Authoritarianism and virus repression

18 01 2022

Several countries, and with regimes of several political orientations, have used the virus as a means to extend measures that amount to a global growing of authoritarianism. Thailand’s repressive royalist regime has used an emergency decree, meant to be about public health, to oppress political activists seeking a democratic politics and monarchy reform.

The Nation recently reported that the police have again warned those who regularly rally in support of imprisoned political prisoners that they will be arrested “under Covid restrictions.”

Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner and spokesman Jirasan Kaewsangek stated “it is still illegal to hold a protest or gathering…. He cited the emergency decree, anti-Covid guidelines and the Communicable Diseases Control Act…”. He directed this at those who he said were gathering peacefully.

To date, Bangkok police say they have “investigated 814 cases relating to protests since July 2020. Of these, 409 cases have been brought to court while the rest remain under police investigation…”.

Screwing down activism

10 01 2022

The screwing down associated with repressive regimes is an ongoing task for Thailand’s royalist regime, with Prachatai providing recent examples of how this political repression seeps across the political landscape.

In one report, Prachatai looks at cultural matters, focusing on the 29th annual Bangkok Critics Assembly film award ceremony. The video recording removes “references to imprisoned pro-democracy activists … from the speeches of awardees from ‘School Town King’, a film that took home seven awards.”

According to one report, “references to the detainees in the speeches of every awardee but one were cut from a nearly five-hour long video of the award ceremony, held on 24 December 2021 at Lido Connect in Bangkok.  The only speech not  ‘edited’ was given by Sinjai Plengpanich, who accepted an award on behalf of M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul.”

In all, “seven speeches were cut, including one by his film’s editor Harin Paesongthai, who received an award for his work.” In making his speech, Harin said “the film sought to address inequality and oppression in society,” adding: “not only in the education system … [but the social] system where we are dominated from the smallest unit to the largest, by the people on top.” In supporting political prisoners he stated that he wanted to: “… use this opportunity to support and stand with the fighters who are being unfairly detained. Free our friends. There are still people suffering, detained because of the injustice of the system … I believe that there will be a better day for us. Justice must take place.”

In another Prachatai story, union activist Thanaphon Wichan was recently prosecuted for attempting “to give a Labour Minister a petition calling for assistance for labour[er]s amidst the pandemic.”

Back on 29 October 2021, Thanaphon, a representative of migrant workers, together with several labor groups, went “to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter to the Minister of Labour to follow up on their previous petition to demand a solution to construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand a solution to other concerned issues including expenses incurred from entering the registration process which still lacked the clarity.”

This visit had been coordinated “with representatives of the Ministry of Labour beforehand.”

That action was disrupted when “the Cambodian migrant workers who accompanied her were arrested right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.” The Ministry the authorized a complaint to police, claiming Thanaphon committed offences against the Immigration Act. No evidence was found, so another charge was concocted: “being complicit in the organization of a gathering and an illegal assembly in a manner that risks spreading the disease in the area designated by an announcement or an order as a maximum and strict control zone and an area under strict surveillance except for permission has been obtained from competent officials, an act of which is a breach of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005).”

We have lost count of how many times this emergency decree on health has been used to silence activists.

Thanaphon and her lawyers say the case “is tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP.”

Because of the prior coordination with the Ministry, her lawyers argue that “the Ministry of Labour was obliged to act to ensure the enforcement of the disease prevention protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

She was allowed bail, but the message is broadcast to all activists: the screws are being tightened, the regime is out to silence you. If you refuse, face state lawfare.

Controlling and repressing NGOs

9 01 2022

A week ago we mentioned a terrible piece by a regime stooge on the conspiricist-authoritarian effort to further control NGOs. His view was that “both local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) … perpetuate fake news against and negative views of the government.” He added the ludicrous claim: that “some of them, with funding from abroad, have reportedly tried to topple the current political system under the constitutional monarchy.” And, he seemed to imply that the measures for Chinese-style “national security” were not a big deal for NGOs.

However, in a joint statement, more than 1,800 NGOs and unions condemned the regime’s draft bill to control NGOs. They explained that the bill  is “a draconian infringement on basic rights and freedoms.” They accused the government of seeking “to control and intimidate people who form NGOs to help others.” They also pointed out that the bill was “superfluous since laws were already in place to deal with foundations, associations and organisations…”.

Signatories to the joint statement included: “Impulse Bangkok, Non-Binary Thailand, P-Move, WeMove, the Campaign for Democracy, Bangkok Rainbow, Transportation for All, the Sisters Foundation (Pattaya), HealthNet, and the HIV Foundation Asia.”

They rejected claims by the regime and its conspiricist supporters that NGO activities “had ulterior motives, lack good governance or may be involved in money laundering,” and the view that “NGOs need to be regulated for the sake of national security and order.”

The statement said “the government had ignored NGOs’ reasoned arguments against the draft legislation.” It added that the “bill would hinder people’s freedom to form groups, to join public demonstrations, and to express and access public information…”.

Worringly, the NGOs observed that the bill allowed authorities “to bypass courts and halt NGO activities on the pretext of endangering national security…”. Not that the courts aren’t mostly in bed with the regime.

They correctly detect that the regime’s motive is “totalitarian … to control the public sector and deter democratic progress and universal human rights…”.

The signatories explained that they were “not opposed to being monitored for transparency but were opposed to legislation that seeks to control civil society with ulterior motives.”

Escaping the junta and rabid royalism

8 06 2018

Korean journalist Lee Jae-ho has written a poignant account of the plight of those hunted by the junta on lese majeste charges. It is a long story that deserves to be read in full.

After the coup, dissidents sought by the military junta and accused of various charges but including especially lese majeste, flooded across borders to Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Laos and Cambodia may have seemed safe for a time, but seem less so now as the junta does deals with regimes there. The relationship between the military in Myanmar and in Thailand makes it less safe.

Some well-connected political refugees went to France, New Zealand, the U.S., Sweden, U.K. and elsewhere, but those in Asia have been living an often precarious life.

Lee’s story is of Chanoknan Ruamsap who arrived in South Korea in January this year.

She arrived in Seoul as a “tourist.” But she had a contact who took her to Gwangju.

She had been accused of lese majeste for sharing the now famous and widely known and widely shared BBC Thai article on new King Vajiralongkorn. It included truthful comments on his past and alleged “philandering, gambling, his extravagant lifestyle and his involvement in illegal businesses.”

It was that story that has Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa in jail. Chanoknan’s summons came two years after she shared the article, but she was targeted as a political activist with the New Democracy Movement that the junta wanted to silence.

She’s from a well-to-do family, so she may be better off than other refugees. She’s in South Korea, because UNHCR has a presence there and with a 90 day visa it gave her time to deal with international officialdom, hoping to end up in Europe.

In Gwangju, an extensive set of human rights groups helped her. The May 18 Memorial Foundation covered “her living expenses until she gained approval as a refugee.” That Foundation has a history of involvement on lese majeste cases.

Now she waits….

The next 20 years of royalist repression I

4 12 2016

Many would have considered the military dictatorship’s trumpeted 20 year plan for Thailand to be something that would fade, especially once the dictatorship and its junta were gone. Even The Dictator has implied, several times, that the implementation of the “plan” was up to future governments.

This was a manipulation of truth and intention. The junta is planning 20 years of royalist and military repression.

In an editorial at the Bangkok Post, the reality is explained. It refers to a “know-it-all team … writing a two-decade national strategy for all future governments to follow.” It continues:

Immediately after a discussion with the [General] Prayut Chan-o-cha government [they mean the junta] on the strategy on Tuesday, Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan [the military’s puppet], who leads [carries out the junta’s demands] the drafting of the strategy, delivered a warning that any future governments failing to adhere to the national strategy will be punishable under the current constitution [we assume the draft constitution]. His threatening message is a disservice to the country.

With considerable understatement, the editorial states that a “strategy that dictates how the nation should be run in the next two decades does not bode well.”

As the Post points out Meechai’s declaration “contradicts the earlier affirmation from Gen Prayut that the strategy would be changeable.”

We continue to be amazed that the media believes The Dictator. He is not a purveyor of any truths. Rather, his job is to destroy the “Thaksin regime” and prevent any elected government ever being able to actually rule Thailand.

To protect the the royalist elite’s ownership of Thailand, the military dictatorship knows it will require generational change. Anti-democrats support this forensic neuralyation of the population. (They know that it can be done, having been a part of the royal renaissance under the late king.)

Rather than rejecting the military dictatorship and its fascist ideas about a royalist reich, the Post editorial mumbles about “flexibility” and “change.”

It does observe the regression Thailand has had under the fascist royalists and the military boot:

The constitution brings the country back to the ruling system we used many decades ago. The regime’s strategy, therefore, cannot afford to freeze the future of Thailand by restricting changes. Thailand could risk falling into an outdated and obsolete state if future governments are bound to follow the strategy without flexibility.

More daringly, it states that “[c]riticisms and suggestions that come from the Pheu Thai Party and other observers are not biased and should be heeded.” This “plan,” it is said, “will be a path to disaster that could cause damage to the country.”

“Damage to the country” is not something that bothers the military dictatorship because they define “the country” as the interests, power, control and wealth of a small royalist elite. The rest of the country it meant to obediently serve this elite.nazis

Ignoring this, the editorial mumbles about “public participation” in developing the plan.

We are not sure why this is considered feasible or reasonable. After all, no aspect of anything the military junta has done has involved public participation. For the junta, the public is meant to be automatons, positively responding to junta demands and requirements.

When the editorial states that the “Thai people cannot afford to have a national strategy that will determine their future during the next two decades without being aware in advance of how it will look like,” it is ignoring the junta’s despotic record.

It babbles about liberal notions of “participation” ignoring the truth that this is a fascist state that is being embedded. Only the pure and ideologically sound may “participate” by cheering and rewarding the military junta.

A regime in decline?

19 08 2016

We at PPT have feeling that the military dictatorship has entered a period of decline. It is a “feeling” so we may well be wrong. After all, decrepit regimes can hold on for years,

In the present, we discern a regime that may have engineered a referendum victory, but which is now lost in its own machinations, repression and lack of intellectual capacity for arranging its political future other than by further repression.

Such blunt instruments can work, but a regime that intends to convert itself into an “elected” regime needs to display a little intelligence, some strategic thinking and an ability for a different kind of politics.

This regime displays none of these characteristics. In fact it is probably the dullest and least intelligent regime we at PPT can recall.

Evidence for this is seen in two recent reports.

The first is associated with bombings, or so we thought. The 15 or 17 suspects in the recent bombings are suddenly not bombers but plotters in the overthrow of the military-royal regime.

Deputy Prime Minister, General Prawit Wongsuwon has, as if there had been no earlier reports, denied that the “17 detained southern bombing suspects” were involved in any of that, He now says they were “involved in other activities against his National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the bumbling junta].”

As if Thailand has entered a time warp, police say the 17 are “communists.” Yes, seriously, that is what this bunch of dolts have invented,

The most elderly group of “13 men and four women” included leaders of an “anti-coup movement: no one had ever heard of before.

The “Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party” are claimed to be “hardcore reds” who have been “active in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani provinces and allegedly coordinated by masterminds who were influential politicians in southern border provinces.” The inventive authorities say this is a “nationwide network, except in the lower South.” At the same time, they are not red shirts.

No sensible person can believe such inventive, throwback nonsense. The inventiveness of the regime is so ridiculous that we wonder if they are taking mind altering drugs. Of course, they have invented several conspiracies in the past and jailed people but have seldom brought anyone to trial. It is all the junta’s 1960s style counterinsurgency reborn in 2016.

The second story has to do with student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa. His story has to rank in the pantheon of junta duplicity and legal invention and manipulation as one of its most scurrilous pieces of work.

Not that long ago, the junta was declaring that the hunger striking student activist should take the bail offer the puppet courts had offered, stop his hunger strike and go home.

He had been “detained for 13 days since the police arrested him on 6 August when he handed out anti-draft charter flyers at a market in Phu Khiao [in Chaiyaphum].” Following the arrest, he “started a hunger strike because he asserted that his activity is lawful. The police indicted him under Article 61(2) of the the controversial Referendum Act for allegedly distributing materials that distorted the draft’s content.”

On Friday, 19 August 2016, the anti-junta activist from the pro-democracy Dao Din group accepted the bail offer. However, junta thugs immediately re-arrested him on new charges.

We can hardly think of a nuttier move. After all, the junta had been keen to end his hunger strike. Now he’s back in jail.

This kind of buffoonery suggests the junta is in a spin and that may easily be a downward spiral. It can’t  be soon enough as the regime is a disastrous and nasty joke  inflicted on a people who deserve better.

Further updated: Draconian referendum preparations

15 07 2016

The military dictatorship is increasing its crackdown as the charter referendum approaches. Its increased repression and control, while meant to ensure the junta’s preferred referendum outcome, is also part of the preparations for a post-referendum repressive regime, no matter what the outcome on the charter.

In a chilling report, an AP story states that “Thailand’s military government has tightened its control of media ahead of a referendum next month on a draft constitution, allowing the shutdown of any radio or television station whose broadcasts are judged to threaten national security.”

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, used Article 44 of the junta’s interim constitution to authorize the threat and crackdown.

In part, the use of Article 44 is to limit legal challenges to media censorship and closures, as was the case for Peace TV. As the report has it,

The new order appeared to allow the commission to shut down any station regardless of court rulings. It can act according to a junta order defining threats to national security as including defamation of the monarchy, propagating malicious criticism of the junta, releasing secret official information, and instigating unrest.

Of course, what constitutes a “threat” is defined by the junta and in its interests.

Prachatai reports that:

The order authorised by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, gives authorities to the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to close down media which fail to cooperate with the junta or present information deemed as threats to national security….

In other words, the NBTC have the power to shut-down media which present information critical of the military government or information which are deemed as threats to national security and the Thai monarchy.

According to this report, the Order also means that the authorities “cannot be held responsible for closing down the media which present such information.”

In other words, the authorities can censor with impunity.

Update 1: While on things draconian, we wonder about the thousands of anti-referendum letters that the military claims to have located, all wrapped in neat bundles. We at PPT can’t help thinking that this is the kind of frame-up that the military might concoct themselves. But if ity isn’t, then we note that the military junta is now opening people’s mail as well as their Facebook accounts, emails and more.

And if you’re wondering why the middle class and the Bangkok elite is quietly supportive of the dictatorship, then a read of a story at Scoop NZ, with this vignette that aptly summarizes yellow shirt media, social media and emails:

“Many people are sick and tired of political games and politicians in general, and many are also glad that the military took power, and happy with the peace and order today,” said businessman Chira Sirisambhand, 59, in an interview.

Mr. Chira’s relatives include generals and other military officers, active or retired.

His ancestors served in senior military positions dating back to a 17th century Buddhist kingdom in Ayutthaya — in today’s central Thailand.

“I totally agree with” the junta’s limits on publicly debating the draft or campaigning for or against it, Mr. Chira said.

“Why? Because the groups that are against the referendum can and will just say anything against it, and their supporters will just blindly support it.

“A clash of minds can just lead to another confrontation, physically or ideologically. We don’t need this,” Mr. Chira said.

It is still the irrational fear of Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts that drives support for all the dictatorship does.

Update 2: No sooner had we posted our previous update than we find a report in the Bangkok Post where the military junta has “denied the army was behind the delivery of documents containing distorted information to people.” Apparently, “[r]umours have spread the army was behind the move after some of the letters mailed to Chiang Mai were found to have originated in Dusit district of Bangkok which houses a large military unit.” That the letters contained the same “claims” the Election Commission says are in New Democracy Movement leaflets has also seemed just a little too convenient for many on social media. When a junta spokesman asks: “What could we gain from doing so?”, we assume he thinks most Thais are dolts.

No, no, no! No debate or discussion I

12 07 2016

The military junta is becoming ever more repressive. We know that we have said this before, but it is sadly true that the junta is engulfed by paranoia and addicted to repression.

It is intolerant of any view that is not its own.

This is an extremely dangerous position for Thailand, with the military and its rightist, royalist allies planning and working to ensure a narrow, dark and politically paralyzed Thailand.

The media in the past couple of days have been filled with stories that should send a chill through any thinking person. We mention these in no particular order.

First, the Bangkok Post reports that the military dictatorship’s hand-picked Constitution Drafting Committee’s (CDC) has determined that “[t]he seven reasons outlined by the New Democracy Movement (NDM) as a basis for voting No in the upcoming charter referendum are intended to distort the draft charter…”.

CDC spokesman Udom Rathamarit said the NDM’s reasons for rejecting the military’s draft constitution “were peppered with intent to distort the content of the draft charter, mislead readers and spur incitement.”

As far as PPT can determine,Udom failed to explain why this was. Yet it probably matters little as this is merely another junta-inspired effort to silence critics. In this case, they seem to want to tie the students up in legal procedures if not jail them.

For an earlier NDM list of reasons for rejecting the draft constitution in the referendum, read this Thai version from several months ago, listing 10 serious questions about the charter.

The intent is clear: to prevent any information that the junta dislikes.

The Orwellian Udom “said people are free to express their views on the draft charter. However, they must take care to ensure their views do not mislead people.” Judging “misleading,” the CDC seems to consider any opposing or critical view “misleading.”

The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed concerns about “attempts to distort the draft charter.” He thundered:”If things do not go well, I can write the new one. I will write what people want.” He added that he was a soldier and was able to do anything he set his mind to. A day later he explained he was emotional and withdrew this claim (which we are sure he truly believes).

The same report in the Bangkok Post notes that, despite a court ruling in Peace TV’s favor, the “National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) reaffirmed the suspension of Peace TV’s operating licence for 30 days starting Monday.”

The intent is clear: to silence a critical voice.

Second, at Khaosod, it is reported that “all Thai observers have been denied credentials to monitor the [referendum] vote…”.

Clown chairman of the Election Commission Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said “both the Asia Foundation and Asian Network for Free Elections, or ANFREL, had been approved.” It seems these two organizations can field a grand total of 22 monitors.

The intent is clear: restrict the possibility of complaints about cheating, fraud and intimidation by the junta’s thugs and officials.

Third, one of the main media voices that has reported extensively on the junta is Prachatai. It has been under pressure. Today, its offices were invaded by junta thugs.

The intent is clear: to intimidate.

Fourth, the military dictatorship’s thugs have attempted to intimidate a “staff of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)…”.

Not only are the intentions of the junta crystal clear, but its members truly believe, as The Dictator claimed, that they can do anything or put more succinctly, that they can get away with anything.

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.

Fascist, repressive, authoritarian, thuggish, stupid

23 12 2015

red candleThere have been some debates (and considerable nonsense) about how to identify and what to call this military dictatorship. We at PPT have used lots of descriptors – fascist, royalist, repressive, authoritarian, dictatorial, thuggish and more – and all may be applied to a regime that looks like sticking around for a considerable time.

Whatever one calls it, today’s Bangkok Post headline takes the cake, and reinforces another descriptor we have tried: this regime is dumb, dumber, doltish, dull and to get away from useful alliteration, just stupid.

Clearly, a doltish regime is also able to rule when it controls the guns and is doggedly repressive.99 percent support

The associated story states that: “The government claimed Tuesday that 99.3% of people in a poll were satisfied with its performance.” It is added that the poll was “conducted by the National Statistical Office.” Clearly, this once quite good assembler of data has also been undermined and politicized by the military junta. How else could such a Stalinist or North Koreanesque ridiculousness even see the light of day?

Thailand is run by ridiculous buffoons who can claim no skills other than the capacity for self-congratulations, royal posterior licking and adherence to hierarchy. This is not to deny that they are a dangerous bunch of ridiculous buffoons. It is their “training” in hierarchy and loyalty that makes them about as sharp as a bowling ball.

It is The Dictator at the head of this cabinet of clowns who creates the need for North Korean-style slavishness: “Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha] said he has attached a great deal of importance to the presentation of the government’s one-year performance review and that he wanted to build a proper understanding of what happened before the coup in May last year and what followed afterwards.” By “proper” he means his interpretation. There can be no dissent.Buffoonery

The Post article includes many other “statistics,” all equally unbelievable.

The scary part for normal persons is that Thailand is, under The Dictator’s plans, to be stuck with him and his followers and legacy for more than 20 years.

Prayuth plans to outline”a 20-year national strategy blueprint to shore up reforms.” By “reforms” he means the repression of electoral politics, of all opposition and the embedding of military-royalist rule:

The 20-year strategy, based on the government’s reform policies and reform proposals from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] and the now-defunct National Reform Council (NRC), will cover security, the economy, social issues and legal and foreign affairs.

Royalists want more of this. Thailand appears doomed to decades more of this buffoonery and its associated nasty repression for a considerable period.

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