Updated: Murderous monarchists III

22 01 2019

Back when the handcuffed, disemboweled bodies, filled with chunks of cement, found on the banks of the Mekong, the victims of murderous monarchists, we posted on an unconfirmed report of three bodies having been found.

Two of the bodies have been identified as aides to anti-monarchist Surachai Sae Dan. The three were “disappeared” late in December from a house in Laos where the three were in exile.

Khaosod has a story seemingly confirming that a third body was found in the river, and then that it “disappeared.” The report states:

Coming after two mutilated bodies recovered from the river were identified as aides of a missing prominent anti-monarchist, the photos show what appear to be a third body that can no longer be accounted for.

The third body was found by a villager on 27 December and reported to police. A navy patrol arrived and took photos, but when police arrived, the body was gone.

The local headman “was instructed by security forces not to talk about what happened.”

It is looking like the suspension of the use of lese majeste charges has been been replaced by abduction, torture and murder.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that police have confirmed that the bodies of the tortured and murdered two are the aides to Surachai. One line in the report jumped out: “The murdered men are believed to be the victims of more political killings of accused lese majeste suspects tracked down and killed inside Laos.” Clearly, the perpetrators are assumed to be representatives of the Thai state, torturing and murdering. It is also implied that these murders are targeting critics of the monarchy. It is a dark state that uses abduction, torture and murder, yet these have long been defining characteristics of the murderous military. When they work for a vindictive palace, acting with impunity and with no consideration for domestic or international law, the future looks as bleak as some had predicted back in 2016.





Murderous monarchists II

22 01 2019

Yesterday we posted on the handcuffed, disemboweled bodies, filled with chunks of cement, found on the banks of the Mekong, and how one of the victims was likely Phoo Chana, a 57-year-old who had fled Thailand after the 2014 coup and lived in exile in Laos, working with Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn).

Surachai, Phoo Chana and Kasalong all went missing at the same time. Their enforced disappearance was probably the work of murderous monarchists, acting under orders. We assume that the orders to torture, murder and dispose of the bodies probably originated high up in Thailand.

It is now confirmed that the second tortured and mutilated body is that of Kasalong. Khaosod reports that “a source at the Forensic Science Institute … speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Tuesday that DNA testing has linked the second body … to a man known as “Comrade Kasalong…”.

This also means that Surachai was probably also tortured and murdered.

The real identities are not publicly known but both were red shirts working with Surachai.

It seems that at least five anti-monarchy Thais have been “disappeared” and probably killed.

The viciousness of the murders brings to mind the work of rangers and Border Patrol Police in earlier times but also reminds one of rumors of cruelty and murder in the 1990s linked to high places.

In the report of this particular murder, “Police in Nakhon Phanom, where one of the bodies was recovered, vowed Tuesday morning to find those responsible.” Presumably they will be sleuthing in Bangkok.





More charges dropped

16 01 2019

On Wednesday, the Bangkok Military Court “dismissed the case against 19 leading red-shirt members charged defying the ban on political gatherings in organising the launch of a centre to monitor the 2016 charter referendum.”

Like the recent case against academics and others in Chiang Mai, the court’s decision follows the junta’s “revocation of its order prohibiting a political gathering of five or more people.”

The junta’s charges were not necessarily meant to do more than repress and intimidate, so even if the charges are now dropped, the effect of the charges was to prevent the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship from monitoring the junta’s rigged constitutional referendum and to prevent campaigning against the junta’s constitution.

Sound familiar?

Of course, all charges like this should now be immediately dropped.





Earning his stripes

13 01 2019

As the delayed “election” gets more criticism and bewilderment grows over the motivations for the delay, the military junta is engaging in very heavy censorship of the internet.

* * * *

Army Commander-in-Chief General Apirat Kongsompong has a reputation as a thug when it comes to political protest. He was pretty keen to gun down red shirts in 2010. At present, he is one of the most powerful members of the top echelon in Thailand. As well as being Army boss, he’s the king’s man and he’s secretary for the junta.

When he speaks, he’s usually threatening someone. Thai PBS reports that the general has warned those calling for an election to be held as soon as possible.

We assume he’s miffed and considers this call as critical of both his bosses in the palace and the junta.

He’s accused democracy campaigners of being hirelings and brainwashed:

“They are being told to think this way, ordered to behave this way – thinking in one single mode without taking into consideration other factors which are reasonable and without looking at the Constitution,” said the army chief.

He admitted that he is at a loss as how to reason with these activists whom he accused of having the tendency to cause disturbances.

He admitted he has no clue when the “election” will take place and preferred to put emphasis on the real cause of this delay: his palace boss’s coronation. He essentially accused the protesters and activists of being anti-monarchists:

… these people have never given a thought about it and, as I said, they are told to do this way and think this way and they cannot be changed.

And he issued another veiled threat:

In his capacity as the secretary-general of the National Council for Peace and Order, General Apirat said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan had ordered all military units responsible for maintaining order during the election and the coronation ceremony to make preparations and to test their readiness to cope with the two events of national importance.

He means that the military is ready to suppress and harass.





Updated: Things that make you go, hmm

15 12 2018

There’s a lot going on, so this is a catch-up on a few media stories worth considering. And these are all from the Bangkok Post!:

Watana gets off: The Criminal Court has found Puea Thai politician and junta critic Watana Muangsook not guilty in a quite ridiculous charge related to comments he made about the vandalism associated with the stealing of the 1932 plaque from the Royal Plaza.

The court said Watana’s comments:

were opinions that could not be deemed a computer crime. They posed no threat to security…. The court said his messages could be considered in the context of academic freedom and his criticism of authorities did not reflect ill intent.

The ridiculousness of the charge is that the junta has never done anything to find those responsible for stealing the plaque and replacing it with a royalist plaque that could easily have been composed in the palace. Of course, the authorities have done nothing because they know exactly who ordered its removal and replacement.

EC makes false promises: By now readers know that we think the Election Commission is totally compromised. So a promise to be clear about the election is simply impossible. Where it is closer to the truth it is in stating: “This is all about establishing credibility by generating information that is reliable and correct for the international community.” What EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong might have said was that the EC’s job is establishing credibility for the junta’s election by generating information that obfuscates. After all, that’s its track record to date. That impression of the EC’s bias is reinforced when Ittiporn mumbles that “foreign envoys did not appear to have any concerns about predictions by some critics of that the poll would be ‘less than free and fair’.” Of course, no one expects a free or fair election. Even the Bangkok Post has been forced to question the EC’s “independence” and “credibility.” Is the EC’s task just to give “credibility” to the junta’s rigged election?

Parliament has no home: The parliament building has been closed and will be given to the king. So the bureaucracy of the parliament and the puppet National Legislative Assembly is homeless. Why the Royal Household Bureau can’t wait for a few months is never explained by the fearful Thai media. Consider the fact that the NLA seems to have been caught unaware by this move and has only just begun to look for a expensive, temporary home. Why’s that?

The Eel jailed: The exceptionally slippery Tharit Pengdit and Suthep Thaugsuban used to be tight, at least when Suthep was managing the crushing of the red shirts. They later fell out and became enemies as DSI led investigations into Suthep’s role in the gunning down of protesters. The enmity was further deepened when Suthep accused Tharit of defamation in February 2013. This had to do with corruption over police buildings under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. In two court cases in 2015 and 2016, Tarit was found not guilty. Suthep appealed to the Supreme Court. So the question is why Tarit suddenly decided to plead “guilty” before the case was concluded and why is he now jailed for a year. That makes you think.

Guess who?: In a two horse race between consortia of some of the biggest and best-connected Sino-Thai tycoons for the contract to build a high-speed railway connecting three major airports, the one led by CP has won. As well as winning, they get a state subsidy of almost 120 billion baht. Makes you wonder how rich the richest non-royals can get.

Update: The authorities have assured Thailand that CP didn’t “win” the bid for the HSR. They just had the lowest bid and negotiations are now needed with the CP consortium in order to determine whether they will win. Funny way to do tendering, but we are willing to bet on the outcome, as we were before the two bids were opened.





What happened to that palace “crisis”?

9 12 2018

Readers may recall that, in the period before Vajiralongkorn came to the throne, there was a widely-held view that there was a “succession crisis” in Thailand.Nothing was seen publicly, although when the incoming king did not take the throne for a period, the media was abuzz.

Earlier, PPT wrote that it had to be admitted that Wikileaks, the 2006 coup, the role the palace played in that, the royalist opposition to electoral representation, the infamous birthday video, and the rise of the successionist line in blogs and on social media have changed the way most of the world thinks about Thailand’s monarchy.

There were also those stories circulating that the then Crown Prince was close to Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirts. This even led to a forlorn hope that the new king might be “more democratic.”

Then there were stories about rifts in the palace, most notably between the then prince and Princess Sirindhorn, who were characterized as competing for the throne. One story reckoned she was preparing to decamp for China if her brother became king.

PPT wasn’t convinced by this successionist argument., but we couldn’t ignore the way discussion of succession merged with rising anti-monarchism.

We can’t determine whether this crisis was a beat up based on limited evidence coming from an opaque palace, wishful thinking, an effort to destabilize the palace under the junta or something else. What we did notice was that the 2014 coup had a lot to do with snuffing out anti-monarchism.

In the end, it turns out, the biggest “crisis” for the palace occurred in late 2014, when the king-in-waiting “cleaned” out his family and continued a palace cleaning and reorganization that saw dozens of lese majeste cases and saw many jailed and some die.

All of this is a long introduction to a new op-ed by Pavin Chachavalpongpun at FORSEA. On all of the above, he now states: “There was no such war. Vajiralongkorn was already firmly in charge of palace affairs before his father passed away in October 2016.” He adds:

After the long authoritative reign of Bhumibol, some would have hoped that the new monarch would be more open, liberal even. Yet, they were wrong. Now that Thailand has installed a military-trained king on the throne, who is determined to expand the monarchy’s powers, the country’s future does not seem bright. The new monarch promises authoritarianism rather than democracy.

The op-ed deserves attention for its focus on what Vajiralongkorn has been doing on the throne:

Vajiralongkorn is striving to re-establish the power and authority of the royal institution, fully enjoyed by Thai kings prior to the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932….

This is the first time since 1932 when a new Thai king holds more formal power than his predecessors. The entrenchment of the monarchical power has been made possible by a renewed alliance between the monarchy and the army through a repressive military regime.

His economic and political power has expanded. Under the junta, no one can say anything much about this.

Pavin mentions the huge land grabs in Bangkok:

has taken into his possession a number of major public buildings in Bangkok, from the Dusit Zoo to the Nang Loeng Horse-racing Track. Both are located within the close radius of the royal palace. The confiscation of these buildings was supposedly meant to be an expansion of the spatial power of the new king. A dream of redesigning Bangkok to mimic London where royal properties have been integrated finally comes true under Vajiralongkorn reign. The only difference is that whereas the British royal parks are open for public, those in Thailand will be forever shuttered.

The grabs in the area of the palace – also including Suan Amphorn, the so-called Throne Hall and the current parliament buildings and land – have coincidentally been about erasing 1932.

In terms of politics, it seems pretty obvious that all of this palace work depends on the extension of authoritarian rule.





Another lese majeste acquittal

15 11 2018

The change to the prosecution and conviction of lese majeste cases continues to move in a better direction.

Khaosod reports that “Sakan Saengfueng … walked free today [14 Nov] after spending nearly five years in jail…”.

He had earlier been convicted in an alleged bomb plot and spent 4 years in jail on that score. Sakan and two other alleged red shirts were arrested in April 2009 “on suspicion of plotting to bomb the head office of Charoen Pokphand…”.

When he was to be released, “Sakan was then held in custody after other inmates accused him of royal insult.” In 2014 these inmates allegedly “complained to guards that Sakan insulted the monarchy while watching a TV documentary on King Rama IX.”

This led to a lese majeste charge and Sakan was “detained shortly after his release in 2017. He was denied bail and sent back to jail for the next seven months.”

Interestingly, like Tom Dundee, Sakan initially pleaded not guilty but agreed to cop a guilty plea. However, the court did not accept this. Remarkably, the court “said Sakan’s remarks ‘needed interpretation’ and were not evidently critical of the Royal Family as alleged by the plaintiffs.” Because of this and a lack of evidence, like Tom, Sakan was acquitted.

The state may appeal, but in the current climate this seems unlikely.