment. The minister quickly denied “he had not been out in the Bangkok nightlife scene where the virus has been rushing back, with hundreds of new cases found in recent days.” He claimed that “he got it from one of his staffers who had earlier tested positive for the disease.”

Saksayam

From The Nation

Most of the Bhum Jai Thai Party parliamentarians – 61 of them – and staffers are said to be quarantining. That includes Health MInister Anutin Charnvirakul who was pictured maskless with Saksayam.

But then the political instincts kicked in as netizens wondered about Saksayam’s denial and then about his vague timeline of activities (legally required for contact tracing). It was soon stated that “[t]hree people in close contact with him got the virus. One of the three is Kittichai Ruangsawat, BJT’s Chachoengsao MP, who was quoted by the media as admitting that he had accompanied Mr Saksayam to a club in Thong Lor in mid-March.” People asked if he’d been back in recent days.

Of course, when the “new” story was being concocted, Kittichai “backtracked, saying the media got it wrong.” Not him, but the media. Then it was noted that Saksayam’s denial came a day before he was virus tested as positive. One response from the minister was to lie, saying he was fully vaccinated – he wasn’t.

This fibbing was compounded when “the minister refused to unveil his timeline of activities during the period. Only after mounting social pressure did his team release one, but it was incomplete.”

With all the media and social media attention, the minister enlisted a Buriram-based doctor to defend him. Of course, Buriram is a Chidchob family fiefdom. The doctor appeared in the media:

Dr Pichet Phuedkhuntod said three close aides to the minister had visited the Krystal Club on March 30 and the Emerald Club on April 1 with four other people. They were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday and Monday and the results released a day later were positive, he added.

“His infection was from his staff members who worked close to him and who were in the (Thong Lor) cluster comprising seven people altogether.”…

Buriram provincial health “released the minister’s timeline on Thursday” showing that he did not visit entertainment places. But it was a timeline with gaps, so the banter continued.

To deal with that, Saksayam’s lawyer “warned of legal action against people who post messages online that cause damage to his client by implying that his infection was due to his visit to an entertainment venue.” Sounds a bit like a miniature version of the regime’s approach to political repression. By Friday, the minister’s complaints were being lodged with Buriram’s tame police.

Backing him is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. He’s threatened “legal action against anyone who used the expression ‘Thai Khu Fa Club’ to mock the government amid reports a minister had contracted Covid-19 at a nightclub in Thong Lor.” The mocking appearing to consider the cabinet as constituting a “club” of entertainment venue visiting ministers.

Gen Prayuth said: “I have ordered the legal team to consider whether it is against the law or not. Using the term Thai Khu Fa … is not [right]…”. Infecting half the cabinet seems okay….

It is yet another example of the tendency to double standards – one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else – and the almost natural response to criticism being political repression.

Update: It is reported that Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has “called on state agencies to investigate politicians who became infected with Covid-19 after attending bars in the Thong Lor area which is the epicentre of the new surge of infections.” He targeted “corruption and law-breaking” as associated with the most recent virus outbreaks, mentioning  hi-so entertainment places in Bangkok and illegal gambling dens and illegal migrants…”. He might have mentioned the Army’s boxing stadium. In fact, it is difficult to find an outbreak that is not associated with corrupt actions and impunity.





Updated: Jatuporn, Nattawut and the protests

4 04 2021

Today, the recently erratic official red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan is tentatively rallying his supporters to oppose Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. This is surprising and somewhat difficult to understand.

Part of the reason why this is a surprise is that, as we observed back in January, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn had been saying some odd political things and seemed to have had a political meltdown, as enthusiastically reported by Thai PBS. Part of the meltdown involved a dispute with Thaksin Shinawatra over local elections.

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

As everyone knows, Jatuporn has a long pedigree as a political activist dating back to the 1992 uprising against another military power grab. For his leadership of red shirts, he had faced numerous criminal charges and several arrests and served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts in 2010. Jatuporn’s defamation was to aptly label Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

Despite his history of political activism, his recent outbursts saw Jatuporn labeled a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.” There was muffled cheering from royalists when Jatuporn suggested that the UDD be disbanded and that the student protesters should refrain from calling for reform to the monarchy.

All of that had observers scratching their heads when Jatuporn urged the public to join a political forum at Santiporn Park to “kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut’s prolonged stay in power.”

According to Jatuporn, “the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims,” and he hopes it leads to a sustained campaign against Gen Prayuth. He even called on former political opponents – yellow shirts – to join if they opposed Gen Prayuth.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn “is proposing to bring Prayut down as well as write a ‘people’s constitution’.” He is cited:

Jatuporn blames the prime minister for the current aggressive deployment of the kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law against activists, which just worsens the political crisis. He reiterated that this is all the more reason why Prayut must go.

To avoid more violence and casualties, as seen in recent demonstrations, Jatuporn said that either Prayut must step down or the coalition parties must withdraw from the government.

Jatuporn says that his “new group of political activists is called Samakee Prachachon, which literally translates as ‘the people united’, to support an end to the current divide and rule strategy, wherein the Prayut regime exploits political division to hang on to political power.”

Today’s event has led to much speculation.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn is responding “to the call, by Adul Khieuboriboon, leader of the relatives of the victims of the ‘Black May’ event in 1992, for mass protests.”

On the right, there have been mixed responses. Some thought that an anti-regime movement that did not attack the monarchy might have political traction, whereas other rightists thought that Jatuporn remained Thaksin’s puppet.

One of the mouthpieces of the anti-Thaksinistas, former ideologue at The Nation and now writing op-eds for Thai PBS, Tulsathit Taptim, describes Jatuporn “ unpredictable” and asks: “Who is Jatuporn working for?” He promotes the idea that Jatuporn “has patched things up with Thaksin…” and that Thaksin wants to move now to prevent the regime further embedding itself through the (rigged) election processes:

The Thaksin-Jatuporn theory means Prayut will face a two-pronged attack. The current youngster-led campaign will go on, dealing with all kinds of sensitive subjects such as Article 112. Jatuporn’s army, whose size remains to be seen, will deal with the prime minister directly and push for relatively less sensitive constitutional changes like the origin and powers of the Senate. One of rare positives for Prayut in this case is that a Thaksin-Jatuporn combination would keep the Democrats more firmly in the fold.

Thaksin’s name will return to the center stage, according to this popular theory….

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protester leaders told Thai Enquirer that while “the student-led movement have not yet to discussed whether or not it would join a rally called by Jatuporn,” ousting Gen Prayuth was also one of the movement’s goals. However, the students said there “should be no division [between the groups]…”.

In other words, the students insisted the attention to the monarchy to remain. Benjar Apun, a protest leader from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said:

We will not interfere with what they are doing…but our goals are aligned, with or without the demand to reform the institution….

However, the UFTD will continue to demand for the reformation of the royal institution and Jatuporn’s movement also do not have the right to interfere with this demand….

She said her group would consider joining the rally but would never drop their demands to reform the institution [monarchy].

In line with that, it is interesting to observe that Nattawut Saikua, another UDD leader, just out of jail and just this week off electronic tagging, said that he “had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn…”.

Jatuporn-nattawutt

Nattawut and Jatuporn in red shirt days

However, on Tuesday, he called on the “government to release pro-democracy protesters from jail and seek a peaceful resolution to the political conflict.” He then went on to affirm that “sovereign power in the country belonged to the people as everyone is equal.”

He noted that he had been charged, arrested and jailed several times, saying: “I have no regrets over the path I chose. I have been sentenced to jail three times, but I can handle it if I have to face such punishment again.”

Nattawut reaffirmed his support for the pro-democracy protesters, saying:

The country can’t move forward if the new generation is still in jail, so the government should talk with the [young protesters] to seek a peaceful solution for the country….

These two red shirt leaders might have different aims, but the thrust of their current words and activity may further promote political struggle.

Update: Few of the mainstream media reported on the rally last night – perhaps it finished too late for stories to be filed? That said, the rally was livestreamed by various outlets, including Voice TV. Various reports were of a few hundred to 3,000 attending. Based on the broadcast PPT saw, it was very much a red shirt crowd and certainly much grey hair was evident.

Thai Enquirer did editorialize:

Jatuporn’s position also means that he is estrange politically. Having moved way from the Pheu Thai Party, Jatuporn has no ready allies in parliament. Move Forward, Palang Pracharat, Bhumjai Thai all have reason to not engage with the former red shirt leader. Ironically the party most closely aligned to his views might be the Democrat Party, the very party he once took to the streets to try to overthrow.

It is unclear how much traction this new movement will gain in the coming weeks and months or whether it will at all.

But what is clear is that if Jatuporn wants to create a stir and regain the support he once had, he is going to have his work cut out for him.





Updated: Know Gen Prayuth

1 04 2021

It has long been known that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is thin-skinned. Some of this is in his nature but much of it is learned behavior. As a senior military man, he has become used to deference, order, and hierarchy. He’s also a royalist and loyalist, which reinforces his notion of “good order.”

As such it should be no surprise that the General has ordered a “Thai reporter, working for a Japanese news agency, … temporarily banned from Government House, because of her alleged negative attitude towards the working environment there.”

The ban was later “explained” as resulting from “the woman involved released misinformation.”

In fact, though, it followed a press conference by The (semi-)Dictator on Tuesday when he told “the reporter in question, who was sitting crossed legged with one leg pointing at the podium, to sit differently.” Natthareeya Thaveevongs, the director of the Office of the Spokesman for the PM’s Office, “later explained that the reporter’s posture was not normal…”.

Obviously, Gen Prayuth took offense: “PrayuthThe way the reporter had sat upset the prime minister…”. So, apparently, had her tough questioning.

The reporter tweeted:

“The prime minister wasn’t happy a reporter sat cross-legged. Who’s that? Who raised her foot before the premier? Yes, I did. LOL. I was warned. One must sit with both legs pressed tightly together.”

It is also reported that:

the reporter also wrote in a satirical tone on social media about chasing after news at Government House. She likened her position as a reporter waiting for cabinet ministers to emerge from the main building to a dog being shut out of the cool air of a 7-11 convenience store.

Natthareeya later claimed the “ban had nothing to do with the inappropriate posture, nor had it anything to do with the reporter’s tough questions during the press conference,” but this is clearly not true.

Unhelpfully but also expected, the chair of the ethics committee of the often hopeless Thai Journalists Association said that:

although women sitting cross-legged is treated as normal these days, the Thai custom of being respectful towards people of seniority remains unchanged and reporters should treat senior figures with respect, through proper attire and conduct.

Old men with old ideas are ruining Thailand’s future.

Update: Thanks to a post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, it seems that the reporter mentioned above was involved in another event last Sunday. Thai Enquirer reported that:

A reporter had a rubber-bullet gun thrust at her by a riot policeman during protests at the weekend, the latest escalation against journalists by Thai security forces against journalists working in the field.

Kamonthip, a reporter for a Japanese newspaper, was documenting the scene a couple of hours after riot police arrested peaceful protestors in front of Government House.

“I was one of the last reporters near the police line,” she told Thai Enquirer Monday. “The police were telling press to move back and get on the sidewalk.”

As she was trying to comply, “a group of riot police shouted at me to stop filming,” she said. “I asked why I was not being allowed to document, and why they needed to use guns to clear the area.”

“I stopped recording and got onto the sidewalk, and one of the police officers came in to talk to me. The same police that was in the video with the gun came in very close and I felt something hard on my shoulder. When I looked I saw the muzzle of the gun pointing at me. The police that came to talk to me separated us and was apologizing and saying nothing happened”….

She said she was clearly identified as press by the front and back of her vest, a neck tag, and a white armband.

Clearly Gen Prayuth and his minions see here as both “culturally” and politically suspect.





Absolutist infection

24 03 2021

When a regime feels in total control it leads to odd behavior that seems infectious of those at all levels of government. Falsehoods become normal because regime leaders and their minions feel the power of impunity. Arrogance breeds contempt and, in some cases, results in stupidity on a grand scale.

Think of the police bosses. In recent days they defended “harsh actions against protesters at Sanam Luang on Saturday night amid mounting criticism from activists and academics.” An unnamed deputy commissioner and spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Bureau essentially declared, “we did nothing wrong.” Indeed, despite evidence to the contrary, police “insisted …  that their … were in accordance with international standards.”

A couple of days later, after an uproar, the “national police commissioner, Pol.Gen. Suwat Jangyodsuk, offered a public apology today (Monday) for the police’s rough handling of some of the anti-establishment protesters…”.

But the “apology” was weak and only referred to “some mistakes,” resulting from orders he personally gave. He promised an “investigation.” That is, he’s promising an investigation of his own actions and conducted by his subordinates. That’s buffalo manure.

We were perfect, we were wrong, but none of it matters as the police can do whatever they want.

Then there’s the acting chairperson of the completely discredited National Human Rights Commission who reckons that the further deferral of the agency’s application for re-accreditation with the United Nation to be something positive. Only a dope or a junta ideologue would consider Thailand’s 6-year long downgrade extending for another 18 months to be anything other than a slap to the regime’s face.

Then there’s Thailand’s unelected/selected prime minister. In being “relaxed” that constitutional change is off the agenda for a while, Gen Prayuth Cha-ocha. He’s quoted in a Bangkok Post story:

“If people are concerned that I will prolong my stay in power, they are free to proceed with charter amendments. They can choose between voting or not voting for me. I’m fine with it,” he said.

He seems to think that he’s an elected prime minister rather than a coup leader who seized power and then rigged a constitution and an election that he didn’t stand in. Delusional? Perhaps. Arrogant? For sure.





Updated: Yet another cover-up

5 03 2021

Readers will know that Facebook recently removed 185 accounts and groups it considered part of an information-influencing operation run by the military, mainly directed to the southern conflict. The network engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.” It “included 77 accounts, 72 pages and 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram…”.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of Cybersecurity Policy, stated: “We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.” The Facebook report said that the “network” attempted to conceal identities and coordination, and posted primarily in Thai about news and current events, including content in support of the Thai military and the monarchy.”

The dodos at the top of the military used the usual strategy: lies and denial. According to ISOC spokesman Maj Gen. Thanathip Sawangsang:

ISOC is not aware of the takedown of the Facebook accounts as reported in the news. Those were personal accounts not related to ISOC…. ISOC also doesn’t engage in operations as reported in the news. We act as a centre for coordination to provide relief and refuge to the people.

No one believes him, but that’s not the point. Political dolts everywhere have learned that lies are all that is needed to deflect criticism, begin a cover-up, and maintain the deceit.

And, like clockwork, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has sprung into cover-up action. The unelected prime minister, the assassin, the coup master, The Dictator and election rigger ordered an “investigation.” And who better for that task than those accused? That seems like the perfect way to cover this up. Gen Prayuth “has assigned the Royal Thai Army to investigate…”. He declared: “Facebook took action like this. It can be interpreted in many ways. We must make it clear…”. What he means is that we must cover up.

This is the second removal of military accounts associated with information operations and covert online warfare. Back then they lied and covered-up as well and nothing happened. Business as usual. We expect the same from these revelations.

Update: A reader points out that we missed an obvious point: getting the Army to investigate itself is a non-investigation. Indeed it is, but it is a tried and trusted maneuver by Thailand’s military bosses. The result is inevitably a cover-up.





Thailand and Myanmar’s generals

25 02 2021

Oren Samet has a useful article at The Diplomat. “The Myanmar Public Fights Not to End Up Like Thailand” makes some points that need attention. It begins:

A week after overthrowing Myanmar’s elected civilian government on February 1, coup leader [Gen] Min Aung Hlaing sent a letter to Thai Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha asking – with no hint of irony – for his help in supporting “democracy” in Myanmar. The letter was revealing not for what it said, but for who it was addressed to. Prayut is, himself, a former general, who overthrew Thailand’s elected government in 2014 and has been in charge ever since. When it comes to coups, Thailand’s generals know what they’re doing.

As we know, and despite initial silence and opacity, in recent days, representative’s of Myanmar’s military junta have been meeting with Thai counterparts – most of whom were a part or associated with Thailand’s own military junta in 2014-19.

As far as we know, this is the first overseas visit by a Myanmar government representative since its hugely popular and elected government was thrown out by the coup.

According to Samet, the Myanmar generals are following a Thai script:

When Min Aung Hlaing made his first televised statement since taking power, he repeatedly emphasized that government policies would remain unchanged and welcomed continued foreign investment. Despite the disastrous consequences of previous military takeovers in Myanmar, he promised that this coup would be different.

He might as well have said, “this time we’re doing it Thai style.”

Samet rightly points out that Gen Min Aung Hlaing:

has close connections to the Thai military. He received multiple high-level honors from the Thai authorities, even after orchestrating the Rohingya genocide in 2017. Prem Tinsulanonda, a previous Thai general turned prime minister, considered Min Aung Hlaing his “adopted son.”

Thailand’s royalist military and the interfering Gen Prem has, from the ashes, helped in bringing authoritarianism back to Myanmar.

But, as the world knows, the Myanmar generals are facing stiff opposition. This is not, as Samet claims, being unable to follow the Thai example, but different circumstances. In 2014, the Thai generals didn’t face widespread opposition because they had eliminated, through repression and jailings, the red shirt opposition and its leaders. At the same time, like Thailand’s yellow shirts who hated Thaksin Shinawatra, in Myanmar, several public intellectuals with civil society links have gone over to the generals and express an intense hatred of Aung San Suu Kyi and her alleged arrogance.

The other thing that the Thai military might have shown their buddies across the border is that it is possible to wait out civil opposition while picking off some of that oppositions leadership. The men with guns know that peaceful protest can often be waited out.