Updated: Preempting regime and king

20 06 2020

When we first posted on Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance, we understood that the rumors would be about assumptions regarding the king’s role. We suggested some caution:

Most observers would likely consider the criminals at work in this enforced disappearance are working for Thailand’s military and its regime. PPT’s guess would be that they work under orders from Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who has oversight of “national security.”

Whether Gen Prawit is acting on the orders of the vengeful king is likely to remain unknown, but the enforced disappearance does coincide with heightened protests in Germany about the truant king, which have been widely viewed in Thailand. The palace and regime probably see these protests as the result of cooperation between anti-monarchists and political activists.

Coincidences do not amount to facts. When it comes to the king, however, verifiable facts are hard to come by and circumstantial evidence and extrapolation are used in their place.

Yet it is a remarkable fact that so many Thais seem to have heard the rumors and concluded that the king is at work on these disappearances. This is evidenced by a sudden surge in social media support for Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome:

The twitter hashtag #saveโรม (#saveRome) began trending on Friday morning after rumours circulated online that powerful people within the Thai establishment were unhappy with the conduct of Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome.

Readers may recall that it was Rangsiman who poked the regime on the disappearance and on the lese majeste law. This brought a regime response and warnings along with claims about an anti-monarchy plot.

Thais on social media used the “saveRome” hashtag “to voice their encouragement and support for Rangisman Rome and also to criticize the establishment and the state for using violence and fear as intimidation tactics.” It was a preemptive strike based on fears and on rumors that Rome and several other activists were under threat.

This is a political strategy previously used. Back in 2019, as several Thai exiles were “disappeared,” members of the Faiyen band feared that they were being hunted by those responsible for the enforced disappearances and murders of fellow exiles. At the time, many observers assumed that Thai paramilitary forces were responsible for these extra-judicial actions.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

That so many fear the king is telling. That they believe that the regime is prepared to condone or engage in illegal acts for the king and to protect their regime is equally revealing.

These fears and assumptions are reasonable. After all, throughout his life, the king has displayed erratic behavior and disdain for symbols of the 1932 revolution is reasonably considered evidence of hatred of those who favor a monarchy limited by constitution and law. This fear is reinforced by the regime’s public statements since the 2014 coup and its efforts to “protect” the monarchy. Indeed, the regime has been actively promoting fear to enhance its repression.

Update: Interesting, PPT has received a letter that is sent to the Embassy for the Federal Republic of Germany in Thailand, pointing to Germany’s responsibility under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit. Appropriately, it notes that the facts are hard to come by but that the German government needs to ensure that the disappearance is not associated with actions taken in Germany.





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.





With 3 updates: Campaigning for Wanchalearm

9 06 2020

Update 1: Apologies to readers. Some of our earlier version of this post was left unedited. We have fixed that now.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s enforced disappearance has been taken up by Thai activists and some of the international media.

In a story with worldwide impact, Thomson Reuters reports that the exile’s kidnapping has sparked protests. These aren’t just about Wanchalearm but all of the now “missing” or deceased exiles. As the report explains, the agitation has expanded “reignit[ing] protests against Thailand’s military-royalist elite, with some online questioning a law banning criticism of the monarchy.”

There were protesters at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok: “Dozens of protesters outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok demanded an investigation into the disappearance and accused the Thai state of orchestrating his kidnapping, which Thailand’s police and government have denied.” According to Khaosod, the “protesters submitted a petition to the mission’s secretary and placed posters calling for justice on the embassy’s wall.”

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and other protesters at the Cambodian Embassy

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan deflected criticism, saying the matter is one for Cambodia. Previous disappearances have seen no action at all from the Thai authorities, convincing many that the perpetrator/s are protected.

Posters “labelled ‘Missing’ appeared around Bangkok featuring photos of Wanchalearm and other [disappeared] critics of military governments…” appeared around Bangkok. Claimed to be “the work of the Spring Movement, a small group of students at Bangkok’s elite Chulalongkorn University…”, officials working hard to remove them.

One group member told Reuters: “We do not know who directly ordered the abduction, but we can see the ruling elite of this country does not care about this issue.”

Suddenly, there seemed a general “feeling” about “who directly ordered the abduction,” with the hashtag “#abolish112” trending on “Twitter, used or retweeted more than 450,000 times by midday on Monday.” The reporters involved sought a response from the palace! An official said: “The palace has no comment on this issue…”.

Oddly, according to Khaosod, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees also responded saying “the organization cannot give any opinion or information about the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.” We assume this reflects the royalist domestication of UN agencies in Bangkok.

Some celebrities – presumably of some significance in Thailand – have taken up Wanchalearm’s case, with Maria Poonlertlarp, a “former Miss Universe Thailand … add[ing] her voice to the growing campaign for the Thai and Cambodian governments to explain the disappearance of Wanchalerm…”. On Instagram she used the #SaveWanchalerm hashtag “calling for  answers from authorities about his disappearance.”

Often timid on such matters, the Puea Thai Party “also called on the government to use diplomatic channels to find his whereabouts.” Sudarat Keyuraphan stated: “He is a Thai citizen that the government is duty bound to protect…”.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee is asking questions. Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome, who serves as the committee on law and human rights spokesman, “said the government must be held accountable for the incident.” He stated that the committee “will summon the national police commissioner [Gen Chakthip Chaijinda] to testify about … [Wanchalearm’s] fate…”. He also said others like Special Branch Police commissioner Maj Gen ‎Sarawut Karnpanit and consular affairs department chief Chatri Atjananan would be called to meet the committee. Rangsman observed: “It is the obligation of the government to protect its citizens. On top of that, Wanchalearm has contributed to many youth welfare and other charitable organizations.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the Active Thai Citizen group, led by Kan Wattanasupang, also a member of the Move Forward Party, submitted a petition to the House of Representatives. Kan said “the government must seek to protect all Thai citizens regardless of differences in political ideology.” He added: “We cannot let such gross human rights violations happen to those with political different ideas. In the past, political dissidents have been victims of intimidation, assault or even enforced disappearance,” raising the “mysterious disappearances of other political dissidents including Wuthipong … Kochathamakun and Surachai Danwattananusorn.”

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Remarkably, there’s also a report about the decrepit, regime-controlled National Human Rights Commission, claiming some role:

Thailand’s state-sanctioned human rights agency on Monday denies turning a blind eye to the spate of abduction targeting Thai dissidents living overseas.

In a phone interview today, What Tingsamitr, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said his organization has acknowledged the latest case of disappearance, that of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. However, What said no formal investigation opens yet because no one has filed a complaint with them.

“We are keeping our eyes on the issue,” What said. “We can’t take action right away since it happened outside the country. We admit that we don’t have power beyond our boundary, but we can coordinate with the foreign ministry and forward the case to Cambodian authorities.”

The case is certainly a “grave violation” of human rights if it has been proven to be an enforced disappearance, he added.

To date we have seen nothing at all of significance from the supine NHRC on any of the disappearances and murder.

What said:

“We have already published reports on many abductees in the past,” What said. “But it’s up to the government and legislators to take the issue seriously. Thailand has signed the UN convention against enforced disappearance since 2012, but it never became a law.”

But its done nothing else. Writing a report does not imply investigation.

Fellow exile Ji Ungpakorn has commented, pointedly observing: “No one should be under the illusion that Thailand has returned to democracy, despite recent elections. The military is still very much in charge and the repression continues.” So has Yammy Faiyen, who recently fled Laos for asylum in France, although her comments will probably be blocked.

At the Bangkok Post, columnist Atiya Achakulwisut bravely speaks some truths. We reproduce in full:

It might be because “it could happen to you”.

It could also be an accumulation of bitterness and frustration, built up over decades of hearing about this or that person suddenly dying or disappearing without a trace or explanation.

It could even be a paradigm shift at long last when the new generation is no longer tied to old norms or affected by traditional fear and dares to express in public what was once considered taboo.

It could be a bit of everything but the day has come when a forced disappearance which would generate only quiet whispers in the past is now causing a genuine public uproar.

The disappearance of anti-government activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was allegedly abducted outside his apartment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last Thursday, has been covered by mainstream media.

Chulalongkorn as well as Thammasat University student organisations issued statements condemning the alleged forced disappearance and urged the Thai government to take a stance.

The incident has been widely discussed on social media, especially Twitter where the hashtag #save has drawn hundreds of thousands of tweets.

The outrage and demand for the Thai government to take action are welcoming for the human rights cause although they can be considered surprising considering Wanchalearm was not that well-known.

The Ubon Ratchathani native was against the coup and military rule. He was also wanted by authorities for defying a National Council for Peace and Order summons to report after the 2014 putsch.

In 2018, Wanchalearm was subject to another arrest warrant for violating the Computer Crime Act by operating a Facebook page critical of the government.

The activist has been living in self-imposed exile for more than six years, claiming his political stance led to harassment and other threats to his life.

Now that he has gone missing, a seemingly small player unlikely to affect a sea change in the grand scheme of things, his plight has struck a chord with many people.

Alongside news of his disappearance, photos of Wanchalearm, almost all of them showing the bespectacled 37-year-old grinning, have also surfaced everywhere. A little-known name has become a real person. Wanchalearm has become not just an anti-whatever activist but a son, a brother, a friend.

Indeed, he could be any one of us.

Wanchalearm may harbour anti-coup thoughts. He may have voiced disapproval of military rule or other forms of suppression. But do these thoughts constitute a crime?

Do people deserve to “disappear” because they are critical of something powerful?

Wanchalearm had left the country, yet he could be made to disappear in broad daylight in Phnom Penh, taken by a group of armed men according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) citing witnesses and CCTV images. Cambodian police said they knew nothing about it.

Who could be capable of executing such an operation?

As Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanan begged the Thai government and international agencies to help find her brother, Cambodia’s Interior Ministry suggested the HRW report could be “fake news” while the Thai government has made no response.

Today marks the sixth day since Wanchalearm “disappeared”.

Since the 2014 coup, about a hundred political activists exiled themselves to other countries. Of these, at least six have gone missing while two were found dead, according to BBC Thai.

Wanchalearm is definitely not the first suspected of being “carried away”. The UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances reports 82 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances in Thailand since 1980.

These include Somchai Neelapaijit in 2004, Karen land rights defender Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen in 2014 and political activists Siam Theerawut, Chucheep Chivasut and Kritsana Thapthai during 2018-19.

It is possible that the #save trend and collective anger against the alleged forced disappearance could end up like other save someone or something hashtags before it — making no difference to the oppressive, unaccountable power culture in Thailand and becoming just another footnote in the country’s decades-long political struggle.

But one thing is clear — his plight has roused the public like never before. His story has been openly discussed, and not just in a quiet whisper. The fear usually associated with such a “disappearance” is gone.

Will this awakening turn out to be a real force for change? For once, it may be the turn of the other side to be fearful.

There may be whispering about the case and even some high-profile expression in Thailand. But that which can only be written about outside Thailand is speculation that “the operation to seize activist Wanchalearm Satstaksit was ordered by King Vajiralongkorn.”

Update 2: AP reports that “Cambodian authorities say they are willing to investigate the reported abduction of an exiled Thai dissident in Cambodia’s capital, though they claim to have been unaware of his presence for several years.” We won’t be holding our breath on that one. Meanwhile, in Bangkok, the regime repressed those raising awareness of the case, with police arresting four students … tying white ribbons at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument in protest against the apparent forced disappearances of Wanchalearm and other victims. They were accused of violating littering and traffic laws.”

Update 3: Khaosod reports that officials are busy in Bangkok erasing murals and tearing up posters that were raising awareness of Wanchalearm’s disappearance. Such actions will be seen by many as admissions of the regime’s complicit role in the enforced disappearance.





Updated: Junta-style business (as usual) II

21 03 2020

The regime is pressing ahead with its usual political business, playing dirty.

This was probably clearest in a short report that had the horrid Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam at work declaring with obvious glee that virus or no virus, “[a]ll political parties must hold annual general meetings no later than next month…”, warning that ” a failure to hold the meetings would be a breach of the act.” The meeting “required as political parties must furnish a report on their activities over the past year and submit it to the Election Commission…”. We guess that not doing so means the party is dead. The post-junta regime would love that.

Then there’s the action being taken by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan to silence opposition MP Rangsiman Rome, formerly of the Future Forward Party. Prawit is doing this via proxies at the so-called Forest Conversation Foundation, which has nothing much to do with conservation, and who are claiming to have been defamed. Prawit does not want details of his various business dealings being revealed.

Nothing much changes it seems.

And, while convicted heroin smuggler and serial liar Thammanat Prompao has gone into hiding isolation, the mask saga continues, mostly with police “raids” that are meant to indicate that the regime is doing something about the smuggling and price gouging that hung to Thammanat like a bag of heroin flour and to others who have been accused of profiteering.

In the most remarkable of these PR raids and arrests, also seeing the judiciary involved as it processed the cases faster than 2 million masks disappear, vendors were arrested, charged and convitced, fined and/or jailed in quick time. A report at the Bangkok Post has these details:

Five vendors have been sentenced to between six months and 18 months in jail for selling face masks at inflated prices while two others have got a suspended jail term and a fine of 25,000 baht each….

They were charged with selling face masks, which are on the price control list, at inflated prices….

[As usual] All defendants confessed to the charges.

One possessed 4,000 face masks for sale and was jailed for three years, another had 750 face masks and got two years and the rest had between 8 and 125 face masks. Yes, 8 masks. The sentences for diabolical crimes are often less and the relatively poor pay the price for government PR stunts and the big fish are free.

Update: We notice that some bigger hauls have been made. In one case it is said that “[p]olice have confiscated nearly 130,000 surgical face masks in Sa Kaeo and Chon Buri and charged a number of suspects with smuggling and contravening price controls…”. In the Sa Kaeo arrests, those arrested said “that they had been paid 2,000 baht to carry 65,000 masks from Cambodia.” Who is paying them? We couldn’t hazard a guess, but we are sure readers will have some ideas.





Framing Thanathorn

15 05 2019

They wrote their own constitution and ran a rigged referendum. They rigged the election (but did rather poorly). They corrupted all of the “independent” agencies. They stacked a Senate that now drips nepotism and corruption. They have used “law” more than any previous regime to cement their own position. Now, the military junta, acting as if their “election” was just a speed bump on their chosen path to “electoral authoritarianism,” have decided to manipulate law and frame Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party.

Some might have read that on the very day he was released from prison where he had been incarcerated on trumped up charges, Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa was ordered to report to police in Bangkok on 21 May, ostensibly to give evidence on the case the junta has concocted against Thanathorn from 2015.

How high can the junta pile it?

But, as everyone knows, the junta’s case is buffalo manure. So in order to cover their “legal” tracks, this shameless regime has decided that it better have a “case” against the activist/s Thanathorn is supposed to have aided. Without even a flinch, the junta’s “lawyers” have determined that they can concoct another case – well, 15 other cases. As Prachatai reports, “15 activists, including Jatupat …, have been summoned to Pathumwan Police Station on sedition charges filed by Col Burin Thongprapai…”.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights states that “the activists were charged on the basis of an incident on 24 June 2015, when the activists attempted to bring charges against the police for using unnecessary force to crack down on activists’ peaceful commemoration of the coup’s first anniversary in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.”

That’s the date when Thanathorn is accused of sedition for giving one of the activists a ride home. Of course, this is no coincidence. This is the junta retro-fitting their manufactured “case” against Thanathorn. It was Col Burin who filed the “case” against Thanathorn, which will probably be heard in a military court. We suppose that these other 15 charges will also go to a military court. These courts are marked by legal ineptitude and influence from superiors. In other words, they do the junta’s work and have nothing much at all to do with the law.

It is also no coincidence that one of the 15 summoned is Rangsiman Rome, who is now a Future Forward party-list MP.

This use of 15 political activists for the framing of Thanathorn fits the junta’s modus operandi, but it really is time for people to call out the junta on this manipulation and bastardization of the law.

 

 





Fear the people III

11 09 2018

Quite some time ago, PPT posted a lot on the fear the military junta feels (for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Interestingly, the junta now confirms its fear of the people if they are unshackled.

As Khaosod reports it: “The powers that be who’ve bottled expression and dissent for five years fear the resumption of regular political life…”.

This comes from none other than junta lackey and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam who stated “that the reason the military regime hasn’t lifted the ban on political activities is because the ruling junta known as the National Council for Peace and Order is ‘afraid’.” He didn’t say what the junta is afraid of, but it is pretty clear that there are many fears: republicanism, separatism, losing positions of bigness, losing face, being shown to be corrupt, seeing Thaksin again, and so on.

But it is clear that the main fear is of the people being able to speak and think more freely. This is why the junta wants to hang on. Others say:

Pro-democracy activist Rangsiman Rome said it’s simple: prosecution. Should junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha fail to retain power after the election, Rangsiman said its self-indemnification for overthrowing the government in 2014 could be overturned.

“They also know that they are on the way down. Many people are talking about taking revenge on them,” Rangsiman said by phone Monday.

We think there’s much in this. The junta bosses are notoriously thin-skinned.

Another activist, Nuttaa Mahattana, thinks the junta is afraid of the people. She said the ban that’s been in place since the coup affects not just politicians but ordinary citizens including protesters such as herself, who’s been charged multiple times with violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings.

“They are afraid of the people… They are afraid that people will be able to speak. They are afraid of people’s expressions,” Nuttaa said.

We think she’s right. They are petrified that all their repression will come undone because they know that the people have simply acceded to the repression but don’t believe all the junta’s guff, which is the ruling class’s guff.





Mid-week reading: monarchy, academics, hypocrisy, hope

30 08 2018

There are several articles we think deserve a reading this week.

The first is actually two articles by University of Leeds academic Duncan McCargo. In recent weeks he’s been reporting on visits he’s making inside Bangkok’s rapidly expanding royal zone. The first was at Asia Times Online, on the end of the military’s Royal Turf Club, which reverts to the Crown Property Bureau, which itself is now the personal property of the king. We have posted on this. This article says little about that link, which is odd, as it is the story.

McCargo’s second piece is at The Nikkei Asia Review and is on the soon to close zoo. In it, he does dare to at least mention the king in the context of the zoo’s closure. We have also posted on this. He implies that it might also suit the military regime. So careful does the academic have to be that self-censorship means a casual reader might miss these associations.

As an important footnote, McCargo did put his name to an undated International Statement in support of Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti and colleagues some time ago.

Another article worth considering is at The Nation, reflecting on the ill-health of exiled academic Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul and his principles. The comments on hypocrisy among political activists and academics are well made. At the same time, some of the journalists at The Nation, including the author of this piece – Tulsathit Taptim – have also been been extravagant propagandists for those who have attacked and reviled Somsak.

Somsak has indeed stuck with his principles. He’s been brave and determined in addressing important historical issues and the monarchy and Article 112. Like rabid dogs, the military and ultra-royalists attacked Somsak and made him pay.

We wish Somsak a speedy recovery and applaud his efforts to pull back some of the curtains that hide the monarchy and its actions.

The third set of articles is from the Focus on the Global South. Its 4th Newsletter “tackles the issue of democracy in Asia and its different facets–elections, constitutions, (extreme) nationalism, populism, majoritarian rule, and press freedom.” Two of the Newsletter’s items are especially relevant for Thailand. One is an article titled “The Indomitable Spirit of Democracy in Thailand.” The second is an interview with pro-democracy activist Rangsiman Rome. There’s room for some optimism.





Pressure

25 03 2018

We have been seeing considerable efforts by the junta to block PPT. This blocking seems to coincide with posts that are critical of the junta and its “election.” It also coincides with a considerable uptick in anti-junta activism.

Keeping the pressure on seems to be the response. On Friday, pro-democracy activist Rangsiman Rome was detained briefly by a military court “over two-year-old charges he violated the junta’s ban on political assembly while in the northeastern province.” Held for five hours, he paid a 10,000 baht bond. Not much, but the emphasis is on pressure.

On Saturday, activists “stepped up their [pro-election/anti-junta] campaign by urging the army to stop supporting the junta and setting a deadline for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] to step down.”

A sign recycled from 2010 (clipped from the Bangkok Post)

While some news reports said 400 people rallied at Thammasat University others said there were up to 2000.

Speakers made three demands: “the election must be held in November; the NCPO must be dissolved and the government must become a caretaker; and the army must stop supporting the NCPO.”

Rangsiman “said that if the three demands are not met, his group would begin a major series of prolonged rallies on May 5 to oust the NCPO.” He called the junta a “traitor to Thailand.”

Sirawith Seritiwat “said the army would be the first to be pressed to end its support for the NCPO.” He declared that: “If the army does not respond, we’ll pile pressure on the government and the NCPO’s network such as the National Legislative Assembly…”.

When the protesters tried to walk to Army headquarters, “skirmishes were reported as they tried to pass through a wall of police and soldiers…”. There were some 600 junta protectors at work against the activists.

At Army headquarters, Rangsiman thundered:

When there is democracy, your dirty bosses will go to jail, so don’t lick their boots too much,” Rangsiman said. “Don’t you feel anything? That you have to come protect military headquarters but not a single soldier is here?

Pressure on all sides.





Rallying on ending the military dictatorship

10 02 2018

The pro-democracy rally near the Democracy Monument drew hundreds of activists on Saturday.

The authorities tried to prevent the rally in various ways, including a childish effort to cover open areas at the monument with potted plants, forcing hundreds of protesters onto footpaths.

In the end, the rally went ahead with speeches by several people including some of the MBK39.

As well as demanding an election that they said would mean the end the military dictatorship, speakers demanded that the Democracy Monument and what it stood for be given back to the people:

People seeking to cast ballots are blocked by police. A monument has been turned into a garden. No matter what this country has become, this monument still has meaning and significance. Let’s make today the beginning of an end to dictatorship….

Rangsiman Rome declared:

We meet today to demand an election and the end to the power succession. We show a three-finger salute today — first for the election, second for the end of dictatorship and third for democracy….

He also demanded that “politicians” get off their fat behinds and do something to support the pro-democracy activists.

The rally concluded with three of the the MBK39 co-leaders taken away to a police station. Rangsiman, Sirawich Serithiwat and Arnon Nampa were taken to the Saran Rat police station and then the Pathumwan police station. Earlier, Akechai Hongkangwarn, another co-leaader, had been whisked off by police before he could attend the rally.





Updated: Watching and waiting

10 02 2018

On one watch front, the luxury front – the news is… well, no news. The Nation reports that National Anti-Corruption Commission President Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit declared that the NACC’s “secretary-general has not yet updated the corruption-fighting body about whether Deputy PM [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan has submitted his third try at an explanation about his possession of luxury watches.” Is he getting coaching? Probably not. Neither The Dictator or the Deputy Dictator believe that laws apply to them.

The other thing to watch is is the so-called MBK39. The junta got a legal slap when the the courts unconditionally released them. Four of the activists, named below, did not front the police and courts. That said the charges of “violating the public assembly and internal security laws, as well as the junta’s order on political gatherings” remain in place and could see a penalty of 7 years in jail. The laws include a charge of assembling within 150 meters of a royal palace (Sirindhorn’s). In effect, this “law” bans public gatherings in several of the locations where anti-government protests have been ignited in the past and is one more piece in the return to pre-1932 jigsaw and the deification of royals and their spaces.

The thing to watch is a a pro-election assembly this afternoon Bangkok time. It is reported that “[a]ctivists Rangsiman Rome, Sirawit Serithiwat, Ekachai Hongkangwan and lawyer Anon Nampa … would be attending the event to be held near Democracy Monument at 4pm.”

The police have said “they would immediately arrest the four when they showed up at today’s event” using warrants from the previous case against them.

Akechai said: “Why not go? … The court’s rejection to detain [activists from the] January 27 assembly has already proved that this kind of assembly is rightful by law.”

Update: Akechai didn’t get a chance to go. Junta thugs arrested him early on Saturday morning, and took him to Lat Phrao police station and then to Pathumwan police station. He seemed unfazed by the arrest; it is kind of “normal” under the dictatorship.

How’s that “democracy” looking to you Gen Joseph F Dunford?