Evil and threatening

20 02 2017

The anti-coal protest has been seen off by the junta. In the end, it became a kind of political bonding exercise. Double standards proliferated throughout.

The other confrontation has been the 4,000 police and soldiers raiding Wat Dhammakaya. PPT has posted a bit on this case previously and why it has been so central for the junta and for the broad yellow shirt movement.

For the junta and its supporters, the perceived connection to the Shinawatra political clan seems to have been the underlying motivation.

What is not at all clear to PPT is why a wealthy temple, supported mainly by Bangkok’s middle class is politically associated with red shirts and Thaksinites, but the wealth of the temple certainly worries the junta, which continues to operate on the assumption that money motivates all political positions other than those of the great, the good and the royalists.

We do understand that Thaksin and his elected regimes were considered a threat to monarchy and thus nation, so perhaps throwing in the third element of the royalist and nationalist trilogy – religion – is a way of further conveying the royalist notion that Thaksin was an evil threat to the very core of the royalist nation.

In this context, we thought that readers might be interested in the views of a dedicated anti-Thaksinista on the evil threat posed by the temple, its monks and its followers.

Veera Prateepchaikul declares:

The real objective of the operation, I believe, is to clamp down on the temple, to strangle the Dhammakaya cult until it is no longer active and does not pose a threat to Buddhism for its distorted Buddhist teachings.

We can’t imagine what “real Buddhism” constitutes for Veera. Not the almost daily scandals of monks drinking alcohol, drug taking, engaging in sexual predation, gambling, high living and so on of official and hierarchical Buddhism. Perhaps he is thinking of that other “cult,” Santi Asoke so close to the yellow shirt movement? He goes on:

More importantly, the trial of Phra Dhammajayo — if there is one — is not the trial of the monk as an individual. It can also be seen as a trial of our own monastic order for its failure to rein in the monk and for its complacency that allowed the monk and his sect to grow so strong they can defy the state and the monastic order with impunity. This does not mean there are no other rogue monks who have misbehaved, but they were deemed a lesser threat than Phra Dhammajayo and the Dhammakaya cult….

Wat Phra Dhammakaya is more than a temple. It qualifies as an empire. Besides the main headquarters in Pathum Thani … [i]t has spread its wings to reach out to the world with meditation centres overseas and across the country, most of which encroach on forest reserves or parks.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya branched out in a similar fashion that a business branches out to get a bigger share of the market.

For the cult, its goal is to attract a bigger following and spread its adulterated Buddhist gospel to encourage its followers to make donations under the slogan that the bigger the amount of the donations, the higher the plane to heaven for the donors.

What the preachers didn’t tell their gullible followers is that some of them may find hell in this life before they may or may not go to heaven in the after-life….

Phra Dhammajayo and the Dhammakaya cult are just one major problem that poses a threat to Buddhism in this country.

We get the feeling that nation, religion and monarchy are under threat. But it isn’t a threat from the Thaksinites as much as from the forces that surround military dictatorship. Conservative forces that seek to maintain feudal and hierarchical institutions of (let’s say) the mid-20th century in a society that has changed.

Winding back the clock to some perceived “simpler”, “purer” and “better” time for the old heads and old men doesn’t mean that their clock isn’t broken. That their “model” (and clock) is broken is their biggest worry and their problem. Thaksin and his supporters heralded the royalist problem, they didn’t create it.





Palace problems

17 02 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that the police were investigating “encroachment of forest land in Thap Lan National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima allegedly committed by former deputy national police chief Jumpol Manmai and two other suspects.”

The details are in the report.

But, the report did not say much about Jumpol. As Jumpol is known as a “special” policeman and official, this is odd.jumpol

However, Khaosod, after a delay, has reported some of the truth. It’s report is headlined: “Grand Chamberlain Investigated for Land Encroachment.” The story begins:

A man who at the height of his career served in the innermost circle of the royal palace is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Jumpol Manmai, a former deputy police commissioner and palace grand chamberlain, is accused of building a luxury mansion in a national park without permission, police announced earlier this week. The news came as a shock to many because he is said to be one of the closest confidantes of … the King.

The report adds that the police are “tight-lipped.” We guess this is because they don’t quite know what to do and how to deal with the case. It isn’t clear to them what’s happening.

In fact, no one is clear. Has Jumpol fallen out with the prince. Vajiralongkorn has a penchant for destroying those who fall out with him. Yet Jumpol only became Grand Chamberlain in September 2016.

Another possibility, and this is startling, is that someone is going after the king. Perhaps a delayed succession crisis?

Back to what is known. Deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul is quoted as saying the investigation is a “confidential matter.” He added: “All of the details are in the case file, I cannot talk about them right now.”

It is also reported that “the authorities” told the media “not to report about Jumpol’s case before the police made official statements.”

It was Thai Rath that “broke ranks and briefly posted a story about Jumpol’s mansion in Thap Lan National Park and a possible police investigation into the alleged intrusion Friday afternoon before deleting it without explanation an hour later.”

Jumpol has quite a history. For one thing, after being sidelined as a Thaksinite following the 2006 military coup, he was back by 2009. This is what Khaosod says:

A policeman by trade, Jumpol is better known as a well-connected political player with links to both former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the influential tycoon-turned-politician and de facto leader of the Redshirt movement, and the traditional establishment.

While he served as deputy police commissioner, Jumpol was considered for the top job at the police force in 2009, but did not make the final cut.

He’s considered by many political analysts to be a rare figure who can serve as a liaison between the Shinawatra clan and the palace circle.

After retiring from the force in 2010, Jumpol came back to the limelight in September when he was appointed deputy director of the Royal Household Bureau, a title also known as the Grand Chamberlain.

The job appeared to be tailor-made for him; the title of deputy director in the royal household did not exist prior to Jumpol’s appointment.

There’s more than this. Jumpol was rumored to be the then prince’s “candidate” for police chief back in 2009, which saw a major standoff with then premier Abhisit Vejjajiva. One result of this crisis was the resignation of secretary-general to PM Abhisit, Nipon Promphan, related by marriage to Suthep Thaugsuban.

Wikileaks has several cables that tell various elements of the police chief saga and the rumors of links between Jumpol and Thaksin: 21 Sept 2009, 24 Sept 2009, 28 Sept 2009, 6 Oct 2009.





As we said… a junta ruse

7 02 2017

Just a couple of days ago PPT posted on the sudden revelations of “death threats” to The Dictator and Deputy Dictator and their claims that the “assassination” social media posts came from red shirt, republicans “overseas.”

We speculated that the claims were whiffy and suggested to us a plot by the junta to go to the Lao government with “crimes” against the anti-monarchists that did allow extradition. (Lese majeste is not covered by the current extradition treaty.)

As the Bangkok Post reports, that speculation turns out to be pretty accurate.

The junta has determined that “Thai people who fled to Laos to escape lese majeste changes have issued the death threats against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon…”,

That’s according to National Security Council chief General Thawip Netniyom.

We can add at this point in the discussion that General Thawip was appointed only a little over a week ago “to seek a meeting with Laotian officials and work out a deal, which could include the exchange of people sought by each country.”So we can assume, if our speculation is good, that it is General Thawip who has come up with this “brilliant” plot.

So it is no surprise that Thawip says “up to six” Thais in Laos are involved. That’s probably the six he was told to get.

And, of course, “Gen Thawip plans to visit Laos to follow up on the government’s extradition request…”. He adds, “[d]eath threats against important people could lead to another criminal charge.”

Of course they are, whether real or concocted.





The political story of men in black

6 02 2017

Despite courts finding differently, the military has never admitted to killing red shirt protesters in 2010.

The military and the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime-cum-Democrat Party repeatedly blamed a mysterious group of armed men in black who they claimed mingled with protesters and shot down soldiers.

We say “mysterious” because despite claims and arrests, as far as PPT can recall, no alleged man in black has been convicted of murder.

There are photos of balaclava-wearing men with weapons during the events of April and May 2010, but precious few, although each of them is circulated again and again on yellow-shirted and anti-democratic social media.snipers

This lack of evidence is surprising given the number of reporters covering events, the rewards offered and the military and the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime claiming there were perhaps dozens and maybe hundreds of men in black.

PPT doesn’t doubt that there were some red shirts who took up arms to fight against the vast firepower superiority of the military and police, including the use of snipers. However, if there were large and organized forces, it is remarkable that the evidence is so very thin.

Thailand PoliticsYet, Abhisit once claimed “that the loss of lives occurred because the men in black attacked troops.” He added that his troops could not disengage because “they were surrounded by black-shirt fighters.” And, the current regime’s bosses have repeatedly blamed men in black for the deaths, saying soldiers were innocent.

Hence, getting a conviction against red shirts claimed to be men in black is important for the royalist elite’s narrative on the murders of 2010.

This is why the reaction to the recent Criminal Court sentencing of two “men in black” to 10 years in jail by the junta was ebullient.

The Nation reported that the “recent court verdict … has confirmed claims that armed ‘men in black’ were among the red-shirt protesters.”

That the convictions were for possession and carrying weapons rather than anything more serious and that three others were acquitted for lack of evidence seems tangential rather than central.

mib

The Nation continues:

Politically speaking, the court ruling proved the existence of armed men among red-shirt protesters. Government spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the verdict, which came after a trial lasting years, could help refute the claim by political groups that soldiers opened fire at one another, which led to the deaths of many people in the dramatic April 2010 clashes.

In fact, the “trial” has not gone on for “years,” as these “suspects” were only arrested and paraded by the police a couple of months after the 2014 coup. The first set of charges failed and the prosecutors tried again.

Sansern went further: “That means the claim by some political group that the demonstration on April 10, 2010, was peaceful and unarmed proved to go against the truth. They seemed to distort the facts…”.

In fact, it is Sansern and the military that have distorted the facts, and their impunity continues with those primarily responsible now holding power as a junta.

Even The Nation states, on this case,

However, in the court verdict the convicted men were not clearly identified as assailants in the deadly shootings in April 2010. None of the five defendants in that case were charged with murder. So, nobody has been punished for the deadly shootings.

Unaccountably, it adds: “Certainly, a lot of armed men in black responsible for shooting at protesters and military officers taking part in the crackdown have escaped punishment.”

Evidence? None. Except for a claim that “public prosecutors accused 24 people of being involved in acts of terrorism. The defendants include UDD leaders, red-shirt guards and politicians from the Pheu Thai Party.”

That the courts have identified the military as responsible for dozens of murders seems to be forgotten….





Red, black and yellow

1 02 2017

Thailand’s “justice” system continues to work on political cases that the military junta has pursued.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced two ‘men in black’ to 10 years in jail for having in possession and carrying weapons during the 2010 red-shirt political violence while acquitting three others due to lack of evidence.”

The five were arrested and paraded by the police a couple of months after the 2014 coup. The police dressed the detainees in a kind of MiB uniform of black clothing, red armbands and ribbons, forcing them to wear balaclavas.  It then made the detainees “re-enact” alleged “crimes,” including taking them to the streets and having them pose with grenade launchers and assault weapons. (Our earlier posts are here, here and here.)

mib

The five defendants are “Kittisak Soomsri, Chamnan Phakeechai, both 49, and a 43-year-old woman, Punika Chusri. The other two are Preecha Yuyen, 28,… and Ronnarit Suricha, 37…”.

The prosecution alleged that:

the five defendants and other suspects who are still at large or died carried weapons, ammunition and explosive devices such as M79 grenade launchers, M16 and HK33 assault rifles at Khok Wua intersection and on Tanao Road and Prachathipatai Road in Bangkok on April 10, 2010 when security forces clashed with the red-shirt protesters at the intersection. Five soldiers and 21 civilians died, including a Reuters journalist.

In the court, Kittisak and Preecha were convicted on charges of being armed without licenses. Earlier terrorism charges were dropped. The two received sentences of eight years in jail for having weapons and explosives and two years for carrying firearms in public places without permission.

The court heard witnesses and considered evidence that “Kittisak, the first defendant, played a role in supplying weapons to the protest site held by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on April 10 [2010].”

His sister told the court she saw Kittisak with a black bag with a rifle barrel coming out of the top “in a room.” He then took the bag and left for the red shirt protest. Another witness was a soldier who stated that he saw “a rifle inside the slowly moving van when Kittisak opened its door near Democracy Monument.” Another report has the soldier saying Kittisak had the rifle in his arms.

Kittisak claimed “he was tortured by authorities to confess but the court found his arguments groundless.”

As for Preecha, the court heard testimony from two plainclothes police officers. They said they:

saw a group of black-clad men armed with AK assault rifles and wearing balaclavas walked into the rally area. The red-shirt security guards asked to see their ID cards but the men said they did not bring any with them. The policemen then removed balaclava from one of the men in black and seized his gun. They later identified Preecha as him.

The officers were about to remove balaclava from another man when an explosion went off and all the men in black ran away. Preecha argued the photo of him in black attire and after his balaclava was removed was doctored but the court was not convinced.

Another report states that in Preecha’s case, the “judges cited as prime evidence photos claimed to be of Preecha wearing a stocking cap taken by police officers in plainclothes and the fact that Preecha admitted that he was a red-shirt guard.”

That all seems like pretty flimsy evidence, but these are Thai courts. Given that the court acquitted the others for lack of evidence, we can only guess that that evidence is virtually non-existent.

Lawyers said those convicted would also appeal. Those acquitted were detained pending the state’s appeal.

In another Bangkok Post report the Civil Court ruled that “five leaders of anti-Thaksin [anti-democrat] groups [had] to pay more than 95 million baht for damages caused by occupying the Energy Ministry’s compound during a 2014 mass protest.”

A pittance in the scheme of things and a sentence designed for political impact rather than punishment.

The defendants were Rawee Maschamadol, Thotsaphon Kaewthima, Itthabun Onwongsa, Thawatchai Phromchan and Somkiat Pongpaiboon, the latter being a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

They led People’s Democratic Reform Committee protesters in actions that cut power to state offices and occupied state properties.

An appeal is likely.

The report adds:

In a similar case in 2015, the Appeal Court ordered 13 former co-leaders of the yellow-shirt PAD, to pay 522 million baht to Airports of Thailand after being found guilty of leading a number of demonstrators to close Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports during their protest in 2008.

Does any reader recall if any payment was made?





Depressing and familiar

17 01 2017

Reading the Bangkok Post this morning seemed like a trip back in time.

One story at the Post has the The Judge Advocate-General’s Department “seeking a further extension to a deadline to challenge a court ruling that revoked the dismissal of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the army reserve.” He allegedly used “fake documents when applying to join the army as a lecturer at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in 1987. The job exempted him from military conscription and gave him the rank of acting sub-lieutenant.”

That story has been around for years now, and Abhisit has been cashiered once in 2012 and then the “Civil Court … ruled in 2015 that … Abhisit had used false documents when he applied for the job and that the Democrat [Party] leader had lacked the necessary qualifications.” An Appeals Court overturned the ruling last year and reinstated Abhisit.

It is a rather simple case that is important to Abhisit because it involves face and status. It is important to his opponents as an example of double standards.

Another Post story has General Prayuth Chan-ocha denying “a report stating the government will revamp the selection system of provincial governors by seeking experts, including those outside the Interior Ministry, to serve in the positions.”

This proposal was apparently recommended by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Somkid reckoned he wanted “governors who have vision …, expertise, strength, … and initiative.”

As a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, when CEO governors were promoted, it is easy to see why The Dictator has had to quickly respond to a wildfire of yellow-tinged alarm, denying any plan to change the time-honored, elite-supported manner for controlling local populations.  No “vision” or “initiative” required when repressing and managing the dangerous masses.

A third Bangkok Post story is of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “investigation” of Thawatchai Anukul’s mysterious death in custody on 29 August 2016. This is the former official said to have worked with members of the elite to acquire land – an “normal” enough thing in Thailand. He somehow ended up being investigated and taken into jail. He then died. A first “investigation” concluded “Thawatchai strangled himself by wrapping his socks around his neck and attaching them to a door hinge.” The problem was that the police’s Institute of Forensic Medicine “reported in its initial autopsy result that Thawatchai died of abdominal haemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being hit with a solid, blunt object together with asphyxiation from hanging…”.

Now the family says it can’t get an autopsy report because “the findings could not be revealed now as they might affect people involved in the case.” Perhaps results will be available for a court hearing in a month or so.

You get the picture. Impunity, cover-ups and complete incompetence are “normal.”

Yet another Post report is of “reconciliation.” General Prawit Wongsuwan has decided that “political parties and pressure groups will be asked to sign ‘a memorandum of understanding on national reconciliation’ as part of government efforts to heal the political divide…”. At the same time, he scotched discussion of an amnesty.

“Reconciliation” has been on the political agenda since the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. The problem has been that “reconciliation” has not involved justice. This time around, Prawit wants ideas from “representatives from all political parties and groups will be invited to contribute ideas, including academics, legal experts, senior military soldiers, and police officers.” After this the junta will “establish a set of guidelines that will promote unity.”

That sounds like what might be expected for “reconciliation” run by a military junta. As Prawit “explained,” the military can play a role in “reconciliation” processes because the military is not viewed as a party to political conflict! Gen Prawit said: “The military never has enemies. It has no conflict with anyone.”

Democrat Party leader Abhisit declared “there was a need to determine the truth behind political unrest” before reconciliation. He means a truth that suits him.

Perhaps surprisingly, Puea Thai Party and official red shirts were sounding enthusiastic. But, then, they desperately need an election as soon as possible.

Interestingly Puea Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan, observed that “success in fostering unity rests on the sincerity of those in power.” She added: “Those in power must show sincerity and maintain impartiality, and must avoid getting themselves involved in conflict themselves. They must listen to all sides equally, rather than invited parties involved in conflict only as a token gesture as before…”.

Related, and at the Bangkok Post, former Thaksin aide Suranand Vejjajiva observes that the military “regime will find it hard to achieve meaningful reconciliation if it is not committed to a return to full democracy and applying the rule of law.” He points out that the military’s “reconciliation” is embedded in the authoritarian “roadmap to democracy” and “its true authoritarian agenda to manipulate political outcomes after a new general election is held either this year or the next.”

Nothing will change the roadmap to authoritarian tutoring over a further 20 years. He says the junta “has to realise that only democracy can pave the way for political reconciliation.”

Suranand’s democracy is not one the military comprehends. It is establishing a 1950s version of Thai-style democracy.

He predicts that “[a]ny future meetings on national reconciliation that Gen Prawit expects to call will end up as a series of shows for the media, if representatives of political parties show up at all.”

That’s been the pattern: impunity, PR and repression. It is depressingly all too familiar.





Things that make you think

15 01 2017

There lots of stuff that goes on in the junta’s Thailand that causes you to wonder and think about motivations and machinations.

PPT’s perusal of the Bangkok Post today produced two such moments.

The first Bangkok Post story had us wondering…

The first paragraph was pretty much palace propaganda-like, with the king reported as having “reiterated the importance of children, urging the government to enhance the education system as a key part of the country’s development…”.

Prayuth Puppetry

Who is the puppet?

That’s pretty standard. But then we learn that this is not the king speaking, but The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Speaking at a ceremony marking National Children’s Day, The Dictator becomes the voice of the king and explains an apparently close relationship:

“… the [k]ing told me many times to give priority to children both in terms of education and the country’s development. He also wants the government to enhance the discipline of Thai children, which will result in orderliness and knowledge development of Thai people….

That sounds a lot like Prayuth’s voice rather than the king’s.It does seem a little out of the ordinary for a premier to speaking for the monarch. Is Prayuth out of line? Or are he and the king best buddies?

Just for good measure, The Dictator invokes the dead king: “During the rest of my term in office, I want all Thais to do good to follow in the footsteps of the late monarch, who was always concerned about his people…”. That is more the invocation we are used to from prime ministers.

The second Bangkok Post story is a tale of two parties and had us thinking of double standards and political machinations.

The About Politics column reflects on the floods in the south.

(Naturally enough, these floods can’t be blamed on Yingluck Shinawatra was the case in 2011. This time the culprit is not a government or a party, but the weather.)

The story praises “recovery operations” and singles out the so-called Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation.

Who is the puppet?

Who is the puppet?

This is the “foundation” established by anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban, as a post-coup vehicle for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and others who temporarily or momentarily left the Democrat Party in order to engage in street activism to prevent elections and bring down an elected government.

Unlike the Puea Thai Party and red shirts, the Democrat Party and the Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation have not been sued, harassed, arrested, jailed and suppressed by the junta. After all, they did a lot to foment the coup that brought the military thugs to power.

Suthep and other “key leaders of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have sprung into action, including Chitpas … Kridakorn [Bhirombhakdi], Chumphol Julsai and Isara Somchai” have been active in the region.

Most important has been Witthaya Kaewparadai, described as “Suthep’s right-hand man in this operation.”

As is well known, Witthaya is a former Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat. This former MP is said to have been an asset in relief operation having “helped boost the efficiency of distribution of essential supplies.”

Like us, many readers will wonder at this. The junta doesn’t like “politicians” meddling in anything. But, then, Witthaya is also a “member of the coup-appointed [puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA),” and this “secures coordination among state agencies and the military which need a go-between to bring help to where it is needed.”

Readers are then told that:

Since the PDRC protests, Mr Witthaya has remained active in his constituency, but his focus has been on community work. He has founded a cycling club where members do the necessary legwork to keep fit and the brainwork by discussing problems facing their community. This cycling club is said to be the biggest in the region.

The reports goes on:Kissing soldiers

The Muan Maha Prachachon for Reform Foundation’s contribution to flood rescue and relief operations can be no less; most of the flood victims are the very same people who kept the group’s street protests going in Bangkok during 2013-2014.

In other words, the PRDC-Democrat Party are catering to their members and supporters.

Imagine what would happen if a former MP from Puea Thai who was also a red shirt was doing something similar in the north or northeast. Sedition charges would be pending!

We learn more about these double standards when the report states:

While the former PDRC leaders are out there working in flood relief operations, the Democrat Party which has a political stronghold in the region is helping quietly, staying out of the spotlight due to a political ban by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

But they are indeed working there, with the PDRC. An unnamed source says: “People think the PDRC and the Democrat Party are no different. It doesn’t matter who leads the flood relief efforts…”.

“Election” preparations and electioneering are permitted in the south. Indeed, the military and junta facilitate them.

Double standards? You bet.

These double standards are reinforced in another story, in the same column, about the problems facing Puea Thai.

The party has few resources left and former party MPs are complaining that they are being left to their own devices and resources, with little help from the party or the “party’s heavyweights.”

Party leaders are tied up in a myriad of legal actions – hundreds of them – brought by the junta.

The longer the junta delays an “election” – some now suggest 2020, only partly tongue-in-cheek – the worse it gets for Puea Thai. And don’t think the junta doesn’t know this. All the talk of cremations delaying the “election” or the king making changes will be used as excuses for no “election.” However, one thing the junta wants is for Yingluck Shinawatra’s case and related cases against Puea Thai to be concluded this year.

The junta believes these cases will cause the collapse of Puea Thai. Once that happens, the junta can better control the “election” outcome.