New “civilian junta” proposed

12 12 2013

At The Nation it is reported that the “People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has:

already has the name of the person it intends to nominate as interim prime minister, and has also drawn up the proposed membership of a “people’s council”.

…”Now we have someone [a candidate to be the next PM] who is sincere and not corrupt. [If] we cannot find someone who is [totally] innocent [in life], we can choose the most innocent…”.

It says it will “announce the names to the public immediately if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cabinet resign from their caretaking duties…”. This would be the next element of what these extreme anti-democrats call a “revolution.”

According to the protest leaders:

… the structure of a people’s council would comprise groups representing different professions, civil society, government officers and the media, with the qualification that they have not been prosecuted for corruption or seizure of property, among things.

They plan to “fix” the constitution:

“We had learned from the lessons of the National Legislative Assembly and Constitution Drafting Committee. And we would prevent the people’s council from making  the same mistakes as them…”.

 If you can’t win an election, you change the rules.

None of this is new. The Asia Times Online reports, with PPT emphasis:

In the lead-up to the 2008 court-ordered dissolution of Thaksin’s brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat’s government, a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest leader suggested that the Constitutional Court and other high court judges had considered the creation of a “Supreme Council” to fill the expected political vacuum to be left by its ruling. Then, royal advisory Privy Councilor and known palace favorite Palakorn Suwanarat was reportedly tipped to serve as the Supreme Council’s appointed premier.

… According to one international mediator, the NACC has [now] fast-tracked its investigations and could rule in the coming days. Some royalists reckon that could open a political and legal vacuum that allows for the formation through court order of a royalist People’s Council. Behind-the-scenes moves are being made in that direction. One list of proposed People’s Council members reviewed by Asia Times Online bids to balance known royalists with once-Thaksin allies who switched political sides after the 2006 coup.

The list includes: Privy Councilor Palakorn as prime minister; former Thaksin ally cum coup maker General Anupong Paochinda as deputy premier for security; former Thaksin-appointed commerce minister Somkid Jatusripitak as deputy prime minister for economics; hard-line anti-Thaksin royalist General Saparang Kalayanamit as defense minister; Thaksin-era foreign minister and royally connected Surakiart Sathirathai as foreign minister; former Thaksin and coup-appointed finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula in the same role.

Little has changed since 2005 for the extreme anti-democrats.





Wikileaks: more on HRW and the coup II

2 02 2012

This is PPT’s third post on recently released Wikileaks cables that comment on Human Rights Watch, lese majeste and the 2006 coup. The first post is here and the second is here.

In this post we begin with a 5 January 2007 cable, where Ambassador Ralph Boyce indicates what he seems to have seen as an exceptionally close relationship with HRW’s Sunai Phasuk.

At the time there had been a spate of  bombings in Bangkok on New Year’s eve in 2006. There were many rumors, including worries about another coup. The cable says:

rumors were rife that Council for National Security (CNS) member General Saprang Kalayanamitr was behind the movements, due to his dissatisfaction with the current regime’s “softness” against those seeking to undermine the interim government (e.g., former Thai Rak Thai officials).

Saprang denied everything but the Embassy saw a conflict between the royalist Saprang and former prime minister  General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh who was identified as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

This is where HRW’s Sunai comes in, pointing his finger at Chavalit as the one responsible for the bomb blasts:

Sunai firmly believes that political actors — most likely with ties to former PM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh — were behind the bombings. According to Sunai, the bomb attacks were designed to discredit the government and to distract the public from the ongoing corruption investigations of former Prime Minister Thaksin and his supporters.

With no evidence presented, this accusation is one that matched a claim made by yellow shirt support and 2006 coup plotter General Saprang.

Sunai went on to say that he “personally believes that the government and CNS are ‘good people’ but are increasingly ineffective.” Again, that is a comment that Saprang would have appreciated.

No one has ever claimed responsibility for the bombings and no one has ever been charged. What isn’t clear is why HRW should be informally finger pointing at Chavalit, effectively repeating stories circulated by yellow shirts like Saprang who have a record of plots (such as the 2006 coup).

Again, readers can draw conclusions on relationships, accusations and apparent political bias.





Wikileaks: U.S. Ambassador Boyce offers lese majeste advice

3 09 2011

The latest release of cables from Wikileaks has a remarkable piece of “advice” from then U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce on how to deal with lese majeste charges against a U.S. citizen, based on a Swiss experience. The “Swiss experience” relates to the case of Oliver Jufer and embassies in Bangkok, Amnesty International and those who speak for them on blogs, tend to argue that quiet diplomacy and “working quietly behind the scenes”  carries the day when dealing with lese majeste.

Jufer (From The Telegraph)

For a refresher on Jufer’s case back in 2006-07, see these links: BBC1 (an excellent account by Jonathan Head), BBC2, Save a Life, and see the set of links at New Mandala. Jufer was arrested by 7 December 2006 (Below, Boyce says 5 December).

In Head’s report, there is this: “We had heard he was indignant when first arrested. He had planned to plead not guilty. But he has clearly been advised since, perhaps by his lawyer, or the Swiss Embassy, to change his tune.” He had already spent 3 months in prison awaiting trial. Several of the reports note the politicization of lese majeste by the military junta that came to power through the royalist coup of 2006. This is one example:

After Jufer was arrested, Gen Saprang Kanlayanamitr, deputy secretary-general of the Council for National Security, as the junta styles itself, said: “The suspect must have been hired by someone so I have ordered soldiers to investigate the incident and bring the mastermind of this crime to justice.” Nonetheless, Thai media have barely covered the case after police urged local journalists not to report it.

That statement by Saprang is reflective of the idiocy surrounding Thaksin Shinawatra and lese majeste following the coup, with Saprang suggesting that Jufer was put up to the act by the regime’s political opponents.

Jufer was sentenced to 20 years, reduced to 10 year because he was persuaded to change his plea to guilty. That guilty plea meant that no evidence was heard in the court.

Boyce

U.S. Ambassador Boyce, who has shown himself pro-coup and pro-junta in other cables, offers advice to the State Department. His cable begins with a reference to the “recent arrest and subsequent pardon of a Swiss national accused of offending Thailand’s revered King Bhumipol Adulyadej…”. It is as if this is all that matters. Jufer was arrested somewhere around 6 December 2006 and wasn’t pardoned and deported until 12 April 2007, meaning that he spent more than 4 months in prison for a drunken defacing of a few of the thousands of monarchy propaganda posters that are required around the time of the king’s birthday and that often stay up all year these days.

Boyce goes into the usual royalist spin about the monarch being revered and wielding “great moral authority” as if Boyce hadn’t been following the events of the past years and sending cables supportive of the palace’s politics during that time.

He then claims that this case “provided a rare window into the reaction of the palace to incidents of lese majeste” and adds that:

Swiss officials in Thailand believe their restrained response to the arrest, in spite of their public’s demand for strong action, contributed to the sooner-than-expected release of their citizen.

Boyce states that Jufer was:

sentenced to ten years imprisonment [PPT: in fact, it was 20 years, reduced for pleading guilty] after being convicted on lese majeste charges.” He “spraying black paint over five outdoor posters of King Bhumipol Adulyadej on December 5, 2006 (the King’s birthday) in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Jufer admitted to being drunk at the time and was reportedly angry that new laws limiting the times when alcohol can be sold prevented him from buying beer.

Boyce then makes some outlandish claims:

Sentences for lese majeste are typically hortatory in nature and offenders are normally pardoned by the king. Nevertheless, as evidenced by the recent ban of the popular web site YouTube (see reftel), the overwhelming popularity of the Thai sovereign compels the authorities to act should someone publicly slight the King or his family.

All that he state here is nonsense and it is clear that Boyce is making a series of royalist claims that are close to his heart. First, it is the law that is “hortatory,” not the sentences. Indeed, as several of the newspaper accounts cited above make very clear, there was precious little media coverage in Thailand and attempts to limit international coverage. It is the law itself that demands self-censorship and the repression of views that are not the same as those of royalists.  Second, the claim that the king is so widely adored that any “slight” against the king demands that the government acts puts him in la-la land. Boyce diverts attention from what PPT calls lese majeste repression and ignores long suppressed anti-monarchy sentiments that were widespread following the coup.

According to Swiss Embassy Minister Jacques Lauer, who helped coordinate the Swiss response to Jufer’s arrest, the Swiss government was surprised by how rapidly the King pardoned Jufer — a mere 13 days following his conviction and before Jufer had even filed an appeal or requested a royal pardon. Lauer indicated they had expected the King would follow tradition and wait until his 80th birthday, eight months later, to pardon Jufer and others accused of lese majeste. Lauer noted that Thai prison officials provided Swiss consular officials full access to Jufer.

PPT is unsure of the notion of “tradition” in sentencing and pardoning. A previous know case cited at Wikipedia says this:

Frenchman Lech Tomasz Kisielewicz allegedly committed lèse majesté in 1995 by making a derogatory remark about a Thai princess while on board a Thai Airways flight. Although in international airspace at the time, he was taken into custody upon landing in Bangkok and charged with offending the monarchy. He was detained for two weeks, released on bail, and acquitted after writing a letter of apology to the king, and deported.

It would seem that the “tradition” was not a tradition and depended on circumstances and whim. Kisielewicz was a relatively wealthy businessman with international connections and had refused to obey the instructions of an airline hostess who demanded he turn off his reading light that was said to have “inconvenienced” Princess Soamsawali, sitting in front of him. He was said to uttered derogatory remarks. In fact, Soamsawali is not covered by Article 112 but this case shows the illegality involved in the use of the law.

With no detail, background or previous experience cited, Boyce believes the Swiss got it right:

Minister Lauer credited Jufer’s speedy pardon to a Swiss decision to not antagonize Thai officials by making public comments, an action that may have provoked a backlash due to the public adoration of the King. Lauer claimed that intense international media attention and the public clamor in Switzerland for Jufer’s release made it difficult to balance the need to avoid offending their Thai interlocutors while appearing proactive in the eyes of the Swiss public. While historically relatively few foreigners have been accused of lese majeste, Lauer cautioned that should an AmCit be detained for lese majeste charges, any public criticism or appeals by USG officials would be tantamount to “throwing oil on the fire”.

There’s no evidence for this claim except the feeling espoused by an official who was criticized for his lack of action on the Jufer case. There is no contrary evidence because no embassy has been willing to take a public stand and criticize the Thai law and its use. Backbone has been lacking and still is. In addition, the U.S. relationship with Thailand is quite different from that between Switzerland and Thailand. Boyce concludes:

If an AmCit were to be charged with lese majeste, it is likely that a low key approach outside the public eye would stand the best chance of success in getting him or her out of custody and out of Thailand.

That seems to be the current line taken by the Embassy and State Department in dealing with the truly testing case of Joe Gordon, charged with offenses allegedly committed on U.S. soil.

Nicolaides

It might be noted that another embassy that seems to have followed the “don’t rock the boat” strategy is the Australian Embassy during the imprisonment of Australian citizen Harry Nicolaides. In this case, the Harry’s family complained about the Australian government’s approach and his lawyer became outspoken. As pointed out in our page on Nicolaides, while he mouthed appreciation for the efforts of governments, he seemed more concerned to thank the media and people in Australia for keeping the pressure on and support up. The Australian government appears to have believed that a guilty plea and conviction would result in a quick pardon and deportation. It took a month, meaning that Harry was in jail from 2 September 2008 to 20 February 2009. His return to Australia is chronicled here.

In his concluding comment, Boyce writes about the “King’s preexisting public statement that he will pardon anyone convicted of lese majeste…”. Of course, it is not as simple as Boyce’s propaganda-like statement makes out. If a guilty plea isn’t entered, getting a pardon seems not to be in the equation, unless it is a part of general sentence reductions and releases associated with the king’s birthday.

Boyce then really gets out on a thin limb by claiming that the “sooner-than-expected release of Jufer seem to indicate that the palace is uncomfortable with the strict application of lese majeste laws.” He adds that:

palace officials seem reluctant to let lese majeste be used as a tool to punish those who are accused of defaming the monarch. The palace appears quite sensitive to the possibility that lese majeste could be abused by non-palace actors to achieve their own ends.

They might be but these officials have since seemed all too eager to allow its political allies to use Article 112 for political purposes, most notably against red shirts. In fact, as the Anthony Chai case makes clear, palace officials are intimately involved in lese majeste cases.

The Wikileaks cables suggest that, by this point in his career as U.S. Ambassador, Boyce was doing little more than cheering for junta and monarchy. If his partisan advice now drives U.S. policy on lese majeste, then U.S. citizens can expect little support if they are caught up with  draconian lese majeste repression.





News about Da Torpedo

13 07 2011

Prachatai reports that on 8 July 2011, Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, who was sentenced to 18 years in jail on lese majeste charges on 28 August 2009, has seen her conviction and 50,000 baht fine “for insulting privy councillors and generals behind the 2006 coup” upheld.

It is claimed that in her speech during a protest rally on 31 May 2007 Darunee “attacked Chair of the Privy Council Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, then-Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and leaders of the 2006 coup Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin and Gen Saprang Kalayanamit, blaming them for the coup and the damage it had caused the country.”

The fact that Darunee was correct in her analysis and that these coup planners and implementers broke several laws and overthrew the constitution in implementing an illegal coup seems not to matter.

Prachatai reports that the military junta, known as the Council for National Security, “assigned the Judge Advocate General’s Department to lodge a defamation complaint against her in June 2007.”

Darunee is being punished again and again for her refusal to plead guilty on lese majeste charges. It is, in fact, these scheming men – Prem, Sonthi, Surayud, Saprang – who should be in jail for their illegal acts that have led to such turmoil.

 





With a major update: Clash escalating towards real war

8 02 2011

The border “skirmish” between Thailand and Cambodia continues to expand and grow. As ever, The Thai Report is providing a host of useful links to stories, tweets and video.

On the Thais side, there appears little way to back down. Readers can go back to our earlier posts on the relationship between PAD and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government for comments on the need to be “tough” in a tug-of-war for the nationalist yellow supporters. The military continues to run its own show with little or no effective civilian oversight and seems to line up in ways that provide considerable support for the yellow nationalists.

The Phnom Penh Post has several stories from the Cambodian side.

Update: As the armed forces seem to control so much, including the way the border clashes go with Cambodia – perhaps towards more martial responses, in The Nation, Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senapong gets upset that red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Promphan has again talked of coup plots. Of course, Jatuporn isn’t the only one making these claims. Admiral Bannawit Kengrien, a yellow-hued supporter of the 2006 coup and (a former supporter) of the current government has talked of coup too.

Thepthai says Jatuporn “fabricated an alleged coup plot in order to drive a wedge between the government and the armed forces…”. Well, the fact is that the army is the dog and not the tail in this relationship, so if there is a breech, perhaps it is reflective of the tail not being adequate for wagging. He claimed that “the government had a good working relationship with the armed forces. This was in stark contrast to the situation when Pheu Thai was in power and failed to win the respect of top military leaders…”. Thepthai neglects to mention that the government is beholden to the armed forces. It stays in power while the military wants it there.

Jatuporn alleged that a  “coup plot was being hatched by five figures.” He named  the plotters as: “tycoon Prayad Boonsung, Army Chief-of-Staff General Dapong Rattanasuwan, retired General Saprang Kalayanamitr, businessman Piya Malakul and People’s Alliance for Democracy Sondhi Limthongkul.” All names that we’ve heard from before and potentially associated with a coup, some of them not for the first time.

The events on the border and the actions of PAD should be seen in the context of rumors of splits and coup plotting.

 





Darunee guilty of coup defamations

16 09 2009

Original post: A short story in The Nation’s “breaking news” (16 September 2009: “Da Torpedo fined Bt50,000 for defaming coup leaders, former PM, Prem”) states that Darunee Charnchoensilpakul has been convicted in the Criminal Court and fined Bt50,000 for defaming 2006 coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratklin, coup conspirator and PAD behind-the-scenes advisor General Saprang Kalayanamitr, Privy Councilor and former post-coup premier Surayud Chulanont and Privy Councilor and former prime minister and known coup co-conspirator Prem Tinsulanonda during a red shirt rally in   2007. She is said to be set to appeal the conviction.

Update 1: The MCOT News Agency (16 September 2009: “Red shirt activist fined for defaming king’s chief advisor”) also carries a report, making the point that the important conviction was for “libeling the Privy Council president at a protest in 2007.” In addition, it says she was convicted of “defaming … members of the then Council for National Security (CNS) in a speech at a UDD protest at the Ministry of Education on May 31, 2007.”

In her defense, Darunee “claimed her speech was made using the facts and that she had never had personal issues with Gen Prem or CNS members.” The court, however, “ruled that the libelous nature of the content and the manner of the language used were inappropriate and crossed the line of the limit of criticism according to democratic principles.”

PPT will seek out more information on this. We have to admit that while we knew she was charged with defaming Saprang, we hadn’t heard of this list of names for this case. Any information from readers would be appreciated.

Update 2: The Nation (17 September 2009) now has a longer story on the sentencing, where Darunee is reported to have been “happy” with a fine rather than a further prison term and to have regained some confidence in the judiciary. Hard to believe that the latter should be a conclusion based on her horrendous treatment in the lese majeste case. PPT readers will find the report interesting. In essence, the report seems she is convicted of using bad language against royalist big shots….

Contining this theme, the Bangkok Post (17 September 2009: “Da Torpedo fined for defamation”) has it that the “prosecution said Daranee verbally attacked the CNS by saying the military coup had caused great damage to the country.” Is this really giving confidence in the judiciary?





Democrat meddling emphasizes political loyalty

6 08 2009

The police chief saga continues. The Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Police reshuffle can still be changed”) has a report regarding the police reshuffle list already completed by police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon.

Council of State Secretary-General Porntip Jala is reported as saying that the list can still be changed “as it has not yet received royal approval.”

The Police Commission is due for an apparently special meeting on Friday to discuss the list while the police chief is absent. That would seem exceptionally convenient. Even better for the government, the “Council of State chief said [acting chief] Pol Gen Wichien [Potposri] had the authority to arrange another police reshuffle in the absence of the commander.”

Patcharawat is said to have warned against politicians changing the reshuffle list, and rumours are flying that a Democrat has been involved. Meanwhile, “some retired senior police leaders called for a legal amendment to prevent politicians from intervening in personnel management at the Royal Thai Police Office.”

Meanwhile, according to the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Priewphan to seek court justice over acting police chief’s job”) the man passed over for acting police chief, Deputy national police chief Priewphan Damapong (see our earlier post here) has vowed to “seek justice in the courts.”

Priewphan said “that he believed he was not entrusted with the responsibility because he is a relative of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” He added that “he has already served as acting national police chief 22 times.”

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “responded to Pol Gen Priewphan’s claims a few hours later. He insisted the appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was appropriate and legal. He had taken into consideration seniority and suitability to do the job in the current situation, the prime minister said. The appointment of Pol Gen Wichien was in line with Article 72 of the Police Act.”

Then there is a neat tidbit: “Responding to the suggestion that Pol Gen Wichien might not be suitable for the post since the Royal Aide-de-Camp Department and Police Office attached to the Royal Household Bureau had earlier each issued an order prohibiting him from entering the palace, Mr Abhisit said he had checked and found that the orders had been revoked.” If any reader knows what this is about, PPT would be pleased to hear more.

Keeping the meddling to ensure loyalty to the government going, the Bangkok Post (6 August 2009: “Prawit fears meddling in lists”) has another, potentially more important story, if the reporting is accurate.

Apparently Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (the on-leave police chief’s brother) skipped a cabinet meeting yesterday. At the same time, an army source has said that Prawit has urged “armed forces leaders to finalise their annual reshuffle lists by the middle of this month to prevent political interference…”.

Prawit is reportedly “concerned about the political situation and … is also worried about political pressure to have him removed.”

The Sondhi Limthongkul assassination case is considered to be putting Prawit under pressure and it is reported that “PAD leader Mr Sondhi and the ruling Democrat Party are looking for candidates to fill the defence minister’s post…”. It is said that “Potential candidates include former coup leaders who toppled Thaksin … such as Gen Saprang Kalayanamitr, Gen Boonsrang Niampradit and Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.”

The source is also reported to have said that the “army officers involved in the crackdown on the Songkran riots are also poised to be promoted. They include Maj Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard, who is expected to be made deputy commander of the 1st Army, and Maj Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, commander of the 9th Infantry Regiment, who will be made another deputy commander of the 1st Army. Maj Gen Kampanat Ruddit, commander of the Phetchaburi-based 15th Military Circle, will be made commander of the 1st Division of the King’s Guard.”

Wasn’t it Thaksin who was accused of meddling in the transfers and promotions, putting the military leadership off-side? The Democrat Party seems intent on rewarding loyalty and establishing its control over the forces of repression in Thailand.





Darunee faces additional charges

7 07 2009

Prachatai reports (4 July 2007: “Da Torpedo in court for open trial”) on another case facing Darunee Chanchoengsilapakul.

Apparently, on 2 July, she appeared in court “accused of surrounding the office of ASTV and insulting Sondhi Limthongkul when she led a group of red shirts to protest against the yellow shirts’ mouthpiece in 2007.” She was charged with “gathering in a group of ten or more people to instigate public unrest, detaining other people, damaging private property, trespass, and insulting others, in the incident when she led a group of about 50-70 red shirts to protest at the ASTV office on Phra Athit Road on June 1, 2007.”

Correct us if we have got it wrong, but didn’t PAD gather in groups of 10 or more throughout 2005-7?

“The defence lawyer had requested the court to summon Sondhi Limthongkul to testify as a witness, but Sondhi’s lawyers declined, claiming that Sondhi was recuperating from injuries from the assassination attempt and as the injured person in this case, Sondhi’s testimony would be unlikely to benefit the defendant.”

ASTV cameraman Chairat Khunhiran testified that “he saw Daranee speaking through a microphone, condemning Sondhi Limthongkul in foul language.Then the protesters hurled water bottles and stones at the compound, injuring one security guard at the head. He filmed the incident on tape.”

Again, we may have a faulty collective memory, but wasn’t the PAD stage used for similar foul accusations against its opponents? This is not to justify any of the actions, but to point to the continuing double standards and the political uses of the law.

Her lèse majesté case, in closed court, is scheduled to continue in late July and early August, and another case where she has been charged with insulting coup co-conspirator General Saprang Kalayanamitr is scheduled for late August.

These case appear to confirm that the power of the military-palace-judiciary establishment in Thailand.








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