Repressing opponents

6 08 2017

Two reports in Khaosod show how insecure the military dictatorship becomes when it identifies critics of its dominance.

The first Khaosod report is, naturally enough, related to the trembles it has when Yingluck Shinawatra looks popular and seems to have supporters boosting her. The junta has blustered about conspiracies and plots. Who have they targeted?

A day after several hundred supporters “gathered to support former premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s closing statement in her malfeasance trial, the … police … launched a crackdown against the people who drove them there.”

It is reported that “Gen. Srivara Rangsipramkul, who usually handles matters of national security, charged 21 minivans drivers Wednesday with violating the Land Transport Act by straying from their designated routes to bring Yingluck supporters to Bangkok.”

In addition, the regime has sent its uniformed thugs to threaten red shirt supporters seeking to prevent them from showing up at the court. The report states:

Redshirt supporters say these efforts are emblematic of the Prayuth regime’s strategy of uprooting the legacy of its political rivals, the Shinawatra clan, and falling short of that, render it invisible.

A second Khaosod story reports that two former Puea Thai Party politicians and a well-known journalist (for Khaosod) have been slapped with sedition allegations.

Former energy minister Pichai Naripatapan met police last Friday to “acknowledge a charge of sedition filed against him…”.

PPT has mentioned journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk in a previous post. The third is the outspoken Watana Muangsook.

For the junta, “sedition” seems to amount to criticism of the junta.

Pichai’s “crime” is that he “violated the law in things they wrote on social media.” He quoted an academic on economic problems. It seems that this amounts to sedition.

Watana “acknowledged the charge on Wednesday and insisted on his innocence.”

The Article 116 charge against Pravit cites “unspecified Facebook posts…”. He is due back before the police in a few days, when the police say they will finally disclose which of his posts are determined to be “seditious.”

It seems that appearing pathetic is not an issue for the military dictatorship.





Watching and repressing for profit

30 07 2017

The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.

That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.

The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.

We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.

The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”

There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.

The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.

It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.

The report continues:

He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.

He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.

There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.

Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”

NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.

Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”

The military junta is defined by such acts.





Fear and repression II

25 07 2017

As PPT said in a recent post, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” that give the military dictatorship the shakes are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and its associates. Despite more than three years of heavy duty repression, the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise again.

Supporters of Yingluck Shinawatra have again been warned against participating in public gatherings when the Supreme Court hands down a ruling on her controversial rice-pledging scheme next month.

The new warning is from The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha said that “security [he mean repression] remains the top priority for the regime and anyone who attempts to challenge the law [he means the junta] by mobilising a crowd with malicious intent would face legal consequences [he means repression].”

General Prayuth is flummoxed and worried by “reports that huge crowds would show up to extend their support to Ms Yingluck on Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down its ruling.” His response is: “You can love anyone [he means Yingluck], but [you] shouldn’t cause trouble for others [he means the junta and its minions at the court] or undermine the law. If anyone mobilises crowds they must know they are breaking the law…”.

Somewhat oddly, Army boss and junta secretary-general General Chalermchai Sitthisart seemed less worried, simply saying that the junta “will have to ‘regulate’ people who arrive to support Ms Yingluck next month.” He then made a very unusual remark: “The NCPO [junta] does not prohibit people from coming to support her in good faith but any organised gatherings are against the law…”.

Who does one believe? The point about “organizing” and “mobilizing” seems clear, but one general is saying stay home and the other is saying come if you are mobilized.

Even odder, “Gen Chalermchai insisted the NCPO will not dispatch soldiers to block her supporters from Pheu Thai or red-shirt strongholds…”. That seems to contradict earlier reports.

Echoing some of his anti-democrat members, (anti-)Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva reckoned that gathering supporters of Yingluck at the court was an “implicit threat …[and] may be an attempt to pressure the judges.”

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has begun the process of seizing Yingluck’s assets, “based on an administrative order,” seeking some $1 billion “in compensation for her alleged dereliction of duty in the rice-pledging scheme.”





Updated: Fear and repression I

24 07 2017

Talk of “reconciliation” seems pointless in the junta’s dictatorship. The task of the junta has been to repress those it identifies as “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.” As it was largely through the efforts of the anti-democrats, led by the (anti-)Democrat Party, that paved the way for the 2014 military coup, it should be no surprise at all that the coalition of military and anti-democrats coalesces to continue the fight against those “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition.”

As everyone knows, the “threats,” “enemies” and “opposition” are mainly red shirts, elements of the Puea Thai Party and the Shinawatra clan and associates. After more than three years of heavy duty repression designed to decapitate these groups, there is limited evidence that they retain much capacity for mobilization. Yet the military and anti-democrats live in fear that they may rise against them.

As reported in The Nation, the pending verdict against Yingluck Shinawatra, due on 25 August, is causing considerable angst among the ruling regime and its anti-democrat allies.

This deep anxiety was inflamed by the sight of “[h]undreds of Yingluck’s supporters [who] gathered at the high court last Friday during the last hearing of the case against her.”

The Democrat Party, never very popular anywhere except in the previous palace hierarchy and among the royalist military, immediately went back to their rhetoric of anti-Thaksinism that has been a feature of their efforts to bring down each elected government since 2001. They claimed that “many of the supporters travelled together in an arranged trip from the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.” In other words, they reflexively denigrated their opponents as unthinking and unintelligent people/buffaloes, led around by money and bosses.

At the same time, Somchai Sawaengkarn, reported as “a member of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” but in fact a former unelected senator, dedicated anti-democrat, anti-Thaksin campaigner for more than a decade, hard core royalist and prone to accuse opponents of lese majeste, claimed “that he has learned of a plot to incite riots in a bid to overthrow the government and the NCPO [he means his buddies in the junta].”

Somchai has concocted plots in order to denigrate political opponents in the past and we assume he’s at it again. “Good” people like him are skilled liars but usually claim they do it for the greater “good.” This usually means ousting an elected government, supporting the crown or lapping the military boot or, as in this case, encouraging it in political activism. This is why he invents a plot: “They will try to bring down the government and the NCPO [junta] through riots. Hard-core groups that are their allies have clearly said that they want to wage a ‘people’s war’…”. He predicts a “mobilization” of 10,000 people.

While we might hope he is right, based on previous “inventiveness” by Somchai, we can be reasonably sure that, tongue on military boot, he’s making this up to encourage his junta allies in further political repression.

Indeed, the military thugs are already at work.

The Nation reports a source in the ruling junta as revealing that the military and its bureaucratic handmaidens are “closely following movements by certain groups of people ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the case against former prime minister Yingluck…”.

That source adds that “Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, in his capacity as secretary to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed the local peacekeeping forces to monitor the movements of ‘all groups involved’ over the next month…”.

The Army’s regional commanders have been ordered “to make sure any suspicious movements are under their microscope…. If the local peacekeeping forces, which were formed after the military coup in 2014, discovered any plan to mobilise large groups of people into Bangkok, they would need to persuade their leaders to cancel such a trip…”. That will mean detentions, threats and other forms of repression. Indeed, the leaking of these orders are a part of that repression.

Military officers have already “been dispatched to different areas of the country in an attempt to persuade Yingluck’s supporters not to come to Bangkok … [and t]hey are going to meet with local community leaders and administrators and ask them to ‘create a better understanding’ among the local residents.” The order is that there “should be no mobilisation of the masses…”. In other words, the military presence at all levels is being heightened and the threats made real.

Update: Part of the fear of Yingluck’s supporters seems reflected in the estimates of the number who showed up last week. The Bangkok Post reports almost 1,000. The official red shirts of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have warned The Dictator that his threats inflamed the situation and brought out even more supporters. More threats and intimidation could would damage the junta.





“Election” readiness II

22 07 2017

In an earlier post PPT, commented that preparations for the military junta’s election were moving along and that the signals for this were getting stronger. They included the anti-Election Commission that the junta could arrange its election sometime from August 2018. Another signal were the efforts to neuter the Shinawatra clan and Puea Thai Party, with the cases against Yingluck Shinawatra is drawing to a close next month.

The Bangkok Post reports that other cases at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions are scheduled for rulings with “three major cases involving politicians from the Pheu Thai Party” also scheduled for next month.

One is Yingluck’s case. A second case “involves a group of 28 people including former commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom and former deputy commerce minister Poom Sarapol. It deals with their involvement in government-to-government rice sales to China.” All are from the Yingluck government that was thrown out by the 2014 military coup.

The third case, set to be ruled on 2 August, involves a set of senior figures associated with the pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party government from 2007-08. Included are former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who was deputy prime minister in charge of security under then premier Somchai and two senior policemen of that period.

They are on trial for their roles in the crackdown on the People’s Alliance for Democracy which had had its protesters lay siege to Government House from 20 June 2008, seeking to force the pro-Thaksin elected government out of office. Despite a court order for the eviction of protesters, the siege continued. To bring further pressure on the government, PAD laid siege to parliament, to prevent Somchai from making a legally required policy speech in the assembly. On 7 July 2008, police announced that they would use tear gas and clear protesters. Clashes continued for several hours, with two deaths and 471 people injured. One of the deaths was a PAD supporter who accidentally blew himself up.

Students of Thailand’s double standards will recall that former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban and General Anupong Paojinda were charged with malfeasance and murder for their crackdowns on red shirt protesters in April and May 2010 resulting in a 100 deaths and thousands of injuries. Several courts denied that they had jurisdiction, the National Anti-Corruption Commission ruled they had acted lawfully and the case did not go to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.





“Election” readiness I

20 07 2017

It seems to some of PPT’s pundits that preparations for the military junta’s election are moving along. The signals are getting stronger.

For one thing, the middle classes seem to be getting bored with the military dictatorship. They are increasingly disgruntled by poor economic data and are beginning to complain about corruption. Another sign is that the military has seemingly filled its shopping list for new kit, just in case a civilianized post-“election” regime is less able to hand over all that lovely equipment.

The hopeless anti-Election Commission recently let it be known that it believes that the earliest the junta could arrange its election is sometime about August 2018.

More telling of the preparations being made is the continuing efforts to neuter the red shirts, the Thaksin clan and the Puea Thai Party. One of the major “cases” against Yingluck Shinawatra is drawing to a close. The linked report states:

A not guilty verdict is unlikely…. A not guilty verdict would be a huge blow for the junta. It would exonerate Yingluck while galvanising her support and the populist movement. The trial has already cost the junta a significant amount of money. It would threaten the junta’s hold on power while calls for a return to civilian-led democracy would grow louder.

But a guilty verdict would pave the way for an “election” with the Shinawatra clan further “damaged.” That said, her supporters are fighting back and are not done yet.

In another case, despite two courts rejecting accusations against him, the junta’s more politically reliable and predictable Supreme Court has jailed red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan to a year in prison for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Plenty on Abhisit’s side of politics were able to defame red shirt leaders and their supporters and used state power to murder dozens of them, but it is Jatuporn who is jailed.

The military and the royalist elite rightly consider Jatuporn a threat because he is a powerful orator and organizer. They have jailed him several times in recent years, overturned election results to keep him out of parliament and more. Yet red shirts also remain defiant.

Meanwhile, the courts have continued to exonerate yellow shirts. Clearly, the junta knows who its opponents and supporters are as it prepares to civilianize its political authoritarianism via an “election.”





Bored witless

15 06 2017

Forgive us, we are bored by the military dictatorship. It is so, so predictable and so pathetic that we are considering banning it using Article 44.

How predictable? Its like putting a sexy dancer in front of a sexy young dancer. You know how he will behave. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

How about the things that are hidden under nothing happening here-ness?

What about that poor kid shot by soldiers in the north. Nothing. Keep quiet and it won’t go anywhere.

How about the Rolls Royce and related corruption? Ignore it and the media will forget it.

What about police generals being paid by the richest guys in the country to smooth things for them. That isn’t even illegal!

And what about all those unusually wealthy members of the puppet assembly? Not even worth mentioning. That’s just normal corruption and the great and good harvesting their due.

We could go on and on. This regime is corrupt, like many of those regimes before it. But because they are rightist royalists, they are just fine for Thailand’s elite and middle classes.

Well, let’s go on a bit more.

Lese majeste? Hundreds of cases to both shut the activists up and to launder the king’s dirty underwear.

The junta reckons most Thais are stupid, and treats them as such, assessing that they haven’t a clue about democracy and are easily pushed around. A few threats can easily shut them up.

How about those pesky politicians? You know, the bad ones (because they are associated with that devil Thaksin Shinawatra). How many ways can they be repressed. Like all murderous, torturing military regime, the possibilities are many. How about charging them with corruption? That should gag that Watana guy from the Puea Thai Party who keeps saying nasty things about the middle-class cuddly dictatorship.

It irks The Dictator that Puea Thai types are still popping up. Ban them, ban their books, silence them. No debate with these guys.

While the junta is in power, its is almost genetically programmed to buy military toys from Chinese submarines to Chinese armored personal carriers (with the white sidewalls option, they should look stunning running over civilian protesters).

And while talking of Chinese, why not use Article 44 so that all of the land near the proposed railway tracks to link Thailand with China can be taken off poor farmers and become the accumulated wealth of Sino-Thai tycoons and their military allies. Money will fall line rain in the wet season into the already overflowing coffers of the rich and powerful.

It is so predictable it is now boring. What next? The Dictator campaigning for “election”? Yes, that’s already happening.

What about fixing the “election”? That’s a check. Even that anti-election Election Commission can’t be trusted, probably because they are all so thick and need ordering around, so replace them with people who can work out what needs to be corrupted without having to be ordered.

How many more years of this boring nothingness? We reckon the record is about 16 years. The current junta is aiming for 20. Only 16 and a few months to go.

And, an “election” won’t change all of this. It is embedded deeply into the fabric of administration.

It will take a lot of careful undoing when the people get a chance or take a chance.