Updated: Thai use of cluster munitions in Cambodia condemned

6 04 2011

Bangkok Pundit has a very important post on the denial and now admission by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government that its troops have used cluster bombs against Cambodia. The Abhisit government and its military repeatedly denied the use of cluster bombs when the Cambodian government first made the claim of their use. Read the whole post by BP where this is detailed.

Here is the bit PPT thinks is really important from the Cluster Munition Monitor report:

In a meeting on 5 April, the Thai Ambassador to the UN in Geneva confirmed Thai use of 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) cluster munitions. The Ambassador said Thailand used cluster munitions “in self-defence”, using the principles of “necessity, proportionality and in compliance with the military code of conduct”. He alleged heavy use of rocket fire by Cambodian forces against civilian targets in Satisuk, in the Khun Khan district of Thailand.

A variety of the munitions used by the Thai army

The report also refers to CMC’s on-site investigations. The admission and the investigations cause the CMC to state:

This is the first use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world since the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force and became binding international law. The CMC condemns any use of cluster munitions, and urges Thailand and Cambodia to immediately commit to no future use and to accede to the global treaty banning the weapons.

The CMC is clear that these Thai weapons were used in civilian areas. It states:

Sister Denise Coghlan, a CMC leader who took part in the first research mission said, “These cluster munitions have already robbed two men of their lives, two more have lost their arms and a further five were injured. The area must be cleared immediately to prevent more suffering. Cambodia must make every effort to ensure the safety of civilians.”

There is more in the report and pictures are available.

More international condemnation should be expected of a regime and its military that appear rogue in their use of violence in domestic and international arenas.

Update: Linking this condemnation of the use of inhumane weapons with the Thai military’s continued rejection of any international scrutiny of their actions is inevitable. The Bangkok Post has the latest rejection. Supreme Commander Songkitti Chakkrabat says “Indonesian observers will not be allowed to enter the disputed border area surrounding the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple…”. Or anywhere else it seems. The Post says this is the “first time Thai military leaders have formally announced their position on the issue.” That may be formally correct although the military’s rejectionist stand has been abundantly clear.

General Songkitti “said the Thai military has adhered to bilateral commitments between the two countries.” So we can assume that includes artillery shelling on both sides and the Thai use of inhumane cluster bombs?

Let’s be clear. The Thai military has flagrantly abused its power for decades. It is a corrupt political organization that is able to maintain its abuse of human rights because its power is critical to the maintenance of the monarchy and ruling class. The border dispute is yet another example of this corruption of power. When it spills over into the international arena – in the use of cluster bombs, the forced repatriation of refugees and the abuse of migrants to Thailand, it is protected by the opacity of the current regime (and past regimes; think Tak Bai and Kru Se under Thaksin Shinawatra) and the ruling class’s fears and needs.

More on coups, the military and influential people

6 04 2011

The Bangkok Post has a fine bit of reporting on the military top brass scotching persistent rumors of a coup.

For PPT, the really reveling item is almost buried deep in the story when referring to the strong rumors:

The strongest rumour was sparked by a recent meeting of movers and shakers in Thai politics who gathered at the house of an important person in the Sukhumvit area. It is a meeting place where past decisions on changes in government have been made.

PPT assumes that the reference is to Piya Malakul and his coup planning buddies from 2006, including privy councilors (see here and here). The rumor gets even more remarkable – according to the Post’s unnamed source:

It was proposed at the meeting that an interim national government should be formed to restore national order, comprising all political parties to select good people to run the country.

The national government’s top priorities would be to grant amnesty for those convicted of offences related to colour-coded politics and to amend the constitution to ensure greater justice.

It was agreed that the national government should be allowed to run the country for two to three years before a general election is called.

But a source at the meeting said those at the meeting failed to specify how the national government should be formed if it was not through a military takeover.

This has contributed to the constant rumours of a putsch, the source said.

The strength of this rumor has caused the military’s brass to vehemently reject it and other claims of an “imminent coup d’etat.” This statement was issued by “Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara in the presence of the commanders of all the armed forces – army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, navy commander Kamthorn Phumhiran, and air force chief Itthaporn Subhawong…”.

Songkitti said that the “operate under the constitution and support democratic rule…”. Right, we have heard that before previous coups. He then rambled about no-one in the army being permitted to run a coup. Again, a common refrain from the past.

Seemingly forgetting the history of coups in Thailand, Songkitti complained: “Stop linking the armed forces [to the coup rumours]. Don’t ever separate the military from the people…”.

Read the story. Whatever happens, it is clear that te powers that put the current government in place to shore up elite rule are at it again.

The military’s top brass have vehemently rejected rumours about an imminent coup d’etat sparked by a recent meeting of leading political figures.

CRES and the army make the decisions

12 11 2010

In our post yesterday on poster boy for the regime Abhisit Vejjajiva and bailed red shirts, PPT linked to an article in the Bangkok Post where Abhisit was also cited as saying “The emergency decree still in force in Bangkok and adjacent provinces could be lifted before January because the overall siutation has improved…”.

Abhisit has now been set straight. The power is with the military and the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situations. The Bangkok Post reports that “Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara said CRES will decide the appropriate time to lift the emergency decree from Bangkok and adjacent provinces.” He continued: “The situation right now is normal, but to revoke the emergency decree potentially dangerous incidents must first be dealt with and state agencies must be able to work normally…”. And added:  “The CRES is the centre that coordinates with different ministries and departments and will determine when the emergency decree should be lifted.”

It seems that the “poster boy” is ever more clearly seen to be dominated by the older men who really run the country and the armed forces.

With 4 updates: Queen and prince attend soldier’s funeral

12 04 2010

Also available as ราชินี พระบรมฯ เสด็จฯงานศพนายทหาร

The Nation (12 April 2010) reports that the queen “expressed regret over the death of Col Romklao Thuwatham, who was among five troops killed during clashes with protesters Saturday night.  Her Majesty the Queen expressed the regret while presiding over the royally-sponsor bathing rite for the colonel, deputy chief of staff of the 2nd Infantry Division, Royal Guards, at the Thepsirin Temple at 5:45 pm.  Her Majesty was accompanied by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.  Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, Supreme Commander Gen Songkiitt Jakkabatra and several other senior military officers received Her Majesty and the Crown Prince at the temple.”

This event will be interpreted in all kinds of ways. Recall that the queen attended the funeral of the one PAD protester killed in October 2008 and that was seen as a sign of where palace support was. What have they said about the protesters this time?

Video of the funeral:

Update 1: A related report in The Nation states this about the colonel’s death: “The spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Commanded said Monday that either an active or a retired military identified Col Romklao Thuwatham for a gunman to take him out with M79 grenade.  Pol Maj Gen Disthaporn Sasamit said a laser beam was pointed to the group of commanders before an MP79 was fire at them, killing Romklao and injuring other senior officers.  Disthaporn said it was not a coincidence but everything was planned by the other side.” The plan for laying blame is clear. The ISOC man added: “The spokesman said the other side was angry that Romklao led troops to restore order during riots last year so the other side was angry and would like to take a revenge.  Disthaporn said gunmen also fired at military officers from buildings so everything was planned by the other side.” He repeats the claim as if a mantra.

Is the government going to be able to make this claim stick or is the redoubt of the desperate?

Update 2: A reader points out that PPT should have recalled that Romklao was one of the officers who gave the “shoot” order during Songkhran Uprising of 2009 and that he has been quite vocal about what he did.

Update 3: Singapore’s channelnewsasia.com has an article (via AFP) that notes the funeral visit by the queen and prince. It adds that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said that the king and queen “will offer financial support to the wounded and families of those killed, both civilians and soldiers.” Is Suthep having to clean up the royals’ political mess? Or does it just make their political position more obvious?

Update 4: Pro-government TAN Network on 12 April translates a ASTV/Manager story on Colonel Romklao. Makes for interesting reading.

Prem’s birthday

26 08 2009

General Prem Tinsulanonda was born on 26 August 1920, making him 89 today. He is a former prime minister, privy councilor and favorite in th epalace and amongst royalists. As PPT mentioned previously, the Democrat Party and others have been attacking a plan by red shirts to don black shirts today as a protest against Prem and his role in the 2006 coup.

Now some military leaders are speaking out (while army chief General Anupong Paochinda is consicuoulsy absent). Supreme Commander General Songkitti Chakkabart is reported in the Bangkok Post (26 August 2009: “Gen Songkitti slams red-shirts”) as having lashed out at the red-shirts’ call to wear black, “saying it is inappropriate and should not be done.” His reasoning is that General Prem is “a senior person of the country. He is president of the Privy Council and a statesman who has worked hard for the betterment of the country.” He thinks the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship red shirts should honor Prem, not denigrate him and claimed he “had no idea why the supporters of the  would want to do this.”

General Songkitti is reported the man responsible for the direction of the troops in their suppression of the Songkhran Uprising in April but had earlier been seen in some quarters as being pro-Thaksin. He was one of the top brass who demanded Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s resignation back in 2008.

Meanwhile, Prem’s chief of the office of the president of the Privy Council Vice Admiral Phajun Tampratheep reported in the Bangkok Post (26 August 2009: “Gen Prem not shaken by UDD’s move”) that the senior royal aide was “not shaken by the red-shirt’s plan to wear black…”. Prem’s spokeman said that as an old soldier, Prem was used to battles, so the red shirt “demonstration was not a big deal for him.”

The deputy army chief General Jiradej Kotcharat stated that the army would help provide security at Prem’s Sisao Theves residence.

Plots, coups, politics

7 04 2009

Former ally of Thaksin Shinawatra and recent convert to the Democrat Party-led coalition government and Buriram “influential person” Newin Chidchob has made an emotional appeal to Thaksin (The Nation, 7 April 2009: “DEFINING BETRAYAL – Newin to Thaksin: Tell your men to stop hurting the monarchy”).

Newin, apolitical fixer and a banned politician formerly with the Thai Rak Thai Party has called on UDD/red shirt supporters to: “Please think twice, …. You all are being used. Your leaders have hidden agenda beyond what they told you, beyond ousting this government…”.

The Nation continues that, “Newin’s voice was choked with emotion when he said he was ready to die for the monarchy and would do anything to fight those who wanted to destroy the monarchy.” He called on Thaksin to stop his supporters attacking the monarchy.

Meanwhile, in a claim that has resonance with an alleged plot to assassinate Thaksin prior to the 2006 coup, it is now said that a privy councilor has been the subject of an assassination plot (The Nation, 7 April 2009: “Police investigating a plot to kill a privy councillor”).

Newin denied he was operating on the instructions of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanond.

Chanchai Likhitjitthais was the alleged target and police are reported to be “trying to uncover the masterminds behind the contract, suspected to be a group of military officers who wanted to instigate trouble ahead of the April 8 rally by the red shirts.”

It is unclear why military officers would be doing this unless, perhaps, they are fomenting a revolt or a coup. However, the Supreme Commander General Songkitti Chakkrabat has reaffirmed that the military would not stage another coup (Bangkok Post, 7 April 2009: “Songkitti predicts a peaceful rally”).

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