Media, agents and reporting

20 02 2021

A couple of days ago, PPT posted regarding protest and violence. We were concerned that the single-minded, dare-we-say, middle-class, insistence on non-violence left protesters open to being picked off by the regime. And it has been doing that, seeking to repress. At the same time, we wondered why the state’s violence and its long history of murderous repression is so easily forgotten or dismissed in demanding that protesters behave as angels.

After reading a couple of reports in Khaosod, we are wondering if this kind of reporting-cum-normative demands hasn’t itself been manipulated by the state.

In that earlier post we linked to a video of military/police-looking men in plainclothes who infiltrated the protesters. Khaosod has a story on this which deserves very careful attention. Despite photographic and video evidence, the “police and the defense ministry maintain that they have no knowledge of the men in civilian clothes who were seen assisting security forces during a recent crackdown on demonstrators.” It seems that “assisting” can range from spying, informing, arresting and acting as agents provocateur.

Clipped from Khaosod

Khaosod saw “about 40 men wearing military-styled buzz cuts were deployed alongside the riot police, senior officials have yet to acknowledge who those men were, and what they were doing at the protest.” If the videos are added in, it looks like a larger group than that. The report states that the authorities initially denied their existence. Defense Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich flatly denied the military had anything to do with them.

Of course, this has been going on for some time – the regime has been doing it for several months – and it is a tactic used in other countries. But the mainstream media takes little notice.

Then there’s the report that states:

Several journalists who were covering the Feb. 13 rally near the Grand Palace told Khaosod English that officers ordered them to stay behind the police line while they dispersed the protesters. They also said police intervention was the reason why only a few reporters were able to capture the outburst of violence on that night.

“I didn’t see what was happening in the frontline,” said Sirote Klampaiboon, who was covering the protest for Voice TV. “All I could see was there were clouds of smoke behind the police and I heard several bangs. I was only let go when the police managed to take control of the situation.”

A photo widely shared on social media also shows members of the press being confined between rows of riot police facing each other in front of the Supreme Court building – a police tactic known in Western countries as “kettling.”

Despite this, it is the protesters who are harangued by multiple reporters in several op-eds. Interesting “reporting.”





Where to now?

7 01 2021

Clipped from Khaosod

There’s been considerable “advice” to the protesters. It seems to us that the protesters have been remarkably innovative and inclusive in their activities, confounding critics several times. Even so, this seems like a time when well-meaning commentary is important. Here’s one piece that came across our digital desk:

Thailand’s protests will pause until the beginning of 2021. Will Corona take the wind out of their sails? Also. Rather, however, disagreement about the political course. Thailand’s state class refuses to reform. The military, state bureaucracy and the royal family remain major obstacles to democratic change.

Thailand’s young smartphone generation is reaching its limits. Digitally networked demonstrators now also have a pop-cultural character. However, yellow rubber ducks cannot achieve greater support among the population. Are the protests developing into a political theater?

Disorientation

Dissent over the political course was foreseeable. A leaderless movement without a clear program and demands beyond the resignation of General Prayuth’s government remains weak. The belief in reformability and will to reform of Thailand’s conservative class is a naive illusion.

Political passivity

Thailand’s demonstrations are supported by the urban middle class. The really poor remain without a voice. Thailand’s silent majority is reluctant to change. The monarchy continues to enjoy respect as an institution. Adolescent radicalism collides with Thailand’s culture.

Belief in authority

Collective awareness in Thailand is determined by the culture of authority and avoidance of conflict. Hierarchical social structures are closely linked to subordination and obedience. Values that are conveyed in school and at home and that control social behavior in everyday life. No humus for democracy.

What needs to be done?

If you don’t have a plan, in the end you have to submit to those who have one. The structurelessness of the protests contrasts with the tight structures of the state. Clear political goals and strategies remain indispensable for mobilizing a broad alliance against undemocratic rule. So in Thailand.

thaimonitor (no. 62)  04-January-2021.
thaimonitor is a German-language newsletter of expats in Thailand.




Updated: Even more amazing scenes

18 10 2020

As we post this, thousands of protesters are rallying across the country. Here are just a few of the pictures we harvested from social media.

Victory Monument:

Imperial World:

Asoke:

Khon Kaen:

Lampang:

Update: While the Bangkok Post seems to be engaged in some kind of internal battle – it failed to produce an editorial – other media get their headlines muddled. The Guardian managed a headline “Thai protest leaders play cat and mouse with police as thousands rally,” others get it right: “‘We are all leaders today’: Arrests don’t stop Thai protests.”

Photos from the New York Times:





Updated: Another night, more protests

17 10 2020

Another afternoon and night of protests. The regime thought that shutting down the train system would prevent protesters massing again, They particularly concentrated on the Victory Monument, and closed it off, with not a protester in sight.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered at various spots around Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and several other provincial towns. Our pictures are clipped from social media.

Some of the signage was interesting.

Update: The Bangkok Post has some details on those arrested, still detained, and some bailed. Among those refused bail are former lese majeste victims Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. While there is some information on arrests, the regime is opaque, and Thai Enquirer says “security forces may have arrested up to 100 demonstrators for violating the government’s emergency decree…”. It also says that some demonstrators are “missing.”

In the royal car case, Bunkueanun Paothong has been bailed, while Akechai Hongkangwarn, another lese majeste victim, is awaiting bail.

Among those recently arrested are student leaders Panupong Jadnok (Rayong Mike) and protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikijseree.





Updated: Another day of defiance

17 10 2020

The past 24 hours have been a churn. The regime is struggling to control defiant students who appear far more nimble and far smarter than the regime’s leaders. The regime’s response is repression.

The most startling events were the demonstration last evening, where thousands of mostly young people, organized through social media and smart phones, assembled at the Prathumwan intersection, leaving the authorities looking daft as they surrounded and barricaded the Rajaprasong intersection (where they expected the rally).

The chants of “release our friends,” “Prayuth out,” and “ai hia O” were lound, even though the event was largely leaderless.

The police then marched down the road and “dispersed” demonstrators using water cannon laced with dye and chemicals. The police looked comical when their first effort to use the cannon resulted in the police spraying themselves.

The regime denies the use of chemicals, but all reporters at the scene said the water caused itching and irritation to eyes. Police arrested some people, some seen being thrown into police vans. Most protesters decamped via Chulalongkorn University.

The police used were reportedly Border Patrol Police, infamous for their murderous role in 1976. But these are the police the regime considers sufficiently loyal.

Reporters were not safe from the arrests. Prachatai announced that one of its reporters, Kitti Pantapak “was arrested in front of MBK Centre while reporting live on Facebook about the police crackdown…”. He was “wearing a press armband from the Thai Journalist Association, a symbol that separates the protesters and media.” He was taken to “Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani, where other protesters were also detained.” At 2am he was released after being fined.

Earlier in the day, police invaded a press conference at the headquarters of the Progressive Movement, “with a search warrant, interrupting a press conference called by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.” He was “speaking against the state of emergency and legal action taken against protesters accused of causing harm to … the Queen.”

The search warrant was issued under the state of emergency. (For critiques of the emergency decree, see here and here.)

Because there were so many reporters at the conference, the police raid was livestreamed. Piyabutr was heard urging the police to take the side of the people, “instead of following orders from their superiors.” The officers were clearly embarrassed and were repeatedly on the phone to their superiors. They eventually left seemingly finding nothing, but the threat to the Progressive Movement was clear. The regime sees a plot, with the students being led and funded by the Progressive Movement.

Update: In the post above, we had missed The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s response to calls for him to resign, as reported by Khaosod:

“Let me ask you what I did wrong? What did I do wrong right now? Can I ask you?” Prime Minister Prayut said to reporters in the first news conference since he declared a “severe emergency” over Bangkok.

When a reporter suggested it was because Prayut has been a Prime Minister for too long, the general replied, “Have you listened to monks’ prayer? Have you visited a temple at all? I guess you don’t often visit a temple, that’s why you are like this.”

“Listen to the prayers … don’t be careless, because people can die today, or tomorrow,” Prayut said, hours before a new protest is planned in Bangkok’s city center. “As the prayers go, don’t be reckless with your life. Prepare to die any moment, by illness or whatever.”

He went on, “Do not trifle with the powerful Grim Reaper. Death may come today, or another day. Everyone can die at any moment.”

 





Seeking to strangle protest I

4 08 2020

A couple of reports in Prachatai, both drawing on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, show how the regime is seeking to snuff out youth-led protest. We will have two posts on these reports.

According to TLHR, “there have been at least 75 announcements about plans to organize a protest and public activity in 44 provinces across the country to support the Free Youth group’s demands.”

It states that:

the rise of protests and political expressions in public has prompted interventions from state officials who tracked down, harassed, and suppressed protest leaders and participants in many places. Out of at least 76 planned activities, five could not be organized….

It notes the measures used by the authorities to harass and repress:

  • Before protests, officials including the police, Special Branch officers track down students and others “seeking information.” An aim of this is to gather intelligence and it is also meant o show that the authorities “know” who is involved, “warning, suppressing, and intimidating protest organizers, participants, and other related parties…”. In several cases, “plainclothes officers reportedly threatened to take some protest organizers to a police station without an official warrant.” This is meant to intimidate and demonstrate the state’s power while collecting intelligence.
  • At the protests, “state officials put up posters, handed out pamphlets, or made announcements using an amplifier to threaten the protestors that their activities might constitute a violation of the law.” In addition, police “take photos of the demonstrations.” They “target specific individuals during these recent flash mob rallies and tended to take pictures of those holding protest signs…”. In several cases, “military officers and officials from the Internal Security Operations Command in some provinces attended the protests to observe and record the activities.”
  • The authorities seek “to obstruct protestors in some provinces from using their intended venues by blocking them from those areas and causing them to move their activities elsewhere.”
  • Despite earlier claims/lies by Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council that the emergency decree was not to “ban gatherings [he said] to prove our sincere intention for disease control,” the authorities have regularly used the decree against protesters. TLHR reports that: “Four university students who gave speeches during the #ChiangMaiWillNotTakeThisAnyMoreToo activity … were summonsed to Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station to acknowledge their charges under the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act.”
  • At protests, “authorities [have] … confiscated … protest signs during the demonstration. In some cases, they arrested the protestors, put their information in an ‘interrogative record,’ and seized the signs…”.
  • After protests and rallies, police and military have trailed “some protestors backed to their home, especially those who held up protest signs.” They tell the protestors to stop using the signs when they are considered to be “sensitive” – meaning being about the monarchy. Usually these officials “recorded the protestors’ personal information and took their photos.”
  • At schools and universities, administrators “took the lead to undertake measures for suppressing and threatening their students.” Several institutions “prevented the student protestors from using their campus ground as a protest venue and ordered their students to refrain from organizing or participating in a public assembly.” Schools and universities have also “prohibited their students from participating in any rally.” Administrators also collaborate with the authorities, [illegally] providing them with the personal information of their students.

TLHR concludes:

The attempts to suppress, pressure, and intimidate protestors constitute an attack on peaceful expressions of opinions and unarmed demonstrations, which are the rights enshrined in the 2017 Constitution. Several of these attempts had no legal basis; they merely exploited people’s gaps in knowledge to undermine the power of free expressions.





With 3 updates: Arresting protesters

18 02 2017

Several reports say that the military junta has moved against anti-coal-fired power station protest leaders.

Khaosod reports that the junta’s thugs arrested “three activists who led an overnight protest in front of the Government House against the regime’s plan to build a coal power plant in the south.”

At least “100 protesters from Krabi province demanded the government scrap the project, citing fears of environmental and health damages, only to be told by junta chairman [General] Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday the construction will go ahead as planned.”

They rallied at Government House overnight and in the morning, police “moved in and arrested three protest leaders and took them into custody.”

The police arrested Prasitthichai Nunual, Akaradej Chakjinda and Mom Luang Rungkhun Kitiyakara. Yes, that’s a princely Kritayakara.

Later, another two were arrested.

The Dictator had warned them not to rally. They rallied. He had them arrested. Like anti-junta protesters, they were all taken to the 11th Military Circle military base. They are charged with “violating the military government’s order against gatherings of five people or more after they refused to end the rally…”. They will be dragged before a “civilian court on Monday.”

As might be expected when southerners and members of the elite are arrested, immediately, a “network of southern academics and communities urged the government to release the detainees and reconsider the plan to build the 780-megawatt power plant.” These academics and “communities” declared that the “arrest of the key leaders to put pressure on the rally to end is against basic rights and humanitarian acts…”.

We don’t like coal-fired power stations. Even so, we have to ask: Where were this network when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Then the “Thai Labour Solidarity Committee pledged to stay behind the protesters to block the project. It called for an end to government attempts to end the rally as it could lead to more confrontations and conflict.”

Where were they when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Oh, yes, those arrested are among those who might have supported the coup.

And there’s the rub. The junta is going after its own supporters because they are behaving “badly.” We expect that even the dullards who inhabit the junta will quickly work out that this might not be a great political move. If they don’t, maybe some of the current protesters will get a lesson in junta politics.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that a further 12 protesters were taken away but later released. Some “100 Krabi residents were staying near to Government House” and the Post suggests that “the number is expected to swell considerably after news that representatives from Save the Andaman from Coal’s 51 allies are going to join are going to join the group in Bangkok.”

The detained protesters got a visit from national human rights commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit. Remarkably, given that it is generally silent, she suggested that the National Human Rights Commission “is considering making a statement about reminding the government it needs to understand people’s rights and the freedom to hold a peaceful protest.”

In fact, this protest has been no less peaceful than those held by student activists and and anti-coup activists.

Junta mouthpieces were active, seemingly seeking to downplay notions that there is any political conflict.

Colonel Winthai Suvaree “said the leaders were taken for talks to find a solution to the issue. Police have not yet pressed any charges against them…”. Meanwhile Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the “arrests were made because the protesters failed to disperse or move to a designated protest area set aside by authorities, who were trying to negotiate with the group.”

Update 2: The Nation reports that 16 protesters were arrested. It also reports that “[l]egal experts condemned the move, saying it was a severe violation of the protesters’ rights and demanded that they be released immediately.” The lawyers stated that the arrests “violated basic human rights and it was a misuse of power.”

Where were they when student activists and anti-coup activists were repeatedly arrested? Exercising their double standards?

This doesn’t apply to Chainarong Sretthachau, a lecturer at Mahasarakham University, who has supported students in the northeast in environmental protest. He made the good point that the “use of absolute power to crack down on peaceful protesters was a violation of human rights, because the Thai government had ratified international agreements.”

Update 3: The junta has sorted things out, solving its apparent political contradiction. The Bangkok Post reports that the detained “[f]ive leaders of the protest … have been released and demonstrators dispersed after the government agreed to renew the project’s environmental impact assessment and the environmental health impact assessment.” Sansern said this resulted from “talks between representatives of the government and core leaders and coordinators of the Save the Andaman from Coal group who had submitted a proposal to the government.”

We guess the realization that they were feuding with allies was a consideration. As the mouthpiece explained, “It should be made clear that the government is concerned about the people.” Its people.

This seems important as the Save the Andaman from Coal group declared “talks with the government representatives went smoothly. The protest leaders had been well looked after and the government had agreed to their proposals.” The group ended the protest and said that “protesters were set to return to their home province on Sunday. He said police would provide them with transport as well as food and water.” How nice.

The political nature of the agreement was emphasized when the five protest leaders who had been arrested “were brought to the protest site by Government House … and released…. They were accompanied by Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 1st Army, and Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the police chief.” How politically nice.





The illegality of wearing certain colors

18 11 2010

Earlier today, PPT came across this post on ชุมนุมคนเหมือนกัน. Reproducing it in full seems worthwhile given the outrageousness of the content:

เทพไท โฆษกมาร์ค มาแปลก เสนอสภาฯออกกฎหมายห้ามใส่เสื้อแดงชุมนุมจำคุก5ปีปรับ5แสนบาท

โดย Asia Pacific News Line ณ วันที่ 17 พฤศจิกายน 2010 เวลา 20:52 น.

วันที่17พ.ย.เวลา15.30น.ที่รัฐสภา ผู้สื่อข่าวเอเชียแปซิฟิกนิวส์ไลน์ได้สัมภาษณ์ นายเทพไท เสนพงศ์ โฆษกประจำตัวนายกฯ ในเรื่องการไม่อยากลาออกจากตำแหน่งรัฐมนตรีของพรรคร่วม2คน นายเทพไทกล่าวว่า นายสุเทพได้หารือส่วนตัวกับทั้ง2ท่านแล้วและให้สัญญษว่าหลังเลือกตั้งซ่อมส. ส.เสร็จสิ้นทั้ง2คนจะได้กลับมารับตำแหน่งเดิมเพื่อเป็นบรรทัดฐานที่ดี ทางการเมือง ทั้งนี้ผู้สื่อข่าวถามนายเทพไทว่ามีความเห็นอย่างไร เกี่ยวกับการ ที่ผู้ว่าฯจ.เชียงไหม่ ห้ามใส่เสื้อแดงลอยกระทง และการที่พลเอกเปรมออกมาห้ามปรามห้ามใส่เสื้อแดงลอยกระทงนั้น นายเทพไทกล่าวว่า ตนคิดเรื่องนี้มานานแล้ว และคิดว่าถ้าประชาธิปัตย์ ได้เป็นรัฐบาลสมัยหน้าตนจะนำเรื่องการใส่เสื้อแดงชุมนุมเข้าหารือในที่ ประชุมพรรค และเสนอต่อสภาผู้แทนราษฎร ให้ออกกฎหมายห้ามใส่เสื้อแดงชุมนุมเด็ดขาดฝ่าฝืนมีโทษจำคุก5ปี ปรับไม่เกิน5แสนบาทหรือทั้งจำทั้งปรับ แต่ทั้งนี้ ตนต้องร้องขอให้ประชาชนที่สนับสนุนความคิดตน ให้เลือกพรรคประชาธิปัตย์เป็นรัฐบาลในสมัยหน้าด้วย นายเทพไท กล่าว

The gist, for PPT readers who do not read Thai, is that Thepthai Senpong, the PM’s spokesperson, advocated for a law making the wearing of red shirts and protesting a crime with a sentence of up to 5 years and 500,000 baht. Really? A state cannot legislate the colors that citizens can wear.What next? Mandated uniforms for different days of the week?