Updated: Yet another cover-up

5 03 2021

Readers will know that Facebook recently removed 185 accounts and groups it considered part of an information-influencing operation run by the military, mainly directed to the southern conflict. The network engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.” It “included 77 accounts, 72 pages and 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram…”.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of Cybersecurity Policy, stated: “We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.” The Facebook report said that the “network” attempted to conceal identities and coordination, and posted primarily in Thai about news and current events, including content in support of the Thai military and the monarchy.”

The dodos at the top of the military used the usual strategy: lies and denial. According to ISOC spokesman Maj Gen. Thanathip Sawangsang:

ISOC is not aware of the takedown of the Facebook accounts as reported in the news. Those were personal accounts not related to ISOC…. ISOC also doesn’t engage in operations as reported in the news. We act as a centre for coordination to provide relief and refuge to the people.

No one believes him, but that’s not the point. Political dolts everywhere have learned that lies are all that is needed to deflect criticism, begin a cover-up, and maintain the deceit.

And, like clockwork, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has sprung into cover-up action. The unelected prime minister, the assassin, the coup master, The Dictator and election rigger ordered an “investigation.” And who better for that task than those accused? That seems like the perfect way to cover this up. Gen Prayuth “has assigned the Royal Thai Army to investigate…”. He declared: “Facebook took action like this. It can be interpreted in many ways. We must make it clear…”. What he means is that we must cover up.

This is the second removal of military accounts associated with information operations and covert online warfare. Back then they lied and covered-up as well and nothing happened. Business as usual. We expect the same from these revelations.

Update: A reader points out that we missed an obvious point: getting the Army to investigate itself is a non-investigation. Indeed it is, but it is a tried and trusted maneuver by Thailand’s military bosses. The result is inevitably a cover-up.





With 3 updates: Protesting against the regime

17 08 2020

The very large and festive rally at the Democracy Monument, led by the Free People group – previously the Free Youth group – stuck to their three demands. According to the usually under-estimating Bangkok Post, “at least 10,000 protesters rallied at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on Sunday…”.

The rally emphasized the illegitimacy of a regime born of a military coup and repeatedly “called on the government to stop harassing individuals who are exercising their rights in accordance with democratic principles and set up a charter-drafting body to come up with a new constitution based on the will of the people.”

Clipped from nrc.nl

There were also calls for the “government to dissolve parliament to allow the people to exert their right to elect their own representatives…”.

There was little of the previous rally’s demands for the monarchy to be reformed. That seemed to reflect the panic that set in among the older generation who repeatedly warned and/or threatened 6 October-style clashes and massacre.

This generation mistakes its conservatism for “wisdom” and, as ever in status-conscious, royalist Thailand, feels it knows better than the students. They fail to understand that they are now the people of the past and that a new generation does things differently.

Of course, we are generalizing. There are some who have supported the students, including academics, some politicians, public figures and even the perennial conservative monarchist.

Before the rally, a ragtag clutch of ultra-royalists showed up to “protect” the monarchy. The limpness of this “protest” suggests that the fears of the older generation are, for the moment, overblown. At the same time, it is clear that the ultra-royalists are not yet being egged on by the regime and the military and have limited funding from the usual suspects among the tycoons and military intelligence.

For the moment, the regime seems set on using the law as a means to repress, with the Criminal Court having “issued warrants for the arrests of 15 key members of the Free People movement, in connection with the protest held at the Democracy Monument on July 18th, 2020.”

In addition to those already grabbed and charged (and bailed) –  university student Parit Chiwarak, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and activist Panupong Jadnok, 12 others are being traced. They are:

Ms. Chuthatip Sirikhan, Ms. Lalana Suriyo, Nawat Liangwattanayam, Tadthep Ruangprapaikitseri, Karnnithi Limcharoen, Natthavuth Somboonsap, Chatupat Boonpattharaksa, Ms. Chirathita Thammarak, Korakot Saengyangpant, Mrs. Suwanna Tarnlek, Thanayuth na Ayudhya and Baramee Chairat.

For more on the rally, see here, here, and here.

Update 1: For a flavor of the variety of issues at the rally, including a call for Patani’s “self-determination,” see here.

Update 2: For an example of the aged paternalism of Thailand’s elite and their handmaidens in the media, see the op ed by Veera Prateepchaikul. While he gives the impression of reasonableness, the op ed is critical of the students, demeans them and implicitly calls for action against them. Like so many others of the yellow shirt ilk, Veera is unable to conceive of the students thinking for themselves. He states: “[q]uestions have been raised about the origin of the 10-point list of demands as critics doubt students were capable of crafting such a list or possessed sufficient knowledge of the history of the monarchy.” What a pile of buffalo manure. The intent is to label the students republican pawns and to point the accusing figure at progressive politicians. No wonder the students want to overturn this gerontology.

Update 3: The geriatric rightists will be up in arms again now that high school students have come up with another act of defiance. It is reported that three-fingered anti-junta salutes went up in “multiple schools across the country on Monday” as the students “turned the daily flag-raising ceremony into an act of solidarity with the ongoing anti-government protests.” Some teachers apparently were so aghast that they assaulted students. That could mean dozens more schools seeing similar acts of defiance tomorrow. This goes along with the campaign by university students to refuse to receive their degrees from royals.





State violence from past to present

16 04 2020

Prachatai has an excellent long read “Songs, tales, tears: State violence in the periphery from past to present.”

We strongly recommend this article as it reminds us all of the violence of Thailand’s military and royalist state.

It begins with a brief account of a recent act of violence in the deep south when the military slaughtered four men working in the forest:

The state gave out information that it was a clash between paramilitary Rangers and RKK armed forces. Later, the Human Rights Protection Committee, appointed by the Fourth Army Area Commander, concluded the soldiers mistook the dead men for terrorists and they were killed as they were running away. However, the families of the deceased insisted that all the young men possessed nothing but tools for cutting wood and chainsaws.

None of the men was shot running. All “were shot in the head; two of them sitting crossed-leg on the ground, leaning forward.” In other words, they were executed in a manner that has been seen in the past.

The article then recalls four other examples of the military’s murders, including the notorious red drum murders where villagers were burned alive.

Clipped from Prachatai

The article concludes with a note on impunity:

There has been no punishment for those responsible for these events, so it is hard for Thai society to learn lessons in order to prevent violence in the future.





When the military is on top XXIX

19 03 2020

A couple of Bangkok Post reports raise questions for PPT on the role of the military.

Everyone knows that the military is a law unto itself. It may be poor reporting, but two reports, one on the south and the other on virus disinfection, suggest the military really is a parallel regime.

In the first, “Fourth Army commander Lt Gen Pornsak Poonsawat has ordered all 13 temporary border checkpoints with Malaysia closed from March 18-31.” As far as we recall, martial law is still in operation in the south, but it does still seem presumptuous of the local military commander to do this. It does show the power of the military.

The second report is about the army beginning “spraying roads in Bangkok with disinfectant to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”Maybe that’s useful, but the claim is that this “spraying …[was] approved at a high-level meeting of army units chaired by army chief Apirat Kongsompong, will be carried out the Army Air Defence Artillery Unit and the Army Chemical Department…”.

It is almost as if the government doesn’t exist.





Prachatai’s documentaries

15 03 2020

If readers haven’t seen them, we want to draw attention to three documentaries recently posted to Prachatai. They are:

Talk for Freedom by iLaw and Prachatai. Described as a new documentary that tells the story of Mafang and Pai Dao Din, two of the participants in the Talk for Freedom public forum on the draft of the 2017 constitution at Khon Kaen University on 31 July 2016, who were prosecuted by the NCPO for violating the NCPO 3/2558, which prohibited a political gathering of more than five people. Of course, Pai Dao Din went on to serve time for lese majeste.

Wound of the Soul is a documentary by The Pen that tells the story of the effects of national security laws, such as martial law, emergency decree and the Internal Security Act, on those who live in the Deep South.

Humans of Muang Phia is by the New Isan Movement and Prachatai and tells the story of the Hak Ban Koet group’s fight against the Mitr Phol sugar factory and biomass power plant project and for their right to take part in making decisions about what happens in their hometown.





Stop the state’s anti-opposition campaigns

4 03 2020

If readers haven’t seen it, a few days ago, 33 organizations and 23 individuals issued a joint statement that began:

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, urge the Thai government to investigate, and immediately halt, the alleged state-supported online attacks against human rights defenders, political activists, social critics, and opposition politicians.

They are responding to revelations made in the no-confidence debate in parliament.

The organizations are:

  1. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
  2. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
  3. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC)
  4. Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
  5. Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR)
  6. Duayjai Group, Pattani Province
  7. Patani Human Rights Organization Network (HAP)
  8. JASAD Group – Network of Affected Populations under of Special Laws, the Southern most provinces Thailand
  9. ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW)
  10. Union Civil for Liberty (UCL)
  11. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLAW)
  12. Southern Human Rights Lawyers Network (SHRLN)
  13. Freedom Mobile Journalist (Freedom MoJo, FMJ)
  14. People Network of Satun Provincial Development Plan Watch
  15. Green South Foundation
  16. Human Rights and Environment Association
  17. Learning Center on Natural Way for Community
  18. Songkhla Consumer Association
  19. Khao-Khu-Haa Community Rights Protection Association
  20. Spirit of Thepa Stop Coal-Fired Power Plant Network
  21. Permatamas – Persekutuan rakyat mempertahankan hak masyarakat dan sumber daya alam untuk kedamaian
  22. Centre for ​Ecological Awareness Building
  23. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development of North (NGO-COD North)
  24. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development of Lower North (NGO-COD Lower North)
  25. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development of Northeast (NGO-COD Northeast)
  26. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development of South (NGO-COD South)
  27. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development of Thailand (NGO-COD Thailand)
  28. Land Watch Thai
  29. The Eastern Economic Corridor Watch Group (EEC Watch Group)
  30. Student Group for Human Rights of Khonkaen University (Daodin Group)
  31. Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM)
  32. Ecology and Culture Study Group
  33. People Network of Mineral Ownership




Updated: ISOC’s political campaigns

29 02 2020

The regime seems in a pickle regarding “fake news.” Last week, Khaosod reported that the regime’s Anti-Fake News Center at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society declared one of its stories as “fake news” for citing a Facebook post by the Thai Embassy in London.

Later, red-faced officials babbled a bit and finally blamed “procedural errors,” that meant an incorrect rating of the Khaosod story as false. But there was no online correction when the Center’s false fake news post was removed.

Khaosod notes that “critics [have] raised concerns that the center could be weaponized against legitimate news coverage deemed unfavorable by the government.”

This bit of state incompetence or over-zealous policing came as the regime’s broader efforts to manipulate a political advantage from fake news and paid trolls came to light.

Using documents from a parliamentary budget committee, Thai PBS reported that MP Viroj Lakkana-adisorn of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party identified a “network of social media that have been waging a cyber war against critics of the government and the military by spreading fake news and damaging materials against them.”

It was revealed that:

[a]mong human rights activists often targeted by the [network] … are Angkhana Neelapaijit, a former human rights commissioner, and academics critical of the government’s handling of the situation in the region.

This network “includes websites and social media platforms targeting leaders and supporters of the political party and human rights activists in the violence-hit south.” It is taxpayer funded via the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

ISOC stands accused of hiring dozens of IO operatives:

toiling day and night to sow hatred only to reap 100 baht a day. Pity those soldiers proud of serving their country only to be reduced to the task of trolling, mudslinging, and spreading dark propaganda against their own countrymen….

The trolls are paid – allegedly as little as 100 baht a day, which is a separate labour crime in itself – and are also eligible for a monthly outstanding performance award of 3,000 baht, according to the dossier.

ISOC is claimed to be a “civilian” organization, but this is fake as it is born of and controlled by the military. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is its director  and Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong is deputy director. Its “mission it to suppress threats to national security, defend the monarchy, promote unity, and protect the public from harm…”.

Apparently this now includes lies, fake news, inciting violence and more. In the case cited by Viroj, it also included insinuations that activists “were either sympathetic or associated with the insurgents responsible for unrest … in the south.” He accused ISOC of seeking to “denigrate these people. To sow seeds of hatred…”.

While Viroj’s revelations were about ISOC actions in the south, there can be little doubt that this kind of “Information Operation” (IOs) has been used against all the political opponents of the military junta and its bastard child regime, both led by Gen Prayuth.

The Bangkok Post reported that Gen. Prayuth’s response was to deny “having a policy to use social media against his critics.” He then accused Future Forward of social media attacks upon himself and his regime/s. He vowed to find those responsible for the attacks on himself and his regime/s. And, for good measure, he turned the attack on Viroj for revelations that were a “witch-hunt was causing rifts within society,” and had damaged ISOC’s reputation.

ISOC’s boss

While it is difficult to “damage” ISOC’s reputation as a bunch of political thugs, but we suspect Gen Prayuth has been taking lessons from heroin smuggler and minister Thammanat Prompao on how to divert attention from facts with lies and by attacking messengers.

Gen Prayuth promised an “investigation” that would demonstrate which “political parties are involved…”. Action would be taken against them. Sounds like Thammanat’s threats to sue all and sundry.

ISOC’s response was predictably nonsensical. Yes, the parliamentary documents were correct and, yes, ISOC does conduct IOs. But, ISOC spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng “also dismissed claims the command was given a budget by the government to fund information operations (IOs) in the restive region.”

Yes, “the command did spend some of its budget on IOs — albeit not for waging a ‘cyber war’, but on IOs aimed at countering the spread of fake news.”

Maj Gen Thanathip “said the money cited in the expenditure reports was used to fund public relations activities to correct public misunderstandings about security operations in the southern border areas.” He then went full-on bonkers, claiming it was ISOC that was “ensuring justice and promoting human rights with the ultimate goal of restoring peace in the deep South…”. ISOC and the military it supports is usually associated with murder, torture and enforced disappearances in the south.

The response lacks any logic, but we know that making sense and truth counts for nothing among members of this regime.

Vila Krungkao writing at Thai Enquirer observes:

When IO is funded by the state budget – as documents revealed at the censure debate on Tuesday night showed – it means a serious disabuse of taxpayer’s money and trust. It’s a betrayal of your own citizens. To paint them as enemies of the state for merely having different views, to systematically fire up hostility by pitting one group of Thais against another, is to destroy the last semblance of democracy the government still has left. Simply it’s just one of the worst things they could do to their own people….

Troll army

The government (or the Army, we can’t make a distinction) is throwing fuel into the fire when they resort to black propaganda against their own people and amplifying the conflict with malicious intent. Losing the war on legitimacy, they try to win the virtual war on (fake) approval.

Update: The Bangkok Post has an editorial expressing shock about Viroj’s revelations. It concludes:

Isoc and the army should never be involved in information operations as such campaigns necessitate the kind of political affiliation from which they must remain free. State-sponsored operations that aim to spread hate speech against certain groups of people must not be tolerated.

We are not sure why the Post is shocked or thinks that the military or its evil spawn, ISOC, are apolitical. They should be, but they never have been, and ISOC was created to do damage to opponents of the military and its authoritarianism. And, the hiring of cyber spies and trolls being paid by the state has been announced several times in the period since the 2006 coup.

No one should be surprised that “military officers have been mobilised to post abusive comments using fake social media accounts from 2017-2019 as a means to discredit the government’s opponents.”  That as “many as 1,000 officers stationed in about 40 army units across the country” have been used will not surprise those on the receiving end of Army trolling and threats.





Updated: Torture, murder

25 08 2019

Back at the end of July, Prachatai reported that “Abdullah Isomuso, 32, was admitted to the intensive care unit of Pattani Hospital on 21 July after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp in Pattani.” At the hospital he was reportedly unresponsive.

He had been “detained under Martial Law on 20 July for suspected involvement in unknown insurgent activity, after a group of military officers searched his house in Sai Buri District…”.

Police were said to be “investigating,” and “went to the Inquiry Unit at the Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp to gather evidence.” However, as usual, “when they asked to see footage from the CCTV cameras inside the Inquiry Unit, officials at the camp said that all of the cameras were broken.”

It is “standard procedure” in cases where there are deaths in custody or alleged murders by the military for the military to claim the cameras are broken or even to conceal the evidence provided by CCTV.

Civil society groups “express[ed] concerns that Abdullah might have been subjected to torture while in detention.”

Meanwhile, those who came to visit Abdullah at the hospital were photographed by police.

Now, Abdullah has died, with the Bangkok Post reporting that this death resulted “from injuries sustained during an interrogation by security authorities.” That suggests that he was indeed tortured.

While “Col Pramote Prom-in, the spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command’s Region 4 Forward Command, on Sunday confirmed the death of Abdulloh and promised transparency in the inquiry into his fate,” this seems impossible. After all, there has almost never been a case of official torturers and murderers being seriously investigated or held to account.

The authorities operate with impunity.

Update: There’s been quite a media storm over this case. Worth considering are:





Assassins serving the state

22 06 2019

Sunai Phasuk a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch has a Dispatch that is revealing of the operations of Thailand’s military.

It is about the south, but speaks volumes about the way the military operates, illegally, and with impunity. It begins:

The recent arrest in Yala province of a militia member linked to numerous murders and other crimes raised hopes that the Thai government was finally getting serious about countless abuses carried out by its security forces in Thailand’s restive southern border provinces….

“Getting serious” is not about arresting a southern insurgent, but arresting Abdulhakeem “Hakeem” Darase who

… is allegedly responsible for a long list of murders of ethnic Malay Muslim men and women accused of involvement with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement.

He’s an operative and assassin with links to the military. He’s in the custody of the military, meaning police can’t charge him.

Sunai concludes:

The government should take an important step to break this cycle of violence by ordering the military to transfer Hakeem to police custody for a transparent and impartial criminal investigation and to be prosecuted as the evidence warrants it. There can be no excuses.





Impunity continues

31 03 2019

To leave “election” news for a while, PPT noticed a report in the Bangkok Post that gave an account of a recent court ruling from the south.

The Pattani provincial court ruled the deaths of four men, initially claimed to be “insurgents” and shot dead by police and military were legal.

The court proclaimed that “state authorities are not required to compensate the families of four men shot…”.As the report states,

A fact-finding committee, set up to look into the case, concluded in April 2015 that the four were not linked with the deep South insurgency. These findings prompted Lt Gen Prakarn Cholayuth, then 4th army region commander, to apologise for the incident.

Despite this, “the court ruled that the police and army officers who gunned down the four had acted lawfully and that their organisations would not be liable for the incident.”

The families can appeal, but this court’s decision again grants police and military with impunity when they murder citizens.








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