Regime work: rigging elections, more security, spying on kids, and economic sabotage

8 07 2022

It has been quite a week. Below we link to some of the regime’s most recent machinations.

Perhaps the biggest story was the remarkable about face by government parties on party lists for the next election (if we get that far).

As Thai Newsroom reports, “lawmakers faithful to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha today (July 6) dumped the mixed-member-majority system and instead endorsed the mixed-member-proportional system for use in the next general election, fueling the criticism that the executive branch has unduly interfered in the business of the legislative branch.” As the Bangkok Post explained it via a headline, “Parliament chooses MP calculation method favouring small parties.” This is little more than vote-rigging in the manner of the period before the 2019 election. More than that, even the deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission “said the calculation formula of dividing 500 would be problematic because it would result in the number of list MPs exceeding the official number of list MPs set by the constitution.” Constitutionalism seldom bothers the regime. Why is this being done, especially as the government parties had to backflip on their earlier position? The Bangkok Post is succinct: “The move came after the use of 500 received the green light from Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut…, in what is seen as a bid to prevent Pheu Thai from winning a landslide in the next poll, sources said.”

On “national security,” it is reported in The Nation that “Cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft royal decree to exempt enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) on agencies related to national security, public safety, tax collection, international cooperation and legal procedures.” That means that “national security” agencies can continue to abuse the population. Added to this, the Royal Thai Air Force is expanding its capacity for cyber snooping. While this is said to be a move that “aims to enhance the RTAF’s non-combat operations, which include disaster mitigation, as well as search and rescue efforts,” in Thailand it can be expected that the cyber unit will target regime opponents and those it considers anti-monarchist.

While on “national security,” Thai Enquirer reports on police (and, PPT would add, military) surveillance of students. It refers to a recent event:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

On Monday, a uniformed officer was spotted inside Ramkhamhaeng University telling university students to change the questions on their survey.

The question that disturbed the officer was, ‘should Prayut continue to run the country?’

The answers were overwhelmingly, NO.

The police saw it as their duty to prevent this.

It got worse when some royalist regime supporting university “administrator” wander out “to ask the university students to conduct another activity that is more ‘creative’ than this.” And, worse still, “on Tuesday when two uniformed officers were spotted inside Triam Udom Suksa School.” In this instance, the police were there to support the royalist regime supporting administration in its increased repression of teenagers: “The officers were there to monitor a protest against uniform and hairstyle regulations.

It seems that all students are now threats to “national security.”

Did anyone mention independent central banks? Not in Thailand. Thai Enquirer reports that Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith “on Wednesday told the Bank of Thailand (BoT) to prepare to address the weakening of the Thai baht, which has fallen against the US dollar to its lowest level since December 2015.” Dutifully, the Bank of Thailand immediately announced it “will hold a media briefing on the policy interest rate and the baht on Friday at 10.30am, as the local currency trades at its weakest level in more than six years against the United States dollar.” If the regime is controlling the Bank of Thailand, the country’s in trouble.

Holidaying elsewhere

An example of the regime’s economic “capacity” was provided with the quite bizarre Tourism and Sports Ministry thought bubble to introduce dual tariffs for hotels. In a situation where the regime is now desperate to get tourists back to Thailand, the ministry “plans to ask hotel operators to implement a dual-tariff structure under which foreign visitors may be charged rates similar to pre-pandemic days while locals may continue to enjoy discounted rates…”. A government spokesperson reckoned this would “maintain our standards of rates and services for foreign tourists, which affects the perception of country’s tourism brand…”.

We’d guess that if this addled idea goes ahead it would likely prove a disincentive for some tourists. We’d also guess that hotels are better at price-setting than the regime.

Students vs. the feudal regime III

7 11 2021

Jirapreeya Saeboo is a third year Political Science student majoring International Relations at Chulalongkorn University and writes at New Bloom about the controversy over the Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match procession and the executive committee of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Union’s canceling the Phra Kieo parade.

Of course, that brought a predictable royalist backlash.

Jirapreeya points out the huge (electoral) support the current Student Council has and how its statement was supported by student groups:

The statement issued by the student union framed the event as the symbol of feudalistic culture and reinforcing social inequality. Likewise, it asserted that because the parade was just 30-year-old, it was an invented tradition. It also raised skepticism regarding the selection of the privileged male and female students seated on the palanquin, carried by roughly 50 male students, who were forced to participate in exchange for eligibility to stay in the university’s dormitory. The statement ended by closing with the phrase, “For the equality of man.”

In the article there’s more about the royalist backlash. For example:

Chaiyabhak Chanwilai, the head of the so-called “Chulalongkorn University Dignity Conservation,” claimed on Facebook that the cancellation of the parade is a grave abomination towards the monarchy. He pressured the university’s administration to punish the members of the student union and affirmed that if no action of punishment is taken, the university’s administration should just be fired.

Soon after, the “university administration issued a statement saying that the student union’s resolution was an attack on … worshipped figures…” and promising punishment for the students and the university demanded that it be able to censor all Student Council statements and publications.

Jirapreeya writes that:

This is a serious menace to freedom of expression in the academic field, drawing parallels with the authoritarian military government Thais have been subordinated to for decades. For our part, we are fighting and resisting authoritarian acts in our university. We gained a number of supports not only from Thai civil society but also from the international arena. But our university is going to hold us back and punish us for trying to make changes. This is why we need more international attention, and actions towards them.

And there’s a call for help:

We are proposing to the United Nations to recognize October 6th as the “International Day for the Protection of Students’ Freedom of Expression.” This matters because Thai student activists and youth protesters are being captured and incarcerated for demanding equality and freedom. The repressive regime silenced and killed untold family members and friends. This is why we need to resist.

If you are media, press, news reports, please do publicize, and write about this incident to your platform. The University is afraid of losing its international credit which is going to affect its rankings.

If you are a student organization, student union, committee, you can publish a statement in solidarity with us. You can do that by:

    • Support the Student Union’s stances.
    • Condemn the authoritarian acts of Chulalongkorn University’s administration.
    • Demand Chulalongkorn University to terminate all further trials on the Student Union and other associated students.
    • Ask your university, if they are associated with Chulalongkorn University in some ways, to consider the withdrawal of the partnership agreement.

It is time that students stand by each other and aim for the fight for justice and equality.

If you were to write to the university, publish it on your platform and please send the statement or letter pressure to these emails:

    • Associate Professor Natcha Thawesaengskulthai, Ph.D. , Vice President for Strategic Planning, Innovation and Global Engagement, Chulalongkorn University
    • Assistant Professor Chaiyaporn Puprasert, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs, Chulalongkorn University

Madness and monarchy

18 07 2020

A few days ago, PPT posted on the disturbing account of Tiwagorn Withiton’s forcible incarceration in a Khon Kaen psychiatric hospital on 9 July, Tiwagorn is the Facebook user who went post a picture of himself wearing a shirt printed with “I lost faith in the monarchy.”

Reuters reports that his case is not being ignored. It says a “small group of Thai activists protested at a psychiatric hospital on Friday…”. More than a dozen protesters called for his release at the hospital, described as “a rare sign of public support for someone who has openly criticised the monarchy.”

In response, Khon Kaen’s police chief Maj Gen Puttipong Musiku, told Reuters: “He is getting treatment, his relatives had him admitted…”. The police chief was supported Nattakorn Champathong, director of hospital who “told Reuters that Tiwagorn had not been forced to enter the hospital.”.

However, human rights lawyer “Yingcheep Atchanont, who visited Tiwagorn on Monday, told Reuters he believed the engineer had been held against his will at the hospital since July 9.”

Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, himself a victim of the lese majeste law, also called for Tiwagorn’s release.

According to Prachatai, “[b]oth Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and the Student Union of Thailand (SUT) have issued statements calling for the release…”.

In a report at the Bangkok Post it is reported that, so far, “[n]o charges have been pressed against [Tiwagorn]…”. He remained under medical “assessment” at the hospital.

In response to official claims, Tiwagorn’s mother “said officials turned up at his home on July 9 to arrest him…. She said although she was some distance away her son appeared to resist being arrested before being bundled into a hospital vehicle.”

Pointing to the reason for Tiwagorn being dragged to a psychiatric hospital, TLHR state:

… that the police do not have the authority to press charges against Tiwagorn, as the sentence “I lost faith in the monarchy” does not count as defamation, an insult, or a threat under Section 112 of the Criminal Code. It also does not count as sedition under Section 116, or as any kind of computer data listed under Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act.

TLHR adds that the official claims about Tiwagorn are concocted nonsense:

as Tiwagorn had to be carried out of his house by 6 officers, it is evident that he did not consent to being admitted. The fact that the police took around 10 vehicles to Tiwagorn’s house without a request from his family could also mean that his family is not able to tell the authorities what they really want.

It also accused the police of unlawful actions in arbitrarily detaining Tiwagorn:

… there is no reason why the police had to confiscate Tiwagorn’s computer and mobile phone, because they have nothing to do with medical treatment. TLHR believes that searching and confiscating objects without a warrant and without pressing charges is not lawful.

It might have been added that the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) was also involved in Tiwagorn’s detention, emphasizing the political nature of the regime’s actions. Police and military, along with complicit medical officials effectively forced him to hospital and forced his mother to “consent” to this abduction.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, writing an op-ed at Prachatai rather than Khaosod, makes it clear that this is lese majeste by another name: “Instead of using the controversial and anachronistic law, a man who insisted on wearing a controversial T-shirt was forcibly taken to a psychiatric hospital.”

Pravit takes the issue to a broader context:

Although Section 6 of the Constitution requires Thais to hold the monarchy in reverence, it’s clear that some Thais can no longer keep on pretending. Some fled abroad, and a few of these end up mysteriously disappearing while in exile. And if you are still inside Thailand, they may put you inside a mad house as occurred to Tiwagorn.

Tiwagorn was right, we cannot force people to hold on to faith when it’s no longer there.

He adds:

Losing faith in the institution of the monarchy is not a mental illness. A society which puts someone who loses faith inside a psychiatric hospital is mad.

Only a mad society would accuse someone who refuses to toe the line of being insane and keep him inside a madhouse.

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