Misunderstanding Thailand’s politics

27 06 2016

The Bangkok Post reports on an Amnesty International call for the military dictatorship “to free a group of 20 activists, mostly students, arrested for political gatherings and distributing ‘inappropriate reading material’ to people last week.”

PPT supports this call. However, we have some problems with the reported comments from AI.Amnesty

According to the report, “Amnesty International Senior Research Adviser for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Champa Patel, wrote: “These crude tactics represent the latest in series of attempts by Thai military authorities to muzzle dissent…. If a small group activists cannot hand out leaflets, then what hope is there that the rights to freedoms of expression and assembly will be respected in the run-up to the referendum?”

Quite simply, and Patel should know this, there is no hope. There never has been.

Why on earth AI should suggest that a military regime could “recover some of their much-demanded credibility on human rights, they must stop cracking down on peaceful activists and drop all charges against them,” is beyond us.

AI seems to misunderstand the basic facts of Thailand’s politics.

The situation is not complicated: the military dictatorship is a repressive regime.

That’s the starting point for any discussion of Thailand’s politics. Until this regime is booted out, nothing else really matters very much in the political sphere.

The regime is illegitimate. The draft charter is a fraud. The referendum is illegitimate and the regime is concocting a fraud on the Thai people.

What does he say now? II

19 06 2016

Readers who looked at an earlier PPT post, citing failed Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, will recall that he was reported as having “praised” The Dictator and self-appointed military Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for “allowing the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to set up an anti-fraud centre for the referendum as long as it did not break any laws.”Abhisit 3

What does he say now?

The Bangkok Post reports that The Dictator “has given a final warning to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship not to open provincial fraud investigation centres ahead of the Aug 7 referendum.”

We doubt this is because The Dictator simply wants to cover up fraud by the regime that desperately wants a Yes vote. After all, the corrupt regime has been able to do almost anything it desires since it grabbed power. Rather, this is mostly about maintaining the repression of political opponents.

The dictatorial prime minister threatened and warned red shirts, saying the UDD was “risking retaliation after it dismissed his government’s previous warnings over the fraud centres.” The General ranted that the “centres could not be permitted…”. And on he went: “I insist that the centres can’t be opened as the law bans [political] gatherings of more than five persons.”

Laws created by the junta protect it by allowing the repression of anyone it considers a political group. However, as has been demonstrated umpteen times, this ban does not apply to the junta’s political allies.

The Dictator went further and threatened those who oppose the junta’s draft charter. He “warned Pheu Thai politicians not to wear T-shirts or post Facebook messages saying that they reject the constitution. That could result in charges.”

Exactly why opposing the charter is illegal is not clear, but we are sure that the the junta can come up with something to make such individual actions illegal.

In fact, the UDD “plans to launch the [anti-fraud] centres today.” It argues that its activities are “not … illegal because they involve fraud monitoring, not politics.” As is well known, anything the junta’s political opponents do is “illegal” if the junta decides it is.

Jatuporn Promphan challenged the junta: “”If the regime considers this is illegal, come and arrest us. We’re ready.”

It could be an interesting day.


13 05 2016

The following from Human Rights Watch in Geneva:

The Thai government’s pledges to the United Nations Human Rights Council to respect human rights and restore democratic rule have been mostly meaningless, Human Rights Watch said today. Thailand appeared before the council for its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on May 11, 2016. The UPR is a UN examination of the human rights situation in each country.

On February 12, the Thai government submitted a report to the Human Rights Council, saying that it “attaches utmost importance to the promotion and protection of human rights of all groups of people.” However, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta has severely repressed fundamental rights with impunity, tightened military control, and blatantly disregarded its international human rights obligations.

“The Thai government’s responses to the UN review fail to show any real commitment to reversing its abusive rights practices or protecting fundamental freedoms,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “While numerous countries raised concerns about the human rights situation in Thailand, the Thai delegation said nothing that would dispel their fears of a continuing crisis.”

The NCPO junta, led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, has engaged in increasingly repressive policies and practices since taking power in a May 2014 coup. Central to its rule is section 44 of the 2014 interim constitution, which provides the junta unlimited administrative, legislative, and judiciary powers, and explicitly prevents any oversight or legal accountability of junta actions.

Instead of paving the way for a return to democratic civilian rule as promised in its so-called “road map,” the junta has imposed a political structure that seems designed to prolong the military’s grip on power. A draft constitution, written by a junta-appointed committee, endorses unaccountable military involvement in governance even after a new government takes office.

The government has enforced media censorship, placed surveillance on the Internet and online communications, and aggressively restricted free expression. It has also increased repression against anyone openly critical of the junta’s policies or practices. For example, in April, military authorities detained Watana Muangsook, a former minister, for four days for posting Facebook comments opposing the draft constitution, for which a referendum is scheduled for August 7.

Since the military takeover, the government continues to prosecute those it accuses of being involved in anti-coup activities or supporting the deposed elected government. At least 46 people have been charged with sedition for criticizing military rule and violating the junta’s ban on public assembly. On April 28, eight people were arrested and charged with sedition and computer crimes for creating and posting satirical comments and memes mocking General Prayut on a Facebook parody page.

The government has made frequent use of Thailand’s draconian law against “insulting the monarchy.” The authorities have brought at least 59 lese majeste cases since the May 2014 coup, mostly for online commentary. On December 14, 2015, the junta brought lese majeste charges in military court against a man for spreading sarcastic Facebook images and comments that were deemed to be mocking the king’s pet dog. Military courts have imposed harsh sentences: in August 2015, Pongsak Sriboonpeng received 60 years in prison for his alleged lese majeste Facebook postings (later reduced to 30 years when he pleaded guilty), the longest recorded sentence for lese majeste in Thailand’s history.

Since the coup, the junta has summoned at least 1,340 activists, party supporters and human rights defenders for questioning and “adjusting” their political attitude. Failure to abide by an NCPO summons is a criminal offense subject to trial in military courts. Under junta orders, the military can secretly detain people without charge or trial and interrogate them without access to lawyers or safeguards against mistreatment. The government has summarily dismissed allegations that the military has tortured and ill-treated detainees but has provided no evidence to rebut these claims.

The government has increased its use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians – mostly targeting political dissidents and alleged lese majeste offenders. Since May 2014, at least 1,629 cases have been brought to military courts across Thailand.

Thailand’s security forces continue to commit serious human rights violations with impunity. No policy makers, commanders, or soldiers have been punished for unlawful killings or other wrongful use of force during the 2010 political confrontations, which left at least 90 dead and more than 2,000 injured. Nor have any security personnel been criminally prosecuted for serious rights abuses related to counterinsurgency operations in the southern Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces, where separatist insurgents have also committed numerous abuses. The government has shown no interest in investigating more than 2,000 extrajudicial killings related to then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s “war on drugs” in 2003.

Thai authorities as well as private companies continue to use defamation lawsuits to retaliate against those who report human rights violations. The authorities have also brought trumped-up criminal charges against human rights lawyers to harass and retaliate against them. For example, on February 9, Bangkok police brought two charges against human rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri connected to her representation of pro-democracy activists in June 2015. There has been no progress in attempts to bring to justice perpetrators in the killing of land rights activist Chai Bunthonglek in February 2015, and three other activists affiliated with the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand, who were shot dead in 2010 and 2012.

In November 2015, an international accrediting body recommended downgrading the status of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission based on concerns about its ineffectiveness, lack of independence, and flawed processes for selecting commissioners.

Thailand signed the Convention against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012 but has not ratified the treaty. The penal code still does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense. Thai authorities have yet to satisfactorily resolve any of the 64 enforced disappearance cases reported by Human Rights Watch, including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004 and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee Rakchongcharoen, known as “Billy,” in April 2014.

Although Thailand is a party to the Convention against Torture, the government’s failure to enact an enabling law defining torture has been a serious impediment for enforcement of the convention. There is still no specific law in Thailand that provides for compensation in cases of torture.

Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Thai authorities treat asylum seekers as illegal migrants subject to arrest and deportation without a fair process to make their claim. The Thai government has forcibly returned refugees and asylum seekers to countries where they are likely to face persecution, in violation of international law and over protests from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and several foreign governments. These include the deportation of two Chinese activists to China in November 2015 and 109 ethnic Uighurs to China in July 2015.

Thai authorities have regularly prevented boats carrying ethnic Rohingya from Burma from landing, providing rudimentary assistance and supplies and returning them to dangerous seas. In May 2015, raids on a string of camps along the Thailand-Malaysia border found Rohingya had been held in pens and cages, abused, and in some cases killed by traffickers operating with the complicity of local and national officials. Thailand hosted an international meeting to address the thousands of Rohingya stranded at sea. However, unlike Malaysia and Indonesia, Thailand refuses to work with UNHCR to conduct refugee status determination screenings for the Rohingya, and instead holds many in indefinite immigration detention.

The Thai government has stepped up anti-human trafficking measures. However, migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos remain vulnerable to abuses by traffickers facilitating travel into Thailand, and employers who seize workers documents and hold workers in debt bondage. New temporary ID cards issued by the Thai government to migrants severely restrict their right to movement, making them vulnerable to police extortion. Trafficking of migrants into sex work, bonded labor, or onto Thai fishing boats for months or years remains a pressing concern.

“No one should be fooled by the Thai government’s empty human rights promises,” Fisher said. “UN member countries should firmly press Thailand to accept their recommendations to end the dangerous downward spiral on rights by ending repression, respecting fundamental freedoms, and returning the country to democratic civilian rule.”

Thailand’s human rights lies

12 05 2016

As readers know, Thailand’s human rights record was examined by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group.

The Nation reports that the delegation sent by the military dictatorship “came under severe criticism over the human rights situation in the country with international delegates of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) raising serious concerns in Geneva yesterday.”

The junta’s delegation led by Justice Ministry permanent secretary Chanchao Chaiyanukij who is reported to have “toed the official line in responding to the questions and recommendations made by the UNHRC members, saying the junta needed to ‘limit’ people’s rights and freedom to maintain peace, law and order during the transition period.”

We are not sure he could explain what the “transition” was leading to, although political scientist Prajak Kongkirati has done this at Prachatai.

In a litany of falsehoods, Chanchao “told the UN yesterday that his government would take recommendations from the members in accordance with the capacity to implement. Thailand fully respected human rights but in the context of local circumstances, norms, and culture…”.

Thailand’s military dictatorship has no respect for human rights at all, no matter what the definition.

We know that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha knows nothing of human rights. He has stated his own uneducated and bizarre conception of human rights. The claim of domestic norms and culture is an excuse for nepotism, corruption, murder, torture and abuse. Think of the military’s culture and norms.

Many delegates asked pointed questions: the delegate from Greece called for an end martial law and the use of military courts; US representatives “raised a number of concerns over the role of the military court, the restriction of people’s freedom in the referendum law, the lese majeste law, freedom of expression, and Article 44 of the interim constitution;”and Britain’s delegate asked similar questions and asked “what plan the Thai government [meaning the junta] had to end the prosecution of civilians by the military court and their detention in military facilities.”

The junta has no plans for anything other than continued repression.

Remarkably, the junta sent a “judge from the military court … [as] a part of the Thai delegation” to concoct and fabricate the junta’s case. This military thug “explained” the “need” to prosecute in a military court “civilians who commit serious crimes with war weapons, disobey the junta’s orders or are accused of lese majeste.”

This is horse manure as all these “crimes” were conducted under civilian courts in the past.

The “judge” also “explained” that “defendants in the military court have their right to appoint lawyers and seek bail.”

As everyone knows, this is not always the case, with people being abducted by the military and held incommunicado and often without access to lawyers.

When the so-called judge claims that defendants “have all the rights for a fair trail in accordance with international standards,” any reasonable person knows this is a lie. As the junta stated early after it illegally seized power, military courts are used to plow under rights and to get quick convictions.

The Foreign Ministry also sent along a toady official to “explain” that the “lese majeste law was badly needed for Thailand to protect the monarchy.” 

She is not reported as explaining why the monarchy, always claimed to be “loved” and “revered,” needs “protection” that has harsher sentencing than in most murder cases. We guess it is the same tired and ridiculous claims about the monarchy being “special” for Thailand and unlike monarchies almost everywhere except in other hard authoritarian and absolutist regimes.

Her “explanation” for Article 44, which allows The Dictator to do anything that takes his fancy, seemed to rely on some cockeyed notion that the use of such draconian, unjust and capricious law is “not new in Thai political history…”. That bizarre claim was followed with yet another junta lie: “it was exercised with caution.” It has been used for all kinds of things, with “caution” thrown to the wind.

Thais should be embarrassed by this pathetic performance by a regime that lacks sense, credibility and seems unable to even think about its international performance.

Puea Thai Party member and former minister Chaturon Chaisaeng agreed, stating that “the UPR report on Thailand was the most embarrassing one, as it placed the country in the international spotlight for human rights violations.” He says “Thailand not only failed to pass the test at the UN session, the country also became a laughing stock…”. He’s right.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch “slammed Thailand’s responses in the UPR regarding the use of a military court to try civilian cases. He said it was false and insincere.” He’s right too.

He called out one lie: “The [junta’s] representatives said that only a small number of civilians had been tried before the military court. Sunai said, in fact, at least 1,000 civilians had been tried by the military court…”.

As well as “lies,” it was “hypocrisy” that was a common description of the military junta’s approach to the UN.

No debate on draft charter II

3 03 2016

The Bangkok Post has more on the current flurry of junta brain explosions.

The suddenly frantically activist 70 year-old General Prawit Wongsuwan has ranted that “[g]overnment critics who make comments deemed [by the military junta] not to be in the nation’s interest will be detained for ‘attitude adjustment’ for up to a week…”.Brain explosion

To make his point clearer, if that was necessary, he went on: “If they speak so 100 times, they will be summoned 100 times…”.

Prawit babbled about the law having to be enforced, but his law is illegitimate, politically repressive and, in most countries, would not be law at all. In modern countries, Prawit and Prayuth would be in jail.

It is worth repeating the Post’s assessment:

Since seizing power in May 2014 the junta has crushed dissent, banning political discussion, locking up opponents and dramatically increasing prosecutions under laws covering lese majeste, sedition and computer crime.

So-called attitude adjustment sessions have also been instituted, with critics arbitrarily detained by the military, often for days. They are released once they sign a form promising to refrain from criticising authorities, sometimes under the threat of asset seizures.

The junta is composed of small-minded, unintelligent and poorly educated sycophants lacking morals and  good sense. Worse, their hands are covered in blood.

With a major update: Fighting repression

16 01 2016

Khaosod reports that members of the Neo-Democracy Movement have declared that they are committed to “fighting for freedom and democracy.”

Facing threats, new arrest warrants and summons related to their campaign on Corruption Park, they have “vowed to remain in the country to call attention to the allegations of corruption in the army’s construction of the billion-baht [Rajabhakdi] park.” They stated:

We would like to confirm our remarks that we will not flee anywhere. We will publicly and peacefully live our lives…. We, then, will continue fighting for freedom and democracy against the Junta until our last day to ensure that justice will be achieved.

In part, they were also responding to the flight to exile of Thanet Anantawong.

Update: The students have read a statement in public:

We received summonses for taking a train to Rajabhakti Park. We made clear then that we would not take part in the justice process under dictatorship. Today, arrest warrants are out for us…. This is the reward a person gets for trying to dig into corruption under the regime.

Everything about the Hua Hin park — allegations of kickbacks, the stand of the National Council for Peace and Order and the army’s lack of transparency, as well as the treatment of those seeking the truth — have shown beyond doubt there is corruption in the project…. It’s not an overstatement to say those responsible — the NCPO and the army — are corrupt.

From now on, we and democracy fighters under the NDM will proceed with our activities to check all NCPO’s projects to protect the interests of the people, the true owner of sovereignty.

We insist, as we always do, that we won’t run. We’ll live normally and will continue to do what we believe in. We’ll fight dictatorship to the end.

The brave students then “folded their arrest warrants into origami birds…”. They declared that this was “to send a message to all dictatorship fighters that we demand democracy, freedom and justice in a peaceful way despite threats”.

Remarkably, the students taunted the police to arrest them. The police and military thugs were present for this ceremony. Indeed, they had “sealed the area [Thon Buri train station] after learning about the demonstration.” However, the authorities did not arrest the students: “We didn’t arrest them for fear of playing into their hands…”.

The military junta, usually as blunt as a rock, seems bamboozled by the students.

1984 is Thailand now

25 11 2015

Life under the military dictatorship is depressing and repressing. It is a life in a dystopia where boundaries, especially political boundaries, are difficult to discern. Even so, some brave activists challenge the regime.

As protesters showed soon after the coup, the military dictatorship is not unlike George Orwell’s 1984. In 1984, existence is in a world of perpetual internal war against those identified as opponents, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation, dictated by a political system euphemistically claimed to be creating “happiness.” The junta rules and controls for a privileged elite that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as “thoughtcrime.”

This is well illustrated in a Prachatai report on “[e]mbattled lecturers charged by the military for violating the junta’s political gathering…”.

On Tuesday, “six lecturers charged with the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 3/2015, a ban on political gathering of five or more persons, reported to Chang Puak Police Station of the northern province of Chiang Mai after summon letters were issued for them last week.”

The lecturers are Chiang Mai University’s Attachak Sattayanurak and Somchai Preechasilapagun, Charoon Yuthong and Nattapong Jitnirat, from Thaksin University in Songkhla, Mana Nakum from Khon Kaen University and Booncherd Nu-im of Burapha University in Cholburi.

It is reported that “military officers in plainclothes were seen video-recording the briefing by the academics after the interrogation and people who came to support them…”.

All of them denied the charges and they were not detained. Where 1984 comes in is in the charges.Attachak “explains”:

The police informed us that they received complaints from the military and they have to proceed. They [the military] felt that we broke some sort of an agreement on what not to say, which we never agreed upon. We confirm that what we did is legal and that different ideas are crucial for the Thai society under the reconciliation and reform process….

An “agreement” involves two parties, but not in the junta’s blurry, surreal and scary Thailand.

The junta was apparently upset that the lecturers “participated in a briefing to read out the statement titled ‘universities are not military barracks’ to call for academic freedom on 31 October 2015.”

If they were to be found guilty, the academics “could be jailed for up to one year and fined up to 20,000 baht.”

The Dictator has made threats:

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and prime minister, said “There activities, if they are not afraid of the law, it’s up to them. If people follow these activities, they will be in trouble. Well, it’s up to them. Some might find guns or bombs to attack them. It’s up to them, but I won’t do that of course.”

Threats, arrests and corruption mark the rule of soldiers for the royalist elite.

Platitudes on the military dictatorship I

24 09 2015

The Bangkok Post has a longish article called “analysis” that deals with The Dictator’s visit to the United States and appearances at a business event and at the U.N. PPT, seldom surprised by what it reads in the mainstream media, was dismayed to read a series of platitudes that ignore the fact that Thailand remains the world’s only military dictatorship.

One Wikipedia page lists countries by system of government. For Thailand, there is a standout entry: “No constitutionally-defined basis to current regime.” Not quite right, but then this military dictatorship wrote its own “charter” after illegally ditching the previous one.

Another Wikipedia page lists military dictatorships as countries where a “nation’s military control the organs of government and all high-ranking political executives are also members of the military hierarchy.” Two are listed, Thailand and Burkina Faso.

Unfortunately for Thais, the situation in the latter case has changed: “In September 2015, military forces seized the country’s president and prime minister, and declared themselves the new national government. However, on 22 September 2015, the coup leader, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, apologized and promised to restore the civilian government. On 23 September 2015, the prime minister and interim president were restored to power.”

Something may have changed internationally in recent days, but the sorry fact is that Thailand remains the only pariah state: a military dictatorship.

None of this is clear in the Post’s “analysis.”

This “analysis” begins by recounting that self-appointed Prime Minister and coupmeister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is will “highlight the progress the government has made in fighting human trafficking…”. Yep, that’s it for the junta over the whole period since 22 May 2014. But only if there is no mention of repression, jailings, bombs, bad policing, economic torpor and so on.

The Post helpfully adds that Prayuth’s trip “gives him a chance to share with global leaders the military government’s achievements in tackling Thailand’s development issues, especially human trafficking, its roadmap to democracy and the latest economic stimulus plan.” Prayuth has declared: “I will tell the international community the government is driving the country towards full democracy under the roadmap. We are doing everything we can to reach that goal…”.

“Everything” seems to include jailing and re-educating opponents, censorship, repression and banal royalism. Deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukhondapatipak seemed to recognize this, stating that the junta has different “rules.” He observed that “our rules [were] not originating from an ideology several countries wished to see.”

The Dictator received support and gratuitous advice from several commentators regarding its terrible international image as the world’s only remaining military dictatorship.

Former Foreign Minister and ardent yellow shirt Kasit Piromyaadvised: “[There is] no need to pretend we are perfect as we live in a borderless world…”. We would have thought that “perfect was the wrong terminology. He may has well have stated: “[There is] no need to pretend we are anything other than complete crap with almost everyone knowing this as we live in a borderless world…”.

Kasit is followed in the report by “[p]olitical scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University [who] echoed this sentiment.” Like Kasit, he offered advice on how to hide crap: “A realistic middle path would be to admit to the shortcomings of ascending to office through a putsch…”. He went on to say that “some of the signature achievements of the coup government” could be trumpeted, including “combatting human trafficking and corruption, while delineating a clear time frame to return power to the Thai people.”

Thitinan goes a step further, urging the military dictator to go ahead with a dozy plan to grab a seat on the UN Security Council. His “reasoning” seems to be that other crappy states have obtained a seat, so why exclude the world’s only military dictatorship. He cheers: “There is still a chance for Thailand…”. Yes, he does add that the regime should “demonstrate an actionable pathway that will lead to a semblance of normalcy under civilian, not military, rule…”.

He means that this execrable regime should babble about its “roadmap” for stymieing democracy in Thailand, making its propaganda seem somehow plausible to Thailand’s “friends.”

The last set of platitudes is from the usual suspects at a dinner hosted by business lobby groups, the US-Asean Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce. They are so profit-oriented that they are prepared to provide a platform for the military dictator. Still, they have done this  before and bill it as “an opportunity for top American corporate executives to rub shoulders with Thai dignitaries.”

Corporate types hobnobbing with murderous dictators would make dinner rather difficult to stomach.

Attitude and adjustment

20 09 2015

AFP reports that the military dictatorship’s “attitude adjustment” campaign against critics has almost reached 800 known detentions. That is about 50 a month. In addition to this, it has been jailing opponents and others considered troublesome for the palace at a rate of more than one a month, mostly on trumped up lese majeste charges that are seldom contested or even scrutinized in court. Then there’s all the threats, late night “visits,” repression, censorship and propaganda.

Some argue that the regime is not particularly nasty – indeed the regime itself makes such claims – because it isn’t jailing thousands or killing opponents. In fact, the killings by Thailand’s military have been almost as regular as mileposts on a highway, with the most recent mass murder being of opponents in 2010.

AFP writes of “blindfolds and black site prisons” as elements of the junta’s “attitude adjustment sessions — brief periods of involuntary incarceration that can last up to seven days” and sometimes longer. Like a mafia gang, the military provides an “invitation” to join military officers to “have a chat — albeit an invitation that no-one can refuse.”

In the report, AFP, Puangthong Pawakapan, an academic at Chulalongkorn University who was also summoned and Paul Chambers are forgetting history when they observe that “the junta … is rolling out increasingly harsh interrogation techniques as it stamps down on dissent.” This is not “a new trend,” as Chambers asserts. He and the others forget that this regime has regularly been accused of torture, beatings and thuggish stand-over tactics when dealing with red shirts. What is perhaps new is the use of these tactics against middle class opposition.

Chambers is on firmer ground when he notes that this move “illustrates a regime which has become more desperate about holding on to power…”.

A few days ago, the Washington Post also commented on “attitude adjustment.” In an editorial, it states that Thais “seem to have good reason these days to question the generals … its plan for a faux democracy, … why the country’s economy remains stagnant, or why the regime has been so sluggish in responding to a terrorist bombing in central Bangkok last month.”

Rather than grabbing “[a]nyone who asks those sensible questions … is likely to be deemed in need of an ‘attitude adjustment’ by the generals’ increasingly erratic leader, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.”

In fact, it is the generals who need attitude adjustment. They need to reject dictatorship, illegal actions, impunity, torture, corruption and political murder.

Intimidation deepening

18 09 2015

A series of reports confirm that the military dictatorship is extended and deepening its repression and targeting political opponents. The reports listed below are from just one day and a only brief scan of English-language news outlets.

Prachatai reports that the junta “handed down the decision” to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission to order the removal of a red shirt community radio station aerial be taken down and removed.

Voice People Radio FM 100.00 MHz and FM 100.75 MHz had not been operating since the 2014 coup, when it was ordered closed by the military. Earlier, the military had “confiscated broadcasting equipments necessary for running the radio programs, which they have not returned up to now.”

Khaosod reports that the military has briefly detained Falung Gong activists and confiscated pamphlets considered might “affect international relations” or  “peace and order in the country.”

Khaosod’s report states that Falung Gong is legal in Thailand but:

Thailand’s military government has banned all political activities and public gatherings since they seized power from an elected government in 2014. Although religious evangelization is mostly tolerated, Thai officials have treated Falun Gong with suspicion, fearing that its rhetorics risk antagonizing the Chinese government – a major junta ally.

Prachatai reports that the military has intimidated academics and students conducting environmental research in Udorn Thani province. The military was concerned that these academics and students were conducting research in areas slated for potash mining. The report states:

The research project is co-organised by the Science Faculty of Rajabhat University of Udon Thani and Chulalongkorn Social Research Institute. It is also supported by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. The project began since 2014.

In the field research, 40 students from Rajabhat University asked the residents of several villages in Prajaksilapakom District questions about health, local environment, and economic opportunities in the region.

The military thugs “reportedly recorded the name list of the project participants and took pictures. Moreover, they asked to see the questions, which the students asked the villagers…”. One of the academic stated: “It’s not the duty of the military, but the gross intimidation of freedom and rights of the villagers…. The military officers who are the state officials are acting on behalf of the investors to hurriedly push the potash mining plan.”

In these events, the junta’s repression focuses on media and social media, rural subalterns, lese majeste and protecting business. Other than technology, nothing much has changed over the decades of military repression in Thailand. However, it is clear that the current junta is deepening its political repression.

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