Dictatorship permeates universities

16 02 2018

We have previously posted on the takeover of university administrations by royalists and ant-democrats. The motivation for this concerted effort at control was to prevent students becoming political activists who challenge royalist and military regimes.

The most recent example of this reactionary administration comes from Khon Kaen University, often described as an island of yellow in a sea of red.

Despite two rulings by courts that the People Go/We Walk march should be unhindered, administrators have “denied a request to host an academic seminar on the last day of the ‘We Walk’ long march tomorrow…”. The administrators say this is “to protect the university’s reputation…”.

We guess they mean their reputation with the military dictatorship.

It is reported that the university administrators felt the need to “consult” with the military on their decision.





Another believe it or not story

13 02 2018

Skepticism alert! Whenever we see a report from the military dictatorship claiming it has busted political opponents with bombs, we are necessarily skeptical.

The most recent report in the Bangkok Post demands skepticism.

For one thing, the sudden “discovery” of a cache of bombs comes at a time when the junta is under great pressure, with the Deputy Dictator’s watch scandal, protesters appearing on several fronts and delays to (rigged) elections. Finding a “threat” just now is ever so convenient.

Then there’s a whole bunch of “coincidences” that seem just too lucky by half.

Pol Capt Somphot Suebwongsakon, duty investigator at Pak Kret police station said that the discovery of explosives was reported about 8.30pm on Monday evening by a condo cleaner who just happened to be working late.

This woman was cleaning the room for a new tenant. It was getting a new tenant because the existing tenant Kritchapol Poolsil, 53, a former soldier from Yala, who had rented the room for at least five years, “had not paid the rent,  electricity or water bills for so long the owner found a new tenant to replace him.

Police “found an untidy room with items scattered around it, including a bag sitting in one corner. The room appeared to have been unused for a long time.”

Inside that bag the police found an M26 grenade. They also located “four homemade ping-pong bombs, two small pipe bombs and more than 20 giant firecrackers.” More incriminating “evidence,” seen in television coverage, was a bunch of red shirts.

Then a remarkable bit of luck: “Around 10pm, police spotted a man walking in the direction of the room being searched suddenly turn back and walked away. When police followed him he began to run away.” After a very long time, Kritchapol suddenly showed up at his apartment!

Kritchapol was immediately “confessed” that the bombs were his and that he was “working for fugitive Wuthipong ‘Kotee’ Kochathamakun, a leader of a group of hard-line members of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) who is wanted for lese majeste.”

We had long believed that Thai commandos had abducted Ko Tee in Laos and “disappeared” him.

All in all this was a huge coincidence of luck for the regime!

It could all be true, but it just seems so unbelievable. An d the coincidences seem too convenient, just as The Dictator fumes about Thaksin and Yingluck and activists he identifies operating with “impure purposes,” seeking “to create conflicts, mistrust or unrest…”.

The junta has regularly  come up with arms and bomb finds, all linked to “red shirts.” Usually these finds just melt away after political advantage has been made.

Finding allegedly red shirt bombs associated with a (missing) republican opponent just seems really very convenient for the military dictatorship.





Further updated: Sparks beginning to fly

28 01 2018

Quite some time ago we said that, as in the past, the spark that lights a fire under Thailand’s military dictatorship might come from something quite unexpected.

We think we might have seen that spark and it may be two events that have begun to tip the political balance. One is Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury timepieces. It isn’t so much that he’s seemingly corrupt. After all the timid middle classes and the wealthy capitalist class “understand” corruption and it is a price they are ever willing to pay so long as they can continue to prosper. And, if the corrupt are “good” people, then it’s okay. What has led to a beginning of an unraveling of this political relationship is Prawit’s arrogance about his massive watch collection and the demonstration (so far) of cover-up and impunity. This taints the junta as self-serving, grasping and certainly not “good” people.

The second spark is the continual delay in the holding of an election that is neither free nor fair. The middle and capitalist classes were fully prepared to accept the junta’s manipulated constitution, its forcing of the constitutional referendum, the tinkering with the details, a senate that maintains military political dominance and human rights restrictions. However, as well as the political repression of the lower classes, they wanted something of a say in politics via that unfair election. By delaying numerous times, the junta is displaying arrogance and a craving for power “unsuited” to the middle and capitalist classes.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The peeling away of support even sees diehard yellow shirts, the boosters for the coups of 2006 and 2014, criticizing the military junta it bet on for turning back the lower class political tide. It also sees cracks appearing in the junta’s domination and control both in events and institutions. We have posted on the “We Walk” march and its court victory. Some of the NGOs involved in that event were those that were present at the birth of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in 2006. For some of those yellow shirts, there is disappointment in the regime for not doing sufficient political cleansing. More disappointment comes from the decisions by the junta to allow legal pursuit of PAD and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Such legal cases are not just a disappointment but construed as a betrayal.

In this context, the re-emergence of political protest is telling. First We Walk and now the student activists. It isn’t that these students haven’t pushed the junta before. In fact, they have been regular opponents, but they have faced numerous legal cases, arrests, abductions and so on. The Bangkok Post reports their most recent event this way:

The Democracy Restoration Group, led by Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat and Rangsiman Rome, posted on Facebook on Friday asking people who share the same views to join them at 5.30pm at the BTS skywalk near the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre.

Pathumwan police said they did not try to stop the campaign so long as it did not block traffic.

Around 100 people came to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre at 5.15pm while police stood by and took photos of the participants. Many of them showed the sign “Election 2018” or show its photo on their mobile phones.

Core leaders of the group took turns giving speeches.

Interestingly, the demonstrators emphasized not just elections but watches.

Update 1: A reader emailed us saying that we missed one of the most important bits of the linked Bangkok Post story. That reader is right that we should have specifically noted that the rally brought together stalwarts of both red and yellow shirts, with ultra-nationalist yellow shirt Veera Somkwamkid and red shirt iconoclast Sombat Boonngamanong. That is an unexpected alliance. Yet it is just this kind of unusual alliance that has underpinned anti-military movements in the past.

Update 2: An updated Bangkok Post report has more from Veera. He declared: “There are no colours right now…. It’s all about joining hands and removing corruption from the country.” He added: “The problem is we cannot rely on the government because they are in fact the ones who are not transparent.” The principal organizers, the New Democracy Movement declared “it will continue to pressure the government and Gen Prayut to dismiss Gen Prawit and to keep his promise to holding the election this year. They will gather again in the same spot on Feb 10.” Meanwhile, in Songkhla, “members of 19 civic organisations walked from Hat Yai municipality to Sena Narong army camp in Hat Yai to voice their grievances over several state projects in the South and to support the [People Go Network/We Walk group].”





Updates on two lese majeste cases

26 01 2018

Prachatai has reported on two lese majeste cases.

The first involves singer Tom Dundee or Thanat Thanawatcharanon.

A red shirt singer, Tom was sentenced in June 2016 in two lese majeste cases to a total of 20 years, reduced to 10 years and 10 months after he finally agreed to plead guilty to end cases that were dragging on interminably because he had refused to plead guilty. This has become the junta style in lese majeste cases and amounts to a travesty of justice and an infringement of basic legal rights. His cases were heard in secret, in closed courts.

In another twist in Thailand’s injustice system, it is reported that a” prosecutor in Ratchaburi has indicted a red-shirt country singer for lèse majesté, without giving prior notice to the suspect and his lawyer.” On 25 January 2018, Tom was “accused of making a speech deemed defamatory to the monarchy during a protest of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship — the redshirts.”

Apparently, this is an old case that Tom and his lawyers thought it had been dropped. As we have said before, lese majeste cases are seldom announced as dropped, but are held in abeyance and can be reactivated at any time.

With little notice, it seems the court urgently summoned Tom to appear. As a result, his “lawyer could not present at the court during the indictment.” Meanwhile Tom is held at Ratchaburi Prison.

In lese majeste cases, the injustice system never worries about things like rights under the law.

The second case involves Nurhayati  Masoh, a blind woman arrested some time in November 2016, accused of lese majeste. The 23 year-old unemployed Thai-Malay Muslim from Yala was convicted on 4 January 2018 and sentenced to three years in jail after she agreed to plead guilty.

In a bizarre twist to the case, it is reported that on 23 January, Nuruhayati’s relatives were told by an officer from Yala Provincial Court “that the convict was released on bail. The lawyer and her family confirmed that they did not know who is the bail guarantor or how much the bail cost.”

That her lawyers knew nothing of the bail application suggests something odd is going on and that someone very high up is involved.





Pressuring The Dictator

15 01 2018

2018 has begun in great style, with all kinds of people poking the dictators.

The Dictator is about to take another trip this week, this time to Mae Hong Son, saying it is “inspection trip.” Of course, it is more “election” campaigning, fully paid by the taxpayer. He leaves behind more attacks on the junta than we’ve seen for some time.

Without even saying much at all about the Deputy Dictator’s vast luxury watch collection, where even hardened yellow shirts are angry, the junta really wants to get this off the political agenda.

The Bangkok Post reports that red shirts have amped up, perhaps reminding The Dictator of his murderous past, with Nattawut Saikua turning up “at the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Friday to demand justice for victims of the deadly 2010 crackdown on protesters in 2010.” More than 90 died and thousands were injured.

Even the Democrat Party, which led the government that ordered the 2010 crackdowns, is poking the junta. Watchara Petthong said “he would seek action from the … [NACC] … against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha over what he alleged was malfeasance concerning ministers’ stock holdings.” He nominated foreign minister Don Pramudwinai as breaching rules.

Yellow and red shirts have almost come together in complaining about the junta’s failures, even if their reasons for this are located in different ideological and political locations.

And, political activists are rallying and campaigning against the junta’s efforts to embed its decrees.

This is just the warm up. The junta is going to cop plenty of political heat.





The junta’s “election” stitch up I

27 12 2017

The junta and The Dictator are working hard on what they assume will their “election” victory, whenever they decide to allow one. The campaign has been underway for a considerable time.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s provincial campaigning has continued. After a bit of a cock-up in the south, the junta managed to orchestrate things better in the northeast.

His most recent provincial trip was to Phitsanulok where his campaigning again involved animals. As reported, Prayuth conversed with an award-winning fighting cock. His message? “Don’t be scared of the NCPO…. The NCPO won’t be hard on you.”

Clipped from The Nation

Meanwhile, the junta is handing out goodies that are incentives for voters. The utilities bills that were a part of earlier elected regime’s and their election campaigns, and trashed as “populist,” are there for the poor.

For the middle class and the rich there are new tax deductions of up to 15,000 baht per taxpayer for taking a holiday. The Bangkok Post reports that:

Tax breaks for tourism spending in secondary provinces from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2018 will go before the cabinet today. The move is intended to distribute income to these provinces and make the recovery more broad-based.

How “populist” is that! A really cheap holiday thanks to the junta. (Remember to vote for their party!)

While the Democrat Party is disturbed by The Dictator’s use of Article 44, fearing that it will be decimated, that is indeed the junta’s aim. The party that has not been especially critical of Article 44 in the past:

will file a petition with the Constitution Court to determine if the latest National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order to extend deadlines required for political parties to follow under the Political Party Act is unconstitutional under the charter approved in last year’s referendum.

At the same time, the junta is busy stitching up the “independent” agencies that oversee politics and elections and enforce the rules. This bunch of junta puppets will now include “allowing unqualified anti-graft commissioners to continue working as members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission…”. The courts and independent agencies are likely to dance to the junta’s tune, now and into the future.

While all of this is going on, the political repression of red shirts continues unabated, seeking to silence and disintegrate this pro-Puea Thai Party coalition.

And when the junta decides to have its “election,” its puppet Constitution Drafting Committee has decided to make it illegal to criticize another candidate when campaigning for election. Goodness, the junta doesn’t want any of its candidates being criticized!

It’s a giant stitch up.





Heroes and villains II

24 12 2017

A recent Bangkok Post editorial chastised The Dictator for being unable to accept criticism.

Everyone knows that General Prayuth Chan-ocha gets testy when he feels criticized. As an army boss he’s long been immune to criticism as no one in that hierarchy would dare criticize a boss.

It falls to the Post to advise The Dictator “that the job of premier demands someone with a thick skin.” Quite remarkably, however, the Post thinks Prayuth may have gotten used to criticism and that, therefore, the junta’s “zeal for attacking a former Pheu Thai Party spokeswoman for her criticisms of the premier is all the more mysterious.”

Of course, it isn’t mysterious at all. The junta and The Dictator repeatedly go after critics they consider opponents of army, monarchy and regime. Political repression is an hourly and daily affair for the junta.

The Post actually know this for it says that The Dictator’s:

subordinates in the NCPO’s legal department are resorting to the extreme measure of charging Lt Sunisa Lertpakawat with sedition for Facebook posts taking Gen Prayut to task for fairly mundane transgressions … suggests the NCPO harbours a grievance against certain groups rather than assessing criticism on its merits.

Add in computer crimes and Sunisa is getting the standard repression doled out to political opponents, many of them associated with Puea Thai, Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirts.

The Post chastises the junta for attacking Sunisa with big charges when “Sunisa was exercising mere freedom of expression, a basic right guaranteed by the constitution.”

It might have praised her more for having the gumption to stand up to the villains when almost no one else dares.

But resorting to legal constitutionalism illustrates one of the core problems of current political commentary. The junta is a law unto itself but the commentariat seem to accept its laws, constitution, decrees, and “election” as legitimate when they are clearly not. The difference between heroes and villains is as clear as day.

As the military has demonstrated many times, constitutions count for nothing. Citing the junta’s constitution as “law” while the regime does anything it wants is silly and politically dumb.