Further updated: Authoritarian darkness

16 04 2021

Thailand’s royalist authoritarianism and the desire to “cleanse” the nation of anti-monarchists appears to have taken a significant turn as the regime targets an American academic it considers has fomented political activism in the northeast.

From New Mandala

Thai Enquirer, Bangkok Post, and Prachatai report that David Streckfuss, who worked for Khon Kaen University, CIEE: Council On International Educational Exchange, and with regional news outlet The Isaan Record, has had his work-permit with KKU revoked on 19 March, which means his tenure in Thailand is tenuous as his visa is also revoked.

It is reported that Streckfuss had “been with the university for the past 27 years before his work permit was terminated.”

Prachatai states that the “decision reportedly came after police visited the University President and Faculty Dean, after Streckfuss participated in a workshop which partly involved decentralization.”

Hathairat Phaholtap, the editor of the The Isaan Record, confirmed the work permit cancellation and stated that it came “after Streckfuss attended a workshop about the preservation and development of the local Isaan identity which was held at a Khon Kaen hotel on 12-14 February.”

The police reportedly told the university that this meant Streckfuss was “involve[d] with local politics…”.

According to the Bangkok Post, where Streckfuss has been an author, he has “published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He is also the author of Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté, published by Routledge Press, in 2011… [and] has a PhD in Southeast Asian history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” His recent academic work has been on censorship and self-censorship.

One of his roles since 1994 has been has been as director for CIEE Programs in Thailand, facilitating college students study abroad experiences in Thailand. In this he “works with the program’s administration and programs managers to oversee student health, safety, and welfare as well as all issues related to academics, services, projects, administration, and finance.”

Over the years, Streckfuss has spoken at various seminars, including with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. This action against a high-profile academic, and someone who might be described as a “friend” of Thailand, suggests either a bureaucratic miscalculation or, more likely, a further deepening of the regime’s repressive authoritarianism.

Update 1: A couple of reports in the media suggest that there’s some dissembling going on about this case. The Bangkok Post reports that Pol Maj Gen Kritsada Kanchana-alongkon, a commissioner at the Immigration Division 4 in Khon Kaen has gone all Sgt Schultz, saying: “The local immigration authorities didn’t know why the university terminated Mr Streckfuss’ contract…”.

Thai PBS reports multiple denials (one of which contradicts Pol Maj Gen Kritsada):

Immigration Police and Khon Kaen University have denied that the termination of the employment contract, work permit and visa of David Streckfuss are related to his political activism in Thailand.

Khon Kaen University’s International Affairs Division also denied allegations of police pressure, telling ThaiPBS World that the termination was due to his failure to fulfill his duty regarding student exchange programs.

Making matters worse for itself, KKU now states: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he allegedly failed to arrange student exchange programs, leading to the contract termination.” So, they say that students couldn’t come, so Streckfuss must go….

Update 2: Khaosod states that the Khon Kaen Immigration Office has “deferred the decision to extend the work permit and visa…”. An official stated: “This has nothing to do with politics and David is not a prohibited person under the immigration act. Therefore, there should be no problem with his visa application process.”

KKU continues to maintain that there was no official pressure applied – Streckfuss says there was – and says it sacked him for circumstances created by the virus:

The longtime expat worked as the director of the exchange student program at Khon Kaen University for the past 27 years before he was given a one-month notice of termination in February for “not being able to do assigned work.” He believed the decision was politically charged, an allegation denied by his former employer.

“No police or any other state officials have met with the rector or the dean,” Khon Kaen University rector Charnchai Pangthongviriyakul said Saturday. “The faculty saw that there has been no progress in his work, so it decided to notify him of contract termination.”

Even if this was the case, it marks KKU as an uncaring employer, not averse to taking decisions that destroy lives.





The statistics of repression

21 02 2021

For those who aren’t already following them, it is worth spending some time at the website of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. These brave lawyers work with many of the arrested and charged protesters and those accused of lese majeste.

Recent reports at their English page includes the following analysis:

Number of persons held in custody at Border Patrol Police Region 1 from participating in political assemblies

There has been a slew of persons relentlessly being taken to and detained at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathumthani Province as a result of their participation in political assemblies in Bangkok.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), from 13 October 2020 to 13 February 2021, at least 111 individuals were arrested for participating in political assemblies and were detained at the Border Patrol Police Region 1. TLHR finds such detention unlawful….

A statistical profile of minors charged for political expression and protest, 2020-2021

According to the TLHR database on juvenile prosecution (from 2020 onwards), at least 9 young people from among 16 cases have been prosecuted for political expression and protest.

TLHR Overall Situation in December 2020

In December 2020, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) documented 58 cases related to human rights violations and incidents in provinces in central and southern Thailand: Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Chonburi, Nontaburi, Samut Prakan, and related to Krabi, Songkhla, and Pattani. The number includes 4 cases of arbitrary detention, 2 cases of restriction of freedom of expression, 46 observations and monitoring of court trials, and 6 cases of other forms of harassment and intimidation.





Updated: Another day of defiance

17 10 2020

The past 24 hours have been a churn. The regime is struggling to control defiant students who appear far more nimble and far smarter than the regime’s leaders. The regime’s response is repression.

The most startling events were the demonstration last evening, where thousands of mostly young people, organized through social media and smart phones, assembled at the Prathumwan intersection, leaving the authorities looking daft as they surrounded and barricaded the Rajaprasong intersection (where they expected the rally).

The chants of “release our friends,” “Prayuth out,” and “ai hia O” were lound, even though the event was largely leaderless.

The police then marched down the road and “dispersed” demonstrators using water cannon laced with dye and chemicals. The police looked comical when their first effort to use the cannon resulted in the police spraying themselves.

The regime denies the use of chemicals, but all reporters at the scene said the water caused itching and irritation to eyes. Police arrested some people, some seen being thrown into police vans. Most protesters decamped via Chulalongkorn University.

The police used were reportedly Border Patrol Police, infamous for their murderous role in 1976. But these are the police the regime considers sufficiently loyal.

Reporters were not safe from the arrests. Prachatai announced that one of its reporters, Kitti Pantapak “was arrested in front of MBK Centre while reporting live on Facebook about the police crackdown…”. He was “wearing a press armband from the Thai Journalist Association, a symbol that separates the protesters and media.” He was taken to “Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani, where other protesters were also detained.” At 2am he was released after being fined.

Earlier in the day, police invaded a press conference at the headquarters of the Progressive Movement, “with a search warrant, interrupting a press conference called by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.” He was “speaking against the state of emergency and legal action taken against protesters accused of causing harm to … the Queen.”

The search warrant was issued under the state of emergency. (For critiques of the emergency decree, see here and here.)

Because there were so many reporters at the conference, the police raid was livestreamed. Piyabutr was heard urging the police to take the side of the people, “instead of following orders from their superiors.” The officers were clearly embarrassed and were repeatedly on the phone to their superiors. They eventually left seemingly finding nothing, but the threat to the Progressive Movement was clear. The regime sees a plot, with the students being led and funded by the Progressive Movement.

Update: In the post above, we had missed The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s response to calls for him to resign, as reported by Khaosod:

“Let me ask you what I did wrong? What did I do wrong right now? Can I ask you?” Prime Minister Prayut said to reporters in the first news conference since he declared a “severe emergency” over Bangkok.

When a reporter suggested it was because Prayut has been a Prime Minister for too long, the general replied, “Have you listened to monks’ prayer? Have you visited a temple at all? I guess you don’t often visit a temple, that’s why you are like this.”

“Listen to the prayers … don’t be careless, because people can die today, or tomorrow,” Prayut said, hours before a new protest is planned in Bangkok’s city center. “As the prayers go, don’t be reckless with your life. Prepare to die any moment, by illness or whatever.”

He went on, “Do not trifle with the powerful Grim Reaper. Death may come today, or another day. Everyone can die at any moment.”

 





It’s still a military regime III

29 05 2020

Without a hint of shame, the regime continues to display it military-ness.

The Bangkok Post reports on the “kickback scandal involving state quarantine contracts” which it says the Defense Ministry states is “being investigated by police…”. Great, you might think, the longstanding kickback system is getting some attention. But is it? And how is it being done?

Defense spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich explains that it is his ministry that conducted the “preliminary probe [and] had found evidence the accused had demanded ‘commission fees’ from hotel operators in the eastern region so their facilities could be chosen as state quarantine centres.” He added that a person with the initial “Phor” is one of those revealed by the Ministry of Defense’s “probe.”

This is all very smelly and very fishy. Why is the Defense Ministry the first line of investigation? Is the Ministry responsible for the quarantine centers? Well, no, it is the joint responsibility of that ministry and Public Health. Has Public Health been investigating? And why the buffalo manure about initials?

While Lt Gen Kongcheep said his “ministry had submitted evidence to police for further investigation…”, PPT reckons this could well be about pre-emptive posterior protection. One suggestion of that is when the Lt Gen declares that “the accused individuals acted on their own and their alleged misconduct had nothing to do with the organisations with which they are affiliated.” That screams cover-up.

Then there’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has pretty much been sidelined in the virus response after his initial loudmouthed failures, and who has “denied public health officials were involved in the kickback scandal but said the ministry was ready to investigate any tips.” This also screams cover-up.

And, then, there’s the whole issue of the Ministry of Defense leading such matters. That screams military regime.

As if to prove that Thailand remains under the regime’s thumb, and using the virus as an excuse, Prachatai reports that police in “Songkhla Province have turned down a request to hold an anti-seawall public gathering at Muang Ngam beach, claiming it would violate the Emergency Decree on Covid-19 control. Many people still went to express their objections on the beach where the construction is taking place, while police took video recordings and photos.”

Prachatai also reports that on the “6th anniversary of the 22 May 2014 military coup, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) launched a new report on Thailand’s human rights situation As if the NCPO Never Left: Six Years after the Coup and the Persistence of Human Rights Violations, highlighting ongoing violations of freedom of expression and freedom of association which have persisted since the end of the NCPO regime.” Abuses are rampant.

Thailand remains a country under the military jackboot.





Updated: Rap against the military dictatorship

27 10 2018

There is a series of three articles at The Nation that report the military dictatorship’s predictable response to a group of 10 rappers and their popular video that raps the junta.

The video, at YouTube in two versions, has had close to 6 million views. There have been millions more on Facebook.

In the first report, Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul declaring that the song may be breaking the law and that “officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police will check out the lyrics to see if they violate any junta orders.”

Yes, the junta’s laws, not real laws, but the politicized repression and suppression shrouded in law. Confirming this, the political policeman added that the “rappers would also be summoned to testify whether they had intended to cause any chaos or violate any National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) orders…”.

The junta’s cop warned: “… musicians not to do anything that risks violating the country’s laws, as it wouldn’t be good for them or their families if the songs were deemed to violate the law…”.

Threatening opponents and their families is standard practice under the military dictatorship.

A few hours later, a second report states that the political police were to use the Computer Crimes Act against the rappers. It accuses the rap of breaking the political law that “prohibits computer information inconsistent with the truth, undermines national security or causes public panic…”. In this, “truth” is defined by the junta.

As might be expected, in one of his first public statements, new government spokesman, the anti-democrat Buddhipongse Punnakanta, claimed that the junta’s opponents were “behind” the video. Of course, anti-democrats like him and his bosses cannot conceive of any person being capable of independent thought.

The third report summarizes events and the song that denounces the junta. It notes that the rap was released on an important date: 14 October, being the 45th anniversary of the October 1973 uprising against a military dictatorship. The YouTube video also depicts 6 October 1976 royalist violence with an image of a student hanging from a tree being beaten, as in 1976.

Reflecting on the junta’s “truth,” one of the rappers stated: “As artists we want to reflect the truth of the society we are living in under dictatorship. Thailand seems to be caught in a loop of dictatorship. We want to voice what the majority cannot say directly.”

The video is dedicated to the victims of the state’s crimes.

Update: With the military dictatorship in full panic mode over the popularity of this rap, Puea Thai’s Chaturon Chaisaeng is reported to have warned the junta against arresting the performers of the anti-junta song. He said said that “if the Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD) group was arrested, it would backfire against the government to the point where the government could fall.”





When the military is on top V

28 04 2017

PPT is having difficulty keeping up with all of the junta’s shenanigans, so we are bringing a few stories together in this post and leave it to readers to go to the links if they want more.

Repression: Prachatai reports that earlier this week the dictators were miffed that Niwat Roikaew, the leader of an a local environmental conservation group Khon Rak Chiang Kong, complained about the Chinese surveying the future damage they would do in the Mekong River. They called him in for a “chat.” In other words, for intimidation.

Low royalism: Khaosod reproduces some decidedly awful painting by an unknown American they say is an artist. We have seen some awful scribbling before, but this takes the cake. The royalists seem prepared to dredge up drudge and call it significant to “honor” a dead rich man.

Press unfreedom: Also at Khaosod, it is reported that Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, Ranked Thailand 142nd out of 180 countries around the world in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. As high as 142! Wow. It will fall again next year as the junta’s new laws on the media bite (even if The Dictator is having second thoughts).

A torpedo in the tube: There are articles and op-eds at the Bangkok Post lamenting the dictatorship’s secret decision-making on buying Chinese subs. One is an editorial telling the junta that this secrecy is not on. Why the Post only chooses to do this for the sub deal seems to be because they think having a bunch of business people decry the purchase means it is safe to complain. But another adds a layer of secrecy when the Auditor-General says it will “investigate” the purchase but do it secretly.

What the rich do: Well, some of them continue to get away with murder. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has failed to show in court eight times “since legal proceedings against him began in 2016.” He continues to live the high life.

There’s more, but we are despondent.





When the military is on top II

26 04 2017

While some of the media seems prepared to join with the junta in allowing the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae be eased off the front pages, Prachatai continues to report on events related to the military’s efforts to bury the case in delays and silence. (Consider the same manufactured silence on the political vandalism of the 1932 plaque.)

A network of academics and several ethnic minority groups recently met in Chiang Mai and “issued a joint statement over the summary killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a young Lahu ethnic activist who was shot dead by a soldier on 17 March.”

This group pointed to the “intimidation of relatives of the slain activist and witnesses of the killing” and noted the failure of the (lying) “military must submit the CCTV footage of the crime scene to the police for further investigation process.”

The statement said:

After the incident, soldiers have visited Kong Pakping Community where Chaiyapoom lived almost every day. His relatives or even the head of the community were summoned [by the authorities]. Bullets were found placed in front of houses of Chaiyapoom relatives….

Such intimidation is standard operating procedure for the state’s thugs. It is also the modus operandi of the junta itself when dealing with critics.





Junta paedofascists

19 01 2017

The military junta repeatedly shows how some foreign commentators get under its collective skin – make that scales.

Some time ago we posted on a junta-initiated raid on the home of the parents of Noppawan Bunluesilp, the wife of former Reuters reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall, author of a banned book critical of the monarchy and allegedly “wanted” for lese majeste.

One of the junta’s tactics like those used by many fascist and repressive regimes – is to get at critics by harassing their families. The troglodytes in the junta believe that they can silence Marshall by threatening his family.

Yesterday the junta thugs were at it again. Prachatai reports that at “3 pm on 18 January 2017, Ruedeewan Lahthip, the mother-in-law of … Marshall … told BBC Thai that two policewomen in plainclothes visited her house to look for her daughter, Noppawan…. [T]he policewoman told Ruedeewan that their superior would like Marshall not to post information deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy online again.”

The threat was clear: “[P]lease tell Andrew that [if he likes or does not like certain things] he should keep this to himself and not post [certain] images, so his child can come back to Thailand with no worries…”.

That’s the junta’s police threatening a toddler. What do you call a regime that does that? Paedofascists?

On Facebook, Marshall responded:

I’m terribly sad and angry to hear from Ploy, the mother of my son Charlie, that three plainclothes Thai police arrived at her family’s house in Bangkok again today to make threats to them as result of my journalism about Thailand.

They harassed and threatened Charlie’s grandmother, who was there alone at the time.

This follows a previous incident back in July when more than 20 police raided their house and took Ploy away for five hours of questioning.

Let me explain this to the Thai junta and palace one more time: if you have a problem with my journalism, deal with it with me. Stop harassing Ploy and her family just because we were married and she is the mother of my son. Ploy and her family have their own views and have nothing to do with my work and my journalism.

What kind of sick regime treats its own citizens like this? As is widely known, the junta’s behaviour already helped undermine our marriage, and I am truly disgusted that Thailand’s soldiers and police have nothing better to do than harass this innocent family. Shame on you.

Agreed, the paedofascists should be ashamed. But they won’t be as this tactic is standard procedure, along with corruption, torture and murder.

 





19th century repression

21 08 2016

The junta’s “capture” of 15 or 17 “activists” it calls “communists” is another example of how fascist military regimes can “invent” and “reinvent” law when it suits their political interests and as they seek to shore up their power.

Thailand’s military dictatorship has rather startlingly revived a law that belongs to earlier years centuries.

It has charged the 15/17 with being member of an ang-yi or secret society.

Earlier this year, Khaosod had an article on absurd Thai laws, like the ban on roller skating after midnight and refusing to assist a postman. The secret society law was included. It says this:

The offense dates back to Rama IV, when Chinese triads (secret societies) were formed, sometimes with criminal intent. Triads, known in Thai-Chinese lingo as Ang Yi, were also accused of sparking riots and revolts against the authorities in Thailand.

Although long gone in history, Ang Yi  remain alive and well in the law. Section 109 of the Penal Code specifically outlaws Ang Yi and similar organizations. The law defines Ang Yi-like behavior as belonging to a secret society with an intent to break the law.

This law has its origins in the late 1890s. As far as we can tell, it fell into disuse in the 1960s, when the military regime used the anti-communist law against its political opponents.

How desperate is the military regime? So desperate it seems that it needs 19th century laws. (Lese majeste dates from the early 20th century, but has been re-feudalized in recent years.)





New repressive measures

15 08 2016

The Bangkok Post reports on how, “the military regime in just one week came up with four new ways they intend to track people in the coming days and months.”

As the report puts it, these measures “range from mildly outrageous by today’s standards to completely bizarre.”

According to the report, these “plans — and they are changeable … — a new and formal security division is to be formed with the task of tracking people via their mobile phones.”

The junta will probably allow allow “[p]olice … [to] not only to track your location by mobile phone technology but also to listen to what you say.”

Adding to this, “there will be eight new laws on cybersecurity long before New Year’s Eve.” These laws “will add and tighten details of the last military regime’s Computer Crimes Act…”.censorship-for-the-internet

As the report has it, the existing law “apparently hasn’t put nearly enough enemies of the state into prison for 15 years per offence. There is no longer even a pretence that the law is to protect consumers and information wonks.”

Then there’s the plan to track tourists and/or foreigners through “special” SIM cards. Doubts have been raised about this plan, with technical experts noting that all SIMs can already be tracked, and that the authorities are likely talking about foreigners “is mostly distraction as surveillance projects are inserted into security agencies.”

The report notes that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission “has gained a lot of power since the military coup…” and wants more.

The surveillance state exists and is expanding under a military regime that wants to extend political control and repression.