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.





The royal elephant in the room

20 02 2021

Reading a report at the Thai Enquirer on Move Forward’s Rangsiman Rome and his speech in parliament requires insider knowledge.

Reporting that he “showed the four-page document from 2019, when the Royal Thai Police force was under the leadership of [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] and of current Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wangsuwan,” it is left to the reader’s imagination and inside knowledge to work out what this is about, adding:

The so-called chang or elephant ticket is allegedly a list of police officers assured of promotion. The ticket, according to Rome, is a vehicle for positions and connections within the police, bypassing the official merit-based system for promotion.

Immediately the hashtag #ตั๋วช้าง began trending, used millions of times.

Like an earlier politician forced into exile, Rangsiman spoke of the patronage system. Rangsiman implied “Prayut and Prawit were aware that such corrupt practices were taking place, accusing the administration of allowing the police to indulge the ‘godfathers’ operating gambling dens and the drug trade, while cracking down on pro-democracy protestors like criminals.”

The closest the newspaper gets to talking about the elephant in the room is when it reports that the MP said “he was aware that he was breaching a dangerous taboo against some of the country’s most powerful vested interests.” That’s code for the monarchy and that he was speaking of the involvement of the palace in police promotions and corruption was clearer – but still unstated – when he said:

This is probably the most dangerous action I’ve ever taken in my life,” he said during the hearing. “But since I have been chosen by the people, I will fight for the people…. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I have no regrets over the decisions that I have made today.

It is Khaosod that reports the speech more directly, helped by the slimy lese majeste bully Suporn Atthawong.

According to this report, Rangsiman’s “bombshell revelation” was that “a handful of government favorites and a royal aide can dictate appointments and removals within the police force at their whim…”.

He went further, saying that the documents showed that “police officers can gain immediate promotions without going through the formal route if they manage to obtain a ‘Ticket,’ a document signed by Maj. Gen. Torsak Sukvimol, the commander of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers, King’s Guard 904.” That’s the younger brother of the king’s most important official.

The link to the palace is clear:

The MP said the scheme is run by Torsak’s brother, Sathitpong Sukvimol, who serves as Lord Chamberlain to the royal palace. Documents shown by Rangsiman shows that Sathitpong in 2019 wrote to a certain institution asking for 20 police officers to receive either new ranks or titles.

The slimy Suporn has rushed in with Article 112 allegations:

We have transcribed every word and letter of the speeches that Mr. Rangsiman Rome referenced the monarchy…. Our legal team has looked into it and concluded that the information is sufficient for prosecution under Article 112.

Of course, the king’s previous interference in police promotions has been well-documented. A recent academic piece, drawing on Wikileaks, summarizes this, stating that Vajiralongkorn twice “intervened in matters to do with the appointment of the national police chief, in 1997 and 2009, both seemingly with personal motives…”. We also know that there were several periods when the king was crown prince that there were rumors that he was involved with crime figures.





Jabs traded

18 02 2021

Speaking during the no confidence debate in parliament, the self-selected Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha seemed to lose his marbles. Responding to an MP from the opposition Move Forward Party “who … questioned the government’s delivery of the [virus]  vaccine,” Gen Prayuth seemed to forget that he leads the government when he “warned critics of the government’s vaccination programme that they would be held responsible if their comments affected the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.”

He babbled: “I am concerned that comments on the vaccines will cause problems. I don’t want it to be politicised. You have to be careful. If we cannot get what has been agreed upon because of this, you must accept responsibility.”

How can the opposition, with no control of anything associated with the state be responsible for delays? Of course, it is nonsense. It is the regime that is responsible.

The regime has been slow to get vaccines, with dozens and dozens of countries in the world already beginning vaccination. Some of the slower places are beginning within a few days. Japan has just begun and this slowness has been criticized. The regime is trying to save face by seemingly getting a special deal from China, using the almost defunct Thai Airways to run yet another special flight to get a few thousand doses being supplied by China’s Sinovac Biotech Co. The flight will bring 200,000 doses. The Food and Drug Administration emergency approval of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine will see a meager 50,000 doses arrive in Thailand sometime in February. The program for vaccination was announced only a few days ago.

We can speculate and guess why this is: the regime wants most people to receive a vaccine with the king’s mark on it – the propaganda value will be immense.

This is why the Bangkok Post reports that the National Vaccine Institute director Nakorn Premsri had to display “a letter from the AstraZeneca company, issued on Monday, in an attempt to prove that Siam Bioscience has passed the evaluation process of AstraZeneca’s audit team.” It might have, but this provides no evidence of when the king’s company will be producing shots.





Jokers and the chicken farmer

12 02 2021

In one of the most laughable of news stories Thai PBS reports that the military leader and head coup maker in Myanmar are asking Thailand’s most recent coupmeisters to provide “support for his country’s democracy.”

Democrat at work

Even more laughable, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of Thailand’s 2014 coup, military dictator for more than 5 years and administrator for a rigged constitution, rigged laws and a rigged election retorted that “he is ready to extend full support to democracy in Myanmar…”. He claimed that “democracy in Myanmar” was “something I totally support…”.

Not only is this comically ironic, but Gen Prayuth is piling up buffalo manure. He has little understanding of democracy, doesn’t support it in Thailand, and can’t support it in Myanmar because he supports the coup makers there. The latter is clear when he babbles about “Myanmar’s democratic process…” following a coup that overturned a landslide election victory.

From the comically ironic to the ridiculously horrid.

Startlingly many, Thailand’s Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission has done something. Usually its job is to support the regime, but in this case it has found that the notorious Phalang Pracharath Party MP Pareena Kraikupt has committed “serious ethical breaches.” This involves her “building a poultry farm on a protected forest land.” It has sent the case to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

This could lead to Pareena being “stripped from her seat and banned from holding political offices.”

The NACC said the “case of MP Parina Kraikupt unlawfully owning and benefitting from state land is a serious ethical breach…. There is a conflict of interest between her individual benefits and public benefit.” It investigated and found that Pareena and her father “encroached and benefitted from state land…”. The  711-rai chicken farm is estimated to have “cost the state at least 36,224,791 baht in damages.”

“The case of MP Parina Kraikupt unlawfully owning and benefitting from state land is a serious ethical breach,” the announcement by the commission said. “There is a conflict of interest between her individual benefits and public benefit.”

In response, Pareena “insisted she had done nothing wrong,”claiming: “I have been making an honest living by raising poultry openly and legally and paid taxes…”.





Vaccine transparency

28 01 2021

On Monday afternoon, “Ratsadon pro-democracy demonstrators led by Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak gathered outside Siam Bioscience’s Bangkok headquarters this afternoon to protest the company’s role in Thailand’s Covid-19 vaccine programme.” Transparency remains an issue, especially as the country’s vaccination program has now been rescheduled.

But transparency is an alien concept for the regime. When it comes to the monarchy, the rule is no transparency, which leaves it open to highly speculative gossip.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s version of “transparency” had him declaring: “We don’t want to see the Covid-19 vaccine politicised because the vaccine is a matter of life and death…”. Naturally enough, the general was speaking at the Defense Ministry as he defended “the contract to Siam Bioscience, saying there were other manufacturers which had offered to produce the jabs, but Siam Bioscience was selected because it met all of the government’s criteria.”

The contract and the criteria are unknown.

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

In an open letter to Thanathorn, “public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that the decisions to secure AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines against COVID-19 were made by medical experts and appropriate to the outbreak situation in Thailand.” He went on:

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Health and National Vaccine Institute, I say that our work is not delayed or lagging as Thanathorn has accused us of…. We act according to the calculations of medical experts who consider the national situation and citizens’ safety.

That doesn’t seem likely.

Back in December, it was reported that the “World Health Organization, national regulatory authorities and vaccine manufacturers in WHO South-East Asia Region discussed fast tracking of COVID-19 vaccine rollout in member countries…”. This was the second WHO South East Asia Region meeting with vaccine manufacturers and regulators after one held in April. The participants at the second meeting included “key global and regional partners such as GAVI and UNICEF, as well as vaccine manufacturers like Bio Farma Limited from Indonesia, and Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), Bionet Asia Co Ltd and Siam Bioscience from Thailand.” That’s three from Thailand.

What was the problem with the other firms. No one knows.

A Bangkok Post editorial has observed that

In using Section 112 against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for raising questions about its vaccine procurement, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government could be said to have, at best, over-reacted. At worst, it’s being criticised for abusing the draconian law for political reasons.

The Post criticizes the regime’s response: “… the prime minister should know this is not the best way to secure public trust in the procurement plan. Mr Thanathorn is not the only one who has been sceptical about the procurement…. Such suspicions derive from fundamentally confusing data from the government from the beginning.”

The Post states: “What the public needs to know is a clear process and credible timetable for vaccination.”





On lese majeste repression

26 01 2021

There’s an hilarious report on Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha declaring that “he never intended to enforce Section 112 of the Criminal Code — also known as the lese majeste law — to silence anyone.” The words used are cited: “I’ve never wanted to use Section 112 to silence or hurt anyone.”

This is a blatant lie and such a porker that it is cause for mirth, and then for anger.

This remark was reportedly “made in reference to the lese majeste case brought by the government against the leader of the Progressive Movement, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, over his comments about the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

Hilarious though it is, the claim masks the facts of lese majeste under The Dictator-cum-unelected-premier.

Gen Prayuth has been at the head of a regime that has, since the 2014 military coup, charged more people with lese majeste than any other regime in the history of modern Thailand. His regime has also jailed more people on these political charges than ever before. The charges his regime have brought record-shattering, inhumane sentences.

Some of the, like those against Thanathorn, are not even covered by the law, but that doesn’t stop the charges flowing.

The intention of this lese majeste repression is precise: to silence critics of the regime and the monarchy.





Updated: Tools

25 01 2021

There’s a slang term we heard recently, when a dope was referred to as a “tool.” We had to look it up and came up with this:

Someone who others normally refer to as a prick, dick, or schmuck.

Then there’s the version that is:

A guy with a hugely over-inflated ego, who in an attempt to get undue attention for himself, will act like a jackass, because, in his deluded state, he will think it’s going to make him look cool, or make others want to be like him….

Which brings us to Veera Prateepchaikul’s latest op-ed. Veera felt the need to boil over on the vaccine crisis. Veera, along with Somchai Jitsuchon, research director for inclusive development at the Thailand Development Research Institute, both defend the vaccine deal with the king’s company, Siam Bioscience.

Somchai said “he had come came across no evidence of Thailand paying too much, although he admitted he was no expert in the subject.” Somchai is an adviser to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a point not made by the Post. He did say “he did not know much about why Siam Bioscience Co was picked as local vaccine manufacturer for AstraZeneca,” but still defended the deal. You get the murky picture.

Veera, also no expert, and a sucker fish rather than an adviser, favored a more aggressive attack on Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit while posterior polishing the dead king.

After all that dirty work, Veera admitted that “Thanathorn raised a few valid questions about the vaccine deal between Siam Bioscience and Oxford-AstraZeneca,” which still haven’t been answered, but accused him of doing this “from the perspective of someone unaware of the background of the deal.” Now, this is an odd criticism when Thanathorn was raising questions about the secrecy and opacity of the deal.

Veera reckons Thanathorn “did not do his homework before talking publicly,” and essentially deserves a lese majeste charge or two.

Which brings us to Veera’s homework and here we don’t mean on how to polish royal ass while protecting your own. How’s Veera feeling about the Thai Enquirer report that “India offered to sell over 2 million doses of their AstraZeneca-licensed vaccine [but] was rejected by the Thai government…”?

How’s Veera feeling when he learns that:

According to sources within the Indian government, the offer to supply the same vaccine, at cost, to Thailand (up to 2 million doses initially) was also presented to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai but was rejected outright.

We don’t imagine that Don is an expert on vaccines either.

What does Veera think when he discovers: “The Ministry of Affairs … told Thai Enquirer that it was ‘better’ to get local vaccines ‘from the Ministry of Public Health or the vaccine institute’.” Which institute would that be?

How’s Veera going with political analyst Arun Saronchai’s comment?:

“I think you’re seeing this dogmatic and stubborn approach because there are people that stand to benefit from the government maintaining its course and insisting on locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccines and importing SinoVac vaccines.”

Of course, this leads back to Siam Bioscience and CP investment in the China shot.

How is that Veera’s royalist homework didn’t lead to this:

According to local news reports and whistleblower statements from inside the government, Thailand is set to pay up to 60 per cent more per dose for both the SinoVac vaccine and the Astrazeneca vaccine drawing criticisms of corruption and embezzlement from the opposition parties.

Meanwhile, confirming that lack of transparency, the erratic Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul responded to Thanathorn’s “call for the government to make public the contract signed between AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, the local vaccine-making factory, saying that was impossible as both parties were private companies, not organisations under the government.” So how’s the deal work then and why is the government defending it so vigorously. And so the circle is completed….

Update: Remarkably, the Post has published what looks like a paid-PR effort by Siam Bioscience, which reproduces the limited information provided at its website. Interestingly, the company explains its lack of preparedness and tells of “the deal”:

The mission to manufacture this COVID-19 vaccine is supported by the National Vaccine Institute, Ministry of Public Health, with a budget of almost 600 million baht, with an additional 100 million baht budgeted by Siam Cement Group (SCG). This will enable preparation of the manufacturing facilities and processes. In return for the government support, Siam Bioscience will procure the AstraZeneca vaccine with a value equivalent to the funding it receives and will give the vaccine to the Thai government to support vaccine availability to the public.

Clearly, the regime must now release the details of the agreements made as this statement raises all kinds of issues that cannot be resolved when transparency is not provided.





HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

When you are near the bottom, going deeper requires particular skills in dark arts.

Human Rights Watch has recently released its World Report 2021. The summary on Thailand makes for depressing reading, even after more than six years of military junta and now a barely distinguishable post-junta regime.

The full report on Thailand begins:

Thailand faced a serious human rights crisis in 2020. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s government imposed restrictions on civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, arbitrarily arrested democracy activists, engineered the dissolution of a major opposition political party on politically motivated grounds, and enforced a nationwide state of emergency, using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext.

And the rest of the report is pretty much a litany of repression. There’s discussion of the State of Emergency, restrictions on freedom of expression, torture, enforced disappearance, impunity on state-sponsored rights violations, the persecution of human rights defenders, a continuation of human rights violations in the south, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and more. Surprisingly, there’s only a paragraph on lese majeste, which is now the regime’s main weapon in silencing dissent.

Readers of PPT will know all of the sordid details of the regime’s efforts to stifle criticism, but read the report to be reminded of how dark things have remained despite the rigged election and the existence of a parliament. The latter has, in 2020, been pretty much supine as the regime has used its ill-gotten majority and its unelected Senate to stifle the parliaments scrutiny of the regime.





Updated: The 112 tally

15 01 2021

It is now almost three months since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “declared that “all laws and all articles” will be enforced against protesters who break the law.” And we can amuse that recent lese majeste charges and arrests reflect his recent demand that various “agencies to speed up their investigations into lese majeste cases regarding unlawful online content and to take legal action against the suspects.”

We might also assume that this changed of direction on lese majeste – from not using it to an avalanche of cases – must reflect an order from the king. After all, Gen Prayuth stated that the king told him not to use it, and it would be unimaginable that Prayuth would change this policy without a direction from the palace.

Using Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) data, Thai PBS tallies some of the results of the regime’s extensive Article 112 campaign:

At least 234 people were charged in 145 criminal cases stemming from the rallies between July and December 2020, TLHR said.

Among them are six juveniles who were charged with sedition and lese majeste….

Between November 24 and December 31 last year, the group handled 24 cases involving 38 individuals charged with lèse majesté. The accused included one minor and several university students….

Prominent anti-establishment figures facing charges include Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who has 26 cases, Arnon Nampa (20 cases), Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul (10 cases), and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok (16 cases)….

Less than two weeks into the new year, some 20 protesters have already met police to acknowledge charges of Royal defamation [Article 112].

Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon faces “nine charges, including lèse majesté, and is waiting to see whether public prosecutors decide to indict her.” Arnon said “he did not remember how many lawsuits have been triggered by his role in youth-led protests.”

Meanwhile, with protests on virus hold, “leaders have been keeping the campaign alive by posting regular social-media messages slamming the government.” In addition, there’s a “guerrilla campaign”across the country with banners and graffiti appearing regularly. Banners calling for “the repeal of draconian lèse majesté law have also been spotted around the city, including at Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Thammasat University, a shopping mall and pedestrian bridges.” Other efforts have targeted king and regime.

The regime is now seeking to use lese majeste against the “guerrillas.”

Update: The recent anti-monarchy campaigns online have seen royalists, regime and military using online resources. They are supporting lese majeste.