Color coding royal pardons?

4 05 2019

As is usual around supposedly auspicious royal events, “pardons” – a kind of amnesty – have been granted to prisoners and others serving sentences. They include commuted jail terms for serious offenses.

The latest, for the coronation, includes some interesting “pardons.”

Five leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy will be released. They were only convicted a few weeks ago. They are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Pipop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk, and Suriyasai Katasila. Sondhi Limthongkul’s position remains unclear, although he may have benefited by having his fraud sentence reduced.

Interestingly, PAD seem to have designed the kit for the king’s royal volunteer “army.”

What of red shirts serving sentences? We haven’t seen any news yet.

Anti-junta critic, sentenced on lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai report, student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, has benefited, but not by much. He was due to be released on 19 June.

We might be missing something, but it might be that royal pardons are now color coded.





Heroes and villains

14 02 2019

The Supreme Court has finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 may be seen as a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila were charged with “breaking into Government House and damaging property there during the protests they led against the Samak Sundaravej government from May to December 2008.”

But the process involved shows how the sentences have been reduced through the judicial process. Originally they were sentenced “to two years’ jail each, commuted from three years due to their useful testimony.” That was reduced by the Appeals Court “to eight months in jail, commuted from one year.”

However, the “Supreme Court ruled that their demonstration was not peaceful, as they claimed, because their supporters broke into Government House.” Apparently, this means that occupying Government House grounds for seven months, seeking to prevent an elected government from operating is okay.

A Bangkok Post editorial is closer to the mark, noting that PAD’s leaders “resorted to extremism and violence, sexed up by hate speech.” It also observes that PAD “set up armed and unarmed forces who mingled among protesters … and used tens of thousands of their protesters as human shields against the police crackdown.”

That PAD’s “ruthless operations” served as a model for red shirts and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee cannot be disputed.

The Post’s history of support for the yellow-shirted and PDRC movements seems forgotten. So too are the double standards of the judiciary in the sentencing of red shirts versus the treatment of yellow shirts.

This should remind us that, in the current political climate that emphasizes “loyalty,” the PAD leaders going to jail means they become heroes and martyrs in the renewed battle against the villainous Thaksin Shinawatra and for the monarchy.





Justice system a politicized tatters

1 02 2019

Thailand’s judiciary is in tatters. Politicized for years, conscripted into judicial activism and royalist to the core, the judiciary is unable to work independently or even to maintain rule of law.

The most recent example involves the Appeals Court upheld an earlier court ruling “that dismissed a trial against nine yellow-shirt leaders who demonstrations against late prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.”

The court decided, against all evidence, that Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipob Thongchai, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwongse, Amorn Amornrattanond and Therdpoum Jaidee:

were … not guilty … [when] the Appeals Court …ruled that their protests under the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy … were conducted peacefully and according to democratic principles.

They had stood accused of “attempting to use force to change the government and instigating chaos in the country.” This related to their extended protests in Bangkok and the seizure of government offices. Other charges relates to possessing weapons such as baseball bats, iron bars, axes and catapults.

The Appeals Court dismissed the weapons charges saying they may not have belonged to the protesters. The court then “found that the defendants were not guilty when they obstructed the authorities’ attempts to demolish their tents, saying that the incident did not start from the defendants’ side,” despite the fact that they occupied these buildings and their grounds.

The court then “ruled that the protests led by the nine defendants in 2008 were conducted peacefully, in a manner which was allowed in a democracy and under the Constitution.”

Of course, similar manufactured dismissals were manufactured as convictions for red shirts.

The justice system has brought itself into disrepute.





Updated: Bankrupt PAD

7 01 2018

As widely reported, including in the Bangkok Post, 13 core members/leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy face a combined bill of 522 million baht incurred as a court’s decision on compensation to the Airports of Thailand Plc, for losses incurred “by the 10-day closure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports 10 years ago.”

Apparently, “a legal execution notice sent by prosecutors, who were authorised by the operator of the two gateways, to seek the payments.” This follows a 2011 ruling by the Civil Court upheld by the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court between 2011 and 2017.

This might be good news for those who were outraged by PAD’s illegal actions that led to the judicial coup of December 2008.

But is it? It seems that the PAD leaders will simply declare themselves bankrupt.

The 13 are Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipop Thongchai, Suriyasai Katasila, Somsak Kosaisuk, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Amorn Amonrattananond, Saranyu Wongkrajang, Samran Rodpetch, Sirichai Mai-ngam, Maleerat Kaewka and Therdpoum Chaidee.

While Sondhi is in jail for another unrelated offense, we guess that the rest have had plenty of time to organize their personal finances.

Criminal lawsuits are continuing.

Update: Confirming our comments above, the PAD group has thumbed its nose at the courts (again). Chamlong “said he cannot find the money to pay, and he had no assets which can be seized.” In any case, he rejects the notion of compensation to Airports of Thailand: “I insist I did nothing wrong. Why was I ordered to pay such a huge sum of money — as if we burned buildings. But we never burned a single building…”. He added that “he does not regret the consequences he now has to face as he did it in the best interests of the country.” His yellow compatriot, Sirichai Mai-ngam simply said: “We have no money. We won’t run away. We won’t pay…”.





Troubles for the junta I

18 12 2017

The military dictatorship, keen to extend its political role into the future, is running into a series of problems that suggest struggles over power will intensify as political jockeying for position deepens.

Corruption cases, previously ignored, swept under the rug or “investigated” to exoneration are now getting under the junta’s skin. One recent case is the death of a military cadet where the usual excuses for such deaths are not being accepted.

More challenging because it targets the Deputy Dictator is General Prawit Wongsuwan’s extensive  watch collection. His latest attempt at explaining his unusually expensive watches is about a dead “friend”:

According to Gen Prawit’s close aide who asked not to be named, Gen Prawit is under pressure as he does not know how to make the public believe the Richard Mille watches belonged to his friend.

If his “friend” is dead, then Prawit’s story of “borrowing” watches is unlikely to be verified. If the “friend” existed but is now dead, we assume Prawit might claim to inherited the watches.

The point, though, is that the scandal and chatter won’t go away.

More revealing are the splits that seem to be appearing in the yellow-shirted alliance of anti-democrats who have supported military dictatorship.

While Suthep Thaugsuban continues to support military rule and seeks its extension, his Democrat Party and the broader yellow shirt movement have become critical of the junta and its attempts to entrench its rule.

The Bangkok Post reports the former PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk as railing against a “military party.” Somsak and Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong reckon there’s a “plot to set up a new party in support of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.” The vehicle is claimed to be “a military party which will support Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak as party leader while the name of the party will include the word Pracharath, the government’s public-private collaboration…”.

Somsak warned that “military-backed parties of the past, including the Manangkasila and Samakkhitham parties, had failed because the people did not accept them.”

Somsak’s history is not all that comprehensive, but leaving that aside, Watchara mangles it when he says “Gen Prayut should follow the example of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who said ‘that’s enough’ when he was invited by parties to take the premier’s post once again.” He seems to forget the huge pressure to get rid of Prem, including threats about “revealing secrets.”

Even if their history is a bit off, the idea for a military party may not stymie a Prem-like reign for The Dictator. As in the Prem period, the Democrat Party may not be opposed to that.

But the kerfuffle also shows that the regime remains troubled. It is seeking ways to cement its influence but finds the political alliances and parties cumbersome and confounding.





Light yellow standards

24 07 2017

The Bangkok Post reports on yet another (partial) victory for the yellow shirts of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

In another example of double standards and a politicized judiciary, the Appeals Court reduced “two-year jail terms imposed by the primary court for their seizure of Government House in an attempt to oust then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.” The court declared that their illegal occupation was “not intended to benefit certain groups or their own interests…”. In other words, the judge reckons they acted in the “public interest.” This is another example of “good people” double standards.

Thus the court reduced their sentence to eight months but did not suspend imprisonment.

The PAD lawyer then declared an appeal to the Supreme Court and asked for bail for all but one of the defendants:  Chamlong Srimuang, Phibop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila. (Sondhi Limthongkul is in jail already for fraud.)

This result came almost two years after the lower court decision. Perhaps their next case will be in 2019 or 2020? SO far their sentences have been reduced from three to two years and now to eight months. We can guess that the next court will be even more sympathetic.





Updated: Organized labor is always suspect

13 01 2016

Despite the fact that some elements of the now very small labor movement in Thailand has tended to be quite supportive of the two most recent military coups and anti-democrat protests, the military dictatorship still doesn’t trust organized  labor.

Most support for the rightists and militarists has come from state enterprise unions, which have been led around by the nose under the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy back when Thaksin Shinawatra was under attack.

Of course, the military goons have long tried to control and weaken organized labor and have often been in the pay of employers keen to repress any organization among workers.

Last week, as reported at Prachatai, leaders of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) complained that military and police officers have intimidated  them. This comes “several days after the committee investigated the detention of labour union leaders of an electrical appliance company.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia, president of the TLSC, said she was being followed by “4-5 military officers both in uniform and plainclothes” at her workplace and her home.

Yongyut Mentapao, TLSC’s vice president, also says he “had been followed by military and police officers from unidentified units…. He filed a complaint at a police station about the intimidation…”.

This followed “the detention of Chalee Loysoong, [another] TLSC Vice President, and Amorndech Srimuang, leader of the labour union of Sanko Gosei Technology Ltd., an electrical appliance manufacturer in the eastern province of Rayong, on Tuesday, 6 January 2016.”

These two were detained at the Ministry of Labor because “they led about 500 Sanko Gosei workers to the Ministry to ask Gen Sirichai Distakul, the Labour Minister, for assistance in negotiating with Sanko Gosei.” That company had closed and had protesting workers thrown out.

In detaining the union leaders, the police threatened them with charges for unlawful assembly.

As usual, the regime’s thugs work for employers and against any effort by people to organize or mobilize. Untamed union leaders are thus a threat.

Update: Demonstrating their thuggishness and incapacity for much other than repression, the dolts in the military decied to “visit” – i.e., threaten – Wilaiwan “at the office of the Om Noi/Om Yai Labour Union in Samut Sakhon Province.” About five men in uniform were responding to the statement by TLSC “condemning the authorities for using the Public Assembly Act and detaining labour union members” protesting the event outlined above.

The politically daft thugs “cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives officers absolute power to maintain security, and informed the TLSC leader that from now on she must inform the military first before making any political moves.”





Updated: Thailand’s protesters don’t want democracy

29 01 2014

There have been some pretty horrid defenses of the anti-democrats by some journalists and bloggers in recent days. One of the features of these pieces has been the almost complete absence of factual information and the reliance on a few informants from the anti-democracy camp.

Perhaps the worst of this lot was the long Newsweek piece by Hugh Gallagher, called “What I saw at the Revolution.” Perhaps it should have been “What I saw at the Counter-Revolution.” This scribbler essentially had one source – a woman who happened to live in this guy’s condominium.

Saowaluk, 30-something TV producer, was one of them. She met me that morning in my building’s lobby. Dressed in jeans, black T-shirt and running sneakers, she tucked her smartphone into a designer handbag, brushed her long black hair aside, and led me out into the protests.

Smartphone, designer bag, etc. This is upwardly mobile Thai-Chinese middle class Bangkok.

Many people pouring into the streets of Bangkok today received their diploma directly from their king. The PDRC movement is filled with such educated professionals, whom detractors have spun toward the more derogatory label of “elite.”

Saying the “revolution” was more than the middle class and elite being pissed that they thought their privilege was going down the drain, the author then introduces “famous people” at the protest. He makes PPT’s case: this is a highly protectionist elite and their hangers-on protecting a system that has suited them and kept the rest down.

Equally hopeless was a piece at The Guardian by Dave Sherman. We were initially surprised that a respected newspaper like this would publish such weak journalism, but then we realized that this is one of those stories that anyone can publish, kind of like a long comment at a blog.

Then we found out that this Dave is Bangkok Dave. He hasn’t posted anything at his blog for ages, but he came out for The Guardian. We won’t say too much about the article, but let’s contextualize it. This is how Dave describes himself:

I’m not a journalist…. I am not a neutral observer. I’m against the red shirts – their ideology; their goals (not their stated goals, but the actual ones); their methods, particularly the calculated use of violence; their hypocrisy and sense of entitlement; their lack of compassion and self-awareness. But most of all, I’m against their political master: Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire former premier turned fugitive who’s organized the red shirt movement, funded its activities and infused it with his sociopathic personality and political ethos.

So Dave is a commentator who hates red shirts. Should we then listen to him when he supports the anti-democrats? Well, yes, if he made any sense.

Does he make sense? Try this, his: “Myth 1: The protesters are mainly ‘Bangkok elites’.” What is it then?:

In reality, while the protests indeed have their centre in Bangkok, most protesters are fairly diverse, and include the city’s middle and working classes, as well as students and people of all walks of life from Thailand’s south. Crucially, the majority of the Bangkok-born working class do not support the government.

“Fairly diverse”? Everyone says the Bangkok middle class is there (see above), so nothing new there. But the working class of Bangkok? The first thing to notice is that Dave has no evidence for this claim, and PPT certainly hasn’t seen this class at the rallies. Of course, the leadership of tiny state enterprise unions have supported the anti-democrats, going back to 2005, mainly through the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk.

But this is a “labor aristocracy.” It is a tiny fraction of the Bangkok-based working class that was so emphatic in its support for the red shirts and which repeatedly votes for pro-Thaksin parties. Evidence is not one of Dave’s strong points.

Update: Oops, like Dave, we forgot our punchline. The headline of this story is a contradiction of Dave’s. We won’t argue for our conception because he doesn’t either. But, hey, we have hundreds of posts to support us.





Bringing down the government

23 11 2012

Many in Pitak Siam are gleeful that the Constitutional Court has refused to seriously consider petitions against its rally and that the Yingluck Shinawatra government has been spooked into invoking the Internal Security Act.

But apart from that, little seems to have changed amongst the groups that are coming together to further undermine the elected government.

According to the Bangkok Post, the big rally supporters are from “the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) … [and] several active and retired soldiers will also join the ranks, along with strategic and tactical advisers…”.

Then there is the misnamed “multi-coloured-shirt group led by Tul Sitthisomwong,” which are simply ultra-royalist-fascists; the equally misnamed ultra-nationalist “Peace-Loving Thais group led by Kanchanee Walayasevi.” Of course the shock troops provided by PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang’s Dhamma Army will be there. So will the Democrat Party-aligned “Group of People from 16 Southern Provinces led by Sunthorn Rakrong” and the dinosaur  “group of state enterprise labour union activists led by Somsak Kosaisuk, a former PAD co-leader.”

The Post tries to claim that there will be new groups attending, including “the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-move), which consists of landless farmers, displaced people, and those affected by state projects; the Network of Small-Scale Northeastern Farmers; and the Assembly of the Poor.” All were part of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements in the past and aligned with the PAD, so there is nothing new here.

It is somewhat surprising that the AoP is returning to the fascist-yellow side given that its grassroots supporters have previously rejected PAD. PPT imagines that the old pro-PAD leadership is struggling to regain control of the AoP.

For all of this claim to “variety”, the basic hue remains yellow and the “anti-government rally tomorrow is expected to be mainly Bangkok residents and supporters of the opposition Democrat Party, many of whom are unhappy with the Yingluck administration.”

 





Ombudsman on the job

17 10 2012

The Nation applauds the Ombudsman’s Office for being politically biased. In its article on the suddenly active agency, it is argued that “a series of high-profile probes launched over the past year…”.

Yes, in the past year, the Ombudsman’s office established in 1999, “the least talked about, at one point even seen as so insignificant as to be at risk of disbandment” has suddenly been activated. Former charter writer Kanin Bunsuwan notes hat the Ombudsman’s “teeth and claws” were “hidden” in the military junta’s 2007 Constitution. They remained hidden until the Yingluck Shinawatra government was elected. Since then, the teeth and claws have been bared.

Since that election, the Ombudsman “has examined Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ethics for skipping a House meeting…”,  investigated “the qualifications of PM’s Office Minister Nalinee Taveesin and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Natthawut Saikua…”, and have investigated Thaksin Shinawatra having a passport. The investigation of Natthawut was because he is a red shirt.

The picture of how the Ombudsman’s Office is being used is exemplified by People’s Alliance for Democracy and New Politics Party leader Somsak Kosaisuk. He filed the complaint over Thaksin’s passport, because that “agency had proven itself to be neutral and to make trustworthy decisions.” It seems that “neutral” for the yellow shirts means targeting the Yingluck government while being deliberately somnolent on the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.