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.





No justice

19 05 2019

Human Right Watch has issued a statement on the anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s bloody military crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2010. We reproduce bits of it here.

Thai authorities have failed to punish policymakers, military commanders, and soldiers responsible for the deadly crackdown on “Red Shirt” protests in May 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 4, 2019, the military prosecutor decided not to indict eight soldiers accused of fatally shooting six civilians in Bangkok’s Wat Pathumwanaram temple on May 19, 2010.

“Despite overwhelming evidence, Thai authorities have failed to hold officials accountable for gunning down protesters, medics, and reporters during the bloody crackdown in 2010,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The military prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against eight soldiers is the latest insult to families of victims who want justice.”

The military prosecutor dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence and no witnesses to the killing. This decision contradicted the Bangkok Criminal Court’s inquest in August 2013, which found that the residue of bullets inside the victims’ bodies was the same type of ammunition issued to soldiers operating in the area at the time of the shooting. Based on information from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), witness accounts, and other evidence, the inquest concluded that soldiers from the Ranger Battalion, Special Force Group 2, Erawan Military Camp fired their assault rifles into the temple from their positions on the elevated train track in front of Wat Pathumwanaram temple….

According to the DSI, at least 98 people died and more than 2,000 were injured….

The high number of casualties—including unarmed protesters, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders—resulted in part from the government’s enforcement of “live fire zones” around the UDD protest sites in Bangkok, where sharpshooters and snipers were deployed….

All those criminally responsible should be held to account whatever their political affiliation or official position. But over the past nine years, there have been a series of cover-ups that have ensured impunity for senior government officials and military personnel. Successive Thai governments charged UDD leaders and supporters with serious criminal offenses but ignored rights abuses by soldiers. Under pressure from the military, deliberately insufficient investigative efforts have been made to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped in 2016 against former prime minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda…. Thai authorities have targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims who demand justice.

It is outrageous that the military has been allowed to walk away scot-free from deadly crimes committed in downtown Bangkok,” Adams said….





Color coding royal pardons?

4 05 2019

As is usual around supposedly auspicious royal events, “pardons” – a kind of amnesty – have been granted to prisoners and others serving sentences. They include commuted jail terms for serious offenses.

The latest, for the coronation, includes some interesting “pardons.”

Five leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy will be released. They were only convicted a few weeks ago. They are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Pipop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk, and Suriyasai Katasila. Sondhi Limthongkul’s position remains unclear, although he may have benefited by having his fraud sentence reduced.

Interestingly, PAD seem to have designed the kit for the king’s royal volunteer “army.”

What of red shirts serving sentences? We haven’t seen any news yet.

Anti-junta critic, sentenced on lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai report, student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, has benefited, but not by much. He was due to be released on 19 June.

We might be missing something, but it might be that royal pardons are now color coded.





Updated: Remembering red shirt murders

11 04 2019

Khaosod reports that some of the official red shirts held a religious ceremony to mark the anniversary of a crackdown that killed many of their supporters on 10 April 2010.

Weng Tojirakarn, Jatuporn Promphan, Nattawut Saikua and other red shirts met at “a temple in northern Bangkok under the close watch of police officers.”

Weng said that he wanted the truth to come out about these events and declared that “his organization will continue to pursue justice on behalf of those who lost their lives.”

Legal cases against those responsible have gone nowhere.

The awful events of that evening are available at our site (scroll down to Battle for Bangkok I), although many of the links no longer work.

Update: A reader pointed out that New Mandala has an excellent piece by Saowanee T. Alexander on red shirts and voting in the northeast.