Loot and hierarchy make coups

6 05 2017

Khaosod has an unusually long story on the Chinese submarines and Navy propaganda on them. It is a story worth reading on debates over submarines and the quite simplistic statements from a recently retired admiral responsible for submarines.

Yes, we know that Thailand hasn’t got subs, but the story begins: “For seven years, Adm. Suriya Pornsuriya commanded a submarine division which didn’t have a single submarine.”

Yes, indeed! Thailand has Navy officers paid to be responsible for non-existent infrastructure.

In introducing Admiral Suriya, PPT was struck by asides about his lifestyle as a recently retired official. It says a lot, in a few words, about the reasons Thailand’s military is so utterly hopeless.

Not only do senior ranks become remarkably and unusually wealthy, but they get to use lower ranks as slaves.

The report says: “now retired at 61, said from his home, which boasts its own soi and a staff of army recruits.” It continues: “Suriya spoke from the living room in one of many residences in his estate.”

Suriya owns a suburb! Many residences. Many slaves.

These are the things that every military coup protects. This is why military officers crave hierarchy. And they legitimate it by being attached to the monarchy.

Top slaver

6 06 2016

Recently, The Nation had a story that reported that Thailand ranked “20th in the World Slavery Index.”

There are now plenty of indices of country ranks for all kinds of things, and the Global Slavery Index is relatively recent on the scene.

In fact, Thailand ranked 16th of 167 countries for the absolute number of slaves, ranking between Sudan and Ethiopia. On the measure of slaves as a proportion of the population, Thailand ranked 20th.

Data for Thailand’s ranking can be viewed and the country report is also available.In that report, most attention is given to “forced labour in the Thai fishing industry (on both the seafaring and processing sides)…”. (In his Shangri-La Dialogue 2016 Keynote Address, The Dictator referred to human trafficking and irregular migration.)

The full global report can be downloaded.

Updated: Slavery disputed

22 12 2015

The junta’s new effort to reshape “negative” views presented in the media, especially the international media, has decided to take on the swathe of recent reports of slave-like conditions of work, mainly for migrant workers.

There are a couple of things to consider in this effort. Taken together, the junta is either worried about the economic impacts of the stories and/or is planning to stay in power for a considerable time (otherwise, they wouldn’t panic). Another thing is that changing this narrative on slave-like work requires more than a couple of dull generals and obedient civil servants sitting around telling the media that these reports are based on extensive research. The generals and their trailing political spouses have never done this; they just react.

So what does this dull lot say? The first thing they do is take on an AP report and dismiss it.

The government claims AP states “that Thai authorities turned a blind eye to slave-like labour conditions in the shrimp industry.” In fact, the AP is more nuanced than this, although the generals have little capacity for understanding anything nuanced.

With is team of “spokespersons,” the junta’s mouthpiece “Kaewkamnerd denied the AP report on Dec 13, which alleged that authorities ignored forced labour at shrimp-peeling sheds in Samut Sakhon…”. PPT is unsure how these men can lie in this way. It is not the junta alone that is at fault; slave-like conditions have operated in this industry for most of this century. In other words, slave-like work has been normalized in this industry.

Saying the “report was wrong…” is wrong.

These slave-like conditions have operated in every industry where migrants are working. Living and working conditions may vary, but there is massive exploitation.

Update: Yet another report – “not an isolated case” – from Aljazeera.

Updated: Things that seem normalized

25 08 2015

Reporting of the Bangkok bombs has taken up much of the media headlines in recent days. However, there have been a bunch of other reports that deserve some consideration. Here’s a selection:

Protecting exploitation: Migrant rights activist Andy Hall has been indicted on charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes that could lead to 7 years in jail. He has referred to “judicial harassment.”

The case is explained this way:

Natural Fruit, a pineapple processing company based in the Bangkok municipality of Thonburi and exporting to European markets, filed civil and criminal defamation complaints against Hall in February 2013. Hall had been contracted to conduct research for a report by European corporate watchdog Finnwatch that documented low wages, the employment of underage workers and other labor abuses against the company’s largely Burmese migrant workforce.

In response, Hall stated:

“I’m disappointed but I will respect the court’s decision…. I’m going to fight the case, and the case will expose many wrongdoings by many different people…I’m confident that in the end I’ll be served justice and be acquitted of all charges.”

Meanwhile, Finnwatch executive director Sonja Vartiala, said the prospects of a fair trial were “looking grim.”

No-one had yet been held accountable for the unlawful labor practices at Natural Fruit.

More slavery: In one of several reports of slavery in recent days, 13 Lao immigrants aged 15 to 18, who were reportedly treated as slaves, were rescued by officials who found them being kept in “animal cages” at a pig and chicken farm in Nakhon Pathom. Investigations focus on  the farm owner who is also a Krung Thai Bank manager. Usually such cases disappear as bribes are paid.

Enforced disappearance: The Asian Human Rights Commission shared an updated appeal from Protection International about the high-risk situation of Ms. Waewrin Buangern (Jo), coordinator of the Rak Ban Haeng Conservation Group and a community-based Woman Human Rights Defender, who is under constant and surveillance by military authorities. Military personnel have threatened her with enforced disappearance.

As explained in the appeal:

Ms. Waewrin Buangern (Jo) coordinator of the Rak Ban Haeng Conservation Group and community-based Woman HRD, who is under constant surveillance by military authorities, is facing a high-risk situation. As coordinator of the Conservation Group, Ms. Waewrin is under close monitoring by authorities and she is contacted on a regular basis by authorities for information on her whereabouts or on the Conservation Group’s plans. The threat of enforced disappearance against Ms. Waewrin was made during an ‘attitude adjustment session’, on 11th November 2014, when she was accompanied by another 10 villagers to the attitude adjustment session at Patoupah Special Military Training Facility. The attitude adjustment session was chaired by Deputy-Chief of Provincial Military Division, Colonel Chainarong Kaewkla, and there were heated exchanges between villagers and authorities during the course of the session. Ms. Waewrin has said that at one point in the session, she was told, “You know we can make anyone disappear.” During the same session, Ms. Waewrin was also the target of a gender-specific attack when she was told, “You will never be able to find a husband.”

Ms. Waewrin has been closely monitored ever since the Conservation Group joined the 1st Walk for Land Reform in Thailand on 9 November 2014 in Chiang Mai. Following such high-level intimidation and confrontation, Ms. Weawrin has been under surveillance and frequently contacted by local authorities. Everyday 2 plainclothes soldiers, on motorbike, patrol the Ban Haeng Village at around 7 p.m. Every day, there are different soldiers who patrol the village and they are always low-ranking soldiers. There is information that the soldiers are monitoring the movement of villagers, but also monitoring Ms. Waewrin specifically. She has never received any military personnel in her home and always requests that they meet her in the village Assembly Hall.

The clear and high-level threats from authorities that have been voiced against Ms. Weawrin are of grave concern, especially as authorities have adopted a clear oppositional stance against the activities of the Rak Ban Haeng Conservation Group. One such threat of violence has arrived against Ms. Weawrin from a high-ranking and now promoted military officer. It indicates a clear and consistent risk for Ms. Waewrin as authorities continue to monitor her whereabouts and know how to gain access to her.

“Normal” military slaves: There’s been some commentary after a chained soldier walked into the military junta’s complaint center to ask for help. PPT can’t judge this particular story and its veracity, but it does highlight an issue that is quite common: the use of the lower ranks by their bosses as personal servants. Rear Adm. Benjaporn Bawornsuwan denies chaining Pvt. Anek Thongvichit to a tire, and unleashed on the soldier. Yet it is the details that are most revealing.

Benjaporn met with police and “speculated that several Navy commanders who harbor grudges against him may have encouraged Anek to file his complaints, telling reporters that other commanders abuse the system of ‘servant soldiers’.

Having soldiers stationed at their masters’ homes like this is normal. And it’s widespread. Especially the rich people’s kids who couldn’t dodge the draft in time, they asked for help that way,” he said at a Nakhon Pathom police station. “They asked to be posted in commanders’ homes, but they aren’t really there. And the commanders get the money, 9,000 baht per month.”

Today Gen. Udomdet Sitabutr, commander of Royal Thai Army, defended the practice of sending soldiers to serve as personal servants.

“Right now, we don’t call them ‘servant soldiers’ anymore. This word doesn’t exist anymore. Right now we call them ‘service soldiers’ who have a duty to assist their commanders.”

He said the work conditions of servant soldiers are enviable.

“People who sign up for this work do so voluntarily. They want to have a living that is different to the barracks and their friends,” he said. “Mostly, service soldiers will be well taken care of. Soldiers in some units even compete with each other to be service soldiers, because puuyai will take care of them. As for their duties, they are light, small things, not something that would frighten people.”

One of PPT’s writers has personal experience of “servant soldiers.” A few years ago, this person lived in a high-end condo where a Navy officer had five such servants or personal slaves. They spent their days at the beck and call of the officer, his wife and his children, washing cars, doing housework, acting as chauffeurs and even as enforcers when the Navy officer was in dispute with other residents over unsanctioned modifications he made to his condo. None of them were chained, but they wor So this is a “normal” as the Army commander claims, and it is reprehensible. It is part of the payoff for being a “puuyai,” and a part of the enforcement of hierarchy.

Update: Readers may be interested in the Bangkok Post’s Sanitsuda Ekachai’s Feudal system stunts shoots of democracy, which reflects on some of the issues above.

Following orders

6 04 2015

A reader has suggested that PPT not ignore a recent Prachatai report on fisheries in Songkhla. Fishing might seem outside PPT’s purview, yet this report is revealing of the manner in which Thailand’s authoritarian politics operates.

As many readers will know, one of self-appointed premier General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s most recent tirades against the media was caused by reports about slavery in the fishing industry. The Dictator reckoned that the media was stoking the controversy and thus threatening one of the country’s major export earners.

When The Dictator explodes, the debris lands far and wide, not least within the toady bureaucracy that is fearful of the power emanating from the halls of the military dictatorship.Hide the evidence

This is where the report, originally carried by ASTV Manager, becomes revealing. One of the terms Prayuth used in his outburst was “IUU” and, as can be seen in the letter reproduced here, this is also a term used by the head of the fishing port authority in Songkhla. IUU is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and the EU has a framework for reducing this.

When it was known that an EU delegation was to visit Songkhla and make an IUU inspection, the local authorities, seemingly quite naturally, issued an order to conceal the existence of illegal fishing when the EU delegation visited. Like The Dictator, there was a “fear of that the fishery export will be cut.” This order came within hours of Prayuth’s tantrum.

The Songkhla authorities ordered illegal fishing operators – with whom they seem to have a good relationship – to urgently hide unregulated marine fishery products, conceal illegal fishing equipment, and to move unregistered fishing boats elsewhere during the EU visit.

Thailand’s exports of seafood to the EU is reportedly worth some 400 billion baht a year. It appears to thrive on illegal and unregistered fishing and slavery as well as unsustainable fishing practices.

Such incidents, again reveal of the true nature of business practice in this industry, demonstrating its cruel exploitation and show how it thrives on the corrupt relationship between “entrepreneurs” and state officials. It also reveals how officials under the military dictatorship operate as a law unto themselves, knowing that impunity is the law, not the rule of law operating to limit their corruption and deception.

This deception is not just of EU officials, but of millions of consumers.

Deception, impunity, callous behavior and a disregard for the law are the stock in trade of Thailand’s military dictatorship.

Further updated: Slavery and the dictatorship

18 10 2014

The BBC is reporting a story on modern slavery in Thailand that is truly stunning.

Watch the video report:

Note that towards the end, Jonathan Head states that the Thai government – he means the military dictatorship – is inexplicably dragging its feet on the case.

BBC News has now reported that the military dictatorship is protecting traffickers with high level connections and is considering charging the slaves.

Is this the worst “government” Thailand has ever had?

Update 1: Here’s the BBC News report on charging the slaves with illegal entry (about 1 minute into the report).

Update 2: There’s some pretty savage blocking of PPT at the moment and we suspect that this has more to do with protecting slavers than monarchy. A reader comments that the slave business in one likely explanation for the incredible wealth of some naval officers. We tend to concur based on previous reporting and the ferocious but boneheaded approach by the Navy to censor earlier revelations and punish those who exposed them.

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