UDD finds some voice

18 09 2014

Following the May military coup, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship has been very quiet. Some of this has to do with the extent of the military crackdown and the power of the military dictatorship. Yet some of it is a failure of organization and capacity on the UDD’s part.

At last, though, the UDD leadership has done something that can be considered political. Ever so carefully, they have confronted Thailand’s acting police chief the sel-promoting Somyos Pumpanmuang on his circus-like parade of “men in black” last week.

UDD leaders Jatuporn Promphan, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Weng Tojirakarn and some red shirt lawyers met with Somyos regarding an open letter the group submitted “asking that investigators strictly work within the law” when dealing with the MiB cases.

That may seem lame to many as Somyos is about as politically biased and unprofessional in his police work as could be imagined, but the point is made.

MIB

No attempt to link to red shirts in this!

The UDD leaders “complained in the letter that information initially released by police at a their Sept 13 press conference led the public to think that the suspects had caused the death of Col Romklao … and four other soldiers during a clash between the military and red-shirt protesters at the Khok Wua intersection on April 10, 2010.”

Speaking after a meeting with the UDD leaders, the top cop and former mining company director said “police had never named any group as being behind the five ‘men in black’ arrested last week.” He added that “he never asserted they were responsible for the death of then-Col Romklao…”.

That’s a fabricated untruth. He had them dressed up and took them out to “scenes of the crime” and forced them to re-enact their alleged crimes. He had red ribbons tied to the alleged MiBs.

No one can ever believe this man.

When Somyos bleats that “all the suspects would be treated with justice,” you know he is concocting this for he has already thrown the book of justice out the window in his fancy dress party for alleged MiBs.

Remarkably, Jatuporn reckoned “he was satisfied with the deputy police chief’s explanation.” He should have expressed appropriate skepticism of the lying general. At least the UDD complained that the ridiculous antics of Somyos and other cops were “intended to lead the public to believe the political violence in 2010 and 2014 was linked, without giving providing evidence.”





Backpedaling on men in black

15 09 2014

No sooner had the policeman who will be Thailand’s top cop shouted that he had captured men in black who killed soldiers in April 2010, than he’s backpedaling.

Just a day or so ago, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang proudly declared that exiled red shirt Kritsuda Khunasen was involved in money and weapons transfers to the alleged men and women in black arrested by the police. Now Somyos says that “police have not established a clear link between the 26-year-old activist and the armed militants.”

Yesterday, Somyos “insisted that police’s ongoing effort to extradite Ms. Kritsuda is needed to question her about the Blackshirts.” Today he says the police don’t know where she is and, at present, can prove nothing about the claimed links.

A couple of days ago, Somyos was declaring that he arrested “men in black” were connected to “Redshirt militant group [that] were responsible for the murder of an army colonel during the political unrest in 2010.” This refers to Colonel Romklao Thuwatham. Even the soldier’s widow thanked the cops. Today, the police have stated: “This case is not related to the killing of Col. Romklao Thuvatham…”.

Khaosod reports the obvious:

The retraction of the link between the Blackshirt suspects and the murder of Col. Romklao is only the latest inconsistency to puzzle observers and raise questions about the accuracy of the police investigation.

If backpedaling was an Olympic sport, Somyos would have the gold medal.





Manufacturing headlines

9 07 2014

Like all mainstream media, the Bangkok Post has been reasonably compliant with the junta’s mandates on what constitutes news. However, a report in the online version of the Post stretches this compliance into being complicit.

The story itself is of some interest. It tells of an allegedly pro-Thaksin Shinawatra general reporting to the police. Next to the notorious junta-loving, self-promoting, business-police general Somyos Pumpanmuang, “Manas Paorik, who is wanted under a warrant issued by the Saraburi military court for illegal possession of war weapons, surrendered…”. The report states that the “warrants went out after authorities seized weapons in Wang Noi district of Ayutthaya province, Muang district of Lop Buri province and Krathumban district of Samut Sakhon. Authorities claimed they turned up evidence that linked the 65-year-old former officer to the weapons.” It is also stated that the “warrant said he was wanted for suspected plotting against the coup makers.”

PPT suspects that the second item is more likely to be the case for the junta is paranoid. No evidence of the former has been produced, and many of the “war weapons” seized in various places appear to follow the old pattern of military set-ups. But who knows? These police and military are using tactics that go back tot he 1950s, so we simply don’t believe them until we see evidence that hasn’t been doctored by them.

Somyos, dusting the gold from his uniform, says that he thinks Manas might be involved in political violence. No, not the military murder of red shirts, but some other violence.

But here’s where the Post gets complicit with the military dictatorship and the anti-democrat movements. The Post headlines its story: ‘Men in black’ general surrenders

Why? It seems the Post is spreading a social media rumor. The Post states that:

Former senator Somchai Sawaengkarn alleged in a Facebook post made on June 29, after seeing the arrest warrant, that Lt Gen Manas could shed light on attacks by ”men in black” in April, 2010, including a clash at Khok Wua Intersection in which then-Colonel … Romklao Thuwatham and several others were killed.

Yes, the Post has taken a yellow shirts’ social media post and used it to make a headline. And it is probably one that Somyos has had a hand in creating given his strong links with the yellow-shirted anti-democrats. Under the military junta, such politically divisive claims are meant to be banned…. but only if you are not for the junta. They keep tripping on their double standards while the Post seems to have learned how to use them for the junta.





Updated: Hypocrisy

5 11 2013

Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case. There’s a heck of lot of it on display with the flawed amnesty bill.

Let’s begin with the most obvious hypocrite (pretender, deceiver, dissembler). Democrat Party blowhard Suthep Thaugsuban is quoted at the Bangkok Post, which states that he led “thousands of demonstrators to pay respects to the deaths of protesters and security authorities killed in a clash on the street rallies on April 10, 2010.” Suthep called on the crowd to observe “a minute of silence to the victims including [posthumously promoted] Gen Romklao Thuwatham, who was brutally killed by the ‘men in black’ at Khok Wua Intersection…”.Suthep blowing

Suthep maintains the lie that only the elusive, never captured “black shirts” were responsible for all deaths in April and May 2010. Suthep couldn’t care less about the protesters; it was his orders that led to the military shootings.

In other words, Suthep’s “rally” is as much about exonerating himself and his pathetic claims as the flawed amnesty bill is about Thaksin Shinawatra’s dirty laundry. He is a hypocrite and a dissembler.

Turning to another hypocrite, in the same report, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is reported as having “pleaded for all sides to forgive one another and allow the country to step forward.” Yingluck was speaking with “a group of relatives of those killed in political violence called on her at Government House to give her moral support.”

We at PPT find it reprehensible that the Puea Thai Party has organized some of those who lost relatives in the Abhisit-Suthep crackdowns in April and May 2010 in a propaganda exercise in support of the politically-stupid amnesty bill. The Bangkok Post reports that Yingluck “admitted that it is impossible for the government to satisfy every party.” That’s true and why the Puea Thai Party should satisfy those who died for it and who voted for it.

Khaosod also reports on hypocrisy too. It notes how red shirts have been “stunned by the announcement that four core leaders of the movements had been suspended from a cable TV channel long known for its alliance to the Redshirts.” This is an act of political thuggery and hypocrisy, with Thaksin and his supporters “punishing” red shirts for daring to oppose his ill-considered amnesty bill.

Thaksin seems to have developed a political amnesia that threatens his political support. We fear that his view is that the Democrat Party hypocrisy will be so unpalatable that the red shirts and their supporters must support him. That the Democrat Party is detestable may mean that if there is confrontation, red shirts will need to align behind Thaksin and Puea Thai again, but Thaksin is foolish if he takes such support for granted.

Update: A reader sent us this note from now-defunct Asiaweek regarding political shootings and their defense. The article is “Will Thais learn the truth about 1973’s student killings? Interview: It wasn’t me, says Thanom Kittikachorn.” Eerily similar to Suthep’s claims:

Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn held power in Thailand in 1958 and from 1963 to 1973. Today, while conceding he may have made mistakes – including being slow to introduce a promised democratic constitution – he insists he was not behind the October 1973 shooting of student protesters in Bangkok. In his home in a quiet street near the King’s palace…. Thanom spoke with Asiaweek Correspondent Julian Gearing. Excerpts:

What specific orders did you give to the army and police to control the protesters during the events of October 1973?

I gave orders to all the military units, through Field Marshal Praphat Charusathien, who was in command of the whole affair, not to use force. Force was used later on – but not because I ordered it or because Field Marshal Praphat ordered it. When property was burned, when police and soldiers were getting fired on and dying, the deputy police chief gave permission to the police to defend themselves. What I have been accused of is absolutely contrary to the facts.

Snipers shot at demonstrators from the rooftops, sparking the major clashes. Do you have any idea who these people were?

I don’t know. They couldn’t speak Thai. The way they were dressed, they couldn’t have been students. They were not ordinary people. From their identification, they came from Bor Kor 333 [a northeast military unit]. So they may have been mercenaries sent in to create trouble, to stage a coup.





The opposition to amnesty

7 03 2013

As we noted in a recent post, an amnesty bill is crawling towards parliament at snail’s pace. An article at The Nation reminds us that there are:

three proposals for an amnesty law had been floated, by the 29 January United Front, the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) and the Independent National Rule of Law Commission. The proposed drafts were sent to the Council of State for consideration…. So far, the Council of State, which is the government’s legal advisory body, has not come up with any suggestions. Suggestions are expected soon, presuming Pheu Thai is not just seeking to buy time.

So the proposed bill from MPs is presumably a fourth approach. The Bangkok Post says there are eight amnesty drafts doing the rounds.

The Nation report says that Deputy House Speaker Charoen Chankomol has invited more discussions with interested parties on “reconciliation,” but the Democrat Party and the People’s Alliance for Democracy have refused further discussions. Why?

The Democrat Party as usual, doesn’t want any amnesty for “those in violation of the penal code and the lese majeste law and those who were guilty of corruption…”. The latter means Thaksin Shinawatra and the stand on lese majeste is the usual royalist nonsense that goes back to the very foundations of the party.

According to the report, the Democrat Party also fears “being deceived into supporting an amnesty bill that could be amended during vetting to absolve red-shirt leaders as well.” Together, as allies in royal yellow, the party and the PAD “believe they have done nothing wrong and would thus be able to defend themselves in court without the need of an amnesty law.” They trust the royalist courts to side with them.

And, the royalist side (including The Nation’s author) believes that red shirt leaders fear that as the “cases against them have progressed significantly and, if the court finds them guilty, they will be sent to jail,” that they want an amnesty bill that includes the leadership as a second bill proposed by Charoen”would seek to end political conflicts by absolving leaders of the 2010 protests.” The problem with this logic is that the official UDD has proposed a decree that specifically excludes the leadership of the movements. The MPs bill does the same.

Despite this, the royalist side charges that the red shirts will seek amnesty for their leadership. The royalists appear to be especially agitated as The Nation devotes two stories to the same topic, with the second story here. PAD’s position is explained in the Post story, and their position is that it:

wants the process also to include Nicha Hirunburana Thuwatham, the widow of Gen Romklao Thuwatham _ an army officer killed during the 2010 unrest; families of state officials who lost their loved ones in the violence; owners of businesses damaged by the street protests and ensuing riots; and members of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission.

As usual, it states that “key principles as agreed during the sounding-out process are distorted during scrutiny of any amnesty measure proposed to parliament, the PAD will protest by holding a street rally…”.





Learning not to rebel

9 02 2013

With all of the talk and meetings currently going on about amnesty, it does look like something may emerge. How good a decree, bill or whatever it will be remains to be seen as the horse-trading continues.

There’s been some interesting developments. One story has a “red-yellow” alliance apparently having “reached an agreement to press ahead with a pair of political amnesty bills,” with this soon poo-pooed as little more than media hype; another has Thaksin Shinawatra expressing his concern for “ordinary red shirts” still locked up from the Abhisit Vejjajiva years, with Thaksin denigrating Abhisit; and we have accounts of soldier’s wives and Democrat Party ideologues sprouting amnesty ideas. The basic divide seems to still be about who is included.

Yellow shirts, including the widow of Colonel Romklao Thuwatham, Nicha demanding that “an amnesty bill must not cover criminal offenders or those implicated in lese majeste cases.” Many red shirts are demanding that it must include all political prisoners, including those charged or convicted of lese majeste.

In all of this, however, the comment that struck us as most telling was by loudmouth spokesman for the Democrat Party Chavanond Intarakomalyasut.

He is reported as stating that his “party was willing to seek a solution for the country with others and support an amnesty bill that would cover ordinary protesters. This should cover those who violated the emergency decree as well as the Internal Security Act.” He added the usual disclaimer that “the party opposed granting amnesty to those accused and convicted of physical assault and corruption.” The last bit is simply about Thaksin.

Of course, one has to take the Democrat Party’s claims on this with a grain or so of salt as they were the ones who locked red shirts up and let yellow shirts roam free.

ToffsYet it is Chavanond’s next statement that takes the cake:

He said those being granted amnesty should be educated and made to understand that they should not violate the emergency decree and the Internal Security Act again, otherwise the problem would resurface.

It seems to us that this bunch of toffs just can’t help themselves. If red shirts aren’t “educated” and “made to understand,” they just might rebel against the ruling class again! Can’t have that!

Toffs2We are not sure how this “education” would proceed, but it seems clear that Chavanond and his lot have seen locking up protesters as a way of “making them understand” their station in life as servants and phrai of the amart/ruling class. It is class war, where Chavanond thinks his lot are born to rule over the rabble of the lower classes (described once by the wealthy Korn Chatikavanij as the “great unwashed,” a term he picked up at Eton).

That they should rebel against toffs is dangerous and a sign that they are uneducated as well as unruly. For the toffs like this, the idea that the people should be sovereign is anathema.





Killing Romklao

28 12 2012

The death of Colonel Romklao Thuwatham during the military’s attempt to clear red shirt protesters in April 2010 became a royalist cause célèbre as his death was associated with claims about men in black, said to be red shirt supporters, which were claims taken up strongly by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. Abhisit’s government talked a lot about men in black yet was unable to locate them.

Now, in the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the “Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is preparing to arrest three suspects now believed responsible for killing Col  Romklao…”.

DSI chief Tharit Pengdit has reportedly “denied the suspects were linked to red-shirt protesters, calling them part of an ‘unidentified force’.” He:

admitted yesterday the DSI investigation had revealed the suspects were neither from the army nor the UDD, but members of an unidentified force whose faces were seen and photographed by police and UDD supporters. The DSI will ask the Office of the Attorney-General to forward a request to the Criminal Court to issue warrants for their arrest, he said.

This case is bound to be controversial and worth following.





TRCT and men in black

17 09 2012

The Bangkok Post’s report on the official release of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission report suggests that it will be interesting reading. The Post says that the report “has shed light on the mystery of the ‘men in black’, saying they were linked with red-shirt security guards and Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol.”

In its report on the 2010 Battle for Bangkok, Somchai Homlaor, who headed the investigating sub-committee, said the commission had “found connections between the ‘men in black’ and security guards of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship in at least two clashes with authorities at Kok Wua intersection near the Democracy Monument and the Pratunam area on April 10, 2010.” He adds that “many” of the men in black “were found to be close to Maj Gen Khattiya…”. He added that the commission did “not have evidence to conclude whether they had a connection with UDD key figures…”.

The statements Somchai makes are not new. However, we would assume, from the claims made by him, that his committee interviewed so-called black shirts and red shirt guards in order to determine its conclusions. It cannot be, as another journalist reported, that the “report links at least one of the “men in black” to Army Maj-General Khattiya … who would later end up being shot down by an unknown sharp shooter on May 13,” and that “somebody saw a group of men in black step out of a white van at 7pm on April 10 near the Democracy Monument only to be ‘surrounded’ and escorted by red-shirt guards toward the direction of the deadly confrontation.”

There must be more evidence than this, as this appears based on one man in black and a “somebody.”

We can hope that in making claims, the TRC has spoken with more than a couple of witnesses to alleged black shirt action for an Army report states that “CRES intelligence” had it that “there were about 500 armed terrorists among the red shirts, and they were equipped with war weapons including M79s, M16s, AK47s and Tavor-21s.” These are all Army weapons but widely available as people in the Army lose and sell them and suffers numerous “thefts.”

PPT looks forward to seeing the report and seeing the months of investigation showing the necessary evidence.





Truth for Reconciliation report on Battle for Bangkok

13 09 2012

Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation reports on the Truth for Reconciliation Commission final report on the violence associated with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s several attempts to clear red shirts protesters in April and May 2010. Pravit states that he received an advance copy of the report, so PPT hasn’t seen it.

We won’t comment in detail on Pravit’s report, but as far as PPT can ascertain, there is nothing particularly new in the TRC’s account, and it’s methodology is unclear until the report is released.

Pravit focuses on claims that “men in black” were involved in the violence and that they “may have got cooperation from red shirts.” Neither claim is new, and in his account, Pravit sheds no light on the claims.

The report states that “security officers eventually used live bullets, deployed snipers and were likely responsible for the six deaths at Wat Pathumwanaram on May 19, 2010.” Again, nothing new in this, but as it is a  515-page report, PPT would expect that something original might be in there somewhere.

What isn’t at all clear is how the TRC concludes that: “Both [sides] believe they were victims. The operation by the ‘men in black’ were very instrumental in creating and elevating the violence with the aim of provoking the Army to use weapons against protesters and wanting to exact the loss of lives…”. The claim that the death of Colonel Romklao Thuwatham “led to the confusing and out-of-control use of weapons by soldiers”, seems to excuse the already confused and deadly actions by the army prior to that incident.

That the TRC is able to say that “soldiers then used rifles and fired ‘many’ live bullets in the direction of the red-shirt protesters” but is unable to “explicitly link… the deaths to soldiers” is bizarre.

The report’s claims about events at Wat Pathum Wanaram seem curiously outdated by recent events, at least as reported by Pravit.

We are sure that the report will unleash further discussion when it is released next week.





Weng keeps pressure on Army

11 09 2012

The Nation has a short report about red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party parliamentarian questioning the truthfulness of the Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Weng claims to have “checked” and found that the “military did not have rubber bullets during the time of the riots [military crackdowns].” Hence, he “dismissed” the Army chief’s “statement that the military used rubber bullets during the red-shirt riots [sic.] in 2010.”

PPT is not sure if Weng has been accurately quoted or the exact context of his statement, but there are plenty of reports at the time that suggest rubber ammunition was available and used, along with plenty of “live ammunition” (see here, here, here and here). In fact, the initial report by Amsterdam & Peroff (see p. 14), states that such projectiles were fired from shotguns on 10 April 2010. Perhaps Weng is referring to the claim that snipers used rubber bullets with M16s, and questioning that.

Weng is also reported to have given the “Department of Special Investigation a list of 39 sharp-shooters appointed by the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation. He asked the agency to reveal details about the appointment of the sharpshooters, their operation, and sites they were stationed at.”

At the time, it was widely reported that the Abhisit government’s CRES deployed snipers:

An army spokesman said security forces would surround the anti-government protest site in the heart of Bangkok with armoured vehicles from 6pm local time (11am GMT) to prevent more demonstrators entering the area. “No one would be allowed in,” the spokesman, Col Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, told AFP. “Snipers will be deployed in the operation.”

Weng also asked:

“DSI to probe the death of Sergeant First Class Pongchalit Pittayanontakan on May 17, 2010 near Silom, to try to find out if he was killed by a militia force or security officials. The MP said he also wanted the report on Pongchalit’s autopsy and those on Col Romklao Thuwatham and Private Narongrit Sala. He also submitted a picture of a sharpshooter that he wanted the DSI to summon for investigation.

Weng and the red shirts are keeping the pressure on the Army and the Yingluck Shinawatra government for an accounting of the deaths and injuries in 2010. The pressure may well intensify as the anniversary of the 2006 military coup approaches.

As a footnote to this report, PPT draws attention to The Nation’s use of “riots” twice in the article to describe the events of 2010. A riot is usually considered to be civil disorder that is characterized by disorganized acts by unorganized groups acting in a sudden and often very intense violence directed against state, property or people. Riots are often generated by civil unrest but are typically chaotic. The events of 2010 do not, for PPT, generally fit this description, and The Nation uses “riot” to diminish the significance of the uprising and to justify the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government’s use of brutal force against red shirts.