With 3 updates: Students vs. the rotten system

13 09 2021

In recent posts, here and here, PPT has mentioned the increasingly aggressive tactics adopted by the regime’s police in confronting mostly young protesters. The police now face determined protesters.

The South China Morning Post reports that police face thousands of protesters – “young, angry and desperate for radical change – [who] come out to oppose a state they have lost all faith in.” Some are as young as 12. These protests are now daily and have a degree of predictability:

Protesters, some armed with paint bombs – the more hardcore among them, sling-shots and glass bottles – retreated then returned, a daily dance on Bangkok’s streets which is now threatening to spill out of control.

Protests now almost inevitably end in tear gas, broken bottles and rubber bullets.

The protesters speak to power and call for change: “No one in power has heard us, no one listens to us, they only intimidate and suppress…. So we will keep coming back.”

Their targets are not just the regime, but the rotten system: “… deepening inequality in a country where a tight-knit establishment of tycoons, military and monarchy dominate the economy and politics.” The quoted protester – aged 16 – says: “Inequality comes from these structural issues, everything is tied up here by monopolies of business and power…”. Her observation is testament to the alienation felt by many in the young generation.

Academic Kanokrat Lertchoosakul observes that:

This generation are a totally different species of political, active citizens that we have never seen before in Thailand…. They are a generation with mass awareness of their political rights and have superior analytical skills to their elders.

Prachatai provides another example of youth activism, reporting on the Bad Student activist group that has “launched a strike campaign to protest against the continuous use of online classes during outbreaks of Covid-19, which has been detrimental to students’ mental health and deprived many of an education.”

They are “demanding that the government provide students, education professionals, and members of the public with high efficacy vaccines as soon as possible so that the education system and the economy can continue.” They also want the Ministry of Education to “reduce tuition fees or impose a tuition fee moratorium, and provide whatever welfare is needed by students and their parents to keep young people in school.”

The group encouraged students “to stop attending [online] classes between 6 – 10 September 2021…” and the brief boycott was quite successful.

Bad Students have also joined the ongoing demonstrations and were there almost from the very beginning, saying: “We don’t want this rotten education system. We don’t want this stinking Minister. But we want our future back, and even better, is an education system that truly improves us…”.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS reports on students and other protesters still held without bail, including “seven core leaders of the anti-government Ratsadon group, who have been held on remand for about a month.” These detainees include Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa.

As the SCMP says, “Thailand is on a precipice … its politics once more a tinderbox of anger.”

Update 1: Sorry, we should have noted that the SCMP article was from August whereas the photos are more recent.

Update 2: Three stories at the Bangkok Post add to the analysis of the present moment in protest. In one story, police have said they will bring numerous criminal charges protesters. A second story says that police data is that 509 protesters have been arrested and a further 250 are being sought since the rallies began in July. That story also carries an important quote from Thalugas, welcoming the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the Thalufah group as rally “witnesses at the rally by young demonstrators in Din Daeng that evening.” Thalugas “said they should not be left to fight alone.” A third story is about a member of the older generation of protesters, Sombat Boonngamanong. He says: “We are at a crucial moment in democracy development…. This is a time when the ruling authoritarian establishment is trying to suppress the young, democratic generation.” His view is that “the nature of social movements has changed — because more people, especially younger generations, respect democratic values…. They do not tolerate authori­tarianism.”

Update 3: Prachatai reports on arrests in recent clashes. It has also produced a video on Bad Students:





Failure upon failure

2 08 2021

One of the things about a military and palace-backed regime is that, except in the most dire of circumstances, it tends only to get shaky when it loses the support of the upper crust. Is the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reaching that point? It should be as failure after failure piles up, while the regime concentrates on political repression rather than virus suppression.

As infection numbers look set to go over 20,000 a day in the official tally, the government stumbles along like a drunk without shoes. Just this weekend, it has extended the lockdown after earlier extending emergency powers. The problem for many is that these powers seem to do nothing to stem the virus but do seem to add to repression. In addition, the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed swell by the day. The regime seems to lack a plan for any other measures to mitigate the virus or to help those impacted.

But the failures and fumbles keep increasing. The botched vaccine rollout continues to suffer supply constraints – thanks in part to the failures at the royal Siam Bioscience. On the weekend, a “shortage in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines led to the weekend closure of 25 vaccination centres in Bangkok, while the “Mor Prom” app also cancelled all bookings scheduled for Friday and Saturday and has yet to resume offering new appointments.”

This horrid effort is made worse by corruption. Most recently, it is reported that “[a]t least 7,000 people have bought Covid-19 vaccination slots at Bang Sue Grand Station that were illegally acquired through a loophole in the the national vaccine recipient’s database…”. Forgive our cynicism, but the cops said several days ago that they had cracked the case, so should anyone be surprised if this isn’t a higher-ups scam? It seems 7,700 shots have been sold at 1000 baht each.

Despite the increased repression, nationwide protests were held on the weekend, mainly involving people in cars and on motorcycles. On protester spoke for many:

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

Red shirts back. From Thai PBS

According to Thai PBS, the “car mob” rally saw:

the gathering together of well-known leaders of anti-government and anti-establishment groups, such as Nattawut Saikua, former secretary-general of the now defunct United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red-Shirt movement, Ratsadon leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Anon Nampa, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka Pai Daodin of the “Thalu Fah” group, Sombat Boon-ngarmanong of Sombat Tour and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the We Volunteer (Wevo) guards.

Nattawut said “the Red-Shirt movement is back in business and demanding the ouster of the prime minister.”

What will the powers-that-be do as the movement gains support as the government flails in failure?





A pandemic of political repression

29 07 2021

Forget the thousands of ill people. What’s important, for the regime and its cops, is charging every political opponent.

The  Bangkok Post reports that Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) is on the hunt for “nine groups … facing prosecution for staging protests and ‘car mob’ rallies in defiance of the emergency law this month.” By “emergency law” it means the emergency decree, which in various forms and guises, has been operating almost continuously since the 2014 military coup.

The nine groups are:

the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration which held a rally on July 2; the Thai Mai Thon protests on July 3, 10, 11; the Prachachon Khon Thai rallies on July 3 and 10; the car mob rallies organised by red-shirt activist Sombat Boonngamanong on July 3 and 10…. The others are the Mok Luang Rim Nam group rally on July 3; the Bangkok Sandbox protest on July 6; the rally led by vocational students on July 9; the Free Youth gathering on July 18; and the protests engineered by the Mu Ban Thalufa on July 22 and 24…. [and] the …”Harley motorbike mob” on July 23 and 25.”

Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the MPB deputy commissioner, said a total of “172 protesters are facing charges under the decree in connection with protests in Bangkok.” But it isn’t just the emergency decree, with the protesters facing dozens of charges.

It seems the police have nothing better to do than to do legal battle with protestors.

The police are engaging in a myriad of legal contortions. For example, they have suddenly decided that honking horns is illegal. Really? In Bangkok? Yep, they reckon that “vehicles honked their horns, disturbing people nearby and other motorists. The rally participants are also accused of causing heavy traffic congestion.” Yes, again, that’s in Bangkok.

They are brazen in their twisting of law and spreading the virus of injustice in a pandemic of political repression.

 





Further updated: Yuletide lese majeste

22 12 2020

There’s been quite a lot of commentary on the protests, some motivated by the avalanche of lese majeste cases and some by the fact that the end of the year begs for reviews.

One that caught our attention is by Matthew Wheeler, Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia at the International Crisis Group. It is quite a reasonable and careful rundown of events prompting the demonstrations and the call for reform of the monarchy.

The lese majeste cases pile higher and higher. In a Bangkok Post report on people turning up to hear lese majeste charges, eight are listed: Arnon Nampa, Inthira Charoenpura, Parit Chiwarak, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Nattathida Meewangpla, Shinawat Chankrachang, Phimsiri Phetnamrop, and Phromson Wirathamchari.

We can’t locate the latter two on the most recent Prachatai graphic that listed 34 activists charged under 112, but that graphic does include five with names withheld. For us, this brings the total charged to 34-36, but it may well be more.

There was some good news on lese majeste. It is reported that, after more than 4.5 years, a ludicrous 112 charge against Patnaree Chankij have been dismissed. The mother of activist Sirawith Seritiwat, the Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the charge. Her one word “jah” in a chat conversation was said to be the cause of the charge but, in reality, going after her was the regime’s blunt effort to silence her son.

A second piece of reasonable news is that the Criminal Court also dismissed charges of sedition brought by the military junta against former deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on 27 May 2014 six years ago under Section 116 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act. This was another junta effort to silence critics.

As seen in recent days, equally ludicrous charges have been brought against a new generation of critics.

Update 1: Thai PBS reports that the Criminal Court acquitted nine members of the Pro-Election Group who had been charged in late January 2018 with poking the military junta: “Section 116 of the Criminal Code, illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace and defying the then junta’s order regarding public assembly of more than five people.”

The defendants were Veera Somkwamkid, Rangsiman Rome, currently a party-list for the Kao Klai party, Serawit Sereethiat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, a core member of the Ratsadon Group, Aekkachai Hongkangwan, Sukrit Piansuwan, Netiwit Chotepatpaisarn and Sombat Boon-ngam-anong.

The court ruled that:

… protesters complaining about the postponement of general elections cannot be regarded as incitement to public unrest. It also said that the protesters had no intention to defy the ban against public assembly within 150-metres of the Royal palace.

Of course, the charges were always bogus, but the junta’s point was to use “law” for political repression.

Update 2: The Nation reports that there were, in fact, 39 defendants who were acquitted.





Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





Updated: EC votes for Prayuth

21 03 2019

EC performing seals

The Nation reports that the Election Commission has “voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint against the junta chief’s prime ministerial nomination, saying the process had been lawful.”

This refers to a complaint made by “lawyer Winyat Chatmontree last month to disqualify Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha from the contest. Prayut was a state servant [official] and should not be qualified for the nomination…”.

The EC decided, unanimously, that The Dictator-prime minister-junta boss’s “nomination was in line with the law, without giving an explanation.”

This follows the Office of the Ombudsman issuing a “ruling” that the prime minister, paid by the taxpayer, issuing orders, making laws, jailing and repressing in the name of the junta was not an official.

Bizarre decisions indeed. The performing seals at the EC didn’t even bother to “explain” their nonsensical “ruling.” But, that’s in line with so much that has been warped and abused in this junta “election.”

Update: As reported at Prachatai, the iconoclastic Sombat Boonngamanong has had something interesting to say about the unofficial prime minister and junta boss. He has pointed out that in a ruling on his case with the junta, the “Supreme Court … considered [[Gen Prayuth] a government official.” Sombat went to the EC before its most recent unanimous decision “to submit a letter saying that he was willing to be a witness in the case of Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha.

He insisted that NCPO [junta] had sued him on the grounds that Gen Prayut is a government official and the Supreme Court has already ruled in favour of the NCPO.” Sombat insisted that “Prayut[h] is not a government official…”. If that is the case, then “Sombat’s sentence for failing to report to the NCPO under NCPO Order 3/2014, should be cancelled.” The logic here is that if “the Head of the NCPO is not an official, as the Ombudsman found, Sombat did not have to follow the NCPO Order. However, the Court of First Instance, the Appeal Court, and the Supreme Court all ruled that Gen Prayut, as the head of the NCPO, has legal authority and is therefore an official.”

Now that the EC has followed the Ombudsman, what does that mean for the courts rulings in every case the junta has brought? Given that this is the junta’s Thailand, probably nothing, but Sombat is showing how crazy the system has become.





Nonsensical charges

2 11 2018

The military junta claims that there will be an election. It is letting it be known that the best chance of that election will be for 24 February.

Back on 27 January this year, a group of political activists demonstrated to demand an election.

But as the Bangkok Post reports, the activists “have been indicted in court for illegal assembly…”.

Those indicted by prosecutors are:

Rangsiman Rome, a Thammasat University law student; Sirawith Seritiwat, a political science graduate from Thammasat; Arnon Nampa, a lawyer; Ekachai Hongkangwan, a regime critic; Sukrit Piansuwan, a former Thammasat economics student; Netiwit Chotepatpaisal, a Chulalongkorn University political science student; Nuttaa Mahattana, an activist and moderator; and Sombat Boonngam-anong, an activist for an anti-coup group called Wan Arthit Si Daeng (Red Sunday).

The Post thinks it important to report that way back then, these protesters were “about 150 metres from Sra Pathum Palace.” The Post doesn’t explain why this is significant to anything associated with the action.

The Post does not say anything about the nonsensical charging of persons demanding an election that the junta seems keen to grant at roughly about the time that the protesters wanted it.

The court “promptly accepted the case for hearing. All of the accused denied the charges and applied for bail.”





Stealing an election VII

6 05 2018

While the military junta runs wild, collecting support, campaigning vigorously and throwing funds at the electorate, its dependent institutions are working for it.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Pheu Thai Party caretaker secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai warned the Election Commission (EC) it should not assume that former leader Thaksin Shinawatra still dominates the party’s activity.”

While Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan declared that there was no breaking of any law if Puea Thai politicians met Thaksin and sister Yingluck in Singapore, his Election Commission chairman Supachai Somcharoen warned that “party members should be cautious when meeting party outsiders — those who fall outside official member or executive status.” He “they must not let outsiders influence the party’s agenda or accept their money to finance activity.”

No one doubts that Thaksin still wields great influence but the potential for the EC to dissolve the party is real. The notion of precluding “external” influence is a junta law that is designed to trump Puea Thai should the junta party/parties look weak in the junta’s “election.”

Screwing with Thaksin/red shirt parties is going to be a strategy for the junta going forward, so that even a minor party like Sombat Boonngamanong’s proposed Grin Party (or Krian Party) is to be expected. The EC has rejected his request to register his part, objecting to its name.

It is all about paving the road to “election” for The Dictator and his allies.





Further updated: Sparks beginning to fly

28 01 2018

Quite some time ago we said that, as in the past, the spark that lights a fire under Thailand’s military dictatorship might come from something quite unexpected.

We think we might have seen that spark and it may be two events that have begun to tip the political balance. One is Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury timepieces. It isn’t so much that he’s seemingly corrupt. After all the timid middle classes and the wealthy capitalist class “understand” corruption and it is a price they are ever willing to pay so long as they can continue to prosper. And, if the corrupt are “good” people, then it’s okay. What has led to a beginning of an unraveling of this political relationship is Prawit’s arrogance about his massive watch collection and the demonstration (so far) of cover-up and impunity. This taints the junta as self-serving, grasping and certainly not “good” people.

The second spark is the continual delay in the holding of an election that is neither free nor fair. The middle and capitalist classes were fully prepared to accept the junta’s manipulated constitution, its forcing of the constitutional referendum, the tinkering with the details, a senate that maintains military political dominance and human rights restrictions. However, as well as the political repression of the lower classes, they wanted something of a say in politics via that unfair election. By delaying numerous times, the junta is displaying arrogance and a craving for power “unsuited” to the middle and capitalist classes.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The peeling away of support even sees diehard yellow shirts, the boosters for the coups of 2006 and 2014, criticizing the military junta it bet on for turning back the lower class political tide. It also sees cracks appearing in the junta’s domination and control both in events and institutions. We have posted on the “We Walk” march and its court victory. Some of the NGOs involved in that event were those that were present at the birth of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in 2006. For some of those yellow shirts, there is disappointment in the regime for not doing sufficient political cleansing. More disappointment comes from the decisions by the junta to allow legal pursuit of PAD and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Such legal cases are not just a disappointment but construed as a betrayal.

In this context, the re-emergence of political protest is telling. First We Walk and now the student activists. It isn’t that these students haven’t pushed the junta before. In fact, they have been regular opponents, but they have faced numerous legal cases, arrests, abductions and so on. The Bangkok Post reports their most recent event this way:

The Democracy Restoration Group, led by Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat and Rangsiman Rome, posted on Facebook on Friday asking people who share the same views to join them at 5.30pm at the BTS skywalk near the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre.

Pathumwan police said they did not try to stop the campaign so long as it did not block traffic.

Around 100 people came to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre at 5.15pm while police stood by and took photos of the participants. Many of them showed the sign “Election 2018” or show its photo on their mobile phones.

Core leaders of the group took turns giving speeches.

Interestingly, the demonstrators emphasized not just elections but watches.

Update 1: A reader emailed us saying that we missed one of the most important bits of the linked Bangkok Post story. That reader is right that we should have specifically noted that the rally brought together stalwarts of both red and yellow shirts, with ultra-nationalist yellow shirt Veera Somkwamkid and red shirt iconoclast Sombat Boonngamanong. That is an unexpected alliance. Yet it is just this kind of unusual alliance that has underpinned anti-military movements in the past.

Update 2: An updated Bangkok Post report has more from Veera. He declared: “There are no colours right now…. It’s all about joining hands and removing corruption from the country.” He added: “The problem is we cannot rely on the government because they are in fact the ones who are not transparent.” The principal organizers, the New Democracy Movement declared “it will continue to pressure the government and Gen Prayut to dismiss Gen Prawit and to keep his promise to holding the election this year. They will gather again in the same spot on Feb 10.” Meanwhile, in Songkhla, “members of 19 civic organisations walked from Hat Yai municipality to Sena Narong army camp in Hat Yai to voice their grievances over several state projects in the South and to support the [People Go Network/We Walk group].”





Election Commission thuggery I

11 06 2016

A couple of days ago we posted on anti-democrat and anti-election Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn and his self-contradictory claims about constitution and referendum songs.

The clownish Somchai said the the EC’s ditty, that denigrated northerners and northeasterners in terms that echo of the infamous “uneducate” and “red buffalo” taunts of the military-backed and supported anti-democrat People’s Democratic Reform Committee, was just fine. He declared that “people are sometimes too sensitive and pay attention to trivial issues.”

Almost in the same breathe, he then damned another ditty, available on YouTube, charging that the “clip is … using rude words and influencing people in how to vote in the referendum.” He declared that the EC was after those responsible for the clip – the anti-coup Resistant Citizen group. Apparently, the EC and puppet Somchai was not “too sensitive” and that this was not a “trivial issue.”

Double standards? You bet! But puppets like Somchai can’t see this because, as well as being groveling bootlickers, they are not interested in law, logic or justice but loyalty, hierarchy and class privilege.

Prachatai reports that the junta’s EC thugs have been thwarted in their initial efforts to attack Resistant Citizen’s and the more than 20 people involved, including “Anon Nampa, Sirawit Serithiwat, Sombat Boonngamanong, Parit Chiwarak and Nattapat Akhad,” who are seen in the video.

Key members of Resistant Citizen, a well-known anti-junta activists group, and other leading pro-democracy activists might be charged with Computer Crime Act over performing in a music video on the draft constitution referendum.

Somchai has wallowed in sorrow as he revealed “that from the investigation the video clip was posted on YouTube from the first time on 13 April 2016, which was before the Draft Refere[du]m Act was enacted.” Much to his disappointment, this means that the “people involved in its production and those who posted the video for the first time will not be charged with the Draft Referendum Act.” That is, under the Referendum law that is meant to speed the junta’s military charter to a vote without citizens hearing any detailed criticisms.

But such legal barriers are not about to hold back determined anti-democrats like Somchai. He knows that the law is simply a tool for the junta and its minions to use in repressing opposition.

He gleefully announced that they “might instead be charged under the 2007 Computer Crime Act or for violating the orders and announcements of the National Council for Peace and Order …[he means the military junta] instead.”

Somchai also threatened thousands of others, saying that those who had shared the music video after 23 April 2016 “might be charged for violating the referendum act…”.

The military’s thugs are everywhere, threatening, oppressing and suppressing.

 








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