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.

Updates on disappeared Surachai and disappeared monument

5 01 2019

Chunks of concrete: The Sydney Morning Herald has commented on the bodies, “[g]utted and stuffed with concrete” found on the banks of the Mekong River. and feared to be the bodies of two of the three anti-monarchy activists who recently “disappeared” in Laos.

It cites Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk who demands that Surachai Danwattananusorn’s disappearance “should not be treated with silence or swept under the rug.” He adds:

Since 2016 at least five Thai anti-monarchy activists, including Surachai, have gone missing in the capital city of Laos. But the Lao government has failed to conduct any serious investigation. Lao authorities have routinely dismissed concerns raised by the UN agencies and human rights groups about these cases.

Readers should also look at the website of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, which has additional information. PPT has also added the Alliance to our Blogroll.

Democracy in ruins: About a week ago, PPT posted on the removal of another monument associated with the People’s Party and its 1932 revolution. The Nation has now published a detailed story on this mystery. It notes that “no one in authority seems to know who took the monument away, where it is or where it might reappear.” Maybe they should have said that people in authority know who took the monument and where it is, but they are forbidden to say and too frightened to say.

Clipped from The Nation: The ruins of democracy and the rubble of history

The silence of the military junta on both stories as well as on other related incidents screams complicity.

Fears for Surachai II

3 01 2019

A couple of days ago we posted on a report about bodies being found on the banks of the Mekong River and fears that these may be anti-monarchy activists who went missing in Laos.

We have now located additional information, thanks to readers pointing this out for us.

The Bangkok Post did report the discovery of two bodies, adding to the gory details.

We note that a reader tells us of an unconfirmed report of three bodies having been found.

Police stated that they “suspected the victims were political activists.” The report added that the:

bodies were found in That Phanom and Muang districts handcuffed and with their ankles tied together. Their bellies had been ripped open and chunks of concrete stuffed inside them. The bodies had then been placed in sacks and dumped into the river.

Will police release details or will these discoveries be quietly forgotten like Ko Tee’s disappearance?

What of other, less dramatic disappearances like a plaque and a memorial? Are all these disappearances politically related?

Fears for Surachai I

1 01 2019

Activists and human rights advocates remain deeply concerned about the fate of red shirt and anti-monarchist Surachai Danwattananusorn or Surachai Sae Dan who disappeared about two weeks ago from his home-in-exile, together with two comrades.

His disappearance remains largely unmentioned in the mainstream media.

Khaosod reports the discovery of a mutilated body found on the banks of the Mekong River near Nakhon Phanom, which caused great concern among his supporters.

However, police say “it’s too early to tell if a dead body found in the Mekong River belongs to a prominent anti-monarchy activist who went missing two weeks ago,” saying it might be a “victim of narcotics traffickers…”.

The body of the “unidentified” man was found in a sack, with his “throat … cut, intestines removed and hands locked in handcuffs…”. The report states that “[a]nother dead body was found in a similar manner just two days earlier.”

Surachai’s wife believes that the two bodies were men in the 30-40s so it is unlikely to be Surachai.

Like the sudden removal of the 1932 plaque, the Lak Si constitutional memorial and the disappearance Surachai has received little mainstream media attention, suggesting that many “understand” that commentary on these events is best left alone as they are likely attributable to very powerful and  very dangerous forces.

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