Royalist “cleaning”

18 03 2019

When a succession and coronation comes along, there’s a lot of “cleaning” that takes place.

Some of this is ritual. Some of it is (kind of) personal. Some of it is about wealth and investment. And, some is (kind of) administrative.

We also think it is about clearing out opponents of the monarchy, a task that has been facilitated by the military junta. It is clear that that cleaning out – or at least repressing and quietening – of republicans and other anti-monarchists has been quite successful.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

It now seems pretty clear that the effort has turned its attention to republicans elsewhere, targeting those who have been active on social media.

In this context, we recommend reading an article at The Guardian, assessing this murderous trend, focused on what looks like enforced disappearances and murders along the Mekong, including Surachai Sae Dan.





Updated: Junta murder conspiracy

25 02 2019

Khaosod reports that Pranee Danwattanusorn, the wife of Surachai Danwattanusorn or Surachai Sae Dan, has traveled to Nakhon Phanom “to file a complaint over the possible destruction of the corpse,” which she believes was Surachai.

Surachai at the police station, c. 2011

Her position is that the military junta is responsible for the clandestine abduction and (probable) murder of her husband and two other activists.

Surachai had fled to Laos following the 2014 military coup. A former political prisoner in the 1970s and then a lese majeste political prisoner when charges were brought by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

He went missing late last year, believed to have been “disappeared” with his two comrades. Later,

[t]wo disemboweled bodies were found on the Thai side of the river late December and identified by DNA tests to be Surachai’s aides Chatchan Boopphawal, 56, and Kraidet Luelert, 47, who went missing with him. The corpses were wrapped in sacks with their hands cuffed and ankles tied with ropes. Their faces were also smashed in and their stomachs gutted and filled with concrete blocks.

A third body was located, believed to be Surachai, but was “disappeared.” Pranee said “she believes her husband is dead and that his body was stolen and destroyed.”

She declared:

We need to uncover the truth behind their gruesome death…. If the government stays silent, it’s possible that they were behind the brutal murder of the three men.

She speculated that they were abducted and murdered for being outspoken dissidents of the military government and the monarchy.

Surachai has been wanted by the military regime on lese majeste charges.

What is left unsaid is that, whether by direct order or working “loyally,” the abductors and assassins have probably acted for the king and palace.

Update: The Nation reports that Pranee has said “that UN officials would call on Tha Uthen police station in Nakhon Phanom on Monday and Tuesday next week to ask about progress in the investigation.”





Assassinations of red shirts who fled

19 02 2019

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has produced a compilation of articles on the assassinations and the plight of the Thai refugees in Laos. We thought it useful and worth getting to a wider audience, so reproduce it as it is at their website:

The first set were written by the Thai Alliance as a whole or by individual members of the Thai Alliance during a period of high alert for the dissidents in exile. We were in fear that the dissidents, especially Ma Noi (Ko Tee), were being hunted. These references are here to illustrate that we at the Thai Alliance believed that the dissidents were being hunted and were in grave danger about 4 months BEFORE the disappearance of Ma Noi.

“TAHR Statement on the 9 Suspects Held in Relation to Weapons that Exiled Broadcaster Ko Tee Says Were Planted at His House,” by Thai Alliance for Human Rights, March 21, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?p=32252

“In Defense of Ma Noy and the Core Leaders of the Organization for Thai Federation,” [in Thai and English] by a member of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, March 24, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32265

“Last Voice of Democracy,” by Red Eagle, posted at Thai Alliance for Human Rights, March 31, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?m=201703

“Meet My Friends in Exile: เราคือเพื่อนกัน” by Ann Norman at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, April, 2, 2017, http://tahr-global.org/?p=32293

Here is the one reference in English I can find about the disappearance of Ittipol Sukapan (DJ Zunho), whose disappearance/assassination did not get much coverage in English:

“Recollections of Itthipol Sukpan (DJ Zunho) Who Was Disappeared; Almost One Year Later Still no News” by Red Eagle, posted by admin on Thai Alliance Facebook group page, May 24, 2017: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thaiahr/permalink/1329416870506696/

Here are references in English on the disappearance/assassination of Ma Noi or Ko Tee (real name Wutthipong Kochathammakum)

“Further Updated: Ko Tee disappeared?” Political Prisoners in Thailand, July 31, 2017, https://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/ko-tee-disappeared/

“Thai Monarchy Critic in Exile Reportedly ‘Disappeared,’ Junta Denies Knowledge,” by Pravit Rojanaphruk, KaoSod English, July 31, 2017. http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/crimecourtscalamity/crime-crime/2017/07/31/thai-monarchy-critic-exile-reportedly-disappeared-junta-denies-knowledge/

“Statement on the Abduction and Possible Assassination of Ko Tee or Ma Noi,” Thai Alliance for Human Rights, August 1, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32547

“Laos/Thailand: Investigate Abduction of Exiled Red Shirt Activist: Armed Men Kidnap Wuthipong Kachamakul in Vientiane,” by Human Rights Watch, August 1, 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/01/laos/thailand-investigate-abduction-exiled-red-shirt-activist

“More on Thai dissident Ma Noi or Ko Tee, who was disappeared on July 29, 2017,” by Ann Norman, at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, August 2, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32557

“English Translation of Evidence in the Case of Ma Noi (Ko Tee): He Predicted His Death,” August 29, 2017. August 29, 2017. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32605

Kidnapping in Thailand of the wife and son of dissident in exile Sanam Luang (Sanam Luang at one time worked with Surachai). In retrospect, we realized this kidnapping overlapped in time with the disappearance of Surachai, Gasalong, and Puchana, and is thus relevant:

“ALERT: Wife and Son of International Dissident “Sanam Luang” Kidnapped in Thailand,” by the Thai Alliance for Human Rights published as a “Note” at the Facebook page, December 12, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/notes/thai-alliance-for-human-rights-tahr/alert-wife-and-son-of-international-dissident-sanam-luang-kidnapped-in-thailand/512446922569423/

References relating to the assassinations of Surachai, Gasalong, and Puchana, memorials to the five assassinated dissidents, and the plight of the remaining Thai refugees in Laos.

“Translated letter from wife of Kidnapped dissident Surachai Saedan” December 25, Letter by Ba Noi translated by Ann Norman, at Thai Alliance for Human rights website, December 25, 2018. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32809

“Surachai and Refugee Friends Disappear from Home, wife begs those with power to spare their lives” Prachatai, December 27, 2018. https://prachatai.com/english/node/7854

“Opinion: Fear and Foreboding in Laos” by Pravit Rojanaphruk of KaoSod English, December 29, 2018, http://www.khaosodenglish.com/opinion/2018/12/29/opinion-fear-and-foreboding-in-laos/

“DNA confirms one of the Mekhong bodies as disappeared activist,” Prachatai, January 21, 2019. https://prachatai.com/english/node/7885

“Thai police says bodies from river were missing activists,” Associated Press, January 22, 2019. http://www.startribune.com/thai-police-says-bodies-from-river-were-missing-activists/504688152/

“Photos Suggest Third Mekong Corpse Was Found, Then Lost,” Pravit Rojanaphruk, KaoSod English, January 22, 2019. http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/crimecourtscalamity/calamity/2019/01/22/photos-suggest-third-mekong-corpse-was-found-then-lost/?

“Laos: Investigate Disappearance of 3 Thai Dissidents: Battered Corpses in Mekong River Identified as Missing Activitsts,” Human Rights Watch, January 22, 2019 https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/22/laos-investigate-disappearance-3-thai-dissidents

Video clip posted on Facebook by Jom Petchpradab in which Surachai’s wife explains why she has given up hope. Janurary 25, 2019, It is entirely in Thai, but could be translated: https://www.facebook.com/jom.petchpradab/videos/pcb.10156866118368965/10156866114138965/?type=3&theater

Picture of the body believed to be Surachai Saedan, posted on Facebook (but not taken by) Jom Petchpradab, January 25: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156866113548965&set=pcb.10156866118368965&type=3&theater

“What do Thailand and Saudi Arabia have in common: Answer: the brutal killing of dissidents in exile,” by Ann Norman, Washington Post, January 30, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/01/30/what-do-thailand-saudi-arabia-have-common/

“It’s time we listened to the plight of Thai dissidents abroad: The gruesome deaths of two anti-royalist Thai activists should be a wake up call for the international community,” by Claudio Sopranzetti, Al Jazeera, January 31, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/time-listened-plight-thai-dissidents-190130124839715.html

Video clip of one group of activists lead by Siriwit Seritiwat (Ja New) singing “Duan Pen” in Thailand at a memorial for the 5 assassinated dissidents, Facebook Live on the page of Anon Nampa, February 2 [in Thai, could easily be translated]: https://www.facebook.com/100000942179021/videos/2493720380669343/

“Demonstration at Ratchaprasong in memory of the disappeared dissidents,” Prachatai, February 3, 2019. https://prachatai.com/english/category/surachai-saedan

“แถลงการณ์ หยุดทำร้ายนักกิจกรรม Statement: Stop Harming the Activists!” statement in Thai by Anurak Jeantawanich (signing as Ford Sentangseedaeng) with English translation (by Ann Norman), at Thai Alliance for Human Rights website, February 3, 2019. http://tahr-global.org/?p=32820

“Why we can NOT go to a third country,” by Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul, Prachatai, February 5, 2019. https://prachatai.com/english/node/7914

“Thaïlande : le crime de lèse-majesté pourchassé jusqu’au Laos,” by Pierre Touré, in Liberation, [In FRENCH]. February 14, 2019 https://www.liberation.fr/planete/2019/02/14/thailande-le-crime-de-lese-majeste-pourchasse-jusqu-au-laos_1709434?fbclid=IwAR01yaAZ29zQ0d1kjYWsBYjUJPw3rPQVkogOou_kXvVopT14nUjWDkLAlKM
English translation of Liberation article available at: https://www.facebook.com/zenjournalist/posts/10156629021066154?__tn__=K-R

For more information contact Ann Norman of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights at ann.norman@tahr-global.org





Remembering victims of murderous monarchists

4 02 2019

Prachatai has come back on line more regularly and is posting stories seldom covered at all well in the timid mainstream media.

A recent post is about a sad but brave event at Rajaprasong, “in memory of the three disappeared dissidents: Surachai Saedan, Phuchana, and Kasalong,” the two murdered and one “disappeared” and presumed dead dissidents who had had refuge in Laos. “The trio fled the country after the 2014 military coup, and disappeared in December 2018.” Two bodies have been identified and another seems to have been re-“disappeared.”

The memorial began with “a minute of silence, then Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife, led the group in placing flowers in memory of the three dissidents.”

Activist and former long term lese majeste prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk declared that:

on 7 February 2019, he will be going to the Government House to hand a letter calling for justice for the trio, and to demand for a return of Surachai’s body. Somyot said that, because Surachai, Phuchana, and Kasalong left the country after the 2014 coup and disappeared around 11 December 2018, when General Prayuth Chan-o-cha was visiting Laos, he is suspicious that the government may have been involved in their disappearance. If the government is not involved, he would like them to explain what Gen. Prayuth was doing on his visit to Laos and why the visit coincided with the three refugees’ disappearance. He also would like them to find and prosecute the culprit.

Like other disappearances, no “explanation” will be provided: plaque, monument, zoo, public buildings, other dissidents. Even the Saudi Arabia regime was pressured into conjuring a story about its role in murdering a political dissident. Not Thailand.





Murderous monarchists VII

1 02 2019

Two recent op-eds on the grisly discoveries of the bodies of tortured, disemboweled and murdered activists deserve wide attention.

One is by Ann Norman at the Washington Post. The author is a member and former director of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights.

She refers to the “disappearance of … three Thai political refugees in Laos” in December, bringing the total disappearances “to five in three years.” These three were among the “40 to 50 active dissidents (and some 200 altogether) living in Laos.”

She notes that the “disappeared” Surachai Danwattananusorn “was one of many regime critics in exile producing YouTube shows skewering the military dictatorship of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha …[and] the corrupt and oppressive Thai monarchy.”

The op-ed reveals that Surachai and his two comrades disappeared around the time Gen Prayuth made a visit to Laos, when “Lao officials told all the exiles to hide before the arrival of Prayuth…. Rumors flew that Prayuth might be bringing a death squad targeting ‘lèse majesté suspects’…”. In Surachai’s case, he “had told his wife there was a $300,000 price on his head.”

Norman compares Surachai’s case to that of Wuthipong Kachathamakul:

[He] … was kidnapped and presumably assassinated in Laos on July 29, 2017, just one day after the birthday of the new Thai king. The rumor among the Thai dissidents was that Wuthipong’s murder was King Vajiralongkorn’s present to himself. Wuthipong was tied up and tasered, and the last words heard from him were “I can’t breathe” – eerily reminiscent of Jamal Khashoggi, whose recent assassination by a Saudi hit squad shocked the world. Wuthipong had complained on his YouTube show that he was being “hunted by the king’s servants.”

She mentions another case that has not received wide media coverage:

One year earlier, on June 22, 2016, yet another anti-monarchist in Laos, Itthipol Sukpan, a 28-year-old pro-democracy broadcaster known as DJ Zunho, was snatched from his motorcycle by unknown assailants and pulled into the woods, leaving behind just one shoe. He was never seen again. Everyone, including his family, believes he is dead.

Her conclusion is as bleak as it is frightening: “It is no longer plausible that these are random killings.”

In the second op-ed, academic Claudio Sopranzetti writes for Al Jazeera.Aon the same grisly topic, also referring to a “pattern of disappearances.” He suggests that “a Thai death squad [is] operating abroad…”.

The similarities in the disappearances of so many with anti-royal profiles is no set of accidents:

All five disappeared activists were adamant anti-monarchists, wanted in their homeland on charges of lese majesty. All five of them were refused refugee status in Europe, Japan, and Australia, despite continuous attempts. And all five refused to remain silent and used social media to amplify and disseminate their dissent from outside Thailand.

Sopranzetti observes that there are “[m]any other activists with similar profiles … still in Laos and Cambodia, [and] abandoned by an international community that refuses to see them as persons at risk…”.

Exiled Thai political activists believe that “these extrajudicial killings are replacing the use of lese majesty in this new royal regime.” He cites one of them who argues that:

Lese-majesty cases have been attracting too much attention, both internally and internationally…. Instead of arresting us, killing us may be a better way to stop us from talking about regime change, republic, and freedom of speech.

Sopranzetti asks: “How many more of them[bodies of exiles] will need to pile up before we start paying attention?”





Murderous monarchists V

25 01 2019

After a couple of post critical of the Bangkok Post, we were gratified to read its editorial today that argued that the torture and murder of  two aides to political activist Surachai Danwattananusorn”need not go down in history as unsolved and unexplained mysteries.” The editorial continues:

Whether they are classified as enforced disappearances or appallingly brutal and seemingly extrajudicial murders, this should not become the new normal for political activists fleeing prosecution at home to Laos or Cambodia.

Of course, both that Thai and Lao governments “need to come up with an explanation for what transpired in these cases.” Well, yes, but these need to be the truth, not fabrications.

For having “criticised the regime and the high institution [they mean the monarchy] on online radio programmes,” they were killed. “[T]he details of the case are quite gruesome. Both men were disembowelled and their stomachs stuffed with concrete blocks, presumably to weigh them down. Their bodies were then wrapped in hemp sacks and a fishing net and dumped in the river.”

The ” government … [has a] responsibility to investigate this case and unearth the truth behind the killing, as well as finding out if Surachai is still alive or has also become a victim of enforced disappearance.”

It seems clear that the Post has a pretty good idea of who is responsible for these grotesque murders and who ordered them: the “murder[s] may have been orchestrated by elements within, or affiliated with, Thailand’s security forces.” Of course, this is “rumour and speculation.”

But almost everyone know that the murders represent a new and grotesque way fo dealing with “lese majeste.”





Murderous monarchists IV

24 01 2019

As police in the northeast unconvincingly deny that a third body was found in the Mekong River in late December, Thailand’s military and police have unconvincingly denied  any involvement in the murders of Chatchai Bubphawan (Phoo Chana) and Kraidej Luelert (Kasalong).

Second Army Region Commander Lt-Gen Tharakorn Thammawinthorn, in charge of the Thai-Lao border region, said “military intelligence indicated that Surachai and his associates had taken refuge in Laos several years ago, but the military had not been following their movement outside Thailand.”

Given the efforts that the junta made some time ago in seeking extradition of Thai republicans, this seems little more than a lie that tells another truth.

With Surachai Sae Dan remaining missing it is widely assumed that the third  body was his, and that the authorities removed the body.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has issued a statement calling on the Lao government to “urgently investigate the disappearance of three Thai political activists who were last seen in the capital, Vientiane, in December 2018…”. HRW confirms that “Thai authorities told Human Rights Watch that DNA samples from the bodies found in the Mekong River matched two of the missing activists, Phu Chana and Kasalong.” It added that “Lao authorities need to credibly investigate and prosecute this heinous case, which has raised alarms for Thai activists in exile in Laos.”





Updated: Murderous monarchists III

22 01 2019

Back when the handcuffed, disemboweled bodies, filled with chunks of cement, found on the banks of the Mekong, the victims of murderous monarchists, we posted on an unconfirmed report of three bodies having been found.

Two of the bodies have been identified as aides to anti-monarchist Surachai Sae Dan. The three were “disappeared” late in December from a house in Laos where the three were in exile.

Khaosod has a story seemingly confirming that a third body was found in the river, and then that it “disappeared.” The report states:

Coming after two mutilated bodies recovered from the river were identified as aides of a missing prominent anti-monarchist, the photos show what appear to be a third body that can no longer be accounted for.

The third body was found by a villager on 27 December and reported to police. A navy patrol arrived and took photos, but when police arrived, the body was gone.

The local headman “was instructed by security forces not to talk about what happened.”

It is looking like the suspension of the use of lese majeste charges has been been replaced by abduction, torture and murder.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that police have confirmed that the bodies of the tortured and murdered two are the aides to Surachai. One line in the report jumped out: “The murdered men are believed to be the victims of more political killings of accused lese majeste suspects tracked down and killed inside Laos.” Clearly, the perpetrators are assumed to be representatives of the Thai state, torturing and murdering. It is also implied that these murders are targeting critics of the monarchy. It is a dark state that uses abduction, torture and murder, yet these have long been defining characteristics of the murderous military. When they work for a vindictive palace, acting with impunity and with no consideration for domestic or international law, the future looks as bleak as some had predicted back in 2016.





Murderous monarchists II

22 01 2019

Yesterday we posted on the handcuffed, disemboweled bodies, filled with chunks of cement, found on the banks of the Mekong, and how one of the victims was likely Phoo Chana, a 57-year-old who had fled Thailand after the 2014 coup and lived in exile in Laos, working with Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn).

Surachai, Phoo Chana and Kasalong all went missing at the same time. Their enforced disappearance was probably the work of murderous monarchists, acting under orders. We assume that the orders to torture, murder and dispose of the bodies probably originated high up in Thailand.

It is now confirmed that the second tortured and mutilated body is that of Kasalong. Khaosod reports that “a source at the Forensic Science Institute … speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Tuesday that DNA testing has linked the second body … to a man known as “Comrade Kasalong…”.

This also means that Surachai was probably also tortured and murdered.

The real identities are not publicly known but both were red shirts working with Surachai.

It seems that at least five anti-monarchy Thais have been “disappeared” and probably killed.

The viciousness of the murders brings to mind the work of rangers and Border Patrol Police in earlier times but also reminds one of rumors of cruelty and murder in the 1990s linked to high places.

In the report of this particular murder, “Police in Nakhon Phanom, where one of the bodies was recovered, vowed Tuesday morning to find those responsible.” Presumably they will be sleuthing in Bangkok.





Murderous monarchists I

21 01 2019

It seems increasingly likely that the handcuffed, disemboweled bodies, filled with chunks of cement, found on the banks of the Mekong, are the victims of murderous monarchists, probably acting under orders. The orders to torture, murder and dispose of the bodies probably originated high up in Thailand.

Khaosod reports that the “son of one of three missing republicans said Monday that police have concluded that a mutilated body found in the Mekong River was his father.” Phoo Chana and Kasalong went missing at the same time that Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn) was disappeared late last year.

The Institute of Forensic Science has conducted a preliminary DNA test and the results identified him as Phoo Chana, a 57-year-old who had fled Thailand after the 2014 coup and lived in exile in Laos, working with Surachai.

Several other anti-monarchists have been disappeared and are presumed to have been murdered.

Fear among dissidents overseas is now rife. Indeed, that is exactly what the enforced disappearances are meant to achieve, for fear breeds silence.








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