Updated: No remembering allowed II

18 05 2017

Not so long ago we posted on the military junta’s continuing efforts to censor and repress, several times going into royalist overload, and to seek to “control” history.

We mentioned the political vandalism of the 1932 plaque, several other events the dictators think best forgotten and swept under a military tarpaulin. The protesters killed in April and May 2010 were also noted as something the military junta wants its own story to prevail.

The most recent example of the junta’s efforts to control the history of its murderous past are seen in a Prachatai report.

It begins:

Uniformed and plainclothes officers have fenced off a plaque commemorating a teenager shot seven years ago during the government’s crackdown on red shirt protesters, lurking on as loved ones commemorated the boy’s passing.

On the evening of 15 May 2017, family and friends gathered around a footpath along Bangkok’s Ratchaprarop road to remember Samaphan ‘Cher’ Srithep, who was shot there fatally seven years ago as authorities were dismantling the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (known as the ‘red shirts’). Samaphan was only 17 years old.

The junta’s thugs tried to fence off the area where Samaphan was shot. Following that “scores of both uniformed and plainclothes officers stayed to observe the commemoration event.” This “observation” was, in fact, just one more act of political intimidation.

Update: Khaosod reports that the junta remains determined to prevent any commemoration or remembrance of its murderous crackdown on red shirt protestors in May 2010. To prevent this, it closed public areas around Rajaprasong.





The Nation on latest lese majeste case(s)

11 05 2017

The Nation has an editorial on the latest lese majeste cases:

The monarchy will only suffer when so many dubious actions are carried out in its name
When the current crop of junta leaders came to power three years ago they made it a priority to go after violators of the lese majeste law. The high number of arrests since then shows how serious this military government is about it, but, as was clear enough even before the coup, protecting the monarchy is too often nothing more that an excuse for suppressing regime opponents.

Thus, when human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul was seen as suggesting that the limits of the lese majeste law be tested, the military wasted no time in silencing him. For more than a week he was held incommunicado until he and five others were charged on Monday with violating that very law.

Prawet was arrested at his home on April 29 and not seen in public again until Monday. The junta has long had an axe to grind with this defender of anti-junta red-shirt leaders. He also represented Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (“Da Torpedo”) before she was convicted on lese majeste charges.

It is a sad state of affairs when national leaders who claim to be defending or restoring democracy instead show disrespect for due process and a law solely intended to protect the monarchy. In fact their action places the monarchy in an unwanted spotlight, dragging it into the mundane realm of politics. The spike in the number of arrests carried out since the coup is no coincidence. It is part of a strategy. And the climate of fear that results further undermines Thailand’s international standing.

The United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia has reiterated a call for the government to stop arbitrarily detaining political activists and to release those now in custody. “I am concerned at the sharp increase in the use of the lese majeste law after the 2014 coup, with more than 70 people detained or convicted,” said acting regional representative Laurent Meillan.

The authorities seem heedless of the fact that their actions violate international conventions that Thailand is obliged to honour. Human Rights Commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit said Prawet’s arrest violated both the “human rights principle” and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It can “be considered a forced disappearance and illegal, because the officers arrested him [and took him] to an unknown place without notifying his family”. Angkana pointed out that, while the authorities can arrest anyone who commits illegal acts or harms national stability, forced disappearance is prohibited under any circumstances by the UN convention.

Five others were charged along with Prawet after allegedly sharing Facebook posts by Paris-based Thai historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul. The postings were supposedly about last month’s replacement of a historic marker in Bangkok’s Royal Plaza. The original plaque commemorated the 1932 revolution that ended absolute monarchy. It was replaced under mysterious circumstances with another that praises the monarchy and makes no reference to history.

The authorities had warned last month that anyone sharing Somsak’s social media posts would face legal action. Prawet et al fell victim, but it is Thailand’s government that’s suffering a self-inflicted wound to the foot.

We would point out that there are far more than 70 lese majeste cases. More than 100 cases. Readers are invited to look at our pages on these. If the junta has shot itself in the foot, that foot must have disintegrated by now.

What is hidden in this is who ordered and arranged the removal of the plaque. We have said enough on that, but the problem we think that faces the junta is that it has no choice but to cover up.





Unreal “reconciliation”

28 04 2017

We are slow to this post as a series of posts jumped ahead of it. Yet it remains significant.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that a “military-led panel on national unity … wrapped up two months of work gathering public opinion, paving the way for the drafting of a unity agreement which will be publicised in June.”

Now this is all a bit of a word puzzle. In fact, the panel is military-dominated, not military-led, the notion of national unity is the military junta’s idea of what “unity” looks like, and there was no gathering of public opinion. It was groups the military considered worth consulting and telling them what they should do.

To emphasize this, when the dictatorship’s minions held a the wrap-up meeting, it “was the first time participants” in the military’s “unity building process had met face to face since the opinion gathering process started on Feb 14.”

The anti-democrats let the meeting go by probably because they know that Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisat will draft the “unity agreement” and that this will fundamentally be anti-democratic, just like the “constitution.”

Interestingly, after the meeting, official red shirt advocate Nattawut Saikua “proposed a new constitution be drafted following a general election and be put up for a national referendum.” What a fine idea. Get rid of the anti-democratic charter.

(We continue to think that the notion of a referendum is daft, and note that it is only anti-democratic military and military-backed regimes that have used this idea.)

He also suggested “that a committee be set up to review and scrap the coup’s orders and announcements, saying laws should be be passed by parliament if any of those orders are necessary.”

Another good idea.

We are betting that neither of these make it into the Army and junta’s “agreement” (that is only subject to their “agreement.”





My heartfelt tribute to Mainueng, a great poet

25 04 2017

In Memoriam – a tribute to Mainueng

–  Narisara Viwatchara

วันที่ 23 เมษายนเป็นวันครบรอบสามปีที่ นักกวีเอก ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที นักต่อสู้เพื่อประชาธิปไตย ที่ถูกสังหารชีวิตอย่างป่าเถื่อนเลือดเย็นโดยการบงการจากเผด็จการกลุ่มใดกลุ่มหนึ่งที่ครองอำนาจอันป่าเถื่อนในประเทศไทยมาเป็นเวลาช้านาน ดิฉันแน่ใจว่าบาปนี้จะต้องมีการชำระสักวันหนึ่งค่ะ และจนถึงบัดนี้ตำรวจก็ยังจับผู้กระทำผิดไม่ได้

ในโอกาสนี้ดิฉันจึงเขียนบทความเป็นภาษาอังกฤษสดุดีและไว้อาลัยด้วยความคารวะอย่างสุดซึ้งต่อการจากไปของนักต่อสู้ ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที มาณโอกาสนี้ค่ะ

My Heartfelt Tribute to Mainueng, A Great Poet

On April 23, 2017, it’s the third anniversary of the untimely death of  Kamol Duangphasuk, widely known among Thailand’s Red Shirt activists as “Mainueng Kor Kunthee.” (ไม้หนึ่ง ก. กุนที)

He was assassinated by an unidentified gunman who approached his car and shot at him five times at close range in a restaurant parking lot in northern Bangkok.

The assassin escaped on a motorcycle. Mainueng, whose pen name (ไม้หนึ่ง) means “Wood One” –to be passed on — was hit twice in the chest and died later in a hospital.  His death came one month before the military coup that locked down Thai society,  abolished parliamentary democracy and took away from the rural poor a voice in society. In doing so, the coup leaders, headed by Prayuth Chan-ocha, have restored the elites to their accustomed but hardly justified place in Thai Society.

Mainueng strongly opposed the 2006 military coup and the subsequent crackdown on critics of the monarchy. He took part in many rallies of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). He was also very active in the campaign against Article 112 of the Penal Code, the  lèse majesté law, which has been widely used to criminalize free expression and imprison writers, journalists, academics and publishers. His murder is one of a string of violent attacks on activists.

His poems were published in a number of magazines including the prestigious Matichon Weekly in the 1990s. His poetry had a hard political edge, enough to make him a target of a pseudo-vigilante group known as the Rubbish Collection Organization that threatened publicly to hunt down opponents of the monarchy, describing them as trash.

Mainueng was not just a democracy activist, he was bright and visionary. He had been at the forefront of the Red Shirt and civil rights movements. He risked his life on many occasions by speaking of injustices in Thai society in which the elite enjoy privileges they believe to be granted from heaven while the poor have always been at rock bottom. He had received prior requests and warnings from the Royal Thai Army to stop his activities in pursuit of democracy and free speech.

His poetry depicted the causes and effects of the political situation and the plight of the poor under the watchful eyes of Thai dictators. He was popular for his direct poetic style and for articulating strong political messages. His poems call for social justice, the rights of the rural poor and for challenging the forces of oppression.

His style of poetry writing was unique and outstanding, not always conforming to the rules of Thailand’s traditional upper-class poetry. Rather he used his own mind and the free flow of thought in telling of the everyday life story in a simple way. Some of his poems were terse and on target, equivalent to that of Japanese Haiku, which seeks to pack the maximum amount of meaning into the fewest possible words.

Because of Mainueng’s outspoken public speaking and poetry, Thai authorities, particularly from the Rubbish Collection Organization headed by a mean-spirited doctor and army general, Riengthong Nannah, put a price on his head.  Although it has never been confirmed, democracy advocates believe this organization declared open war on them at its launch in 2013 and was responsible for Maineung’s brutal death.

The rubbish collection organization, which, reportedly, has received funding from the military and/or the untouchable, has offered rewards to urge people to inform them of any anti-monarchy or anti-lese majeste activities. Those who are not staunch supporters of the royal family and the monarchy are targets. Many of us have gone into exile rather than face prison.

Mainueng came from an ordinary Thai family. He put himself through college like many students from the impoverished Northeast. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts while working part time doing odd jobs. Throughout his college years, he witnessed dictatorial behavior of many of his employers and thus he stated to himself in his various writings that he had to do something about change for a better society. He saw the democracy movement and politics as one of the ways for such a change.

With the third anniversary of his assassination, I wish to translate one of his most heartfelt political poems:

“Worship the free spirit and the courageous Red Shirts
Worship ordinary folks who dare to challenge the dictator
Worship the enlightened who escaped from the cult
Never ever worship those who tell you to live like the dust under the feet.*”

———————————-
*Dust under the feet (ฝุ่นใต้ตีน)” is a reference to ordinary people with no royal  lineage.





Elections vs. the patronage system

11 04 2017

The Puea Thai Party may think it has a chance of doing well in an election, even if it is the junta’s “election.” We have serious doubts that they could win another election under the junta’s rules. Even if they did, the junta’s constitution will stymie them as a government.

In line with their faith in electoral democracy, the Puea Thai Party has demanded a “general election early next year, revocation of ‘unconstitutional’ orders of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] and freedom to express opinions about legislation.”

Somewhat oddly, at least in our view, the party sees the “promulgation of the 2017 constitution last Thursday started a process to restore democracy…”. We see it as the beginning of a period of military-backed government.

Meanwhile, the enemies of electoral democracy met with General Prem Tinsulanonda, the President of the Privy Council. The now frail Prem beamed as he accepted the obeisance of some members of the junta (who was missing?), cabinet members, military commanders-in-chief, the national police chief and other top officials.

General Prem “wished Prime Minister [General] Prayut Chan-o-cha success in his handling of the country’s administration and advised him not to be discouraged by problems he has encountered.” For the grand old political meddler, “success” involves “returning happiness” to “the Thai people.”

The Dictator was puffed up and proud, praising General Prem, “who he said was a role model for everyone in the country in terms of loyalty to the nation, religion and the monarchy.”

Readers will be amused to learn that The Dictator “presented a vase of flowers and a basket of gifts to Gen Prem, who in return distributed a CD on the tribute to the late King … and a book of prayer to everyone present.”

Just the thing for men who were responsible for the attacks on red shirt demonstrators seven years ago to the day that eventually left scores dead and thousands injured.

Meanwhile, it seems that Prayuth has decided that as The Dictator, he deserves Prem-like obeisance. He will “open Government House on April 12 for cabinet members, members of the National Council for Peace and Order, armed forces commanders and other officials to perform a rod nam dam hua [water-pouring] ceremony for him to mark the Songkran Festival.”

The juxtaposition of these political positions is defining of Thailand’s political present and indicative of its futures.





Nothing changed II

7 04 2017

And how’s that promised “election” coming along?

The Nation reports that “Deputy Prime Minister [Deputy Dictator] and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said the controls [on political parties] might stay in place because the country’s political situation has not yet settled down.”

There’s a novel idea: “elections” without parties or their campaigning. Maybe voting can be done with blindfolds on and throwing darts at a giant target with “junta” written on it.

Prawit reflected that: “Things are still not alright now. We want more time and we want all the parties to help. Do not make trouble or it will be more difficult for us to make a decision…”.

We wonder if he’s thinking about that tiny but convenient bomb? Or perhaps that “assassination plot” for which no substantive evidence has been produced? Or the rusty bunch of weapons “seized” from red shirts that became a sparkling bunch of newer weapons after the military had the “suspects” and “evidence” for a while? Or maybe Wat Dhammakaya, although that all seems back to “junta normal.”

Prawit declared: “I’m responsible for security issues. I need time to work on this and everyone should cooperate with us too…. It’s not going to work if things are stirred up like this.”

Translated that means the junta will decided when to hold its “election” and who will “win.” That’s the way it has been since the coup.





Updated: All about the law II

2 04 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey gives some credit to the judiciary – the Central Administrative Court – for having ruled that “the military junta’s moves to take away the three passports held by the former Education Minister, Chaturon Chaisang, was a ‘serious violation’ of …[Chaturon’s] fundamental rights…”.

But he goes way, way too far when he states that the “judiciary is making great strides in bringing about fairness in society…”.

Thailand’s judiciary and its legal processes are somewhere between a joke and feudal. PPT has spent a considerable amount of space highlighting repeated failures and while we don’t expect Pandey to be a regular reader, surely he reads his own newspaper.

On the same day when he is full of praise for the judiciary and its “strides in bringing about fairness,” his colleague Alan Dawson lambasts elements of the judicial system and its double standards.

You might say that the judges are not the whole system, and that’s true, with Pandey slamming elements of it. However, there are now hundreds of cases that have gone to court in recent years that have seen judges fail all reasonable tests of fairness. Think of the scores of lese majeste cases, several cases we mentioned in a previous post, cases against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, cases making coups legitimate, a judicial coup, cases against red shirts (and not against yellow shirts), allowing torturers to go free and many, many more.

Being honest, we think the judicial system is now broken beyond repair. We have royalists, the military, the palace and the judges themselves to blame for this sad state of affairs.

Update: A reader puts us onto another Bangkok Post story, where the headline is, NCPO urges Thaksin to stop ‘distorting the truth’. The junta says:

“Mr Thaksin [Shinawatra] should stop harming the country, show restraint and stop distorting information. If Mr Thaksin calls for justice from society, Mr Thaksin should give justice to society, too,” the NCPO spokesman said.

The junta demands that Thaksin stop harming Thailand. Yet it is the junta that distorts truth. It has done so for years now. And, if the junta demands the legal system for Thaksin, how about themselves? Why is it that Section 113 of the Criminal Code doesn’t apply to this bunch of thugs?

Section 113: Whoever, commits an act of violence or threatens to commit an act of violence in order to:

  1. Overthrow or change the Constitution;
  2. Overthrow the legislative power, the executive power or the judicial power of the Constitution, or nullify such power; or
  3. Separate the Kingdom or seize the power of administration in any part of the Kingdom, is said to commit insurrection, and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.