Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.





With 4 updates: The Dictator’s response II

22 10 2020

At about the time that a mass of demonstrators began to march from the Victory Monument, via a couple of half-hearted police road blocks, to Government House, The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha took over Thailand’s national pool broadcasters to explain how he was a democrat.

It may be stating the completely obvious, but we want to point out the contradictions in The Dictator-cum-fake-Democrat general’s speech.

That speech included accusations against the protesters (or their leaders) as violent, extremists, “unThai,” a minority and mob who seek chaos, and anti-monarchists. He didn’t use those terms, but everyone knows the code.

Listening but not hearing

It is Gen Prayudh’s failures, his repression and his lies that, as the pro-regime Bangkok Post reported, led to an ultimatum: “protesters have given the prime minister three days to release detained activists and step down, or face a new round of demonstrations.” We use the official text of The Dictator’s speech, released and published by Thai Enquirer. Protesters have dismissed his (fake) entreaties as too little, too late.

With demonstrators seeking to create a more democratic Thailand, Gen Prayuth calls on them to “sacrifice … their personal desires for the greater good of their country.” That is, to compromise with his illegitimate regime for something less than the protesters want.

He positions himself as “a national leader” who must look after “everyone in this country…”, while taking on the “very extreme” and protecting “the nation” from “dark forces that may seek to damage our country…”. He claims to speak and act for the “huge silent majority” and to rule the country “based on principle, the law, and the will of parliament as the ultimate representative of the people.”

Of course, this is a large pile of buffalo manure that paints the protesters as an extreme minority making “mob demands.”

Gen Prayuth speaks of the need to “step back” from a situation where “violence begets more violence.” But have the protesters been violent? Of course not. The violence has been from the regime and yellow-shirted stooges.

For Prayuth, his big lie is that the protesters who have been violent:

Last Friday night, we saw things that should never be in Thailand. We saw terrible crimes being committed against the police using metal rods and huge cutting implements in brutal attacks, with the aim of severely wounding fellow Thais. But when we look deeper, we can also see that, beyond a small group of ruthlessly violent people with bad intentions….

How high?

Go back and look. Really? Maybe he’s confused. PPT has reviewed all of our collected media reports from that day and there are no reports of such violence by protesters that we can find. All the reports are of the police and their harsh actions to disperse the crowd, which Prayuth does mention, and seems to back away from such tactics.

But then The Dictator switches to “offences against institutions that are held in the highest respect.” He means the monarchy.

His “solution” to the problems he faces is “to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process. It is a slow process, but it is one that best avoids injury to our nation. We must show the maturity and patience to take the middle path.”

There’s a couple of problems with this. First, Gen Prayuth was not prepared to do this in 2014. Then, he overthrew and elected government, did not support elections, ditched the constitution and imposed a regime of draconian repression, filling parliament with his cronies and rigged the constitutional and electoral system. Why believe he’s had a change of mind? Second, the parliament that exists today is the bastard child of the military coup. It is stacked with an unelected senate that was selected by the junta – and Prayuth himself – and the “election” was rigged. How does Prayuth’s parliament find a way forward?

So, when Prayuth babbles about “respect the due process of law, and then let the will of the people be resolved in parliament,” he’s being completely disingenuous.

Mind. Clipped from a Reuters photo

Prayuth continues to base much of his “conviction” around the monarchy. That’s why he tells protesters to “turn down the volume on hateful and divisive talk.” As the protesters know, real reform must involve the monarchy. It must be discussed. The ultra-royalists fear this. They fear, as Prayuth does, that the foundation of the ruling order will be lost.

Update 1: In a demonstration of how empty Gen Prayuth’s speech was, within two hours of protesters giving him “a three day deadline to step down or face more demonstrations,” the protester who made the announcement, Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon, was arrested. The arrest was live streamed. Today, she was released, the court having “deemed the charges were not serious and that she still needed to attend classes and exams, so bail was granted without having to submit any guarantees.”

Update 2: Mind was released on bail today.

Update 3: The state of emergency “in Bangkok, and related orders,” has been revoked “effective from noon on Thursday,” with The Dictator saying that “the violence that prompted it is over.” We remain baffled by that claim.

Update 4: Prachatai has reproduced the letter/demand protesters presented for The Dictator last evening at Government House. It reads:

“Whereas I, Prayut Chan-o-cha, have used arbitrary power, bought and sold votes, threatened to impose a gangster’s constitution, traded benefits and positions and used the institution of the monarchy as a justification to get hold of the position of the Prime Minister,

“In order to maintain the dignity of my family, the dignity of the position of Prime Minister and the dignity of the country and to express my respect for the people who hold sovereign power, I, Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister, hereby resign from the position of the Prime Minister.”





With 3 updates: Voice TV shut down (but not quite)

20 10 2020

While not unexpected, the regime has decided to shut down media broadcasting about and in support of the demonstrators. The first victim is Voice TV.

The government claims “a court backed its order to close down ‘all platforms’ of … [Voice] TV channel…”. Ministry of Digital Economy and Society Deputy Permanent Secretary Putchong Ntethaisong “said Voice TV must now shut down all of its broadcasts, whether on air or social media, due to violations of the emergency decree.”

He added that “the court is also deliberating on the shutdown order for three other media sites: The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai.”

Putchong went on to accuse “Voice TV and three other media agencies of spreading information that could cause unrest in the country, which is banned under the Severe State of Emergency imposed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha…”. Of course, by “spreading information,” the regime means news that for several nights via YouTube has been a largely uninterrupted and without much editorial comment.

The regime does not want people to see what’s happening. Worse, it could be that it wants to prevent the broadcast of any further state crackdown.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes The Dictator:

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Prayut said that a much-reported gag order on some news agencies were to prevent the spread of “fake news” which has exacerbated the conflict within the country.

Prayut said the order was necessary to maintain peace.

“Any agency that has to be shut down will be shut down as according to the continuous police procedures and I am not violating anyone’s rights,” he said.

“My job is to prevent any harm done on the country and to stop the efforts to incite unrest and create a rift within the society,” he said.

Of course, he’s lying. There’s been no “fake news” that we have seen, except from the likes of Nation TV. And, he’s violating everyone’s rights to protect himself, the king and his regime.

Update 2: Voice TV continues to broadcast, vowing to defy the military-backed regime.

Update 3: The broadcaster continued last evening, with several live broadcasts from spots where protesters congregated. In one of these, a vigorous statement of commitment to the promotion of democracy was a message to the regime.





Updated: The regime goes lower I

19 10 2020

It is widely reported that the regime is trying to censor news and even withdraw or block content that is about the pro-democracy uprising. See, for example, The Isaan Record. However, some of these reports have been removed. We are not sure what this means.

The censorship is aimed at media that have rallied behind the protesters and some that livestream the protests. This includes Voice TV, The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai. There is also a move to block the protesters official social media pages.

Such desperate and oafish moves are likely to fail, incite more protests and may be defied.

Update: There are now social media reports that the regime is sending out police to collect “dangerous” publications, including some academic works on the 1932 revolution. How low will it go?





The Dictator must go

19 10 2020

Clearly, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s time is up.

Yet the Bangkok Post, which has been atrocious in its reporting of the pro-democracy protests, seeks to throw Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha a lifeline, saying that The Dictator:

… appeared to tone down his stance against protesters.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Sunday the prime minister recognised the right to protest but said demonstrations must be held in accordance with the law.

“The government is willing to listen to everyone ‘s problems and continues to solve problems in all areas,” the spokesman quoted him as saying.

The tone seemed friendlier than on Saturday, when according to the spokesman, Gen Prayut warned people not to attend gatherings and violate the law.

Perhaps the Post is hoping that the ruling class can retain its preferred leader?

Some reports are that Gen Prayuth is open to “discussions” with protesters. Well, he has many of their leaders held in custody. So maybe he could start there? But, seriously, the time for talking with The Dictator is probably gone. Now it is time Gen Prayuth went. Perhaps exile in Germany?

Meanwhile, the Thai Enquirer lists some of the draconian measures introduced by the military-backed regime.

A recently imposed new order has also made it illegal for people to take and post selfies of the protests on their personal social media.

Those found in violation could face 2 years jail term and a fine of up to 40,000 baht.

Local news has reported that more than then ten individuals have already been arrested for violating the selfie-rule as of Friday.

Some of these selfies appear associated with defaced portraits of the king and queen.

More rules:

The new state of emergency rules allows authorities to arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge – suspending habeas corpus.

The police can also confiscate any communication tools, including smartphones and weapons or products that are being used to support actions that are in violation of the emergency orders.

News outlets can be temporarily shut down if they produce fake news or information that can lead to conflict. The state will decide what is and is not fake news.

Soldiers are allowed under the emergency decree to be mobilized in quelling dissent.

Military camps can serve as makeshift prisons.

Speaking of “fake news,” the junta’s poodle that it the reports that Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae “dismissed a report on social media claiming the army had seized parliament…”.

It may not have “seized” parliament, but soldiers were sent to Parliament House and sealed it off. As the same report says, the Army was “deployed to guard important locations such as the Government House and parliament building.”

The soldiers used were brought from Kanchanaburi and Chachoengsao provinces, brought “to support police work in law enforcement under the emergency decree.”

Poodle Post also reports on the police/regime response on the accurate claims that they use water laced with chemicals in their water cannon. Police say “they followed international standards for crowd control and that water sprayed from cannons did not contain dangerous chemicals.”

Thinking himself too clever by half, Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, emphasized: “No dangerous weapons were used in the operation against a crowd of around 2,000…”. We are not sure which crowd he was looking at, but he adds: “The water sprayed at the crowd contained blue dye so that officers could identify rally participants for possible arrest later.”

Reporting him a third time on the same point, the Post says: “Pol Maj Gen Yingyos said the water did not contain dangerous chemicals or cause harm to the lives of demonstrators.”

But, then, he helpfully “acknowledged that some people might experience skin irritation. He said police officials could not confirm exactly what chemicals were used.”

There it is! They used chemicals but reckon they don’t know what they are! Seriously? Lies, deceit, and more. What a hopeless regime.





The Guardian on Thailand’s absolutist monarch

16 10 2020

The Guardian has an editorial on Thailand that deserves to be widely read. With apologies to the publisher, we reproduce it here in full (including hyperlinks):

The Guardian view on Thailand’s protests and the king: the end of deference

Demonstrations reflect a longstanding appetite for democracy – but challenging the monarchy breaches a taboo

Thailand is often described as coup-prone, given the numerous military takeovers since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. It would be as accurate to call it democracy-hungry. Thais have periodically fought to determine their own future, despite the risks.

Early on Thursday, the government declared a “severe” state of emergency in Bangkok, in response to months of protests culminating in a mass rally on Wednesday. It banned gatherings of more than four people and the publication of information that could “create fear” or “affect national security”. Thousands immediately surged into the streets, angered by the arrest of protest leaders. The fear of a harsher crackdown is well-founded given the brutal repression of previous movements, including the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University. The UK and others must press the regime to respect the rights of protesters.

Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration, a military junta that laundered itself into an elected government via a rigged system, is both incompetent and authoritarian. Even dissidents who have fled the country have been harassed, disappeared or killed. Unhappiness has been fuelled by Covid-19’s destruction of the tourism sector, on which the country is heavily dependent. Protestors demand the prime minister’s resignation and the redrafting of the constitution. But they have also broken new ground by demanding reform of what was previously taboo, thanks to heavy penalties for discussing it: Thailand’s royalty. Anon Nampa, the lawyer who helped kick the movement off and is now detained, warned: “If we don’t fix the monarchy, we can’t fix anything else.”

While his father, who died in 2016, was seen touring provincial development projects, King Maha Vajiralongkorn is better known for his personal life, including the ruthless treatment of ex-wives. He resides largely in Bavaria with a female entourage; Germany’s foreign minister says it has “made it clear that politics concerning Thailand should not be conducted from German soil”.

But the king has also centralised both wealth and power, taking direct command of troops, insisting on constitutional changes and taking personal ownership of the Crown Property Bureau’s holdings – estimated at $40bn [PPT: way too low]. While millions are unemployed, $1bn of this year’s government budget will go to the monarchy. Cue previously unthinkable scenes, with protestors giving a three-fingered salute to the royal motorcade in reference to the Hunger Games and to liberty, equality and fraternity.

Yet the institution’s revered status had already begun eroding. While the last king was seen as a pillar of stability, he consistently sided with the forces of conservatism. Anti-monarchism began to emerge among the largely poor and rural “red shirts” who supported the ousted and controversial prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Strikingly, however, there now seems to be a nascent realignment between this movement and another with which it has often clashed: the urban, largely middle class pro-democracy movement often rooted in universities and NGOs, and which most recently swung behind Future Forward, a now-dissolved pro-democracy party.

Thailand’s establishment has so far proved incapable of grasping that the age of deference is over. It is not surprising that the elites resist change in a country with possibly the highest wealth inequality in the world, where the richest 1% control almost 67% of assets. But nor is it feasible that the rest will be content with their meagre lot. Until a better political and economic settlement is reached, the strains will continue to grow. The monarchy’s position is now one of them.





AHRC on emergency decree

27 01 2014

We are late posting this, but consider it important:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-022-2014
January 23, 2014

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Human Rights at Risk as State of Emergency Declared

Under the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in a State of Emergency (2005), the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decreed a State of Emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas on January 22, 2014. The Emergency Decree gives blanket powers to state actors to take a wide range of actions to resolve the State of Emergency, including making arrests, censoring the press, restricting movement and using armed force and will be in force for 60 days. The announcement of the Emergency Decree has come after over two months of protracted, contentious protests by the People’s Democratic Reform Council (PRDC) led by former deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, against the government. The goal of these protests has been to oust the current government and replace it with an appointed council. At times the protests have become violent, particularly against those perceived as government supporters or other critics. While the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is aware of the threats posed to human rights, as well as the rule of law in a broad sense, by the PDRC protests, we would also like to condemn the declaration of the Emergency Decree and warn that it creates a legal vacuum in which the government can violate human rights in the name of security.

The protests of the PRDC are one more round in the ongoing political conflict that began with the September 19, 2006 coup in Thailand. This conflict, often framed in terms of the royalist-nationalist “Yellow Shirts” against the populist “Red Shirts,” is a heterogeneous conflict about who has a right to participate in the governance of the country. In total, since the protests began in November 2013, 10 people have been killed and over 100 injured. While these deaths and injuries are still being investigated, preliminary reports suggest that causes have included clashes between the PDRC and Red Shirt activists, clashes between the PDRC and state security forces, and instances of bombing and shooting in the area of the protests.

Although the PDRC is a new organization which emerged in late 2013, many of the leaders and participants are Yellow Shirts. This round began as protests in Bangkok against the draft amnesty bill in early November 2013 and then expanded to a wide call for the resignation of the PM Yingluck government and replacement of it by a royally-appointed People’s Council of “good people” to “reform” the country before holding new elections. On December 9, 2013, amidst the rising protests, PM Yingluck dissolved parliament and new elections were scheduled for February 2, 2014. The PDRC, however, was not satisfied. They have vowed to continue their protests occupying different parts of Bangkok and provincial halls until their demands for “reform” are carried out before new elections are held. The PDRC has not fully or clearly defined what they mean by “reform,” nor what would satisfy them enough to end their protests. Although the PDRC has claimed to be fully nonviolent, and has employed some tactics of civil disobedience, their rhetoric and actions also contain a violent undercurrent. In areas of Bangkok occupied by the PDRC, citizens who wish to enter the area may be prevented from doing so by the PDRC guards or subject to search and harassment. In a report carried by Prachatai online newspaper, two men who were detained by the PDRC describe being interrogated and viciously beaten because they were judged to be Red Shirts [ click here to read the Thai-language report]. The kind of violence these two men were subject to suggests that despite its claims to civil disobedience, the PDRC is becoming a para-state organization. In this respect it is not unique: since the 2006 coup, and particularly since 2009, there has been use of violence by para-military elements on all sides of the conflict. In addition to violating the human rights of those are victimized by this violence, this also damages the broader context of the promotion and consolidation of human rights and the rule of law, which all sides claim to support. The AHRC therefore calls on all civilian parties in this conflict to respect human rights and refrain from using violence.

The AHRC is concerned that the Emergency Decree may create the conditions for the government to violate rights, rather than protect them. The Emergency Decree gives authorities wide powers, including arbitrary arrest and detention, the setting of a curfew, and the curtailing of the circulation of news and other information. When the announcement was made on Monday, January 21, 2014, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul explained that the decree was being used in order to use the law to address the violations of law committed by the PDRC demonstrators and for democracy to progress in Thailand. As the AHRC has repeatedly documented in the case of three southernmost provinces of Thailand, which has been under the Emergency Decree since July 2005, the decree creates a dangerous legal vacuum in which arbitrary detention and torture have frequently occurred, and in which redress is frequently difficult (see AHRC End Emergency Decree in Thailand). In a statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2010, the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), the sister organization of the AHRC, noted that the Emergency Decree was used by the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva government to arbitrarily detain and interrogate its critics (ALRC-CWS-14-01-2010). Despite the state intentions of the current government to use the Emergency Decree in the service of protecting democracy, the very form of the law makes this impossible. Therefore, the Asian Human Rights Commission also reiterates its calls, made since the time of the decree’s introduction, that this measure be revoked and for the government of Thailand to use only ordinary laws, consistent with international human rights standards, in dealing with political exigencies.





Risk and the emergency decree

22 01 2014

The Yingluck Shinawatra government, forced by increasing violence and the promise of more, has used the emergency decree. The Nation states:

THE CARETAKER cabinet yesterday imposed an emergency decree covering the capital and its outskirts for 60 days. This will give officials more power to handle the anti-government protest, which it claims has been a cause of violence, death and injury.

Emergency

From Bangkok Post

From today, the entire capital and Nonthaburi, plus parts of Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan will be under emergency law.

To enforce the decree, the authorities have set up a so-called Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO), replacing the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, to keep order.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul will supervise the CMPO’s policies, with caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung as director in command of the centre. Police chief General Adul Saengsingkaew and the Defence Ministry’s permanent secretary Nipat Thonglek have been named as operating directors.

The decision to impose the decree was made by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and some members of her Cabinet, including Surapong and Chalerm, sources said. In a sign of possible disagreement, there were only military representatives instead of commanders present at the meeting yesterday, sources said. With a lack of military chiefs at the centre, the police under Adul will be at the frontline.

Yingluck said she had instructed operations officials to exercise utmost restraint when handling the protest. Asked if the situation would turn violent, like in 2010, she said the government would mostly have the police force overseeing operations. Protesters should not be worried, as police would operate in accordance with law.

As a footnote, we notice that The Nation actually has sources for this story, unlike this one, which appears to be imaginative and designed to provoke.

PPT reckons this is a risky strategy, but probably unavoidable in current circumstances. This comment was made in an agency report:

A state of emergency “is a very risky move from a government that has generally been conciliatory of protesters”, said Kevin Hewison, director of the Asia Research Centre at Australia’s Murdoch University. “The risk is escalating violence to goad the military to take sides.”

The anti-democracy lot will consider the emergency decree as a sign that they are beating the government and a sign of weakness. They will look for every opportunity to force the military into conflict with the government. Indeed, pretend academic Panitan Wattanayagorn pointed out in The Nation’s story: “If the soldiers are put under police command, it will be problematic…. I have never seen troops being placed under police [control].” Unhappy military brass will find it easier to side with the anti-democracy movement.

Putting Chalerm in this position is provocative. The anti-democrats will view this as a challenge. Indeed, Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-democrats, has already “scoffed at the invocation of the emergency decree…”. The Bangkok Post reports:

He said his supporters are not afraid and the rallies will continue.

“Is there anything that is an emergency in this country?” he said. “We have been protesting for three months already. Why declare an emergency now?”

Addressing the crowd at the Pathumwan stage on Tuesday night following the decision by the caretaker government to invoke a state of emergency, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) chief vowed to defy all orders issued under the emergency decree.

This approach is also risky as it can lead to escalations of conflict, and the emergency law can lead to human rights abuses if the authorities are unleashed on demonstrators, as Suthep and his little buddy Abhisit Vejjajiva did in 2010.

Readers can locate posts on the Suthep/Abhisit use of the emergency decree at PPT.

 





Saturday red shirt rally

20 02 2011

In The Nation it is reported that the red shirts again brought out tens of thousands of demonstrators. This time they marked the the 10-month anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s crushing of the red shirt demonstration at Rajaprasong and the jailing without bail of most of the red shirt leaders and many of their followers since then.

The Nation reports that “Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan told an estimated 20,000 red-shirt demonstrators yesterday the group would hold an even bigger rally on March 12 if hundreds of detained red shirts, including seven of its leaders, were not granted bail next week.” Other estimates were of up to 40,000 red shirts, with rallies in other parts of the country as well. The 12 March date is symbolic as this date marks the anniversary of the red shirt rallies in 2010.

From The Nation

Jatuporn made the comparison between the concern the regime has for a few ultra-nationalists when they are jailed in Cambodia and the disdain it shows for the red shirts who have been jailed for month after month. These are political prisoners. This is clear when the differential treatment of yellow shirt leaders facing similar charges is examined; they get bail within hours.

The red shirts gathered at Rajaprasong, moved to the Supreme Court and finished with a rally at the Democracy Monument. The Thai Report has some video and links.

The Nation reports that it “took over an hour for the red-shirt motorcade to leave Ratchaprasong as they travelled slowly along New Phetchburi Road to the Supreme Court and then on to Democracy Monument. The parade was led by red-shirt motorcyclists, who shouted and honked their horns.”

Earlier, at Wat Pathum Wanaram, Red Siam leader Surachai Sae-dan called for “changing the old elite”.

Meanwhile, in MCOT News, it is reported that Bangkok will remain under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for at least another 2 weeks. It is getting hard to remember a time when Bangkok wasn’t under a state of emergency or the ISA. Abhisit, sounding Mubarak-like, stated: “The ISA doesn’t affect the daily lives of people or limit their freedom…”.





Updated: DSI’s Tharit makes more headlines

20 01 2011

Tharit

Kind of like a second-rate celebrity, the Department of Special Investigation’s boss Tharit Pengdit seems to crave the headlines. The Bangkok Post alone has three stories that include him today.

The first story that PPT noted had to do with his wife. In July 2010, Tharit’s wife Wassamon was accused by red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan “receiving 150,000 baht from a businessman an in return her husband, Mr Tharit, would to use his authority to help him out in a case involving 1.7 million baht in back taxes.” The businessman produced records of bank transactions and more to prove the allegations.

Wassamon filed the defamation lawsuit on July 28. Her lawyer now says she has “agreed to withdraw the case against Mr Jatuporn during arbitration mediated by court officials. Details and conditions of the settlement could not be disclosed, the lawyer said.”

Now what did happen to the investigation of those accusations? And why hasn’t the media looked at the allegation in more detail?

The second story relates to yet another DSI attempt to have Jatuporn jailed. And that has failed. Tharit has pushed the request to have Jatuporn’s bail rescinded (and Jatuporn jailed) several times. “The DSI said Mr Jatuporn had breached the court’s conditions set on Dec 28 prohibiting him from taking part in a gathering of five or more people or other political activities or disseminate information to the public, except in parliament, in a way that may obstruct investigation or court precedures in the terrorism case against him. The court ruled that Mr Jatuporn had not breached the conditions. However, the court warned Mr Jatuporn against criticising the justice process as a whole.” Heavan forbid that anyone should be allowed to criticize the justice system for what it is: a corrupt and politicized tool of the royalists.

The third story relates to Tharit’s explanation that the DSI “can still not clearly establish responsibility for the deaths” that occurred during military operations to clear United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters from the streets in April and May 2010.

Tharit explained that after the UDD protest on 19 May 2010, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) set up an investigation into 89 deaths. The oddity of this should be noted: CRES was responsible for the suppression of the demonstration and, hence, bears responsibility for the state’s portion of the violence, and they are the organization that ordered investigations. But CRES no longer exists, having been disbanded after the lifting of the emergency decree.

It is reported that the “Metropolitan Police Bureau subsequently handed over the 30 cases involving the 89 deaths to the DSI.” That is, the police investigations were halted as they were handed over to DSI, which was a part of CRES.

The DSI claims to have “cooperation from prosecutors and scientific crime investigation police, gathered evidence from eyewitnesses and government authorities who performed their duties in connection with the protest, and obtained still and motion pictures from members of the mass media and the general public…”, but can’t seem to get any further.

The report is a little unclear on what DSI currently claims – perhaps that is reflective of the nature of the investigation as a politicized event. DSI says there are “12 people whose deaths were believed to have been caused by the UDD. They include Col Romklao Thuwatham, other soldiers, police and those who died in the CentralWorld fire.” It isn’t clear if this is the outcome of investigation or of allegations. There are another “13 people whose deaths might have been caused by government authorities. The eight cases covering these deaths had been forwarded to local police to take action under Section 150 of the Criminal Procedures Code.” That bit seems clear. It seems DSI is sure that the “three people who died at Wat Pathumwanaram, the man who died in the Dusit Zoo, army Pvt Narongrit Sala who died near the National Memorial, and Japanese photo-journalist Hiroyuki Muramoto, killed in the cross fire at Khok Wua intersection on April 10” were a result of state action.

The remaining “64 deaths … cannot yet be concluded…. The dead include Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, alias Seh Daeng, Kamolket Akhahad who died at Wat Pathumwanaram, and Italian reporter Fabio Polenghi…. However, the investigators have gathered much information on places, dates, conditions of injuries and directions from which gunshots were fired in these 18 cases.”

Tharit says that the “incidents took place amid rioting, confusion and burning of important places both in Bangkok and other provinces. Therefore, the investigators encountered many limitations, which made it difficult for them to complete their inquiries.” Well, yes, but is something else going on. Think of this: “Mr Tharit asked for justice for government authorities, particularly soldiers, who had to perform their duty in critical situations in which loss of lives and property damage were inevitable.” This sounds remarkably close to the usual call for impunity when the state murders citizens. More so when Tharit adds: “Police and soldiers involved in peace-keeping operations in these situations were protected by the law, and the courts would make the final decision in each case, he said. It was not fair for the UDD to accuse these people of thoughtlessly killing people.”

PPT believes that the UDD and many others are not claiming that authorities “thoughtlessly” killed people. Rather, we’d suggest premeditated and planned murder.

Making the political nature of DSI even clearer, this story also includes details on a DSI arrest of “a man who was a security guard of the UDD during the rally last year. Manop Chanchangthong, alias Ped, was arrested on Wednesday. The DSI chief said Mr Manop took part in the seizure of a large number of weapons from soldiers during the clash at Khok Wua intersection on April 10 last year. The weapons were later shown on the UDD stage and then distributed to UDD guards for use against soldiers.”

Correct us if we are wrong, but PPT’s understanding is that the soldiers dumped their weapons and fled, with red shirts collecting them up.

Manop is also accused of taking “pistols from police who tried to arrest red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong at the SC Park Hotel on April 16…”. That refers to an apparent attempt to arrest and/or assassinate Arisman. Manop is to be charged with “terrorism.” We doubt that the state will ever subject itself to serious investigation of state terrorism that breaks out repeatedly in Thailand, whenever populist mobilization challenges the existing socio-economic power structures.

Update: The Bangkok Post has updated and filled out the story cited above on the investigation of deaths in the events of April and May, which the DSI insists on fallaciously labeling “riots.” The Post now says the DSI has explained and attributed some deaths. We think that is incorrect and some of these results will be challenged, including the death of Romklao.