Updated: Rewarding Suthida

15 10 2017

A couple of days ago a Royal Gazette announcement was circulated quite widely. It was about the award of one of the highest-ranked royal decorations to the commander in King Vajiralongkorn’s guard.

The reason for the interest is that, as Khaosod reports it, that commander is none other than the king’s most senior girlfriend/consort/concubine (we are unsure of the appropriate term), General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya.

The Knight Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao is reserved for the royal family members, Privy Councilors and members of the royal household). There are normally 30 male and 20 female members of this order.

The report notes that the announcement of this award “coincided with the first anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death, and the formal date of King Vajiralongkorn’s [retrospective] ascension to the throne.”

Suthida is often in the military uniform. The king promoted him to general when he took the throne. Her “qualification” is that she is the king’s favorite consort.

Today, General Suthida is the “de facto head of security for … the King. Although she formally holds the title of deputy commander of the royal guard corps, the top rank had been left vacant since December 2016.”

As the report states, “Suthida had been serving in the royal guards unit since 2013, when King Vajiralongkorn held the title of Crown Prince.”

Update: For those who can read Thai, BBC Thai has a very useful account of Suthida’s rise, beginning from 2012 and listing the many promotions and awards that have been showered on her by the prince-now-king. Each event is linked to the Royal Gazette.





Updated: 6 October and dictatorship

6 10 2017

A few days ago PPT post about the new website has been launched from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, to establish and maintain an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

On this day in 1976, royalists and rightists were mobilized with and by the police and military in a massacre of students and others they had decided were threats to the monarchy. With claims of lese majeste and communists at work, these “protectors” of the monarchy and royal family engaged in an orgy of violence, killing, injuring and arresting thousands.

For a radio program on the events, listen to the BBC’s Witness story on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Ajarn Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Ajarn Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey on the terrible events by following the links here.

The king and the royal family fully supported the massacre at Thammasat University.

In remembering this massacre in the name of the monarchy, we are reminded that the current military dictatorship bears many of the characteristics of the dictatorship that resulted from the murderous events of 6 October in 1976.

Thanin Kraivixien was a dedicated fascist judge who served the king. His government was established to turn back the political clock and established a 12 year plan to do this. Today, three years of military dictatorship is meant to be followed by 20 years of rewinding under military, royalist and rightist tutelage.

Mercifully, Thanin’s extreme authoritarianism only lasted a year but military-backed rule continued until 1988, first with General Kriangsak Chomanan as premier. He was replaced by the more reliable royalist posterior polisher, General Prem Tinsulanonda. After 1988, Prem retained considerable political influence and has repeatedly supported military coups. His support for the current dictatorship has been stated several times.

Update: The military remains exceptionally prickly about this event of 41 years ago. And justifiably so in that military fingerprints are all over one of Thailand’s worst massacres of civilians. So it is that Khaosod reports that a film about the event was prevented from being screened on the anniversary. By the Time It Gets Dark or ดาวคะนอง is a 2016 film directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong. It has has some very good reviews.

But the military censors weren’t interested in art. According to Khaosod, theatre owner Thida Plitpholkarnpim announced two hours before it was to show that the thugs had said no. She added: “Don’t ask for the reason…. They misunderstood the story of the film. They couldn’t even remember the name of [tonight’s] activity.”





The 6 October website

30 09 2017

As reported at Prachatai, a new website has been launched from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, to establish and maintain an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

That horrid massacre, mainly of students gathered at Thammasat University, was led by police, ultra-royalist rightists and the military. The massacre and the military coup that was a part of the plan was enthusiastically supported by the king, queen, then Prince Vajiralongkorn and other members of the royal family.

A photo by Frank Lombard available at the new website.

The students killed and the more than 3,000 arrested were maniacally alleged to be “communists and threats to Thailand’s monarchy.”

For a monarchy that is regularly said to be “revered” and “loved,” it is remarkable how many citizens have been killed and jailed to “protect” it.

The website is superbly designed and is an important resource.It is mostly in Thai, although some resources are in Thai and English (like the documentary “Respectfully Yours.”

Prachatai notes that “Thai society has tried to remove the 6 October massacre from the history timelines…”.

Another Lombard photo from the website.

In fact, it is not “Thai society” that has tried to erase the massacre but the ruling class, including royalists, police and military.

Because Thailand is currently ruled by a repressive military junta that came to power following a massacre, to “protect” the monarchy and to wind back political space, this online archive is an important innovation.





Taxpayers squeezed

13 07 2017

The royals and the military are in cahoots in ripping off the Thai taxpayer.

The military is the biggest spender at present. The most recent bit of kit added to the ever-expanding list of big-ticket item for the military is a flight of Korean jets. That follows submarines, tanks, helicopters and armored personal carriers. In total, the bill under the current military dictatorship is is tens of billions of dollars.

The royals aren’t spending that much, but it is the wealthiest royal family in the world, according to Forbes. It is also dragging in hundreds of millions of baht each year from state coffers. Think of the two jets the king uses, dozens of expensive cars, his many residences, his jail, pets, girlfriends, antiques, security, and far more. It is far more than a gravy train.

Then there’s the other members of the family, each sucking at the taxpayer’s teat. One of the king’s daughters has been bathed in money for all of her foibles and fancies. The latest report on her gives a brief view into the lifestyle of this selfish royal:

If there were a prize for most enthusiastic fashionista on this list, the Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand would undoubtedly get the title. As it is, she’s been crowned Most Stylish Princess In The World instead. A regular on the front row at couture, a designer in her own right (she showed in Paris a few seasons ago) and with a wardrobe that boasts pieces by Chanel, Balmain and Hermes, shrinking violet and modest style maven she is not. Unafraid to experiment with more out there, non-princessy looks – including exaggerated shoulders, leather and tuxedos – she’s definitely changing the face of modern royal fashion.

Taxpayers screwed again.





Mad at Facebook or just mad?

9 06 2017

Colonel Natee Sukonrat is the vice chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. We are not sure he’s all that bright, but that’s not uncommon when a military junta appoints based on loyalty rather than any skill, ability or capacity.

In a report at Bloomberg, it is reported that the dunces in the junta and at the Commission have decided that they will be able to “impose financial penalties on Facebook Inc. and other companies with video-sharing platforms if they fail to swiftly remove what they deem to be illegal content, including insults to the royal family.”

In fact, it mainly about the paranoia involving lese majeste in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

The junta’s view is that it wants Facebook and others to remove lese majeste material “without waiting for a court order…”. Colonel Natee said “[d]etails will be released as early as this month, he said, and companies would have about a month to comply.”

Colonel Natee sniggered that he was going to do this by “touch[ing] the way you make money…”. Natee gloated: “I think they will cooperate because they make a lot of money from Thailand.”

Colonel Natee complained that “Facebook asked for the orders to be translated into English before they could comply with them — a process that can take weeks.” Really? Perhaps under the junta where they use dopes in the military as translators.

Colonel Natee declared that the “new framework would force broadcasters to comply with requests immediately and then petition the courts if they think the order was illegal…”. This twist on legal process – again, not unusual under a regime that is itself based on an illegal act – “would also compel them to have a senior manager in the country who is able to understand Thai…”.

It seems that the incapacity of the junta’s flunkies to translate or even find decent translators results in a twisted linguistic nationalism: “We will not talk in English to them…. They have to have someone to talk to us. When we give the order we will talk in Thai.”





UN Human Rights Committee findings

29 03 2017

The UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of countries it examined during its latest session. These findings are officially known as “concluding observations.” They contain “positive aspects of the respective State’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also main matters of concern and recommendations.”

All of the reports generated for Thailand’s review, including the Concluding Observations are available for download.

The Committee report begins by welcoming Thailand’s “submission of the second period report of Thailand, albeit 6 years late, and the information contained therein.”

There are 44 paragraphs of concerns and recommendations. There’s a lot in it: refugees, enforced disappearances, Article 44, freedom of expression, torture, constitutional issues, arbitrary detention, the National Human Rights Commission, military courts, problems in the south, repression during the constitutional referendum, defamation, computer crimes, sedition and much more.

We just cite the comments on lese majeste:

37. The Committee is concerned that criticism and dissention regarding the royal family is punishable with a sentence of three to fifteen years imprisonment; and about reports of a sharp increase in the number of people detained and prosecuted for this crime since the military coup and about extreme sentencing practices, which result in some cases in dozens of years of imprisonment (article 19).

38. The State party should review article 112 of the Criminal Code, on publicly offending the royal family, to bring it into line with article 19 of the Covenant. Pursuant to its general comment No. 34 (2011), the Committee reiterates that the imprisonment of persons for exercising their freedom of expression violates article 19.  





Updated: Lese majeste incompatible with international human rights law

7 02 2017

From the United Nations:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today called on the Thai authorities to stop using lèse-majesté provisions as a political tool to stifle critical speech. In Thailand, defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family carries a penalty of three to fifteen years’ imprisonment.

“Public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority, may be subject to criticism, and the fact that some forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify restrictions or penalties,” the expert underlined.

“The lèse-majesté provision of the Thai Criminal Code is incompatible with international human rights law,” Mr. Kaye said, “and this is a concern that I and my predecessors have raised on numerous occasions with the authorities.”

The expert’s call comes as law student activist Jatupat Boonpatararaksa awaits trial for defaming the crown. Mr. Boonpatararaksa is the first person charged with lèse-majesté since the new King, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, acceded the throne on 1 December 2016.

On 2 December 2016, Mr. Boonpatararaksa was arrested and charged under the lèse-majesté provision of the Criminal Code and under the Computer Crimes Act, after having shared a BBC news article on the new King and quoted content of the news on his private Facebook page.

Mr. Boonpatararaksa is currently in detention after his bail was revoked by an appeals court on 27 December, reportedly justified by the case’s sensitive matter and on public order and national security grounds. “I concerned about reports that the court hearing on his bail took place behind closed doors, in contradiction to the right to a fair and public hearing,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Earlier this month, on 1 February, his remand was extended for another 10 days. His next appearance before the court to hear whether there will be a new extension or not is on 10 February. No trial date has been confirmed.

In September 2016, the Thai Prime Minister revoked a previous order that granted military tribunals the authority to try lèse-majesté cases. All lèse-majesté acts committed after September 2016 will be tried at civilian courts.

However, actions committed before September 2016 continue to be brought before military tribunals, which have applied harsher penalties on lèse-majesté cases. In 2015, a military tribunal sentenced Phongsak Sribunpeng to 30 years, Ms. Sasiwimol Patomwongfa-ngam to 28 years and Mr. Thiansutham Suttijitseranee to 25 years imprisonment for criticizing the monarchy on Facebook.

“Lesè-majesté provisions have no place in a democratic country. I urge the authorities of Thailand to take steps to revise the country’s Criminal Code and to repeal the law that establishes a justification for criminal prosecution,” the human rights expert stressed.

He let them off the hook a bit. Thailand isn’t a democratic country. It’s a military dictatorship.

Update: Thailand’s military dictatorship’s minions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have responded or, as they say, “clarified.” PPT’s “response” in brackets:

With regard to the news release issued by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression voicing concerns over the use of the lèse-majesté law, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to clarify as follows:

1. The Thai monarchy has always been a pillar of stability in Thailand [Not accurate. Since 1932, royalists and the palace have consistently destabilized governments]. The Thai sense of identity is closely linked to the monarchy [Palace propaganda], an institution that dates back over 700 years [More palace propaganda and historically inaccurate]. The institution, to this day, continues to play a unifying role and symbolizes the unity of the Thai communities [well, for the royalist elite, certainly]. Enacting appropriate legislation to protect the highly revered institution is a common practice in Thailand as in other nations [Not true].

2. The lèse-majesté law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code that gives protection to the rights or reputations of Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent in a similar manner that libel law does for commoners to uphold national security and public order [the law has also been used to attack political opponents and protect dead kings, jail fraudsters, manage a royal “divorce” and protect a royal dog]. It is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression [Blatant lie]. Similar protection is provided for the King, Queen and Heir-apparent of other States as well as official representatives thereof as enshrined in article 133 – 134 of Thailand’s Criminal Code [This is an innovation in these kinds of claims. As far as we know, the law has never been used for foreign heads of state]. Cases proceeded under the lèse-majesté law are in no way politically motivated [Blatant lie].

3. While Thailand supports and values freedom of expression, these rights are not absolute and shall be exercised within the boundary of the law in a manner that does not disrupt public order and social harmony or infringe upon others’ rights or reputations, as stipulated in Article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [This is accurate] Hence, the application of the lèse-majesté law is not incompatible with international human rights law [The point is that lese majeste is used against political opponents and to restrict them in ways that defy Thai law and constitutions].

4. As with other criminal offences, proceedings on lèse-majesté cases are conducted in accordance with due legal process [This includes secret trials and military courts, all “legal” in the junta’s Thailand]. Those convicted for lèse-majesté are entitled to the same rights as those convicted for other criminal offences, including the right to file an appeal and the right to seek royal pardon [True enough. However, they are routinely denied bail, treated badly in prison, have lawyer access limited and proceedings are dragged out to gain “guilty” pleas].

5. Regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Jatupat Boonpattararaksa who has been charged under the lèse-majesté law and the Computer Crimes Act, the case is being independently deliberated by the Court of Justice [No court in Thailand is “independent”]. The government is not in a position to intervene in the proceedings while the judiciary exercises its power in accordance with the law. The accused’s bail was granted on 23 December 2016 and was later revoked as he was repeating his offense, thereby violating his bail conditions [Jatuphat is a political opponent and is being framed].