The U.S. and the Thai military

18 06 2011

The United States government has been remarkably quiet on the political events in Thailand and said almost nothing of any significance about the bloody crackdowns on demonstrators in April and May 2010. In fact, since the military coup in 2006, the U.S. has taken the position that their trusted allies in Thailand are the military, the palace and the Democrat Party. After all, the U.S. played an important Cold War role in promoting the first two and has had close relations with the Democrat Party for decades.

PPT has long observed that the advisers in Washington who have the ear of U.S. policymakers are conservative and connected to palace and military in Thailand. Most of them are from an era when these forces were the only ones that really mattered, and they almost feel comfortable now that the Democrat Party is the mia noi of the military. Those dinosaur advisers keep telling policymakers that dealing with the Democrat Party is easier than any other party because the Democrat Party is full of “people like us.”

Thus, it is only momentarily shocking to read at Asia Provocateur that U.S. Marines are training Thai army snipers! In the linked report, Gunnery Sgt. Victor Lopez, scout sniper chief instructor with Weapons Platoon, Landing Force Company, says: “The sniper has only two things on his mind; the fact that he is about to take someone’s life, and how he is going to do that.” PPT thinks that the Thai Army’s snipers already know this. After all, it was only just over a year since these snipers brutally cut down civilians with head and chest shots. Another trainer stated: “We want to impart some of our sniper culture…. They did really well and we want to inspire them to build their own sniper culture.” This is the culture of the brotherhood of cold-blooded murder of civilians, and it is, in fact, a culture deeply rooted in the Thai Army.

The State Department’s human rights policies and statements are in tatters. Human rights abuse is central to U.S. foreign policy. Human rights have always taken last place when it comes to dealing with authoritarian “allies,” but this account should surely be shocking to right thinking people in Thailand and the U.S. As it did during the Cold War, the U.S. is quite simply training murderers who use their skills to suppress and kill their own people. There’s more on the U.S. relationship with the Thai military in the story cited in the following paragraph.

PPT won’t add more to that story as Andrew Spooner has it covered. However, we want to add a little more, based on a useful report at the Asia Times Online. There it is reported that in addition to the abovementioned lethal training, on 10 June, the “United States Marines have finished training Thailand’s military and police to use electroshock Tasers to inflict ‘intense pain’, shoot a blinding neurotoxin spray and explode non-lethal grenades…”. As the report adds, this training is just “one year after the Thai army unleashed snipers and armored personnel carriers against an anti-coup insurrection in Bangkok in which 91 people died.”

US Marine Corps spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Curtis L. Hill is reported to have stated that: “The purpose of the NOLES [Non-Lethal Weapons Executive Seminar 2011] training is to promote the use of non-lethal equipment in peacekeeping and develop the relationship between the civilian police and military, with an emphasis on preventing and stopping human-rights violations…”. So let’s try to get this right…. “non-lethal” is about human rights and sniper training is about….

What is the U.S. on about? One can imagine the U.S. Embassy saying that NOLES is about protecting human rights and minimizing casualties so that demonstrators aren’t brutally gunned down. Meanwhile, training snipers is developing a culture of efficient murder.

NOLES ’11 is said to have been specifically designed “to improve capabilities to maintain order during civil unrest.” In other words, the U.S. has involved itself in Thailand’s political struggles, choosing to support institutions that have a long record of human rights abuses and using U.S.-supplied weapons to wantonly murder opponents and civilians. This recent training even involved using mock incapacitating sprays against “a simulated uncontrolled crowd…”. As the report states: “Other lessons by the Marines included how to fire an M-203 grenade launcher, and load non-lethal ammunition into a Mossberg shotgun.”

PPT could excitedly proclaim that the U.S. should be ashamed that it continues to support regimes that murder and imprison, but what would be the point? After all, this is standard operating procedure.



Statement by Jaran Ditapichai/จรัล ดิษฐาภิชัย on 10 April anniversary

9 04 2011

This statement was received at PPT from Jaran Ditapichai, a former commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission:

Statement on the First Anniversary of Red Shirts Suppression

10 April 2011 marks the first anniversary of the start of the suppression of people protest for democracy. The protest was organized under the leadership of United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red Shirts.

The peaceful assembly began on 14 March 2010 without weapons. They called for the government of Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve the parliament, returning the power to the people through new election, the result— 25 deaths, and 800 injures.

The crackdown of the people derived from the strategy of not solving the political problems politically. They chose to use military force. Start with Internal Security Act. State of Emergency declared. More than 50,000 military and police personal deployed to surround the demonstrators. Armed with deathly weapons, sniper units, helicopters to drop tear gas, the crackdown continued until 19 May 2010, the death toll rose to 91, more than 2000 injures, and over 400 people arrested, dozens provinces throughout the country under curfew.

In the year past, the government not only not admitting the wrong doings in the cracking down of the Red Shirts, but also continued to use the Security Act to intimidate and made arbitrary arrests for months. Despite the setting up of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and many others ‘Reform Commissions’, it is a trick to legitimize the government, and none of the recommendations have any practical effect.

In the meantime, the UDD or the Red Shirt movement revived rapidly. It became the largest Democracy Movement in Thailand for genuine democracy. They called for the prosecution of those involved in 10 April and 19 May 2010 massacre. They called for fair trials for all of arrested leaders, not double standard as is usually employed.

The political crisis that stems from the conflict between the ruling elite and the people who cherish democracy remains after 4 years. To resolve the crisis— those responsible for the bloody crackdown on 10 April to 19 May 2010 have to be brought to justice. Parliament must enact Amnesty Legislation for all protestors of all political persuasion. Moreover, a new Constitution that is truly democratic must be drafted.

I urge the international community, both governmental and private, to pay attention to crisis in Thailand. Especially I urge all to support the upcoming election, and help ensure it is free and fair.

If Thailand were completely democratic, it would help stabilize Southeast Asian region, and will be beneficial to all International community.

Jaran Ditapichai

แถลงการณ์ 1 ปี ของการปราบปรามคนเสื้อแดง

วันที่ 10 เมษายน 2554นี้ เป็นวาระของการครบรอบ 1 ปีแห่งการเริ่มต้นการปราบปรามการชุมนุมของประชาชน ภายใต้การนำของแนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ (นปช.)หรือคนเสื้อแดง โดยชุมนุมประชาชน โดยสงบและปราศจากอาวุธมาตั้งแต่วันที่ 14 มีนาคม 2553 เพื่อเรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลยุบสภา จัดการเลือกตั้งใหม่ คืนอำนาจธิปไตยแก่ประชาชน ซึ่งส่งผลให้มีผู้เสียชีวิต 25 คน บาดเจ็บกว่า 800 คน การปราบปรามดังกล่าวมาจากนโยบายและมาตรการทางการทหารของรัฐบาลอภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ เริ่มจากประกาศใช้ พระราชบัญญัติการรักษาความมั่นคงภายในราชอาณาจักร การประกาศภาวะฉุกเฉิน และใช้กำลังทหาร ตำรวจกว่า 50,000 นาย ปิดล้อมที่ชุมนุม โดยเฉพาะทหาร ใช้อาวุธสงคราม หนุ่วยแม่นปืน(สไนเปอร์ )ยิงฝูงชน เครื่องบินทิ้งระเบิดแก๊สน้ำตา และการปราบปรามดำเนินต่อมาถึงวันที่ 19 พฤษภาคม ทำให้มีผู้เสียชีวิตเพิ่มขึ้นเป็น 91 คน และบาดเจ็บเกือบ 2000 คน และถูกจับกุมคุมขัง 400 กว่าคน พร้อมกับประกาศเคอร์ฟิวส์ ในหลายสิบจังหวัดทั่วประเทศ

1 ปีที่ผ่านมา รัฐบาลไม่เพียงแต่ไม่ยอมรับความผิดในการปราบปรามคนเสื้อแดง เท่านั้น หากยังคงรักษากฎหมายความมั่นคง ข่มขู่คุกคามและจับกุมคุมขังคนเสื้อแดงอย่างต่อเนื่องมาอีกหลายเดือน แม้จะมีการตั้งคณะกรรมการสอบสวนข้อเท็จจริงและปรองดองแห่งชาติ และการตั้งคณะกรรมการปฏิรูปอีกหลายชุด แต่เป็นเพียงการหลอกหลวง เพื่อสร้างความชอบธรรมให้กับรัฐบาลเท่านั้น ไม่มีผลในทางปฏิบัติใดๆ

ขณะเดียวกัน นปช. หรือ ขบวนการคนเสื้อแดงฟื้นตัวอย่างรวดเร็ว จนขยายตัวเติบใหญ่ เป็นขบวนการประชาธิปไตยที่มีขนาดใหญ่ที่สุดของประเทศไทย คนเสื้อแดงเคลื่อนไหวต่อสู้เพื่อประชาธิปไตยอย่างแท้จริง เรียกร้องให้ดำเนินคดีผู้ร่วมสังหารประชาชนในกรณี10 เมษายน และ19 พฤษภาคม 2553 และขอให้ดำเนินคดีกับแกนนำและผู้ชุมนุมอย่างยุติธรรม มิใช่สองมาตรฐานเหมือนที่กระทำอยู่

ความขัดแย้งระหว่างฝ่ายปกครองกับประชาชนผู้รักประชาธิปไตย ยังคงเป็นวิกฤติการณ์ทางการเมืองที่เกิดขึ้นและดำรงมา 4 ปี เพื่อคลี่คลายวิกฤติ จะต้องดำเนินคดีกับผู้ปราบปรามอย่างนองเลือดในวันที่ 10 เมษายน จนถึง 19 พฤษภาคม 2553 รัฐสภาจะต้องออกกฎหมายนิรโทษกรรมต่อผู้ชุมนุมทางการเมืองทุกฝ่าย และต้องจัดทำรัฐธรรมนูญฉบับใหม่ที่เป็นประชาธิปไตยอย่างแท้จริง

ขอเรียกร้องต่อประชาคมโลก ทั้งภาครัฐและเอกชนให้สนใจวิกฤติการณ์ประเทศไทย โดยเฉพาะให้สนับสนุนการเลือกตั้งทั่วไปที่กำลังจะมีขึ้น ให้เป็นไปโดยเสรีและยุติธรรม หากประเทศไทยเป็นประชาธิปไตยสมบูรณ์ ย่อมมีผลต่อเสถียรภาพในภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้และอำนวยประโยชน์ต่อนานาชาติไม่มากก็น้อย

จรัล ดิษฐาภิชัย

2,120 sniper shots fired

22 03 2011

PPT knows that the army has great trouble keeping track of its arms and ammunition as they are lost, stolen, misplaced and traded in large numbers. However, a short report at Prachatai makes for interesting reading.

The report says that a Puea Thai Party Chair of the House Committee on Military Affairs has disclosed “an account of ammunition disbursed by the army during the crackdown on red shirts early last year” that we call the Battle for Bangkok.

Even allowing for the army’s fudging and “losses,” it is astounding that “3,000 sniper rounds of which 880 were returned…”. It would appear that 2,120 rounds were fired at protesters and others by the army during April and May 2010.

Moreover, less than 7,000 blank rounds were fired while 117,923 live rounds were fired at the people. So much for the government’s claims that blanks were used and “reasonable” measures taken by state forces….



Updated: Commentary in the press on Amsterdam and Peroff report

1 02 2011

Earlier PPT posted regarding lawyers for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), Amsterdam and Peroff, presenting “Application to Investigate the Situation of the Kingdom of Thailand with regard to the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity” to the International Criminal Court. Here we link to some of the media commentary:

Wall Street Journal notes Thaksin’s role, a point taken up in the next piece.

An interview with Robert Amsterdam in Spiegel Online, with some choice cuts here:

We have a reasonable basis to argue that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva personally ordered the military to assassinate the Red Shirt leaders. When that plan was botched, he authorized the army to brutally clamp down on unarmed demonstrators. Not only did he approve of the firing order, he even deployed snipers against them.

We have hundreds of affidavits. The most impressive of these originate from some of the closest aides to Abhisit himself, others from well placed high ranking officers. The picture that you get after reading this evidence is crystal clear: Abhisit gave a carte blanche style order to the military to massacre civilians with the only goal of eliminating the Red Shirt opposition.

It is known that Amsterdam and Peroff claim that Abhisit is British and that allows ICC jurisdiction. Abhisit’s response is in an AFP report: “I am a Thai citizen, not Montenegrin…”.

Reuters: “Some of the most potentially explosive accusations said to come from sources inside the military are that journalists and medical workers were specifically targeted to prevent evidence of killings from being recorded, and that soldiers posing as medical workers took away dead bodies to two hospitals where incriminating evidence was destroyed by way of cremation.”

Bangkok Post: “Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samutrak said the move to petition the ICC was part of Thaksin’s drive to discredit Thailand and pave the way for international bodies to interfere in the country’s affairs.”

The Post includes this tidbit of great interest: “In another development, Phayaw and Natthaputt Akkahad, mother and brother of Kamolket, a volunteer nurse who was found shot dead at Wat Pathum Wanaram after the protest dispersal operation on May 19, 2010, have failed to obtain a visa to Britain after they received an invitation from the House of Lords to discuss the controversy surrounding the death of Kamolket. The hearing in London will be held tomorrow.”

Update: More links on this story: Daily Times Pakistan, Gulf Times, Channel News Asia, Zee News, MSN Malaysia, Radio Australia, TelegraphBloomberg, PRNewswire.

The Nation: Amsterdam says “Thailand has demonstrated a complete absence of the rule of law“.

Government response in Bangkok Post: “Lawyer Robert Amsterdam is simply ‘deceiving a billionaire’ for the money he can earn by filing a case with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for alleged crimes against humanity during the red-shirt protest in April-May last year, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Tuesday.”

With 3 updates: Amsterdam and Peroff’s latest ICC filing

31 01 2011

Law firm for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), Amsterdam and Peroff, have presented their second detailed report to the International Criminal Court. It is titled “Application to Investigate the Situation of the Kingdom of Thailand with regard to the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity.”

The report is 294 pages long, so PPT hasn’t yet had time to read it. It appears to update and expand the firms earlier report, with extensive use of witness reports. It is bound to be explosive.

Update 1: Here’s the first news report PPT has seen. We highlight some points here but read the whole story. Note that there are errors in this report (e.g. stating that Abhisit Vejjajiva assumed power in 2006, so the full 294 pages is the best source:

The Thai government’s crackdown on “red shirt” protesters last spring was planned nearly four years in advance and modelled on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, a report contends, saying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva approved military force against unarmed civilians.

The plans included the construction of a full-scale mock-up of Rachadamnoen Ave. — an upscale street sometimes known as Bangkok’s Champs Élysées — where protesters were killed and injured last April 10, the report contends. The mock-up, which was built at a training ground used by the 11th regiment of the Thai army, included “killing zones.”

Thai military personnel, including snipers, rehearsed at the mock-up as early as February 2007, the report alleges.

The application also includes a statement from “Anonymous Witness No. 22” — described as an amalgamation of testimony from several active-duty officers in the Thai military, who would be in grave danger if their identities were exposed, though the lawyers say they will provide all names to the court’s prosecutors.

One potential obstacle the red shirts face in getting the court to consider their complaint is whether Thailand comes within the court’s jurisdiction.

But Amsterdam and Peroff argue the court still has the power to investigate Abhisit for possible crimes against humanity because he is a British citizen, born in England on Aug. 3, 1964.

The court has the authority to investigate and prosecute people who are citizens of countries that are its members, which the United Kingdom is.

Update 2: Here’s a draft statement by Joe Witty as a former Green Beret commenting on the action by the Abhisit government and another draft statement by Anonymous Witness No. 22.

Update 3: More details at Robert Amsterdam’s blog.

First reports of attacks on red shirts

13 05 2010

This post began as a running commentary as fighting broke out in Bangkok, with a reported 32,000 armed troops surrounding red shirt protesters. PPT has now returned to regular posting. reports: “More shooting and grenades reported at the southern Red Shirt barricades (at Silom Road) / Key Red Shirt militant leader Seh Daeng shot and hospitalized / Some reports of protesters fleeing the rally site.

Bangkok Pundit says this:

21:10: TNN reports that Seh Daeng was shot by a high velocity gun.”

“20:30 ThaiPBS reports that sounds of gunfire also heard near Sala Daeng intersection and was fired into the red shirts. TNN reports it was Seh Daeng who was shot.”

Blogging at New Mandala says: “Several injured it seems. More gun / M79 fire. Guns firing right now as I peck on my iPhone. 19.31” and later: “Dozens of shots fired….probably 100 or so by now. Still unclear as to number of injuries / deaths, if any.” See comment thread for reports from many observers.

Bloomberg reports: “Thai security forces have started an operation to seal off a central Bangkok commercial district with 6,000 protesters inside…”. Updated report here.

AP reports: “A short burst of gunfire and at least two explosions have been heard in central Bangkok where Red Shirt anti-government protesters are camped.It was not clear who was shooting, but the sounds came after the government said it will impose a military lockdown on the area in an effort to evict the protesters.” SkyNews has a similar report. BBC has a report also.

VOA reports that Seh Daeng has been shot. It is unclear whether he is dead. Seems an eye-witness account of the sniper shot at Seh Daeng: “VOA Correspondent Daniel Schearf in Bangkok reports witnessing the general, known as Seh Daeng, being shot, possibly by a sniper, within the so-called Red Shirt protesters barricaded rally site. There are also reports of gunfire and other explosions inside the encampment.” CNN says Seh Daeng is critically wounded. AP (updated here) and Reuters report on this assassination bid also. Photo of Seh Daeng in hospital here. Red shirt leaders reportedly defiant, although other reports are that some are taking cover or even resigning, maybe out of fear that they are assassination targets.

Times Online reports on a statement by Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd of CRES that says “Snipers will be deployed in the operation.” Looks like they might have had Seh Daeng as their first target.

A New Mandala blogger says that “Silom [is] like a quiet war zone after the initial frenzy about 7:30.” Al Jazeera has a longer report. The Nation’s report is here, with commentary that suggests injuries to an unknown number of protesters from bomb explosions.

The attack on Seh Daeng may have been an attempt to shock and to take out someone the government has always seen as a critical factor in red shirt organizing. It is possible that the government side may now wait to see red shirt reaction before continuing with any crackdown. It is difficult to see who the government could blame for this assassination attempt, but in the past few weeks that have always denied everything. Maybe they say they were taking out a “terrorist.”

Somewhat oddly, the Straits Times has a account of Seh Daeng here, without mentioning his shooting.

Readers might want to follow the TAN Twitter on events. A reader suggests that this Twitter site incorporates TAN and others. Reports clashes at the hospital where Seh Daeng has been taken for emergency treatment. TAN has a useful timeline of events. CNN has a voice report from Dan Rivers.

Red shirt crowds remained in place (see photos here) and groups of red shirts clashed sporadically with soldiers.