Two new articles

25 08 2019

There are two new and interesting articles by academics to add to our recent listing.

One is by James Buchanan at New Mandala. In “Is the era of ‘Red versus Yellow’ over in Thailand?” the author seeks to present an understanding of how politics has changed (or not) in recent years. We find his argument quite convincing. However, there has been some negative response on social media, suggesting that observers of Thailand’s post-coup politics are splintering. Helpfully, this article also has a Thai version: ยุคของ “แดง ปะทะ เหลือง” ในประเทศไทยจบแล้วจริงหรือ?

Another article is by Kevin Hewison at the Journal of Contemporary Asia. His abstract states:

This article provides an account of the upper echelons of Thailand’s capitalist class. Based on an analysis of the Forbes data on Thailand’s wealthiest for the period 2006–2019, it analyses the 30 families and groups that have dominated these rankings over this period. The article compares how the growth of this group’s wealth has outpaced other measures of how Thailand’s economy has grown over this period. The article also compares this Forbes-ranked group with the upper reaches of the Thai capitalist class in 1980, assessing wealth and investment between the most important capitalist groups in 1980 and those in the Forbes rankings for 2006–2019. It finds considerable consistency within this category, in both periods and over time.

The article is behind a paywall. However, as we have stated previously, authors are generally willing to help out with copies for those without access.





Red shirts engaged in political struggle

15 08 2019

Khaosod reports that the Court of First Instance has acquitted 24 red shirt leaders of terrorism charges related to protests in 2010.

Most significantly, in its ruling, the Court “stated that the Redshirt leaders engaged in ‘a political struggle and not an act of terrorism’.” However, one of the defendants, Weng Tojirakarn, said that “the prosecutor will likely appeal the lower court’s decision.

In fact, it was state officials who have been found by several courts to be responsible for most of the murders that took place in April and May 2010. Independent reports tend to agree.

Those who ordered the bloody crackdowns in 2010 – Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban – got off (but have been ruthlessly punished by voters) and their eager military accomplices murdered with impunity, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Anupong Paojinda.





Judicial politicization

26 07 2019

Thailand’s courts have long been pretty hopeless. In this century they have become highly politicized, with judges doing their “duty” as royalists.

In yet another example of this politicization of the judiciary, The Nation reports that in a trial that began in 2015, the Criminal Court has “acquitted four key members of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee on insurrection charges.” It might be defunct, but as the cheerleaders for the 2014 military coup and for the current military-backed regime, it gets credit and protection from the royalist establishment.

The court acquitted found Sonthiyan Chuenruethainaitham, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong and the bewigged Seri Wongmontha of a huge list of charges “related to the Bangkok Shutdown protests against the Yingluck [Shinawatra] government from May 23 2013 to May 1 2014.” They were:

charged by public prosecutors with insurrection, inciting public disturbances, unlawful gathering, gathering in a group of more than 10 persons to use arms to cause disturbances and to harm others, inciting the public to stop working to pressure the government, and unlawful entries of government offices and others’ properties….

The four defendants were charged with violating Articles 113, 116, 117, 209, 210, 215, 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code and with obstructing the holding of an election by the Election Commission and thus violating Articles 76, 152, and 8 of the 2007 election act. The public prosecutors filed charges against the four in the court in 2014.

With the boss (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Of course, these four were all heavily and publicly involved in the actions that led to the charges. Readers will know that hundreds of red shirts have been convicted and jailed of similar charges. The double standards are obvious and perennial.

The court’s “reasoning” for the acquittals on the spurious “grounds that while they joined the PDRC-led protests against the Yingluck government, they were not leaders who gave orders to the protesters.” All of them were close to the anti-democrat leadership and appeared on the PDRC stages, urging protesters to engage in illegal action. They denied this and the court agreed.

In addition:

The court also cited a ruling by the Constitutional Court on case number of 59/2556 to acquit the four. The Constitutional Court ruled that the PDRC demonstrators had constitutional rights based on Article 63 of the then charter to demonstrate out of dissatisfaction with the Yingluck administration enacting an amnesty law to try to whitewash former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As far as we are aware, no such decision has been applied to red shirts.

Suthep Thaugsuban and other anti-democrats were in the court to cheer the decision.

The Bangkok Post reports that 28 other anti-democrats face similar charges.

Meanwhile, as reported at The Nation, the politicized Constitutional Court seems to be preparing for its decisions that will likely go against the Future Forward Party and its leaders.

 

It has “warned that critics of its rulings could face prosecution for contempt of court if they unfairly attack its judgments or use expletives in public comments.”

The court warned that under junta-enacted law, “criticism of the court should be done in an honest manner, with no use of expletives or sarcastic or vengeful language. This provision also refers to comments made on the Internet or in social media…”.

The court has stated that it “will enforce this law as much as it is necessary in order to ensure justice in an efficient and fair manner…”. In other words, it is prepared to jail those who disagree with the court;s politicized verdicts.





Updated: Trading justice

26 06 2019

Thailand’s judicial system has been in terrible trouble since at least 2006, when the previous king pushed judges to the center of political conflict. Since then, several courts have been delivering politicized decisions, not least the Constitutional Court.

One of the most blatant cases of this political use of the judicial system seems to be the recent decision by the Office of the Attorney-General that red shirt turncoat and political opportunist Suporn  Atthawong, once known as Rambo Isan, “could not be brought to hear an indictment at the Pattaya court…”. According to the Office of the Attorney-General, the statute of limitations had expired.

The charges went back to the invasion of the ASEAN summit in Pattaya in 2009.

Startlingly, this statute of limitations did not apply to his co-accused red shirts. One of them, Nattawut Saikua, is cited in the report:

Nuttawut, a co-defendant in the Pattaya case, wrote on Facebook he was impressed by the “miracle of law” which let only Mr Suporn walk free.

“I don’t have any problem if he is let off the hook because we red shirts have faced many more charges than others. But the statute of limitations expired? This is hard to swallow.

“I’m only saddened by the miracle of law and the judicial process,” he wrote.

There were rumours that making lawsuits disappear was used as a tool to lure former MPs to join a new party. “I wonder if there is a shred of truth in this case, “ he continued.

In that last comment, Nattawut is referring to the offers that were allegedly made to former Thaksin Shinawatra supporters to defect to the junta’s proxy party, to assist in mobilizing voters and to work against former allies. It was claimed that not just money changed hands in such dealing, but legal favors as well. Justice is a commodity for trade for the junta.

Update: Khaosod reports that “[p]olice commanders … declined to explain why they failed to arrest a pro-junta politician before insurrection charges against him expired.”

Chonburi police commander Nanthachart Supamongkol, whose was tasked with apprehending Suporn, used a royal excuse!: “Nanthachart said he was busy attending an event to honor King Rama X,” and told reporters to ask someone else. We are sure General Prawit knows the answer. Deals were done.





Weapons usually mean trouble

8 06 2019

When weapons get into the news, it is usually about danger: the danger that the military junta is throwing even more taxpayer loot at the military or that more people have been shot down, with impunity. But for the military junta, when a cache of arms is suddenly “found,” it usually means that there’s a plan to arrest political opponents.

The junta has a long track record of “finding” weapons, blaming opponents, making arrests and then, nothing….

We makes these point because yet another “cache” of war weapons has been “discovered,” under water – several of the finds in recent years have been under water. One report states “a massive weapon discovery in the irrigation canal in Ban Khanoon Nuea village of tambon Sano in Khukhan district of Si Sa Ket,” and that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “comprehensive checks for illegal weapons.” This cache included “27 rocket-propelled grenades, 24 rounds of ammunition for M79 grenade launchers, 700 bullets of AKA assault rifles and 48 detonation caps.”

Clipped from The Nation

But then the story gets odd indeed, with some very strange statements made by senior officials, suggesting that they are concocting and up to no good.

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Srivara Ransibhramanakul stated that “the arms were brand-new and ready for use.” He added that he believed the “weapons were similar to those earlier seized from a hardcore red-shirt activist group…”. In another report, Pol Maj General Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk, deputy forensic police office chief, stated that the weapons “had been used dozens of times during the 2010-2014 political demonstrations…”.

Should we assume he is quoted out of context and what he means is that weapons like those found were used back then? Or is he concocting a story? After all, bombs can hardly be re-used. They are used and that’s the end of them. But no, this report refers to “M-79 and AK-47 rifles, 21 RPG grenades and 70 grenades for 40-mm grenade launchers.” The problem is that none of the photos in these reports show other than grenades and ammunition.

Maj Gen Akaradet Boonthiam, deputy chief of the 2nd Army, said “the weapons were found in a border area which was once a battlefield during a civil war in the neighbouring country. The discovered weapons were from that period, about 40 years ago…”. Was he not in on the police claims?

So what trouble is brewing from the regime? Who is going to be arrested this time? What has caused the regime to get jittery and in need of a “threat”?





Weaponized “law”

6 06 2019

According to a report at the Bangkok Post a few days ago, police are considering yet another political attack on Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as if it is a legal case.

We at PPT well understand that law has become deeply politicized and even weaponized in the junta’s Thailand, but this “case” is among the most egregious abuses of the law seen in recent days.

(Weaponizing law is a widely-used tactic by rightist authoritarian regimes.)

The police are apparently considering “a petition calling for a probe against … Thanathorn … and two others for allegedly offending late statesman Prem Tinsulanonda via social media.”

This crazy idea seems to be that it was not the dead Prem who was “offended” but his acolytes and posterior polishers.

The “complaint” comes from the founder of the virtually unknown junta-supporting New Alternative Party’s founder Rachen Trakulwiang.

Rachen’s royalist and military proxy party was “the first newly registered political party to receive the junta’s approval to convene meetings” back before the junta’s “election.” Then, The Nation reported on Rachen’s rightist-royalist background:

Rachen first came to the public’s attention as president of the Federation of Thai Defenders of the Monarchy. In 2011, he led a campaign against a group seeking to amend the lese majeste law in Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He has also filed complaints with police against several red-shirt leaders accused of insulting the monarchy.

In late 2013, Rachen joined anti-government street rallies organised by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), describing himself as a PDRC leader from Nonthaburi, his home province. Rachen also joined monk Phra Buddha Isara, a key PDRC leader, to organise a rally at Government Complex, but later withdrew from the effort.

Rachen has subsequently ended his role as a PDRC leader while continuing his role as president of the Federation of Thai Defenders of the Monarchy. He decided to enter politics two years ago and eventually turned the federation into the New Alternative Party.

In his most recent attack on his political opponents, Rachen barked that he “was referring to posts that he claimed were attacks on Gen Prem…”.

In filing his complaint, it seems Rachen has concocted yet another royalist “group” to allow him to propound rabid royalism:

“Gen Prem was a representative of the King. We should treat him with respect,” said Mr Rachen as his group Khon Rak Pa (“People Who Love Pa”, the nickname of Gen Prem).

Perhaps inadvertently, Rachen linked himself with other thugs by making similarly ridiculous but threatening “complaints” about other he opposes:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, an anti-coup activist who chairs the Student Union of Thailand, and Suphraiphon Chuaichu, a losing Puea Chat Party election candidate for Bangkok’s Bang Khunthian district.

Rachen whined that “he suspected their alleged insults could be the start of attempts to destroy the Privy Council and the military.”He threatened: “We can’t accept that and will never let it happen…”.

PPT suspects that Rachen and his ilk will be used by the junta’s revamped regime to “protect” it as it seeks to “govern” in a polarized political environment. Its threats and the weaponizing of law will be used to undermine and silence critics. It’s an old military strategy, primed by ISOC, to support its governments.





Threats and assaults

28 05 2019

Two recent reports in Prachatai point to the continuing assaults and threats against two political activists.

These threats and repeated assaults against Akechai Hongkangwarn and Anurak Jeantawanich are punishment for their anti-junta activism and are meant to be seen by other activists as a warning of what can happen to them if they are outspoken.

That the assaults have occurred multiple times, usually with the same modus operandi, and with impunity suggest that the attacks have approval at high levels.

In one Prachatai report, an assault on Anurak (aka Ford) by “6 men [who] rode 2 motorcycles…”. Red shirt activist Anurak required hospital treatment. He was required to stay in hospital for a couple of days.

The assault took place as “he was leaving his house to join a demonstration at the Telephone Organization of Thailand, the temporary venue for meetings of the House of Representatives.” That protest was “against the political system rigged in the junta’s favour.”

Anurak was reportedly “hit on the head with a metal pipe, leaving a wound 5-mm deep” and requiring stitching. He had other injuries to his head and limbs.

Meanwhile, Akechai is reported by Prachatai to have claimed that “Someone has ordered me dead.” This anonymous warning also told him to leave Thailand.

This might be considered alarmist if it were not for two facts. First, Akechai has been attacked and beaten seven times and, second, activists have been disappeared and killed in recent times.

Nothing has been done by the authorities about threats and attacks. One reason for this lack of attention to repeated assaults would be that the authorities themselves are involved in the crimes. Akechai was even assaulted at a court!

As the political climate becomes more unstable in future months, expect the junta/”new” regime to become increasingly repressive and combative.