Updated: Generals, kings and isolation

6 07 2020

After some criticism of quarantine exemptions for a visiting US military delegation, a Thai general was quoted:

A delegation led by the US army chief of staff has been required to self-isolate before their arrival for 14 days for a two-day trip under a special arrangement, Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) said yesterday [Sunday].

That seems pretty clear. The Thai general is further quoted:

US army chief of staff Gen James McConville will meet his Thai counterpart, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, and Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday and Friday, Gen Somsak said.

But, then, as ever, things get a little murkier:

Gen Somsak said the delegation would fly from Singapore to Thailand on a private flight. “They won’t be flying directly from the US. It’s a small delegation and will be in Thailand for two days.”

They were tested and quarantined for 14 days in the US before the trip and would be tested again in Singapore and at the Military Air Terminal 2 at Don Mueang airport.

So in Singapore, they are not isolated.Just saying….

But what about in the USA? We found this official report:

REDSTONE, AL, UNITED STATES
07.02.2020
Photo by Kari Hawkins
U.S. Army Materiel Command

Gen. Ed Daly takes command of the Army Materiel Command as he returns the AMC flag to Command Sgt. Maj. Rodger Masker during a Passing of the Colors ceremony July 2. The Passing of the Colors was part of the change of command ceremony, and included previous AMC Commander Gen. Gus Perna and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.

Date Taken: 07.02.2020
Date Posted: 07.02.2020 16:46….

We did a count, and we don’t think 2-9 July equals 14 days. Is the Thai general concocting a lame story for local consumption? Does he think no one will bother doing a bit of online searching? We are sure another lame story will follow. Just saying….

And what of all those who are in contact? Are they isolating after the visit? Probably not. Just saying….

And then there’s the arrival this morning of yet another special Thai Airways reportedly carrying the king and queen back to Bangkok from Germany and Switzerland for another less than one day visit. It seems the bankrupt airline is still flying special flights for the royals. And, like the king’s one other visit to Thailand, there’s no isolation, presumably as the possibility of a royal virus is a blessing. Just saying….

Update: If you aren’t filthy rich and are without a royal or military connection, then you can be held in contempt compared to those with status and loot. Gen Prayuth has “expressed his concerns about the future resumption of international travel under the Travel Bubble scheme, stressing Thailand must implement a vigorous arrivals screening.” Unless you are rich, royal or connected.





All hail the rich!

5 07 2020

Bloomberg reports that the regime’s “plan to target high-spending foreigners to kick-start its travel sector,” as promoted by the CP tycoon, “has a green light after winning Cabinet approval and additional support from the nation’s aviation regulator.”

Now with an almost total ban on foreign travelers the “Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand added a clause to also allow those who have ‘special arrangements’ with the government.” We thought king and queen and any guest or the Army boss. But, no, this is for the filthy rich of the world.

Chula Sukmanop, director general of the CAAT, “explained”: “Many in the high-spending, high-income groups avoided direct impact from the pandemic, but couldn’t come here because of travel restrictions…”. Trust royalists to take advantage of the class nature of the virus crisis and make it explicit.

Chula added: “I’ve spoken with private aircraft operators who said they have plenty of potential customers looking to charter a plane to here.” And he sounds ecstatic about the prospect of the wealthiest landing in Thailand:

The “special arrangement” group widens the market for “big spenders,” whose applications could be treated on a “fast-track basis that requires case-by-case approval,” Chula said. The biggest proportion of visitors in the initial phase will qualify through one of the travel-bubble agreements Thailand makes with other nations, he said.

Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist at Bank of Ayudhya, observed: “This won’t do much to help the many small hotel operators in the country…”.

Despite Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s lame denials that his regime does favors for his favorite Sino-Thai tycoons, when it comes to the domestic super-rich, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of wealth enhancement projects in the works.

The Nation reports that the “Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has announced plans to establish 3,000 foreign investment funds to support Thai farmers and deal with food shortages.” That’s shortages outside Thailand.

Deputy Minister Prapat Pothasuthon said his “ministry is in talks with the Capital Trust Group and related private agencies on plans to establish 3,000 foreign funds to enhance agricultural businesses in Thailand and create food sustainability…. This move also aims to boost [Thai] farmers’ liquidity by creating channels that connect them with institutional investors worldwide managing total assets of US$40 trillion…”.

This won’t do much to help many small farmers in the country. Watch the financial whales breach and grasp the profits.

Then there’s the “megaprojects” being developed by the giant bag of loot also known as the Ministry of Transport: “eight motorway-railway projects linking economic zones with Thailand’s border regions…”. Minister Saksayam Chidchob added “double-track rail projects would be constructed to link the economic zones with border checkpoints around the country…”.

Buriram relatives  and party faithful must be rubbing their hands and the super-rich will be the contractors.





Wanchalerm’s enforced disappearance

3 07 2020

Wanchalearm

Keeping the spotlight on the unexplained “disappearance” of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the BBC has a long feature article detailing the events and background to the likely state abduction of the political activist, then living in exile in Cambodia.

As the report observes, he is “the ninth exiled critic of Thailand’s military and monarchy to become a victim of enforced disappearance in recent years.”

We feel it is worth reading in full. There’s not a lot that is new for those who have been following the case, but it is useful to have it brought together.

The report emphasizes that those who abducted Wanchalearm were armed and threatening to those who tried to intervene. The abductors used a black SUV, often a sign of state involvement.

His satirical political commentary “made fun continuously of the military junta. He made fun of Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha] … he made fun of other generals.”According to human rights observer Sunai Phasuk, Wanchalearm’s social media interventions were to “show that a commoner can make fun of those in power. That seemed to be the way of getting even with the oppressors.”

It seems the oppressors came to hate him and to fear his wit and popularity in Thailand, especially in the northeast. They had been after him since the 2014 military coup and issued an “arrest warrant for Wanchalearm based on allegations he violated the Computer-Related Crime Act” in June 2018, with the authorities vowing to bring him back to Thailand. Now he’s gone.

Jakrapob

Jakrapob Penkair, also a political exile, says the junta/post-junta message is clear:

Let’s kill these folks. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they should be killed in order to bring Thailand back to normalcy….

The reaction in Thailand to Wanchalearm’s disappearance has varied by political position, with regime supporters, royalists and yellow shirts cheering.

However, it has also “sparked protests in Bangkok, with demonstrators accusing the Thai government of involvement, while demanding the Cambodian government investigate the case fully.”

The enforced disappearance also caused the “hashtag ‘#abolish112’ was also written or retweeted more than 450,000 times.” The undertone is that the king is involved in these disappearances:

Many activists believe this abduction is linked to the palace, but the strict laws against any negative comment on the monarchy make this a dangerous link to explore or investigate.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, described as “a prominent activist who served seven years in jail on charges of lese majeste” explains that:

The objective of kidnapping is to kill him and to create the atmosphere of fear in Thailand and other countries where [Thai] people are active in criticising the monarchy….

Somyot is reported to be “in little doubt as to who was behind the disappearance”:

The government knows very well about this kidnap and disappearance. I can insist that the government are the ones behind this violation….

The regime says it knows nothing. No one believes it.





Updated: Army declares royalist rebels “democrats”

25 06 2020

The 24 June anniversary has come and gone. Acknowledging that there has been an insidious and creeping rollback of the 1932 revolution, led by the king, the murderous Royal Thai Army celebrated the 1933 royalist restorationist rebellion, effectively declaring war on 1932. In essence, the Royal Thai Army has finally returned to being the King’s Royal Army. It has declared full-scale war on 1932 and democratic government.

It did this, Khaosod reports, with a religious propaganda show for the royals and royalists who led the failed restorationist rebellion. This on the day that the very same Royal Army was actively preventing pro-democracy activists recognizing the 1932 revolution and the role of the people in opposing it and protecting the People’s Party revolution.

At Army headquarters, “monks held merit-making in memory of two rebel leaders Prince Boworadet and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram [Din Tharab].” While the report states that the “ceremony was … held in private and attended only by a few military officers, the Army released details.

Earlier, the two failed royalists had already been “honored” by the Royal Army with two rooms at the Army headquarters being emblazoned with their names: “The rooms were inaugurated in October by PM [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha and army chief [Gen] Apirat Kongsompong.”

The Royal Army released a statement, which we have loosely translated:

The Royal Thai Army merit-making ceremony for Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej [พล.อ. พระวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าบวรเดช] and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram [พ.อ.พระยาศรีสิทธิสงคราม], 24 June 2020

Today (24 June 2020) at 3:00 pm at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters Gen Nataphol Narkphanich [พล.อ. ณัฐพล นาคพาณิชย์], Deputy Commander in Chief of the Army presided over the dedication ceremony for Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and to make merit for Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram as a memorial to the virtue of these military officers who are loyal to the institution [monarchy] and who were also democratic soldiers.

1932 brought the change of government that is considered a major turning point in Thai history, moving from the absolute monarchy to a democratic system. The group of people who called themselves the People’s Party carried out a coup [รัฐประหาร] to bring down the monarchy. In 1933, the first rebellion [กบฏ] following the change of rule in 1932 occurred.  Led by Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram, it is known as the Boworadej Rebellion. They disagreed with the administration of Phaya Phahon [พระยาพหลฯ] which was dictatorial. They called on the government of Phraya Phahon to: preserve the monarchy; make the government more democratic by giving parliament more power and oversight; and prevent the People’s Party government from being a dictatorship. But, in the end, the rebellion was not successful with the government suppressing the rebels. The brave heroism of Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram must be seen as and act of loyalty and as sacrifice for the royal family, protecting the monarchy. They truly intended for the nation to uphold democracy.

Public Relations Division Office of the Secretary
24 June 2020

The factual inaccuracies don’t really matter. What matters is rewriting history in the regime’s/king’s preferred manner. It is in the manner of making democracy equal Thai-style democracy with the king as head of state.

Readers might peruse some writings on the royalist rebellion here, here (with a video), here and here.

Update: There’s some really interesting stories in the media regarding activist responses to 24 June. These include: Prachatai reporting on “[r]epresentatives from the People’s Party for Freedom (PPF), the 24 June Democracy Movement and the Greater Rangsit Area Labour Union Group submitted a petition to the House of Representatives demanding that the government declare 24 June as Thai National Day and reserve 23-25 June for celebrations as previously designated by the People’s Party”; Prachatai also reporting “the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) on Wednesday 24 June in remembering the 1932 People’s Party’s declaration and demanding amendments to the 2017 constitution”; Khaosod reporting on young activists: ““We believe that what the People’s Party did was correct…. Things that society told us aren’t always the truth;” and The Nation reporting on pro-democracy groups in the Northeast gathering to mark the 1932 revolution, where “Khon Kaen University students marched to the province’s Democracy Monument wearing white clothes and carrying mops and signs with the message ‘June 24, Siamese revolution, Clean democracy’, and ‘Will you excuse us? We’re practising to be democratic’.” In “Ubon Ratchathani, a ‘Run against Dictatorship’ at the Democracy Bridge was held to commemorate the turning point in Thai history…”. It is noted that the revolution was also marked in “Nakhon Ratchasima, Maha Sarakham, Surin, Sakon Nakhon, Udon Thani and Roi Et.”





Prawit is the natural leader of mafioso

23 06 2020

The “news” that everyone knew was coming is now out. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has “accepted” his nomination as leader of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, the party that he mostly formed and has directed throughout.

As the Thai Enquirer puts it, “[h]is ascension to the party’s highest post will pull back the loosely held curtain that had been in place for the better part of the last decade and shine a spotlight on Prawit’s central role in Thai politics.”

In fact, the title of this post is from that newspaper, which says: “To Palang Pracharat, with its patchwork makeup of local mafiosos and provocateurs, Prawit is the natural leader.”

Emphasizing this, the gang that crawled around the aging and sick general “to extend the invitation were Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Prompat, Education Minister Nuttapol Teepsuwan, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, Messrs. Paiboon Nititawan and Anucha Nakasai.” Local thugs, convicted crooks, moneybags who buy the party’s votes and MPs, and coup plotters.

They slithered around him at his office at a metropolitan Army base. Of course, it is the Army that provides Prawit with the accoutrements he’s used to after his years as a military manipulator.

As Thai Enquirer explains:

Prawit has been the mastermind behind not only the military coup of 2014 but the turbulent nature of Thai politics since the Abhisit government stepped down.

While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has served as a ready ‘puppet’ … it has been Prawit that has been the brains behind the operations. [PPT does not consider Gen Prayuth a “puppet.” He’s worked hand-in-glove with Prawit and Anupong.]

Prawit is, after all, the spiritual leader of the military faction known as ‘Burapha Payak (Tigers of the East)’ or the Queen’s Guard military unit.

Burapha-aligned Generals like Prawit, Prayut, Udomdej Sitabutr and Anupong Paochinda have played a central role in orchestrating, from behind the scenes, much of the political upheavals since the PDRC protests [which they helped organize and motivate].

All four men have served as head of the army.

They control the regime and this move simply strengthens their control as the regime looks to years and years in power. Next, a cabinet reshuffle is needed to reward Prawit’s minions.

 





Gorging on state funds

21 06 2020

Reading the media the past couple of days and we feel like the regime, its ministers and its buddies are engaging in gluttony, seemingly gorging on state coffers.

One deal we posted on them recently got more press coverage:

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office’s Eastern Special Development Zone Policy Committee yesterday signed the [290-billion-baht] deal with winning concessionaire, U-Tapao International Aviation Co, an offshoot of the BBS Joint Venture that won the bid to develop the “aeropolis” in Ban Chang district of Rayong Province….

…[T]he BBS Joint Venture comprises Bangkok Airways, which owns 45% of the shares, BTS Group Holdings which owns 35%, and Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction (STEC) which owns 20%.

So we can identify two conglomerates involving two of the countries wealthiest Sino-Thai tycoons – the Prasarttong-Osoth family at Bangkok Airways and the Kanjanapas clan at BTS. It was Forbes lister Prasert Prasattong-Osoth giving advice to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha recently. It seems advice doesn’t come cheap. Then we have Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction:

Interesting. But what can we expect from people who are used to having with state officials in their pockets.

Then we saw that idea from convicted heroin smuggler and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao for seizing land  illegally occupied by resorts and hotels, and then renting it back to them. Brilliant! Thammanat is already a baht billionaire and this looks like a surefire way to double money and pay for more of his big brother’s parliamentary seats and maybe even some watches. A Bangkok Post editorial commented that the scheme “is so outrageous that it should be dropped immediately…”.

And what about the news that the “Finance Ministry is ready to consider retail operators’ proposal for tax breaks on shopping to stimulate domestic spending…” with 50,000 baht per shopper! Now, who could that help most? We suggest it would throw shiploads of money into the big retailers, like the Chirathivat and Umpujh clans who are also Forbes listers.

It also potentially helps out the royal family and specifically Princess Sirindhorn, a member of the country’s wealthiest family that already scoops up billions in taxpayer funds. It was Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of majority royal-owned Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Iconsiam, that “said the government should come up with measures to compel people to leave the house and spend more.”

Happy to grab more loot

An academic once calculated that Princess Sirindhorn’s shareholding in Siam Piwat provided more than US$55 million per year from her property in the Siam-Ratchaprasong alone. She may be a bit short this year, so the state purse becomes a surrogate source of wealth.

Such “private” deals seem to be gathering pace under the virus crisis and rehabilitation plans. Recall how just a few weeks ago, the biggest of the business whales, multi-billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont was urging the regime to turn the country into a ‘safe haven’ for wealthy visitors.” His wish seems to be the regime’s command, with Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn declaring that the “government’s tourism-revival strategy is to target big spenders seeking privacy and social distancing in the Covid-19 era, rather than try to attract a large number of visitors…. He added that the virus “provides an opportunity to reset the sector, which had become reliant on Chinese groups and backpackers…”. With 11 million Chinese tourists in 2019 and a total of almost 40 million, it seems there’s a determination to crush most of the industry and all that flows from it to every other part of the service sector, which before the virus accounted 46% of total employment and 57% of GDP.

And, these “private” deals are being institutionalized, with the regime reviving a Prem Tinsulanonda-era idea, agreeing with the private sector “to revive the Joint Public-Private Consultative Committee (JPPCC) as a core forum for the two to work together on solutions for the country’s social and economic rehabilitation after the pandemic.” That was first suggested a year ago but looks increasingly likely to become a processing terminal for turning state funds into private gains.

Finally, we may have missed the announcements, but it seems that the long-delayed contracts for the Sino-Thai high (probably medium) speed railway are being doled out. If the reporting is right, it suggests smoke-filled rooms and cosy deals. We quote the Bangkok Post:

SRT governor Niruj Maneepun yesterday told the media that Contract 2.3 is worth 50.6 billion baht, which includes funds for the railway system, rolling stocks and staff training….

The signing of the contract will be carried out in October as planned, Mr Niruj said.

Contract 2.3 is one of seven railway contracts worth a total of 179.4 billion baht for the Bangkok-Nong Khai High-Speed Train Project. Contract 2.3 would cover the project’s first phase, which is a 253-kilometre stretch from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima….

The construction for the whole project has been ongoing since 2018 and it is expected to finish in 2023. [In fact, very little construction has occurred, apart from a very short section near Nakhon Ratchasima.]

So far, the SRT has said the project is making progress, noting it is finding contractors to develop all seven phases. It said a few have already agreed and signed some of the contracts.

That doesn’t look like open tendering, not that such systems stand in the way of the transfer of funds to private sector cronies and giant corporations.





Monarchy and (more) repression

16 06 2020

With repression being deepened, the prime minister who seized power in the 2014 military coup and who remains in power through military might, his junta’s constitution and rigged elections, has issued a stern warning about anti-monarchism.

Of course, it is no coincidence that this warning comes after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalaerm Satsaksit, the piling on of lese majeste-like computer crimes charges for young social media figure “Niranam_” and ongoing protests in Europe against the king.

With a minion when the king was once in Thailand

As in the past, the regime imagines a plot and a movement led by some unnamed anonymous puppet-master.

Gen Prayuth lamented that what he thinks are “violations” of the lese majeste law “had increased since its use ceased 2-3 years ago.” He reportedly said the king “has … instructed me personally over the past two to three years to refrain from the use of the Law…”. While we already knew this from the king-supporting Sulak Sivaraksa, this is, we think, the first time an official has acknowledged this instruction.

(As an aside, we want to emphasize that under the previous king, royalists defended him on lese majeste by saying he was powerless to do anything about the law. Vajiralongkorn showed what a pile of buffalo manure that excuse was.)

The unelected PM saw anti-monarchism as doubly troubling as he believed that the king, by not using Article 112, had shown “mercy,” and this was being “abused.”

Gen Prayuth called for “unity” by which he means that royalists must defend the monarchy: “Everyone who loves the nation, religion, and monarchy must come together.” Oddly, he warned about the danger of “violent revolutions.” And, Reflecting a broader royalist concern, he worried that “anti-monarchists may use the upcoming anniversary [24 June] of the 1932 democratic revolution to defame the monarchy.”

And he warned that people should “disregard any messages that aim to harbor hatred in the society.” He means anti-monarchism. He added a pointed remark that PPT thinks is a threat:

Those who are operating from abroad should think about what they should or shouldn’t do, where else could if they faced problems in that country? I feel pity as they are Thai citizens.

In what appears as a coordinated warning, the Watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “security officials” – that usually means the military – were already “investigating those involved” in this alleged anti-monarchist plot.

He was warning: “Once we get the list of names, we’ll prosecute them” using lese majeste-like laws including computer crimes and sedition.

Prayuth seemed to want Article 112 back, complaining that “[t]here were no such problems when Section 112 was in use,” which is actually buffalo manure. When the junta came to power, it repeatedly claimed republican plotting and used the lese majeste law more than any other regime, ever.

He went on to pile on lies and threats:

As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it’s not true. You must look behind [their motive] and see what they really want. … Why would you become their tool?

Targeting the young, he “urged people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to social media.” It is easy to see why the regime has targeted “Niranam_”. They are making an example of him as a way to (they hope) silence others.

There’s also a hint that the regime is coming under pressure from royalists and perhaps even the palace itself to do something about the protests in Europe and criticism from exiles:

Regarding exiled people in neighbouring countries and Europe, he said the government had already sent letters asking those countries to send them back to Thailand if they caused trouble. “But when they don’t send them back, what do you expect the government to do?”

It seems clear that enforced disappearance and torture and murder is one outcome of displeasure with these dissidents.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

One response to these warnings has been social media disdain for the regime and the generals. Another response came from former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich who called for the lese majeste law to be abolished: “they should get rid of this section of the criminal code as the MPs of the Move Forward Party have been saying in Parliament…”. For good measure, she also called for the Computer Crimes Act be amended.





Preparing for (more) repression

15 06 2020

Increased repression is in the works.

One indication is that police “have summonsed at least three people to answer charges of violating the Emergency Decree in connection with a recent gathering to demand a probe into the [enforced] disappearance in Cambodia of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.” (One of those to be charged is Chotisak Onsoong.)

Keeping the emergency decree in place is a part of the ongoing repression.

Another indication is that the Bangkok Post reports the “Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) will carry out a major drill next month aimed at testing its new internal security plan…”. ISOC’s targets are always opponents of the regime and the monarchy.

Prawit and Prayuth

A third indication has to do with the military bosses in the regime strengthening its control over its Palang Pracharath Party by having Gen Prawit Wongsuwan run the show. With Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, the trio that planned the 2014 military coup are ensuring that parliament and oppositions are kept quiescent.

Anupong

As a Bangkok Post report states: “Once firmly in control of the party, his role will further strengthen the positions of Gen Prawit himself, Prime Minister Prayut … and Interior Minister Anupong…”. The move also strengthens the military itself.

While the trio already have control, they and the Army brass are worried about rising discontent, some of it targeting the absent king. And, they plan to stay around for years to come, controlling the country.





Foreign minister dissembles

12 06 2020

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is a tool. A tool of the junta when appointed. Yet he’s also a tool that enjoys the work he does for the junta/post-junta military-backed regime. The ministry he heads is a nest of elitists and royalists.

Recently, Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party and a spokesman of the House committee on legal affairs, justice and human rights, asked parliamentary questions about Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s disappearance. Rangsiman said: “The government isn’t paying any attention. Since Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha came to power, nine activists have disappeared. But the government has not given any explanation…”.

Don (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Foreign Minister Don’s dissembling response was execrable. He lied that “Wanchalearm bears little significance in terms of international and security affairs, so he should not be considered a threat to security.” He didn’t explain why the regime had been chasing him since the 2014 military coup.

Regarding Wanchalearm’s disappearance, Don said “Cambodia is investigating the matter and all the Thai government can do is to ask Cambodia to follow up on the case…. We cannot speculate as to his whereabouts until we receive an answer [from Cambodia]…”. Of course, this sidesteps the issue that it was most likely Thai operatives who grabbed the man – “Cambodian National Police spokesman Pol Lt Gen Chhay Kim Khoeun insisted Cambodian authorities did not arrest the activist…”. Don’s response also ignores the questions regarding all the other disappearances and murders. Nothing done on them, either.

Commenting on the same parliamentary exchange, the Thai Enquirer reports that Don also felt moved to comment on Article 112, the lese majeste law. He claimed “that people affected by the enforcement of Article 112 … was not a priority and the majority of people simply didn’t care about the law.”

Rangsiman responded: “If the Minister says that [Article 112] is not important, allow me to ask, why was #Cancel112 a top trend on twitter then?”

Reportedly, Don lied that “various international organizations are reporting this issue … just to attract attention and call[ed] out foreign journalists for creating fake news…”.

Don’s lese majeste comments are a part of a wider campaign to denigrate Wanchalerm. By linking him with anti-monarchists, the regime seeks to limit the support his case has gained – when lese majeste is alleged, not only do rabid royalists begin wagging their tails, but censorship/self-censorship restrict discussion.

We also think that such dissembling is an admission that monarchy is a central issue in not just Wanchalerm’s disappearance, but that of the eight others who have been disappeared or killed. When the authorities refuse to be involved, this is more like confirmation of these unspoken admissions.





It is still a military regime VII

10 06 2020

At the end of May, the military’s favorite legal manipulator and deputy prime minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam was given the task of confusing the public about the emergency decree. The regime was under pressure on the decree because there’s little virus in the country but the decree remains in place.

He babbled about the Communicable Diseases Control Act but also raised the notional “battle the second round of the outbreak” to slyly suggest that the decree may stay.

A few days later, he pressed on with setting the foundations for keeping the decree, saying: “It is possible to extend the imposition of the emergency decree. It is being considered.”

This was quickly followed-up by self-appointed Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who “defended the use of the emergency decree to curb the spread of Covid-19…”.

While Gen Prayuth emphasized the virus, it is clear that he is more concerned to maintain political repression. Most protests, rallies and so on are being closed down by the military and police.

Rising opposition/rising military repression

Gen Prayuth dissembled about “the time is not right to lift the lockdown because the pandemic has not ended.”

But it was the military that soon corrected him, emphasizing that their focus is political rather than anything to do with health. According to the Bangkok Post, “Deputy army chief Gen Nathapol Nakpanit … said on Wednesday the committee planned to lift the 11pm-3am curfew for 15 days.”

But this is not about lifting the repression: the General stated: “”Without the curfew people can resume their normal lives, but the state of emergency will remain in place in case the government needs to take swift action to stop Covid-19 from spreading…”.

Mostly it will be used to keep the lid on rising political opposition. The military remains the boss (especially when the big boss remains a truant).