Prayuth and Suthep dissemble (again)

11 08 2013

Many readers will know that, last week, a Criminal Court declared that six persons killed on Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010 were shot by the soldiers. The court states that five were shot by the soldiers situated on the BTS sky train track above the temple, with the sixth shot by soldiers stationed on Rama I Road.

That seemed pretty clear, but not for Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The outspoken general is reported at Khaosod as insisting “that the military was not involved in the deaths of 6 civilians shot dead as they sought shelter inside a temple during the 2010 military crackdown.”Prayuth locked and loaded

In one sense this should not be surprising as the military has repeatedly “denied any involvement, despite stacks of evidences and witness′ accounts.”

Prayuth “insisted that he never gave order to kill civilians. None of his commanding officers ever admitted they had shot any civilian…”.

Adding to the the mood of rejection of courts, evidence and reality, Prayuth is joined by former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. Also reported at Khaosod, The newspaper points this out:

… the more mind-boggling denial of what happened in 2010 appears to rest with the Democrats, who have repeatedly argued that the military operating under Mr. Abhisit [Vejjajiva]′s government have not killed any civilian or protester throughout the crackdown….

Continuing this mind-boggling denial, with Suthep speaking in parliament, again “denied that the military ever used excessive violence against the protesters.” His explanation was appropriately royalist:

Suthep Thaugsuban (Bangkok Post photo)

“The soldiers were loyal to His Majesty the King. They knew they were the nation′s troops. They acted according to my orders within the lawful power.” Mr. Suthep announced to the Parliament. He said a group of unknown individuals was responsible for any death.

Remarkably, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Suthep claimed (again) that there were no snipers at work shooting down red shirts.

Puea Thai Party MP Khattiyar Sawasdipol, whose father, Seh Daeng or Khattiya Sawasdipol, was cut down by a sniper’s bullet, declared: “Mr. Suthep is lying right inside the Parliament…”.army-snipers

Even more remarkable and showing not a shred of normal human emotion or sense, Suthep reportedly responded: “Maybe your father was shot by one of your own people?”

Such responses derive not just from reprehensible elite arrogance but from the history of impunity for state officials who murder citizens.

Bangkok Post misleads (again)

17 10 2012

At the Bangkok Post website, the headline is “B1m bounty put up for men in black,” followed by this: “DSI offers cash lure to solve five key cases.” As far as we can tell, both are wrong, and the first is probably deliberately misleading and reflective of the Post’s political bias.

The first line of the story is also misleading and biased: “The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has offered a bounty of 1 million baht for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of ‘men in black’ suspects linked to the 2010 political violence.”

That the Post is concocting its headlines is seen in the detail of the story, where it is stated that, first, there are seven cases, not five. Second, when the the cases are listed, the very first one is: “The case of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, who was shot to death near Silom subway station…”. PPT has never heard any suggestion that “men in black” acted as snipers to kill Seh Daeng. Nor has any claim of “men in black been associated with the murder of Fabio Polenghi, another of the listed cases.

While a couple of the other six cases have been linked in various reports to the mysterious “men in black,” certainly, this story is not about a reward that is solely about cases related to allegations of “men in black.” The Bangkok Post is allowing its yellow colors to be clearly seen in this a politicized beat up.


500 black shirts

27 06 2011

Prachatai has a wonderful summary account of a story at Matichon online that presents the views of one military officer on the events of April-May 2010, in which he participated.

The account carries considerable weight as it reports an article that “ appears in the Army Training Command’s Senathipat Journal, Vol 59, Issue 3, September–December 2010, as part of the army’s guidelines and case studies on military operations to solve urban unrest.”

In its reproduction of the first part of the article, Matichon helpfully posts the first part of the article and highlights “several interesting points…”.

The first relates to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claim at the Democrat Party’s Rajaprasong election rally last Thursday that it was he and not Teflon Mark – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva – who “gave the order” for the crackdown on red shirt protesters.

However, “the article clearly states ‘the Prime Minister gave orders at the CRES meeting on 12 May for the military to start the operation as planned’.” We imagine that Suthep is dissembling or is saying something about the official chain of command. If Abhisit wasn’t giving orders, it would seem very strange. First, he was at the military base for a very long time and presumably wasn’t just hiding under the bed. Second, Abhisit made claims that he was in charge and so got little sleep as he was deeply involved in operational matters.

The second important point the article makes is that “the government always had a clear policy to use military measures to pressure the red shirts, and the policy of ‘tightening the circle’ was to end the demonstrations, not to open a dialogue.” It adds that this policy contributed the rejection of “a group of senators to offer themselves as mediators on the night of 18 May…”.

Third, the article claims that “part of the reason for the successful military operation was the withdrawal of Chair of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Veera Musigapong and the death of Maj Gen Khattiya Swasdipol or Seh Daeng, because the UDD was deprived of its political and military strategists.”

Veera’s withdrawal has never been adequately explained. Other sources are less sure of Seh Daeng’s role, but if the military identified him as the red shirt military strategist, then Suthep’s bizarre claim that the red shirt leadership did him in makes no sense at all (not that it ever did for PPT). Suthep’s credibility has sunk below zero.

A fourth note of interest relates to the deployment of military units. Many commentators seem to have forgotten that this began with “sniper units … deployed in high buildings on Wireless Road, including the Kian Nguan and Bangkok Cable buildings.” Given the predominance of head and chest shots amongst the murdered, the use of military snipers is pretty clear.

A fifth claim about so-called black shirts is remarkable. It is stated 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.”

Given the very low death and gunshot injury toll that is reported for the military, figures like this are startling. Were more military killed than the government has reported? If not, where are the weapons and the dead black shirts with their weapons? Wouldn’t the military snipers have had ample targets?

The report makes fascinating reading.



Democrat Party at Rajaprasong

23 06 2011

PPT went to see the Democrat Party’s much-hyped “rally” at Rajaprasong. All we can report is that it was a fizzer.

We arrived right on time as those on stage gave their rendition of the national anthem in drizzling rain. The rain cleared up and Suthep Thaugsuban stepped onto the stage to deliver his promised revelations.

At this point we reckon there were between 3000 and 5000 present, and we are being generous, “counting” the 500 cops (including snipers on roofs nearby) and interested shoppers. The number might have gone up by a thousand or so by 8.30 p.m. The audience was spread out over about half of the plaza area in front of Central World, most of them under cover. PPT expected that the Democrat Party could have mustered far more than this.

Back to Suthep and his purported revelations. None as far as we could tell. He spent too much of his time preaching about Thaksin Shinawatra to the already anti-Thaksin. His discussion of new information was nothing other than a few YouTube videos, not even edited into a presentation, that most interested people would have already seen.

That he claimed that every single person killed on 10 April was shot by Black Shirts in the pay of Thaksin is hardly new. One claim we hadn’t heard previously, although it fits with the long-standing claim that the authorities killed not a single person, was the bizarre claim that Jatuporn Promphan had Seh Daeng killed. He even says he has no evidence for this brazen assertion. And, as Abhisit has said several times, Suthep declared that no-one died at the Rajaprasong Intersection. They are being geographically specific in this claim and morally reprehensible. All in all, Suthep was boring and said nothing new.

Abhisit whined about Thaksin and his “brush with death: at the hands on red shirts at the Ministry of Interior back in April 2009. He claimed this gave him the right to “phuut mak.” Abhisit’s performance mirrored Suthep’s in that there was nothing new. At the same time, Abhisit is showing the pressure and becoming increasingly self-centered in his approach, repeatedly calling the opportunity to lead for another four years.

Among the notable differences between the Democrat Party “rally” and those by the red shirts was the lack of shared emotion, the lack of entrepreneurialism in the area (not a trader in sight) and the lack of any atmosphere.

At least the rumors of a third hand were false. Then again, the crowd was small and there was little opportunity for mischief.

We are not surprised that the Bangkok Post’s claim that there were 17,000 in attendance. If we accept that, then we need to revise earlier estimates of the red shirt rallies in March-May 2010 up to about 750,000. Nor are we surprised that several television stations spent several hours repeating all of Suthep’s and Abhisit’s statements, even if they are repetition of a government line since the events of 2010. The bias is pretty easily seen, again.

“Non-political bomb” in Bangkok

5 11 2010

The Nation has one of its straightman reports that beggar belief but say a lot if one is cynical and adept at reading between the lines:

A home-made bomb on Friday exploded from inside a postbox located near the Labour Ministry in Din Daeng, police said. There was no casualties reported.

The explosion damaged the postbox and forensic officials found two letters – one addressed to the prime minister and another to the Democrat Party. Police were checking for any linkage between the letters and the explosion.

Metropolitan Police Region 1 commander Maj General Wichai Sangprapai said he suspected young hooligans were the culprits.

Wichai said the incident was not a politically-motivated attack.

So we have bombs in a postbox where there were also letters addressed to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and to the Democrat Party and the police say they are “not a politically-motivated” and the work of “hooligans.” Could that make sense? One reading could be conspiratorial and suggest that the authorities have been well aware of the bombers in previous instances, most of which have not been resolved by the police.

Then put that report together with one in the Bangkok Post. The government behind the government known as the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation “has warned all security agencies to be on high alert for possible violence – including attacks on important people – from now until the New Year…”.

CRES spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd made the point that his agency is getting reports from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) that “from the month of November until the New Year certain groups of ill-intentioned people may instigate violence in crowded areas and attack important people to erode the public’s confidence in the safety of their lives and property.”

The result is that CRES has “instructed all intelligence agencies including the National Security Council, armed forces and police to keep watchful eyes on activities of groups under suspicion.” Now who could be under suspicion? Probably not “hooligans.” Of course, it is “especially” the “activities of the red-shirts on Nov 13 to mark since six months the death of Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol (Seh Daeng), who was shot on May 13, and on Nov 19 to mark six months since the May 19 military crackdown on United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protesters at Ratchaprasong.”

Security units would be on high alert as the “NIA also received reports of suspicious movements of chemicals and explosives which can be used as precursors for making bombs. These activities would also be under watch…”. Was the postbox bomb a teaser? Who knows, but it is an interesting coincidence, perhaps.

Updated: DSI on the job

3 09 2010

Following its pathetic report a week or so ago on the deaths of 91 people, mainly red-shirt protesters,  associated with the Battle for Bangkok in April and May 2010, the “Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has set up 12 investigation teams to seek facts on the 89 deaths…”. It might help if they could get the number right. So DSI is now really on the job as opposed to pretending to be on the job before this?

MCOT News states that Tharit Pengdit, the boss of Thailand’s political police known as DSI, has told reporters that DSI will have a result in 45 days.There is another press conference promised for the end of this new period of investigation.

Tharit claims that his 12 teams of investigators will focus on 12 incidents, with the greatest attention to “high-profile cases involving six people shot dead at Wat Pathumwanaram near Ratchaprasong intersection, the main protest venue; the death of Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol or Seh Daeng, an Army specialist general; Japanese photographer Hiro Muramoto and Italian reporter Fabio Polenghi.”

In the theater of the absurd that is Thailand’s current politics, “Tharit said the investigators would try to find out who killed the victims and how they were killed.” PPT wonders what they were investigating up to this point? We realize that lese majeste cases take up much of Tharit’s time, but this seems like an empty-headed statement. That is followed by an assurance that: “No specific results have been determined in advance … adding that the DSI wanted to establish the truth, without distortion, and reveal the facts to the public.”

Update: Tharit is under pressure elsewhere. Read about it in the Bangkok Post.

Updated: DSI and manipulating the law

15 08 2010

The Nation reports that the late Seh Daeng’s driver is being held at “an undisclosed army camp.” PPT reckons this is not the first report of this arrest, but it is the first detail released.

The report is that  Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tharit Pengdit has disclosed that Jakchalat “Pol” Khongsuwan, 37,  the “personal chauffeur of … Maj-General Khattiya Sawasdipol is being held at an undisclosed army camp for interrogation over his alleged involvement in anti-government protests from March to May…”. This detention can be for “up to 30 days without the presence of lawyers or relatives before formal charges had to laid against him, Tharit said. DSI officers had joined in the questioning and care of Jakchalat at the camp…”.

PPT believes that Jakchalat has already been in custody since Thursday. He was arrested in Mahasarakham. The DSI expects that he will “provide useful and in-depth information.” Why do they think this? Because, according to the report, the “DSI has not filed terrorist charges yet because, if he were charged, he could be in police custody for up to 48 hours only, the source said. Then he would have to be brought to apply for detention at a court prison and his lawyer or relatives’ presence would be required throughout the questioning, the source said.” Keeping him away from lawyers and family means he can be manipulated beyond the law.

Of course, under the emergency decree and the rule of the Abhisit Vejjajiva military-palace regime, nothing is really illegal. However, the stated position of the DSI confirms its position as the regime’s political police in cahoots with the army.

No election, more political prisoners, more fear

3 07 2010

Leader of what is arguably the most repressive regime Thailand has seen since 1977 – yes, we’re serious, read on -  Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has told reporters that there will be no early election this year. That’s no surprise at all, but he hasn’t really said this to the electorate. Some reasoning associated with so-called reconciliation is involved.

The statement he made talked of a better, more peaceful climate for campaigning. We trust he isn’t holding his breath – and nor should the electorate – this is a very long way off.

And the government has gone back to its pre-Battle for Bangkok mode, instilling fear as often as possible. According to a report, “security has been boosted for the prime minister and key government figures following intelligence reports confirming an assassination plot…”. Another one! Do a search for assassination at PPT and read of them. This one also “targets” some labeled as “high-ranking civilians and judicial officials…”.

The reports say that Abhisit’s security detail has been enlarged and there are claimed to be “a much larger number of both uniformed police officers and those in plain clothes providing security” for him. Apparently the ever horrid and still acting government spokesman Panitarn Watthanayakorn “now travels in a government-issued bulletproof SUV and is protected around the clock by a two-man security detail.” That makes him feel like he really counts as only Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban “normally enjoy such security privileges.”

In the same report, the Nation has a kind of throwaway line that says the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) “has arrested 16 people in the past week, including pro-Thaksin Shinawatra webmaster Sombat Bunngarmwong and Yong-yuth Thuammanee, a close aide to late Army adviser Khattiya Sawas-diphol. The 14 others are accused of torching government buildings in Khon Kaen and Udon Thani during the red-shirt protests in May.”

How many people are now locked up as political prisoners by this awful government? Part of the reason for the Khon Kaen arrests is to destroy the leadership of the red shirts there.

Massive censorship, hundreds locked up, murders in the provinces, a climate of fear and a determination to restrict freedoms are the hallmarks of this government. It is a disaster for Thailand and matches the right-wing neo-Fascism seen under the royalist government led by Privy Councilor Thanin Kraivixien.

Red shirts as communists

18 05 2010

PPT is having difficulty posting on things other than current events. However, we wish to comment on an Asia Times Online report from 13 May 2010 by William Barnes. Barnes is a journalist with long experience in Thailand and has a bit of a scoop in getting Therdpoum Chaidee, a former communist and union leader from the 1970s to speak to him about the red shirts.

Therdpoum, if PPT’s memory is correct, was a strong supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. But as a former member of the CPT, he can claim to have been a “colleague of key protest leaders” of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD). His argument is that the “relative success of Thailand’s red-garbed anti-government protest group in outmaneuvering the government and military owes much to Maoist revolutionary thought and guerrilla tactics.”

PPT is not sure how much credibility to give such a claim when the PAD were supported by many former members of the CPT – at one time they had almost the whole last politburo of the CPT on stage! This point is made later in the article. However, the attempt to link red shirts to communists is at least an interesting claim to make,and not for the first time.

The claim is that some of the red shirt leaders learned their political strategies with the CPT. We suppose that is a truism, but what is claimed? The main point seems to be that the CPT decided that “strategy has necessarily required violence…”. Well, yes, they were fighting a people’s war. And it is that claim that was made earlier , for red shirts. But it wasn’t the CPT red shirts making the claim. Rather it was their former enemies from the military – Seh Daeng and Panlop Pinmanee.

If the CPT-ified strategy was to use the “threat of violence, to divide and immobilize Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government,” it hasn’t worked. Therdpoom is cited on old CPT strategy: “The revolution walks on two legs. One political leg and one army leg. Violence is the essential ingredient in the mix. That is what we were taught,” but is this a “revolutionary situation”? The claim is that the “UDD has publicly portrayed itself as a non-violent, pro-democracy movement, a line many international media outlets have perpetuated.” That’s only partly true. The international media has spent a lot of time trying to show that some red shirts are armed.

It is said that “UDD leaders have threatened ‘civil war’ if security forces crack down on their supporters…”. Again, that’s partly true. The red shirts have warned of a civil war if there is a crackdown, as a consequence of such an action. And, Abhisit has used the term as a threat and claimed the need to crackdown to avoid a civil war.

The article spends some time on Thaksin, but doesn’t explain how this big-time capitalist has become a communist…. Or why the red shirt demand has been for a dissolution of parliament rather than a revolution (although there might be a hint of republicanism as being revolutionary, but that would be a bit of a yawn for a communist revolutionary).

Therdpoum claims that the “people who are the real planners, not the people up on stage making protest speeches, these people probably keep a very low profile, but they must calculate that aggression is vital…. Aggression paralyzes and divides opponents. This is what we were taught, this is how a smaller force can defeat overwhelming power. The message was: divide and conquer.” This claim is one that does the rounds regularly amongst academics and journalists – that the on-stage red shirt leaders are stooges (usually for Thaksin).

Therdpoum is said to have been a communist but “later renounced the ideology.” It says that , Seksan Prasertkun and “current UDD leaders Weng Tochirakan and Jaran Dittapichai, were drilled in Maoist revolutionary theory” in Hanoi.

PPT is unable to immediately check this for accuracy; maybe a reader can confirm or deny it.

The “five tactics they learned for unseating a government included: divide your enemies; form a united front; use provocative violence; secure the loyalty of people inside the ruling regime; and, finally, win over the army.” He adds: “That is what we have seen. The government people have been quarrelling about what to do. Some senior figures have a divided loyalty. The army and the police cannot move. Provocative violence has been very successful…”.

The article suggests that the UDD’s shunning of  “hard policy debates in favor of simple credos of justice denied and the hypocrisy of elites” is communist strategy. PPT doesn’t recall a lot of hard policy from the yellow shirts either, and this is suggestive of street and rally politics rather than communism.

The claim that the red shirts have been “pumped full of toy-town leftism and told to hate every institution that has held this country together” is a somewhat arrogant claim made by Therdphoom. PPT attended a number of red shirt rallies and saw none of this. Some of the red shirt literature is more leftist, deriving from particular groups, but that is more sphisticated than Therdphoom allows. He seems to have become a monarchist and that is where his fear lies: “I worry that the bitterness and hatred produced by this propaganda now runs so deep it will cause tension and problems for a long time…”.

He claims: “Many of them [red shirts] are now absolutely convinced that Thaksin was the best leader in Thai history, that he was a kind and generous man who holds the solution to all their problems. They don’t need a program – they just need a new Thai state with Thaksin in charge. It has become very emotional – as it was designed to be…”.

PPT agrees that many red shirts are convinced that they did better under Thaksin than any previous leader. We disagree that the idea that Thaksin should return to head government is so widely held. But if we are talking of beliefs held, perhaps Therdphoom should also ask why his allies simply hate Thaksin and think that all his supporters are ignorant, duped or paid.

Therdphoom makes a claim that yellow-shirted intellectuals and journalists are passing about: “The red shirts …  now… [have] a hand-picked core of ‘professional revolutionaries’ chosen for their loyalty and street smarts…”. These people hide the “deep secrets” and “hidden messages” that are “revealed to only a privileged few in the movement, while an even smaller number know the entire strategy…”.

It seems that “Therdpoum believes that the UDD’s sincere left-wing members are using Thaksin and anticipate the opportunity to eventually dump his personal agenda in favor of the establishment of a more socialist society. Some of the former communists who took up arms and fled into the jungle in the 1970s and 1980s and were once in Thaksin’s inner circle include Prommin Lertsuridej, Phumtham Wechayachai, Sutham Saengprathum, Phinit Jarusombat, Adisorn Piangket and Kriangkamon Laohapairot.”

But, as the article points out after mischievously naming these people: “Its unclear how many of those former communists are now active from behind-the-scenes in the UDD’s planning and strategy.”

The article’s author claims that “UDD organizer Jaran Dittapichai told this correspondent that the protest group had adopted ‘Mao Zedong’s method of thinking’ and some of his techniques, including the establishment of a united front.” But this seems to amount to nothing when Jaran adds: “I was a communist and several leaders were former communists … but the red shirt people don’t like communism or socialism. We use his principles to build up our front and to work with people who are not red shirts, but who are fighting for democracy like us.” In other words, they adopt united front tactics that long predate Mao. In any case, Mao’s main revolutionary strategy was countryside encircling the cities and peasant revolution. The current actions look more like the Paris Commune than a rural-based armed revolution.

While it is interesting to be regaled by former CPT member Therdphoom, his ideas amount to little more than a guess, made into a rumor that satisfies some in the trembling middle classes who fear that the red shirts are cousins of the Khmer Rouge.

Further updated: Some items from readers

18 05 2010

We at PPT are still struggling to keep up with all of the information available. In this post we list some of the posts and articles our readers have sent in. We have several other posts timed for the next few hours.

*The Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok, at one of the conflict zones, is not accepting reservations until 24 May, when a 3500 baht room is the cheapest available. Do they know something or are they guessing?

*The Bangkok Post has a story about Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd of CRES apparently claiming that anyone shooting at civilians must be a red shirt. This will undoubtedly be claimed more regularly in the future as the government seeks to allocate blame to others, again raising the men in black claims.

*A reader points to a CSM story by former foreign minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, where he raises the specter of an International Criminal Court inquiry into Thailand’s killings, sounding a little like Thaksin Shinawatra’s recently-hired international lawyers.

*Several readers have pointed to this blog by a doctoral student as well worth reading.

*Also, readers point to red shirt defiance in this report from The Independent by Andrew Buncombe at Seh Daeng’s funeral.


*A reader has sent a link to this post by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. It makes a point PPT made more than a month ago: “The international community’s silence in the face of a human rights catastrophe.” It concludes in this way:

International community must intervene for a negotiated solution

International concern about the situation in Thailand has been strikingly muted and mainly restricted to travel warnings. The UN Secretary General has expressed his concern. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected suggestions of UN mediation as interference in internal affairs. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had earlier already rejected the offer of mediation by President Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor. The demand of the Red Shirts for UN mediation too was rejected.

The international community including the OHCHR and relevant Special Procedures mandate holders must raise concern over the use of excessive force by the Thai authorities and the risk of even wider human rights violations in Thailand. They must remind the Thai Government of its international human rights obligations. They must urge the government to return to negotiation able. It must not wait for a massacre.

The United Nations Human Rights Council on its part must hold a Special Session on the situation of human rights in Thailand. It must not be once again a victim of politicisation and selectivity.

*Life has some interesting photos.

Former foreign minister of Thailand weighs in on Thailand’s crisis.

By Kantathi Suphamongkhon


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