Police vs. the people

17 10 2021

The regime’s political “strategy” for controlling anti-government and monarchy reform movements involves repression and arrests, with the latter involving jail time.

Police Maj Gen Jirasan Kaewsangek, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, recently stated that “since July 2020, 683 anti-government protests have been held in Bangkok, and 366 of the cases are still under investigation.” Independent sources have the figure topping 800. Not a few of them are children.

Many scores of these protesters are being kept in detention.

The regime couples these mass arrests with targeted harassment of those they think are leaders. Thai Enquirer reports that the most recent student leader to face “a flurry of legal charges for his political activism” is Hudsawat ‘Bike’ Rattanakachen, 22, a critic studying political science at Ubon Ratchathani University. He is “facing multiple charges from the police including the violation of the Emergency Situations Act and violation of the Communicable Disease Act.”

He says: “I think the government charged me because they want to slow down the pace of our movement and make things more difficult…”.

The impact for him and others facing charges is that become entangled in time-consuming legal actions and responses.

He went on to explain that the regime “is raising the bar when it comes to suppressing regional movements like his in Ubon Ratchathani. He fears the authorities are increasing their level of surveillance.”

Academic Titipol Phakdeewanich “agrees that the state is exercising a dangerous campaign of legal harassment, one that clearly violates the rights of students.” He added that “there are a significant number of cases like this where ordinary people, villagers, rural people, people defined by the government as opposition, have told me stories that they’ve been monitored or followed as well…”.

Titipol observes that the regime “hang these cases over them indefinitely as a way to control students…”.

Hudsawat explains the sad fact that “we live in a society where the process of law or justice in Thailand is not normal,” adding, “anyone can be accused of having a different opinion from the government’s and then it’s decided that they pose a security threat to the state.”

Another facing charges is Sitanun Satsaksit, the sister of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit. She’s now “charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for giving a speech at a protest on 5 September 2021 at the Asoke Intersection.”

She’s one of a dozen now “charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the same protest…”. Her case is tragic:

Sitanun said that she feels hopeless that not only are the Thai authorities not helping her find her brother and bring the perpetrators to justice, they are also trying to silence her by filing charges against her, even though she is fighting for the rights of her brother and other victims of enforced disappearance.

She adds:

Is it such a threat to national security that I join the campaign for the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill that you have to file charges to silence a victim? I am just calling for justice for someone in my family, but the government sees me as an enemy….

The regime protects the monarchy and its own position for fear that even individual protesters can bring the whole corrupt system down. Both police and military are now little more than the regime’s political police. THe enemies are the people, democracy, and proposer representation.





Call for 112 repeal

14 10 2021

Prachatai has a long report on a 9 October rally by the gender equality activist group Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand, continuing the wide-ranging calls for democracy and equality and “for the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, constitutional amendments, and monarchy reform to create a democracy for all.”

We recommend reading the whole account. As readers would expect, we were particularly struck by the ongoing emphasis on lese majeste. Here’s some snips:

Clipped from Prachatai

Thanapat, a member of the activist group Thalufah, gave a speech on the repeal of Section 112, or the royal defamation law, while dressed in a red Thai Chitralada dress. He said that there is a right and freedom to dress as one chooses, and therefore the government has no right to dictate how people dress.

Thanapat said that many people are currently imprisoned on royal defamation charges, even though what they said was criticism of the monarchy, especially when it comes to using the national budget. He asked whether what these people said was wrong, since they spoke out because they want national budget to be used for the benefit of the people. He also said that he believes that if everyone joins in the fight, then Section 112 will be repealed in the future, not just amended.

“When you want to stay in this country, on the same land as the citizens, then you have to listen to the citizens’ voice, both those who dissent and those who love you. Don’t pick and choose. Don’t lock up just dissenters. I don’t see people who stage coups locked up too,” Thanapat said.

Thanapat noted that the late King Bhumibol once said that the monarchy can be criticized, but one has to point out where the monarchy went wrong, meaning that people should be able to criticize the monarchy since the King said so himself.* He added that those who criticize the monarchy are using information and facts, which is good for the monarchy. However, Section 112 has been used not only to silence critics, but has also been used by those with a personal conflict or who wish to bully someone else, such as the case where an older sibling filed charges against their own younger sibling.

Thanapat said that it has now become apparent that using royal defamation charges against critics does more harm than good, and the best way out is to repeal the law.

“I want to see Thailand able to criticize everyone in good faith, for everyone to have the same law to be able to protect themselves , not one person above others, because we are a democracy,” Thanapat said.

*PPT believes this is a misunderstanding of the dead king’s speech, which was a criticism of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.





Protests and protesters

27 09 2021

There’s been a flurry of articles and video about recent protests and the tactics used.

Prachatai has a story focusing on Thalufah. It “organised a protest on 25 September, with 4 demands: the unconditional resignation of PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha; a new constitution; monarchy reform; and reform of the judicial system to ensure the right to bail of detained activists.” It has several pictures of the protesters tactics, showing young men and women standing up to the police.

The Guardian had a story on protest too. Focused on working class kids or as the report prefers, “mostly students from vocational colleges and poorer neighbourhoods…”. Some of the quotes are revealing:

[Chai]: “We don’t have a choice, we have to come out; my family is suffering…”.

Chai’s mother and father, a food seller and an electrician respectively, have both lost work because of the pandemic. Chai says he has also been forced to give up his part-time job because his college course has been moved online and now doesn’t finish until later in the day. He is training to be an electrician, but is on the brink of dropping out. One of his friends, who leans in to talk, has already done so. They are struggling to learn from home, and say there has been no support to cover the internet costs….

At Din Daeng, protesters say they have run out of patience. “It’s as if they look at us not like a citizen, it’s as if they see us as slaves,” says Chai’s friend, who is 17….

Police violence won’t deter him [Chai], or his friends. “It will even spark us to go out, we will get even more angry,” he says. “It’s going to be like this until Prayuth gets out.”

A SCMP video is worth viewing too:





With 3 updates: Students vs. the rotten system

13 09 2021

In recent posts, here and here, PPT has mentioned the increasingly aggressive tactics adopted by the regime’s police in confronting mostly young protesters. The police now face determined protesters.

The South China Morning Post reports that police face thousands of protesters – “young, angry and desperate for radical change – [who] come out to oppose a state they have lost all faith in.” Some are as young as 12. These protests are now daily and have a degree of predictability:

Protesters, some armed with paint bombs – the more hardcore among them, sling-shots and glass bottles – retreated then returned, a daily dance on Bangkok’s streets which is now threatening to spill out of control.

Protests now almost inevitably end in tear gas, broken bottles and rubber bullets.

The protesters speak to power and call for change: “No one in power has heard us, no one listens to us, they only intimidate and suppress…. So we will keep coming back.”

Their targets are not just the regime, but the rotten system: “… deepening inequality in a country where a tight-knit establishment of tycoons, military and monarchy dominate the economy and politics.” The quoted protester – aged 16 – says: “Inequality comes from these structural issues, everything is tied up here by monopolies of business and power…”. Her observation is testament to the alienation felt by many in the young generation.

Academic Kanokrat Lertchoosakul observes that:

This generation are a totally different species of political, active citizens that we have never seen before in Thailand…. They are a generation with mass awareness of their political rights and have superior analytical skills to their elders.

Prachatai provides another example of youth activism, reporting on the Bad Student activist group that has “launched a strike campaign to protest against the continuous use of online classes during outbreaks of Covid-19, which has been detrimental to students’ mental health and deprived many of an education.”

They are “demanding that the government provide students, education professionals, and members of the public with high efficacy vaccines as soon as possible so that the education system and the economy can continue.” They also want the Ministry of Education to “reduce tuition fees or impose a tuition fee moratorium, and provide whatever welfare is needed by students and their parents to keep young people in school.”

The group encouraged students “to stop attending [online] classes between 6 – 10 September 2021…” and the brief boycott was quite successful.

Bad Students have also joined the ongoing demonstrations and were there almost from the very beginning, saying: “We don’t want this rotten education system. We don’t want this stinking Minister. But we want our future back, and even better, is an education system that truly improves us…”.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS reports on students and other protesters still held without bail, including “seven core leaders of the anti-government Ratsadon group, who have been held on remand for about a month.” These detainees include Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa.

As the SCMP says, “Thailand is on a precipice … its politics once more a tinderbox of anger.”

Update 1: Sorry, we should have noted that the SCMP article was from August whereas the photos are more recent.

Update 2: Three stories at the Bangkok Post add to the analysis of the present moment in protest. In one story, police have said they will bring numerous criminal charges protesters. A second story says that police data is that 509 protesters have been arrested and a further 250 are being sought since the rallies began in July. That story also carries an important quote from Thalugas, welcoming the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the Thalufah group as rally “witnesses at the rally by young demonstrators in Din Daeng that evening.” Thalugas “said they should not be left to fight alone.” A third story is about a member of the older generation of protesters, Sombat Boonngamanong. He says: “We are at a crucial moment in democracy development…. This is a time when the ruling authoritarian establishment is trying to suppress the young, democratic generation.” His view is that “the nature of social movements has changed — because more people, especially younger generations, respect democratic values…. They do not tolerate authori­tarianism.”

Update 3: Prachatai reports on arrests in recent clashes. It has also produced a video on Bad Students:





Updated: Cracking down II

12 09 2021

As we have posted several times, the regime has adopted more aggressive repression, extending from protesters to the media. This is reflected in a Prachatai Facebook post on arrests and intimidation on Saturday, reproduced in full:

51 people have been arrested following a clash between protesters and crowd control police at Din Daeng.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that they have been notified at around 23.45 on Saturday night (11 September) that 51 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors and were taken to the Paholyothin Police Station. 23 of those arrested were adults and taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, while the remaining 22 people were taken to the Don Mueang Police Station.

Volunteer medics in the area have also been detained. According to iLaw, 25 volunteer medics were taken to the Din Daeng Police Station. The police took record of their information, but did not charge them.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

During the clash, which began in the evening, crowd control police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, who retaliated with firecrackers and other small explosives.

Crowd control police were also reported to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into nearby houses and apartment buildings. They also threatened to arrest residence who came to force the officers out of their community, claiming that they were out past curfew.

According to The Reporters’ live broadcast, crowd control police also ordered a group of journalists gathering near the Din Daeng District Office to sit down and end their live broadcasts while the officers check their IDs.

The Reporters posted on their Facebook page at around 22.40 that they have to end their live broadcast as the police ordered journalists to leave the area or they will be arrested for breaking curfew.

The Din Daeng Intersection and the surrounding area have been the site of daily clashes for the past month, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. TLHR said that at least 225 people were arrested during the Din Daeng protests in August alone, at least 15 of whom were under 15 years old and at least 62 were between 15 – 18 years old.

Update: Also at its Facebook page, Prachatai provides more information:

To express objection toward the police brutal arrest and protest crackdown last night, people rallied at Din Daeng Intersection and Ratchaprasong Intersection to protest.

As of 19.30, no clash has been taken place in either locations. Explosive sounds were heard and some small fire were seen set on the road of Din Daeng. The organizer at Ratchaprasong were brought to Pathum Wan police station.

On 19.45, rubber bullets were shot at the protester at Din Daeng.

On Saturday night, (11 September) 78 people have been arrested, 6 of whom were minors. Some of the arrested reportedly stated that they were either passerby, vendors, motorcycle taxi or people who went to the protest to find food giveaway.





More on recent protests

24 07 2021

Earlier this week PPT posted on the previous weekend’s protests, mostly providing links to recent reporting.

Now Prachatai has an excellent story, with many photographs, that tells the on-the-ground messages of anti-monarchism and republicanism, and anti-regime activism. This really is must-read material.

Guillotine

Clipped from Prachatai





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.








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