Reasons to think about 1932

20 06 2017

As the anniversary of the 1932 revolution draws closer, the palace and the military dictatorship must be getting twitchy.

First, there’s the speech by the now aged Octobrist, Seksan Prasertkul. He was widely reported after a speech at Thammasat University, honoring Direk Jayanama, a member of the Khana Ratsadon that overthrew the monarchy in 1932.

Seksan seems to have caught up with PPT (sorry, couldn’t resist), saying that the military junta “is systematically laying down the foundations to allow its power to take deep root in Thai politics and overshadow the role of elected politicians in the future…”.

He sees something he calls a “state elite” branding “politicians who sought power through elections as bad people,” and seeking to stay in place itself. He says the “Thailand 4.0 banner, the Pracharath state-and-people cooperation scheme, the national strategic plan, and the current constitution to change Thai politics and keep political power in the hands of the ‘state elites’ and bureaucrats for at least 9-10 years…”. We have been saying that for more than three years (sorry, couldn’t resist).

He says that “the bureaucrats” are Thailand’s “old power” before  Thaksin Shinawatra came along. In a report at The Nation, Seksan is reported as saying that state elites and their “norms have been challenged or at some point eroded by globalisation and capitalism. With the writing of new rules and regulations, the new charter has become the tool they use to rearrange power relationships in the society.”

That’s kind of right, but there is no link between capitalism and an open society. Thailand’s middle class has demonstrated this and so have China and Singapore. Thailand’s capitalists have lined up behind the old elite that is broader than “state” officials. Missing that is risking missing the story of 21st century Thailand.

He is right to warn that “[i]f political parties cannot think of anything better than to challenge state elites or don’t dare touch the neo-liberalism model, or don’t dare to think differently on big issues, it’s no use our having these political parties because they will only be groups of power seekers.”

Look at them lining up for the junta’s rules and the junta’s “election.”

The second story is Thongchai Winichakul at Prachatai. When he talks of rule by law, he’s pointing to a point we have been making for several years (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Thongchai, ever the clever commentator, notes that the “months of May and June mark several key milestones in Thai history. There is June 1932 (the People’s Revolution) and June 1946 (the assassination of King Rama VIII), the two bloody crackdowns in May 1992 and 2010, and the coup in May 2014.”

He’s right to say that “the revolution of 1932 is not yet finished, not merely in with regards to the political system, but with regards to the establishment of the rule of law.”

What we’d emphasize, though, is that 1932 was an event that unleashed a struggle that has gone on since. The royalists have worked for more than eight decades to roll back the changes of 1932. What the junta has put in its constitution is a system of government that the royalists (and the royals) have tried to establish again and again. Now they think they have succeeded.

The 2017 constitution is the political victory of the royalists. Accepting it as the rules of the political system is a capitulation to the anti-democratic royalists of 1933, 1947, 1957, 1976, 1991, 2006 and 2014.

Only a people’s movement recognizing people’s sovereignty can defeat the anti-democrats.





Lawless concoctions and political repression

24 05 2017

The military dictatorship is able to arrest anyone it like. It has been active. It has rounded up hundreds and sometimes released them without charge and other times has had them jailed. Some of the “threats to national security” are jailed and lost from the media almost without trace.

Like lese majeste cases, sometimes the secrecy involved is such that commentators have no idea what the junta’s crazed notions are in arresting people. Sometimes the junta claims a “plot” has been uncovered and, more often than not, these are figments of warped military minds or are actually junta plots to gain political ground.

Back in August 2016, we discerned some cracks in the junta’s make-up and posted about a regime “lost in its own machinations, repression and lack of intellectual capacity for arranging its political future other than by further repression.”

Back then there had been some bombings, and of “new” targets. There were arrests. More than a dozen suspects were arrested and accused of plotting. Soon the Deputy Dictator revealed that these were not bombers but a dangerous group seeking to overthrow of the military-royal regime.

General Prawit Wongsuwan and police entered a time warp, declaring the detainees “communists.” At the time, there were 13 men and four women, mostly elderly. They were said to be members of “Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party,” a group no one had ever heard of.

They  were claimed to be “hardcore reds” active in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani and coordinated by masterminds who were influential politicians in southern border provinces. These bizarre claims continued with the dictatorship saying that the Revolutionary Front for Democracy Party was a nationwide network, except in the lower South, but that they were not red shirts.

Our comment was that no sensible person can believe such inventive, throwback nonsense. We said that the inventiveness of the regime is so ridiculous that we wonder if they are taking mind altering drugs.

As it turns out, it was only on 24 May 2017 that the military court decided to “release” them. (The report is unclear as to whether the 17 were jailed or on bail.)

Why were they discharged by the court? Simple: insufficient evidence.

This is just one story of a regime that treats the law as a tool of repression. Its own illegal acts come with impunity and it has repeatedly concocted plots, fiddled with evidence, tortured and, in lese majeste cases, reinvented the law in bizarre ways.





Junta, dictatorship, coup

23 05 2017

Since the 2014 military coup, we at PPT have regularly used the appropriate terms for designating Thailand’s current government: military junta and military dictatorship.

It seems that the junta and its dictators are uncomfortable with such terminology.

Khaosod reports that the words “dictatorship, coups and military juntas … are banned…”.

The “organizers of a two-day discussion marking the three-year anniversary of the May 22, 2014, military coup” have been told they may not speak these words.

Pro-democracy activist Chonticha Jangrew “said she was given the choice Sunday by a senior-ranking military officer speaking on behalf of the junta: Don’t speak those words or risk having the event canceled.”

This is apparently a real story not some late April Fools’ Day joke. The joke and the fools are the junta.

The organizers felt they had to agree with the order and implied threat. Showing the ridiculousness of the order, “on Sunday, the first day of the symposium, speakers resorted to raising placards printed with the words instead.”

The day after, “Chaiyan Ratchakoon, a sociologist at Phayao University in the north, circumvented the ban Monday afternoon at Thammasat University by using alternative words.”

Instead of “coup” became “illegal regime change.” Chaiyan asked: “Do we really want coercion by the use of guns? How will this differ from those who rob banks?”

Chulalongkorn University historian Suthachai Yimprasert ignored the ban. He said:

…Thailand is the only country on earth today ruled by a military dictatorship. He said the junta leaders grew up during the Cold War and still cling to that mentality. He said no one believes the promises of junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who keeps postponing promised elections.

He added that “trying to ban the use of some words” was “mafia-like.”

Another speaker, Piyarat Chongthep argued that “the rule of law has been replaced by whatever the junta dictates…. We’re in a realm that we don’t quite know what’s permissible and what’s not,” adding, “[t]his is a situation where the ceiling is getting lower.”

Kornkot Saengyenpan, who also spoke, observed:

Dictators try to make us accustomed to whatever they impose, but only with limited success. We must do whatever it takes to not get used to Prayuth’s lies…. They have to go, not next year but now! We have waited for three years, and they can’t make us get accustomed to [military rule].

About 45 people attended on Monday, with another 15 being “plainclothes soldiers and police recording and observing.”

Destroying the rule of law, illegally seizing power, corruption, using torture, murdering and imprisoning the young and mopping up for a vile king are the hallmarks of Thailand’s military dictatorship.





Human rights matter

8 04 2017

Based in the Netherlands, Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) “helps lawyers in danger around the world.” It sets its objectives:

In conformity with international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of the United Nations, L4L has committed itself to enable lawyers to practice law in freedom and independence, always and everywhere, even when that does not suit the local government, bar association or establishment.

L4L makes an important Award, every two years. This is:

awarded to a lawyer or group of lawyers who work to promote the rule of law and human rights in an exceptional way and are threatened because of their work.

This year, for her “unwavering courage and commitment,” L4L has chosen Thailand’s Sirikan Charoensiri.

In congratulating her and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, we cite the L4L Press Release:

Sirikan Charoensiri (June), a human rights lawyer from Thailand, will receive the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2017. On 19 May 2017 Sirikan Charoensiri will accept the Award at L4L’s seminar ‘The Voice of Rights’ about lawyers and freedom of expression, hosted by Allen & Overy in Amsterdam.

Jury remarks

“Sirikan Charoensiri is a young Thai lawyer who stands up for human rights activists, journalists and people tried after the coup by military courts, even though she is facing considerable risks herself. By awarding Sirikan Charoensiri, the jury wants to applaud her unwavering courage and commitment, and draw attention to the human rights situation in Thailand that is relatively unknown in the West.”

High-profile human rights cases on a pro bono basis

Ms. Charoensiri will be the first woman to receive the Lawyers for Lawyers award. Sirikan Charoensiri is the co-founder of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a lawyers’ collective founded shortly after the military coup on 22 May 2014 to provide legal aid and monitor the human rights situation in Thailand. As a human rights lawyer with TLHR, Ms. Charoensiri provides legal services in high-profile human rights cases on a pro bono basis. She acts for the increasing number of individuals facing lèse-majesté charges. These provisions make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king in Thailand. Ms. Charoensiri also represents human rights activists facing arbitrary arrest for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression and journalists facing arbitrary arrest in the exercise of media freedom and freedom of information by documenting the work of human rights activists. The political sensitivity of these cases is believed to be the reason why lawyers connected to TLHR are regularly subject to harassment, intimidation, and recently to criminal charges by the Thai authorities.

Four criminal charges in one year

In 2015, Sirikan Charoensiri started representing students from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) involved in peaceful protests on 25 June 2015, calling for democracy and an end to the military rule. Since then, Ms. Charoensiri has continually been subject to intimidation by the Thai authorities. Within one year, Sirikan Charoensiri has been charged with four criminal offences in connection to her professional activities. If found guilty she could face up to at least 10 years of imprisonment. Furthermore, another case was initiated by the police against her, under charges of reporting false information for having filed a complaint of malfeasance in office against the police. If proceeded, she could face up to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

Lawyers for Lawyers Award

The Lawyers for Lawyers award was created in 2011 by the Dutch Civil Society Organization Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L). L4L is an independent and non-political Dutch foundation seeking to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession. We do this by supporting lawyers worldwide who are threatened or suppressed in the execution of their profession, in conformity with international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. L4L hands out this Award every two years recognizing that ensuing attention and publicity will offer the recipient additional protection in the discharge of his/her professional duties….





Secrets and miracles

16 03 2017

The news media has been quite taken up with the scramble among junta people – and their accusations flying back and forth – on the failure to levy any tax on the Shin Corp sale deal back in early 2006.

Part of the problem for the tax authorities was that a later grab for Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets. The authorities wanted to his kids, but the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had ruled that the assets really belonged to Thaksin, not his kids.

That seemed like a tax dead end, but no! At the last moment, before the statute of limitations expires, and amid recriminations within the bureaucracy, a way to tax Thaksin has been found!

Problem is, it is a secret. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is involved in just about every news event of late, said the “Revenue Department will proceed with the tax collection process before the statute of limitations in the case expires on March 31.” He claims the junta has decided on a “miracle of law” that will allow to collect the taxes, which he says should “be worth a try.”

Secrets and miracles are hardly the stuff of rule of law, but this is a military dictatorship.

This secrecy reminded us of the secret changes to the draft junta constitution. As we understand it, the king has flitted off to Germany.

As far as we know from news reports, he has not signed off on the document that he received back in early February. That version, the junta says, only made changes to the (so far) secret things the king demanded. So why is he sitting on it? We know he has 90 days (although some reports did claim 30) to sign and only about 38  of those have so far been used.

We can only guess that the constitution is not considered urgent by either the king or the junta. It may be that a full 90 day “consideration” suits the junta which seeks every way it can to extend its military rule. There are no miracles in the constitution story, just secrets.





Rule of law and the princess

16 02 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that PPT posted on the “appointment” of Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol as something called a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

As we noted then, it seemed very odd to appoint a Thai princess to deal with anything related to the rule of law. After all, Thai royals are protected by a feudal law and hold artificially elevated positions in a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law.

Remarkably, it seems to us that the palace and UNODC have responded.

The Nation reports that the royal daughter’s “invaluable experience” and her “long-held interest in the judicial system” are cited as reasons for her appointment. UNODC “told the press yesterday that the [p]rincess had been chosen … due to her enduring passion for the judicial system and also because she has been a professional practitioner in the field for a long time.”

They didn’t say that her “long time” goes back to September 2006 when she was appointed Attorney in the Office of the Attorney General. Yes, “long time” is a mammoth 10 years during which time she’s also had a hectic social and palace life and went off to be Thailand’s ambassador in Vienna for a couple of years.

UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov reckoned this 7 or 8 years of experience “is invaluable” and “enables her to speak with authority on the need for effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.” He’s shoveling buffalo manure. Inclusive institutions? Like monarchy, puppet assemblies and military dictatorships? Other UNODC officials also shoveled the manure making ludicrous claims about the princess’s “experience” and “skills.”

The princess seems to have responded too. She has “pledged to move forward with the principle of rule of law in the region in line with the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.” She declared “the appointment offered her the opportunity to champion the UN’s position on the rule of law and fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Great! Fairness and the rule of law are more of less absent in Thailand, so we expect she will try to do something positive about lese majeste and illegal military regimes in her country. Is she going to speak out against them? Is she going to support lese majeste prisoners and ensure they are entitled to bail and other constitutional and legal rights?

There’s the test. Our assumption is that she’ll fail it because the position of the monarchy and its associated hangers-on depends on this feudal law and its cruel political use and implementation.





Supporting feudal monarchism

8 02 2017

We know that the military dictatorship has little sense of irony. It seems part of the UN has caught the lack of irony disease. That lack of perception means that, as it has done previously, UN offices manage to collude in creating and reinforcing feudal monarchism in Thailand.

pattyWe say this based on a report in the Bangkok Post that “… the King’s daughter … Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol is to become a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced on Wednesday.”

The irony of appointing a royal, protected by a feudal law and from a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and now uses military courts and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law, seems lost on this UN office.

In fact, UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas is quoted as stating: “She doesn’t see herself as above the law and is interested in helping out to advance justice reform…”.

In fact, she is above the law. While in its written form the lese majeste law does not apply to her, every Thai knows that, in practice, she is “protected,” just like dead kings and deceased king’s dogs.

How a feudal “princess would help to promote justice reform” in “Thailand as well as the rest of Southeast Asia” is not clear. After all, her experience is of Thailand’s compromised and politicized “justice” system.

Yes, we know she allegedly has “a special interest in prison issues, particularly women in prison,” but even the UNODC website has little about this since this “interest” was happened upon back in 2008-9.

In an earlier post, we speculated that palace’s need to reorient its propaganda to promote the new king and his (official) family. As in the past, UN offices are targeted in this effort to promote feudal institutions.