Amnesty International on systematic and arbitrary restrictions on human rights

24 02 2018

Amnesty International has released its annual report on the state of the world’s human rights. It’s a 400 page PDF that makes for grim reading.

The report had a launch in Thailand and there are reports at Khaosod and The Nation.

Amnesty International Thailand Director Piyanut Kotsan is quoted in The Nation saying:

“The situation of human rights violation in Thailand under the administration of the Prime Minister and head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] is still considered very poor, as the junta still exercises the absolute power of Article 44 of the interim Charter to stop any political activists exercising freedom of expression…”.

“Many citizens are still being held in unofficial custody, civilians are still being prosecuted in the military court, and freedom of expression and gatherings in public are limited by the use of NCPO order 3/2558, which bans the gathering of more than five persons for political protest.”

Khaosod quotes Antima Saengchai, deputy director of Amnesty Thailand:

Despite having declared human rights a national priority, the military government still prosecutes activists, practices extrajudicial killings, allows torture of people in custody, deports asylum-seekers and suppresses online freedoms….

“Despite promises, there has been no process on passing laws to prohibit human rights violations such as torture and enforced disappearances…”.

On lese majeste in 2017, the report states:

Authorities continued to vigorously prosecute cases under Article 112 of the Penal Code – lèse-majesté provision – which penalized criticism of the monarchy. Individuals were charged or prosecuted under Article 112 during the year, including some alleged to have offended past monarchs. Trials for lèse-majesté were held behind closed doors. In June, the Bangkok Military Court sentenced a man to a record 35 years’ imprisonment − halved from 70 years after he pleaded guilty − for a series of Facebook posts allegedly concerning the monarchy. In August, student activist and human rights defender Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment after being convicted in a case concerning his sharing a BBC profile of Thailand’s King on Facebook. Authorities brought lèse-majesté charges against a prominent academic for comments he made about a battle fought by a 16th century Thai king.

The latter case was dropped a few weeks ago. We are surprised AI didn’t mention the lese majeste cases brought against juveniles.

On the still unresolved case of the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyaphum Pasae the report states:

In March, Chaiyaphum Pasae, a 17-year-old Indigenous Lahu youth activist, was shot dead at a checkpoint staffed by soldiers and anti-narcotics officers, who claimed to have acted in self-defence. By the end of the year, an official investigation into his death had made little progress; the authorities failed to produce CCTV footage from cameras known to have been present at the time of the incident.

This seems a case of impunity for soldiers. Another, mentioned in  the report under the heading “Impunity” states:

In August, the Supreme Court dismissed murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. The charges related to the deaths of at least 90 people in 2010 during clashes between [red shirt] protesters and security forces.

It might have also noted that Gen Anupong Paojinda, who was then army commander and is now Interior minister also got off. And, current prime minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha commanded troops who conducted some of these murders.

The report on Thailand is only a couple of pages long and should be read.





When the military is on top XIV

23 02 2018

When the military is on top it makes stuff up that almost no one believes but the regime expects the population to accept, no matter how nonsensical the claim.

In a recent report, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda has claimed that “[a]bout a million people joined the ‘Thai Niyom’ program launched by junta chairman [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha on its first day…”.

Gen. Anupong proudly declared that: “In each village, about 100 people joined…. Excluding Bangkok, the number [of people who joined] is nearly one million.”

As the report adds, “[n]o data were provided to support the claim.”

Given that there are some 80,000 villages in Thailand, even excluding Bangkok, the arithmetic seems a bit off. But one million is still a lot of people to mobilize in a single day, even for a military dictatorship. Is it believable?

If it is, then it is an expression of the capacity of the regime to dispatch soldiers to thousands of villagers and round up one million people. This is a frightening demonstration of military power and the capacity that power delivers for reaching down into communities.





Feudal plaudits

22 02 2018

Some time ago, PPT posted on the king’s ordering celebrations of winter that took on a feudal tone. That post mentioned that the public was encouraged to wear “traditional clothes” and 19th century fashions. We were not aware that there was a dress competition.

Khaosod reports on that competition. It says that Culture minister Vira Rojpojchanarat made awards for the best costume.

In a regime that is unable to understand notions like nepotism, conflict of interest, corruption but which understand hierarchy and feudal notions of “good people,” deciding on the winners was not a difficult task. For Vira, if there were no royals in the competition, then the award had to go to the next level of the “good” and the “great.” He decided to give “awards to five fellow cabinet members and spouses including junta chairman [Gen.] Prayuth Chan-ocha and his wife Naraporn Chan-ocha.” Other winners were Vira’s colleagues “Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Finance Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.”

Some might draw some meaning from the awards going mainly to non-military cabinet members.

Gen Prayuth and his colleagues dressed up to answer the king’s call, so obviously, as the top dogs, they deserves the prizes. See them in all their vainglory in the pictures at Khaosod.





Updated: Defining the junta by its double standards

21 02 2018

One of the defining characteristics of this military regime has been its double standards.

While the temporary cessation of the planned coal-fired power station in the south is good news for the environment and represents a victory of sorts for the local villagers and supporting activists, this outcome demonstrates the regime’s embedded double standards.

The Dictator has urged “calm after the government decided to put the contentious projects on hold.” Not that long ago, the junta was arresting anti-coal protesters. These protesters have by and large been junta supporters. The junta’s actions against them were a serious splintering of the pro-junta and anti-democrat side.

It may be coincidental, but as the pressure has mounted on the junta from activists it identifies as opponents, the pressure on the anti-coal activists has gone and the junta is bending over backwards to be seen to be meeting their demands and end their Bangkok protest that has lasted more than three weeks.

Indeed, the most recent concession has been to order a fresh environmental impact assessment and to drop all law suits (well, “suspend” the legal actions).

That backdown by the junta was made politically symbolic when Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan sat on the sidewalk with protesters after a court refused a police request to ban the assembly.

The political outcome was the protesters packed up and returned to their homes in the south.

Such a harmonious outcome is impossible when it comes to pro-election activists. The double standards are obvious. One side can protest for weeks. The other side sees police charges.

A second set of double standards is within the junta itself. As everyone knows, the Deputy Dictator has been caught out flashing luxury watches all over the place. Despite the case having been taken on by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, it has all gone quiet. The Dictator has refused to abandon his old boss and elder military brother.

Rather, he’s supported Gen Prawit. When Totrakul Yomnak, chairman of a junta sub-committee against corruption, a puppet committee, sent Gen Prayuth Chan-och “a letter expressing concern about the watch scandal,”and imploring the military “prime minister to take action and show his determination to address graft, which he [Prayuth] has declared a top priority.”

Prayuth “lashed out” and said leave it to the (quiet, compromised and slow) NACC.

Double standards define the regime.

Update: We have noticed on social media a strong rumor that Totrakul is said to have been told by “someone” to attack Prayuth. We haven’t seen anyone naming a name, but the assumption seems to be that the old meddler Gen Prem Tinsulanonda is the one. He’s long talked about corruption as a threat to the nation. If there is a Prem-initiated move against Prayuth, we can’t wait to see who is anointed to replace The Dictator.

Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, making our point point on double standards on protesters, the military has filed charges against six participants in a pro-election rally at Chiang Mai University “for violating the junta’s ban on public assembly.” The six face up to six months in prison and fine up to 10,000 baht.

They did, anti-coal protesters didn’t. This six face court, the anti-coal protesters met a minister who came to them. The picture is crystal clear.





Unraveling

14 02 2018

As tensions rise, the military dictatorship appears to be unraveling while also threatening more dangerous responses.

One part of the unraveling involves the junta’s cabinet. The Dictator has had to be hosing down unguarded (?) comments by Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin who criticized Thailand’s politicians and bureaucrats as lacking ethics. In particular, he singled out the Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan for failing to step down over his still unexplained collection of luxury watches.

Teerakiat is one of the few not military members of cabinet, so he’s something of an outsider. He’s a medical doctor who

received an MD from the Chulalongkorn University, Thailand and is a member of the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK. He is a Director of Centre for Educational Psychology, Foundation of Virtuous Youth, supported by the Crown Property Bureau….

We wonder who he’s close to in the crown arena. And, as he’s not a dumb, we are guessing that his going out on a political limb must have some upper level support.

Previous unraveling military regimes teach us that it is in these circumstances that they can become dangerous.

While Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is trying to patch up his cabinet, Prachatai tells us that his junta thugs are picking off activists emerging in the provinces, seeking to squeeze off demonstrations of opposition.

The Dictator has also been expressing his frustration and indicating that he is dangerous. He has vowed to “get tough on political agitators, saying all people must be subject to the law.” He added: “Laws are laws. They must be enforced equally…”.

He means everyone except the junta, the murderous military and other junta thugs and the corrupt.

Playing dumb, Prayuth criticized those calling for an election. He said: “I do not know what they want…. They’re trying to take the country backwards … and the government cannot condone it.”

He knows that the protesters are demanding that he stick to his promise of a (rigged) election this year.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a desperate general watching his regime unravel.





Populism or politics?

10 02 2018

As The Dictator continues his “election”-cum-extended-delays campaigning, he’s decided that he will mobilize thousands of officials to campaign for him.

The Nation reports that “all provincial governors of the 76 provinces, chiefs of 878 districts, and high ranking officers of related agencies across the country gathered at the policy briefing conference at the Impact Exhibition and Convention Centre.” They were there on the orders of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Anupong Paojunda, the former military boss made Minister of Interior.

They were told that so-called the Thai Niyom Yangyeun (Sustainable “Thainess”) program would pour up to 2 billion baht into communities all over the country. Unashamedly, it also “encourage[s] people to abandon their polarised opinions and work together” meaning that they must not vote for the Puea Thai Party and should “elect” a military-backed party.

Critics label this a “populist policy.” PPT doesn’t see anything particularly wrong with popular policies – this is usually what critics meant when criticizing elected governments – if they assist the poor. However, this is much closer to policy corruption and a promotion of anti-democracy.

Most of the initial efforts in this junta scam involve sending “teams to talk with … local people to learn about their problems in all aspects and encourage them to be aware of their duties as good citizens of the country, and to work with the government to further develop our nation…”.

In other words, pro-junta propaganda and state officials involved are essentially acting a vote brokers.

Gen Prayuth denied his was in any way populist or that the “scheme is aimed at helping the administration cling to power…”.

The Dictator also decided to engage in some political theory, saying that “[i]n a liberal democracy, investors are high-income people and those without capital serve as employees or workers, and it is important to make sure these people can work together efficiently and productively…”.

Thailand is nothing like a “liberal democracy” and won’t be following any “election” the junta decides to hold. Nor is the capital-labor relation definitional of a liberal democracy, but it does sound like The Dictator is promoting Thaksin-like conceptions of Thailand’s capitalism.

Neither Thaksin nor Yingluck were permitted to implement such programs for very long but a military-backed regime can presumably do what it likes so long as it sidelines the Shinawatra clan.





Elections?

8 02 2018

We read in the Bangkok Post that The Dictator has met with Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense.

We also read that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha told Gen Dunford that “the government [he means military junta] is sticking by its roadmap to the next election while the legislative branch is working on the laws related to the poll.” The Dictator added, via a mouthpiece, that he “insists on the national reforms that will lead Thailand to a strong and sustainable democracy…”.

That’s become the usual buffalo manure from The Dictator. His “roadmap” is the road to nowhere. The roadmap has been redefined at least four times since the 2014 military coup. It is a an imaginary map that changes according to the whims of the military dictatorship.

We are used to this nonsense from the self-centered who wants to hold power forever.

But what is somewhat surprising, although not too much surprises when it is related to Donald Trump’s administration, is that Gen Dunford seems a cloth-eared dunce. He is reported as saying: “I’m very encouraged as I come to Thailand by the commitment of its leadership to democracy. And that commitment to democracy is going to allow us to move forward and deepen our relationship in the future.”

Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word. Perhaps it is not understood in Washington either. General Dunford should be able to recognize soldiers even when they wear business suits. Thailand is a military dictatorship run by corrupt thugs.