May Day and the military boot

1 05 2018

State enterprise unions played significant roles in both sets of yellow-shirt uprisings in 2005-06 and 2013-14, siding with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. In both instances, the idea of unions of any ilk joining forces with royalists and the military seemed somewhat odd.

But having done so, you would think that the military would cut them some slack for May Day marches. It seems the junta has done just that, picking and choosing which workers get support.

Khaosod reports that “[h]undreds … took part in the state enterprise union’s rally … without any interference from the authorities”

However, at other rallies, soldiers “seized banners from marching workers demanding democracy today in northern Bangkok, while a union leader was detained at a downtown police station for staging a protest in front of the United States embassy.”

Labor rights campaigner Sripai Nonsee said her group in Pathum Thani was held by police and soldiers who “demanded to see the banners they were carrying. Banners that mentioned elections and democracy were confiscated…”. She added: “[t]hey looked for words like election and democracy, especially election…. They told us to give them up.”

The activist said soldiers and police met with her yesterday to discuss today’s rally, and allowed them to carry the banners as long as they didn’t hold them up. Security officers reneged on that promise today, she said.

Meanwhile, union activist Boonyuen Sookmai “led General Motors workers to hold a rally in front of the US embassy on Wireless Road earlier this morning. He said police took him to Lumpini Police Station after he submitted the workers’ complaint to an embassy official.”

The GM workers rallied “to protest the automobile firm’s expulsion of 300 union members in November.”

State enterprise union leader Chalee Loysoong “explained” that his people celebrated “National Labor Day,” a hangover of the despotic past and of the despotic present and “not the international spirit of May Day.” Chalee claimed the workers preferred a fair to anything that highlighted worker rights and grievances.

The picture is clear: the state enterprise unions remain puppets of anti-democrats and the fascist regime.

In fact, though, “scores later joined a demonstration down Ratchadamnoen Avenue organized by the Labour Confederation of Thailand.” This rally saw activists take turns “condemning the military government and calling for an election within this year on a truck as they marched down the historic avenue. Speakers included anti-coup activist leader Sirawith Seritiwat.”

That’s more like it!





Pressure

25 03 2018

We have been seeing considerable efforts by the junta to block PPT. This blocking seems to coincide with posts that are critical of the junta and its “election.” It also coincides with a considerable uptick in anti-junta activism.

Keeping the pressure on seems to be the response. On Friday, pro-democracy activist Rangsiman Rome was detained briefly by a military court “over two-year-old charges he violated the junta’s ban on political assembly while in the northeastern province.” Held for five hours, he paid a 10,000 baht bond. Not much, but the emphasis is on pressure.

On Saturday, activists “stepped up their [pro-election/anti-junta] campaign by urging the army to stop supporting the junta and setting a deadline for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] to step down.”

A sign recycled from 2010 (clipped from the Bangkok Post)

While some news reports said 400 people rallied at Thammasat University others said there were up to 2000.

Speakers made three demands: “the election must be held in November; the NCPO must be dissolved and the government must become a caretaker; and the army must stop supporting the NCPO.”

Rangsiman “said that if the three demands are not met, his group would begin a major series of prolonged rallies on May 5 to oust the NCPO.” He called the junta a “traitor to Thailand.”

Sirawith Seritiwat “said the army would be the first to be pressed to end its support for the NCPO.” He declared that: “If the army does not respond, we’ll pile pressure on the government and the NCPO’s network such as the National Legislative Assembly…”.

When the protesters tried to walk to Army headquarters, “skirmishes were reported as they tried to pass through a wall of police and soldiers…”. There were some 600 junta protectors at work against the activists.

At Army headquarters, Rangsiman thundered:

When there is democracy, your dirty bosses will go to jail, so don’t lick their boots too much,” Rangsiman said. “Don’t you feel anything? That you have to come protect military headquarters but not a single soldier is here?

Pressure on all sides.





Get out!

13 03 2018

Pro-election activists have demanded that “the military junta step down, with the government downgraded to caretaker status ahead of the general election.”

AFP reports that “[h]undreds of pro-democracy Thais rallied in Bangkok on Saturday (March 10) to rail against the ruling junta with T-shirts, signs and speeches, as activists grow bolder in their defiance of a ban on protests.”

The demand for a caretaker administration makes sense, although we can’t imagine the military junta giving up the tremendous advantage the control of the state machinery gives pro-junta parties in the junta’s proposed “election.” Military governments in Thailand usually only go when they are pushed.

Several hundred “people gathered at the football field on the Tha Phrachan campus of Thammasat University on Saturday to make the demand.”

When Sirawith Seritiwat states that the junta will hold an election that is free and fair, he might have said that it is more likely to be unfree and unfair.

The demonstrators claimed they were offering the junta “an exit strategy.”

The rally also saw vendors selling “shirts with sly references to a spate of graft scandals that have helped fuel the dissent.” A black leopard was one. Watches were also in evidence. Both pointed to “an entrenched culture of impunity for the kingdom’s wealthy and well-connected.”





Parties bail, activists keep going

19 02 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on the activist “roadmap” on rallies to demand an “election.” In demanding that the junta hold the election it has promised but repeatedly “delayed,” the activists made a call for all political parties to join them.

The spineless politicians from all sides rushed to decline the offer. While some of their excuses sound reasonable, it should also be remembered that political parties have almost never been in the vanguard of political change in Thailand. More often than not they have been resistant to real change or in bringing down military regimes.

Meanwhile, activists held another pro-election rally in Korat.

Activist leader Sirawith Seritiwat said activists would soon host similar activities in other major cities.

The event in Korat “included the distribution of leaflets and was lived-streamed on Facebook, while officials in attendance apparently did not disturb the activities.”

As in the past, activists are leading the political way forward.

 





Rallying on ending the military dictatorship

10 02 2018

The pro-democracy rally near the Democracy Monument drew hundreds of activists on Saturday.

The authorities tried to prevent the rally in various ways, including a childish effort to cover open areas at the monument with potted plants, forcing hundreds of protesters onto footpaths.

In the end, the rally went ahead with speeches by several people including some of the MBK39.

As well as demanding an election that they said would mean the end the military dictatorship, speakers demanded that the Democracy Monument and what it stood for be given back to the people:

People seeking to cast ballots are blocked by police. A monument has been turned into a garden. No matter what this country has become, this monument still has meaning and significance. Let’s make today the beginning of an end to dictatorship….

Rangsiman Rome declared:

We meet today to demand an election and the end to the power succession. We show a three-finger salute today — first for the election, second for the end of dictatorship and third for democracy….

He also demanded that “politicians” get off their fat behinds and do something to support the pro-democracy activists.

The rally concluded with three of the the MBK39 co-leaders taken away to a police station. Rangsiman, Sirawich Serithiwat and Arnon Nampa were taken to the Saran Rat police station and then the Pathumwan police station. Earlier, Akechai Hongkangwarn, another co-leaader, had been whisked off by police before he could attend the rally.





Updated: Watching and waiting

10 02 2018

On one watch front, the luxury front – the news is… well, no news. The Nation reports that National Anti-Corruption Commission President Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit declared that the NACC’s “secretary-general has not yet updated the corruption-fighting body about whether Deputy PM [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan has submitted his third try at an explanation about his possession of luxury watches.” Is he getting coaching? Probably not. Neither The Dictator or the Deputy Dictator believe that laws apply to them.

The other thing to watch is is the so-called MBK39. The junta got a legal slap when the the courts unconditionally released them. Four of the activists, named below, did not front the police and courts. That said the charges of “violating the public assembly and internal security laws, as well as the junta’s order on political gatherings” remain in place and could see a penalty of 7 years in jail. The laws include a charge of assembling within 150 meters of a royal palace (Sirindhorn’s). In effect, this “law” bans public gatherings in several of the locations where anti-government protests have been ignited in the past and is one more piece in the return to pre-1932 jigsaw and the deification of royals and their spaces.

The thing to watch is a a pro-election assembly this afternoon Bangkok time. It is reported that “[a]ctivists Rangsiman Rome, Sirawit Serithiwat, Ekachai Hongkangwan and lawyer Anon Nampa … would be attending the event to be held near Democracy Monument at 4pm.”

The police have said “they would immediately arrest the four when they showed up at today’s event” using warrants from the previous case against them.

Akechai said: “Why not go? … The court’s rejection to detain [activists from the] January 27 assembly has already proved that this kind of assembly is rightful by law.”

Update: Akechai didn’t get a chance to go. Junta thugs arrested him early on Saturday morning, and took him to Lat Phrao police station and then to Pathumwan police station. He seemed unfazed by the arrest; it is kind of “normal” under the dictatorship.

How’s that “democracy” looking to you Gen Joseph F Dunford?





Repression and manufactured paranoia

30 01 2018

As expected, the junta has responded to the mounting criticism it is catching. And, as expected, it has not gone after the anti-democrats involved but anti-coup activists.

The repression is unsurprising but the borrowing of manufactured nationalist paranoia is a little more bewildering.

Khaosod reports that the military junta “has ordered seven of the most prominent pro-democracy activists [be] charged with crimes including sedition after they launched a protest campaign calling for general elections to be held in November.”

It might seem somewhat odd that sedition now includes demanding that the junta stick to its promises.

Acting for the military dictatorship, Col. Burin Thongprapai,  filed police complaints against seven activists. They are:

Sirawit Seritiwat, Nutta Mahattana, Democracy Restoration Group leader Rangsiman Rome, student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, former lese majeste convict turned political activist Ekachai Hongkangwan, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and newcomer student activist Sukrid Peansuwan.

The colonel chuckled that his people had “solid recorded evidence that the seven protest leaders have violated the junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than four and committed acts of incitement against the state.”

The junta’s Burin “said the seven were singled out because they are leaders and committed sedition.”

So the next time The Dictator talks about an election, presumably he’s committing sedition. The junta is now sinking into nonsensical survival mode. It is likely to become dangerous as these ridiculous repression fails.

As one of the accused observed, “[t]he fire has been lit…”, adding:

They want to snuff the fire at its source because everyone’s getting energized. The people have become lively again, and even the media reported it on the front page in a sympathetic manner…

Meanwhile, Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has sent an aide out to declare that the “pro-democracy campaign was orchestrated by foreign powers.” This was followed by a claim worthy of alt-right fruit loops claiming that anti-coup activism results from “trickery by foreign powers” providing the examples of “Iran and Hong Kong.” Several other right-wing leaders and regimes have made similar claims.

The idea of such accusations is to appeal to those anti-democrats who consume mad conspiracy theorists, themselves in the pay of foreign states.

Things are going to get nastier still.