Army impunity

24 01 2021

The impunity enjoyed by officials has a long history in Thailand but it is undeniable that it has expanded and deepened since the the 2006 military coup. Under the current regime there is essentially zero accountability for officials. Sure, there are occasional “crackdowns” and the odd prosecution, but the rule that officials can get away with stuff – even murder – holds.

In a Bangkok Post editorial, questions are raised about the Royal Thai Army, which celebrated “its strength and solidarity” on Armed Forces Day.

The editorial asks the public to “keep in mind that military officials still owe a few explanations on its pledge to reform, following several cases, including the Korat mass shooting last year that left a huge stain on its image.”

Clipped from Khaosod

It points out that on 8-9 February 2020, a disgruntled soldier “shot and killed 29 innocent people and wounded 57 others in Nakhon Ratchasima…”. The killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. Indeed, this corruption continues. The Post mentions an alleged “illegal allocation of over 70,000 rai of forest land in Nakhon Ratchasima for a real estate project involving senior army officers.”

Yes, the very same province as the mass shooting. The Post adds that there “have been no reports of an investigation, let alone progress and punishment of culprits.”

The Post then recalls the unexplained death of a military conscript – there’s been more than one case – and asks: “How can the RTA restore public trust when it is entrenched in scandals? Why should the public trust a force of armed men who can barely be transparent in their affairs?”

How many times have we heard such pleading. In fact, it is as many times as reform has been rejected by the military as the Army maintains it impunity and its control.

We should note that the Post editorial mistakenly states that the Korat shooting “is considered the deadliest mass shooting in the kingdom’s history.” This mistake reflects some big omissions.

The biggest is the murder of almost a hundred red shirts and bystanders in April and May 2010. Who has been held accountable? No one from the Army.

Who killed protesters in 1992? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters on 14 October 1973? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered people at Kru Se in 2004 and Tak Bai the same year? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

What about the enforced disappearances of activists and unexplained murder of civilians like Chaiyapoom Pasae? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

The list could go on and on and on.





Updated: Impunity and violence

24 04 2014

Recent events suggest the importance of understanding violence and the impunity of its perpetrators who are usually state officials or goons associated with state and royalist projects, often in the name of protecting nation or monarchy.

The disappearance of “Porchalee Rakchongcharoen, an ethnic Karen also known as “Billy,” is involved in a lawsuit that accuses Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park” again raises questions about state officials solving “problems” by enforced disappearance.

Of course, this is almost a “standard practice” condemned by human rights organizations for many years, but producing little change amongst officials and the military. More than a year ago, the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.” Somchai Neelaphaijit’s case is just one of dozens that has received considerable attention but no action.

State violence is made more likely because of impunity, and we can mention state violence against protesters in Bangkok in 2010, 1992, 1976 and 1973 and add to the sorry list the cases of state murders at Kru Se, Tak Bai and in the so-called War on Drugs in the fourteen short years of this century as examples. The assassination of political opponents has been unfortunately common, highlighted by the recent murder of anti-lese majeste activist Kamol Duangphasuk.

In all of this, PPT was pleased to see that Tyrell Haberkorn raised these issues at the International Conference on Thai Studies, with a panel on “The State, Violence and the Unspeakable in Thailand.” Dr. Haberkorn has a list of publications that address all of the issues raised above. Unfortunately, the papers in this session do not appear amongst those available at the Conference website.

Update: We added some additional links to the post.





Failures on human rights

30 09 2013

Human rights abuse victims and activists recently got together to assess the state’s multiple failures on human rights over several years.

Regarding the 78 deaths at Tak Bai in 2004, the Bangkok Post notes that there has been a failure of the state to “provide justice for victims of the Tak Bai killings…”. There is continuing intimidation:

Yaena Salaemah, coordinator for relatives of Tak Bai victims, said at a seminar yesterday that even though the court ruled in 2009 that 78 protesters died in custody, she has remained under military surveillance.

Soldiers reportedly “searched her house in Narathiwat a week ago.”

The impunity of the state and its officials remains intact:

No charges have ever been filed against security officials involved in the deaths [at Tak Bai], though the [Yingluck Shinawatra] government did offer reparations to family members of the victims last year.

Charoen Wat-Aksorn, an anti-power plant community and environmental activist, was murdered in 2004. His wife, Korn-uma Pongnoi “expressed disappointment over the cumbersome and lengthy judicial processes in the case of her husband’s murder.” She pointed to multiple official obstacles to any adequate investigations and also mentioned the curious death in prison of one of the gunmen.

Pikul Promchan, from the Kalasin Relatives’ Network against Extrajudiciary Killing, said the investigations of the drug-related extrajudicial killings in 2004 were marked by intimidation. Pikul expressed dismay that a court had “convicted five police officers of the murder of her 17-year-old nephew in July 2004 in Kalasin,” and sentenced three of them to death, and yet they “not only got bail but have been promoted”!

That murderous state officials can get bail while those charged with lese majeste or convicted are refused bail many times reveals the double standards of the judicial system, where officials who perpetrate the state’s violence are rewarded.





“Bizarre, slightly surreal, and somewhat Kafkaesque”

8 12 2012

Lennox Samuels at The Daily Beast has his take on the charging of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. His essential position is the most common amongst the commentariat in Bangkok at present, yet there is much in the article that is worth considering.

It is at once bizarre, slightly surreal, and somewhat Kafkaesque: The most recent ex-prime minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, and one of his former deputy premiers, Suthep Thaugsuban, charged with the killing of a taxi driver during the political unrest that rocked the country more than two years ago. The charges were announced the day after the 85th birthday of the nation’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Part of the bizarre is the response from Abhisit, Suthep and the Democrat Party. Samuels talked to academic-for-hire and former Abhisit spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn who sees the “charges as politically driven.” PPT wonders what he says about the “charges against 295 red shirts.” No, we don’t ponder this, for we know that Panitan deals in double standards and would dismiss these red shirts as “terrorists.” Panitan does make one good point: “It’s unprecedented to charge two top policymakers, including the former prime minister, like this.” That’s true and deserves to be applauded, not denigrated as when Panitan “likened the situation to charging President Obama with crimes in connection with his lawful execution of his role as commander-in-chief.” Of course, in Thailand, the king is commander-in-chief, so the comparison is flawed.* Other Democrat Party members, like The Economist, argue that the driving force behind the charges revolve around Thaksin: “Thaksin wants to come home and he’s getting desperate as his surrogates in government gain their own power and become more independent…”.

Samuels recalls Thailand’s “long-running political tug-of-war … marked by coups, deadly protests, and the ouster of prime ministers for absurdist reasons like hosting a cooking show on television. And inevitably, a bogeyman lurks in the background—or foreground, depending on who’s telling the story.” The bogeyman is not Privy Council president General Prem Tinsulanonda, the king, queen, old military duffers or someone in the military brass. Of course, it is “Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist billionaire premier ejected in a 2006 coup who has lived in comfortable exile ever since.”

We agree with Samuel that:

In essence, Thailand is divided between reformist democracy activists who want a more open process, and traditionalists who are content with the centuries-long structure dominated by elites that regard the one-man-one-vote ideal as at best premature. The elites, personified for many by Abhisit and the Democrats, have resisted “reconciliation” efforts, loath to agree to anything that would dilute the status quo.

We also agree with a diplomat cited by Samuel who declares that: “The fact is, Thaksin has been convicted of a conflict of interest,” the Western diplomat said. “Barely a misdemeanor. There are several prime ministers in the past who have committed far more egregious offenses. Frankly, it is unsustainable in the long run that the de facto prime minister be barred from his country.”

Abhisit takes a different view and in announcing his impending martyrdom, declares (at The Nation):

I hereby affirm that I will not negotiate for anybody’s interest. I insist that wrongdoers must be brought to justice and will fight the case based on facts. I will not join the process to absolve people who cheated the country. I’ll accept my fate even if the judicial process lands me in jail or gets me executed, but I will not whitewash the wrongdoings of cheaters….

Frankly, the martyrs are those protesters murdered by the state in 2010, and in 1973, 1976, 1992, at Kru Se and Tak Bai and(to mention just a few instances) where no one has been held accountable.

The problem the autocrats have is that Thaksin is electorally popular but, as Samuels explains, “the former premier is anathema to establishment Thais, who regard his populist rhetoric and policies as threats to the societal order…”. They fear and hate Thaksin so the concoct conspiracies that see anyone who is not on their side as a mortal enemy and where proposed constitutional amendments amount to “a process they allege would result in the entire political system being jettisoned, including the monarchy.” That is bizarre.

The outcome is described in the article this way:

In the short term, the political gridlock is likely to continue, as neither side has the leverage to effect change—or the will to compromise. “A lot of people are in a prolonged conflict,” said one prominent political figure. “There’s more and more hatred and anger, and things get more complicated. So it is not possible for them to say, all of a sudden, we want to reconcile.” He added that both sides are “about even,” with Red Shirts having the government on their side while the Yellow Shirts can claim the military, judiciary, and “people in the palace.” … “Reconciliation basically has a better chance when one side dominates,” he said. If so, Thailand’s in for a long slog.

Interestingly, the government also has the majority of the people on its side, but then the autocrats simply can’t accept elections or their results (unless they were to somehow conjure a win). This is one reason why Abhisit always speaks of the rule of law and seldom about issues of democracy.

______

*While there are U.S. politicians who should be held responsible for atrocious acts internationally – think drones and Indochina bombing – we can’t think of a case of post-Civil War mass state killings in the U.S. that haven’t gone to the courts. The Kent State killings come to mind as a case that did go to courts, but maybe readers can remind us of others as we know little about U.S. history.





Soldiers would have killed more

2 09 2012

Loud-mouth Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been at it again. The Bangkok Post reports that the general has declared that “If soldiers wanted to kill civilians, a lot of them would have died.”

So let’s get this right…. The Army couldn’t have killed civilians and red shirt protesters because if they were killing red shirts, they would have killed a lot more of them the the 80+ who were murdered in April and May 2010. The deaths have to be put down to less efficient and skilled murderers than the Army.

At the same time, the Army mouth-in-chief also “reassured soldiers he will protect them from allegations they might face from their involvement in the political unrest two years ago.” He says they had “performed their duty based on laws so don’t be afraid, the army will protect them…”.

We need to get this right too. The Army, which didn’t murder anybody, and if they had would have killed more, can’t be blamed because those who didn’t kill anybody were doing their duty under orders from the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

The Army was going to protect the soldiers involved in, well, nothing…. And, all the fuss has to do with the media that has “played up” the affair and the claims of snipers, and he admits to being “bothered” by the whole affair.

In fact, there is another way to look at Prayuth’s nonsensical and imaginative but illogical ranting. He’s “bothered” that the Army is going to face legal action for doing its “duty” of protecting the elite’s state by killing civilians it sees as opponents: in, for example, under General Sarit, 1973-76, in 1992, at Tak Bai and Kru Se and in 2009 and 2010.

 





The courts are rotten

10 06 2012

While PPT has been concentrating recent posts on the biased, royalist and corrupt Constitutional Court, it has to be said that the courts in the country are generally rotten. A recent report in the Bangkok Post reminds us of another biased decision:

The Appeal Court has upheld the Criminal Court’s rejection of an appeal lodged by relatives seeking justice for 78 protesters killed after the protest in Narathiwat’s Tak Bai district in 2004.

The Appeal Court handed down the ruling yesterday in response to a further appeal from 34 relatives of the protesters who died as they were being transported from Tak Bai police station to the Ingkhayutthaborihan military camp in Pattani province in October 2004.

The relatives had appealed the Criminal Court’s decision not to accept their petition against an initial ruling made by a lower court in Songkhla province….

… the Songkhla Court said the protesters had suffocated as a result of an accident and that government officials who were in charge of them had performed their duties properly.

The courts are a part of a system that grants impunity to officials – in this case, mainly the Army – and permits them to murder and intimidate citizens. Almost all of this intimidation and murder is conducted to protect the festering sore that is the status quo.





Updated: Wikileaks, human rights and the military

30 08 2011

In the most recent batch of Wikileaks cables released over the past few days, two in particular caught our attention. Both are related to human rights in Thailand. After all of the events in the South and long records of human rights violations by the military, police and Border Patrol Police, PPT just finds these cables startling for the light they throw on the U.S.’s lack of official concern for human rights. Of course, we have read Chomsky, so we know, but we never cease to be amazed when we see the “system” at work:

The first cable is about human rights screening for Exercise Balance Torch which was to be held from 11 April to 3 June 2005.

As authorized per Ref A, U.S. Embassy Bangkok verifies that the Department of State possesses no credible information of gross violations of human rights by any of the Thai units listed in Para 2, as of this date. Embassy Bangkok’s Political Officer Robert J. Clarke is the verifying officer for the Department of State.

… Selected units are:

ROYAL THAI BORDER PATROL POLICE (BPP)

– 4th Region BPP Headquarters Combat Patrol Unit

– 4th Region BPP Headquarters Sub-Division

– BPP Region IV Headquarters, Songkhla

– BPP Battalion, Sub-Division 41, Region IV, Chomphon

– BPP Battalion, Sub-Division 42, Region IV, Nakhon Si Thammarat

– 4th BPP Sub-Division 43

– BPP Battalion, Sub-Division 44, Region IV, Yala

– BPP Training Battalion, Sub-Division 8, Region IV, Nakhon Si Thammarat

– BPP Training Battalion, Sub-Division 9, Region IV, Songkhla

PROVISIONAL NARCOTICS SUPPRESSION BUREAU

– NSB Division 1, Sub-Division 5 – Surat Thani, Phuket, Songkhla, Narathiwat

– NSB Division 2, Sub-Division 5 – Chompun, Krabi, Hat Yai

OFFICE OF NARCOTICS CONTROL BOARD (ONCB)

– Regional Narcotics Control Center (South)

ROYAL THAI MARINE POLICE (RTMP)

– Royal Thai Marine Police, Sub-Division 3, Surat Thani

– Royal Thai Marine Police, Sub-Division 4, Songkhla

– Royal Thai Marine Police, Sub-Division 5, Phuket

BOYCE

The second cable also relates to Exercise Balance Torch.

JUSMAGTHAI has requested that the Embassy/State Department complete human rights vetting for units that have been selected to participate in Exercise Balance Torch (BT) 05-2 from 11 April – 3 June 2005. To meet internal DOD advance deployment deadlines, they have requested that the review of human rights reports and files be completed no later than eight weeks prior to the exercise, if possible.

… The Embassy possesses no credible evidence that any of the units listed below in paragraph four have committed gross violations of human rights. The Embassy has important information, contained in paragraph 5, about one of the units. Please advise whether the Department has any relevant information on the units listed in paragraph four below.

… Participants in the Exercise are as follows:

ROYAL THAI ARMY UNITS

Special Warfare Command, 1st Special Forces Division, 1st Special Forces Regiment – (approx. 20 personnel)

1st Army Area, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Infantry Regiment (approx. 440 personnel)

2nd Army Area, 3rd Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Regiment (approx. 220 personnel)

4th Army Area, 5th Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Regiment (approx. 220 personnel)

ROYAL THAI NAVY

HQ, Special Warfare Group (approx. 50 personnel)

¶5. Thai media reports indicated that members of the 25th Infantry Regiment were involved in the April 28, 2004 assault upon militants holding the Krue Sae Mosque in Pattani Province. 32 militants who had occupied the mosque and who were part of a series of regional attacks against Thai Government institutions and murders of Thai officials were killed by Thai special forces who stormed and retook the mosque. An independent commission was set up by the Royal Thai Government to investigate the incident and concluded that excessive force was used in retaking the mosque. The investigation did not/not name the 25th Infantry Division as having committed human rights violations. MG Surapun Wongthai, G-3 for the Royal Thai Army, has assured JUSMAGTHAI that no members of the 25th Infantry Division have been implicated, or are expected to be implicated, with excesses associated with retaking the mosque. Post notes that an added feature of the training these units will receive in this exercise is an expanded human rights training course. Embassy Bangkok Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke is the verifying officer for the Embassy/Department of State.

BOYCE

Not one human rights violation to be found amongst this group of police and military!

Well, at least one action in the South is mentioned (and then defended and ticked off)…. We might add that, by 2010, many of these units had been involved in several more events that call into question their human rights records, in the South and in violently putting down protesters in 2009 and 2010.

Update: And if readers thought that more serious vetting might have been taking place, see this cable:

¶1. (U) DOD (OSD/POLICY), per Ref A, has requested that the Embassy/State Department complete further human rights vetting for the 25th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, 4th Army Area, a unit that has been selected to participate in Exercise Balance Torch (BT) 05-2 scheduled from 11 April – 3 June 2005.

¶2. (U) The Embassy has reviewed its previous vetting (Ref C) on the 25th Infantry Regiment, and made additional inquiries of an academic and an NGO that monitor human rights abuses involving security forces in Thailand. The Embassy possesses no credible evidence that the 25th Infantry Regiment or its personnel have committed gross violations of human rights. Please advise whether the Department has any relevant information on this unit.

¶3. (U) Embassy Bangkok Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke  is the verifying officer for the Embassy/Department of State.

BOYCE

The stated vetting includes: media reports, a Thai government report that has already been seen as a whitewash, one academic and one NGO, with the latter two only completed as a follow-up. Not even Tak Bai and the War on Drugs are considered. Remarkably shoddy work, perhaps deliberately so give the U.S.’s long engagement with the main human rights abusers in Thailand – the military and the police.





Harassment on Tak Bai

20 04 2011

This from the Asian Human Rights Commission,

Urgent Appeal Case : We wish to draw your attention to the harassment and threats faced by Ms. Yaena Salaemae, a long-time Woman Human Rights Defender (WHRD) in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province in southern Thailand. The state authorities used an attack on a police checkpoint near her house to search her house and intimidate her. The AHRC believes that this is an outright attempt to intimidate Ms. Yaena and cause her to cease her work calling for justice in the case of the Tak Bai massacre and other cases of human rights violations in southern Thailand. The Asian Human Rights Commission is particularly concerned about the relationship between the threats to Ms. Yaena Salaemae and the ongoing status of the Tak Bai case, and is concerned that this recent harassment may be an attempt by the state to halt progress on the case.






The military and torture

2 12 2010

It is known that the military in Thailand is pretty much a law unto itself, despite Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s claims about the rule of law. Whatever regime is in power, the military has been able to abuse its position and power, murder and maim people with seeming impunity and torture people. It is surprising that the such abuses get so little mainstream media coverage.

That’s why PPT draws attention to a TIME magazine report on the south. Read the whole report. Some excerpts:

I recently visited … Pattani’s vast Ingkhayutthabariharn army camp…. The Thai army was keen to show our crew a human face. Lieut. General Pichet Visaijorn, then the regional commander, gave us a personal tour of his pet projects. They included free dental surgery for local people at his headquarters in Yala. We watched an army dentist fit an elderly Muslim with a set of false teeth…. Ingkhayutthabariharn, home to the military’s main detention and interrogation facility. It is called the Reconciliation Promotion Centre — an Orwellian touch, considering the camp’s notoriety. For Muslims, Ingkhayutthabariharn is a “terrifying word,” says Sunai Phasuk of New York City–based Human Rights Watch. “They know anything could happen to them in there.”

“Everyone was scared there,” a former inmate told us. The inmate said … he saw detainees beaten and plastic bags put over their heads to simulate suffocation. So many detainees have complained of torture in southern Thailand, and for so many years, that it is amazing the world hasn’t paid more attention. Abuses reported by detainees include severe beatings, electric shocks, forced nudity, exposure to extreme cold or heat, needles inserted into open wounds and holding detainees’ family members hostage — including, in one case, a 6-year-old boy.

The army has … has flat-out denied them [the claims]. “We have never committed torture,” Lieut. General Udomchai Thamsarorat, the regional commander, told me. “We’re here to help people, not hurt them.” Blanket denials don’t impress the experts. “The security forces continue to use torture even though senior commanders claim to have prohibited it,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in November.

[Local fears] seemed to barely register with the officers I spoke to. Lieut. General Udomchai said he was “100% confident” that his troops were winning Muslim hearts and minds. A civil affairs officer told me that local people “trust us more and more,” before explaining that Thailand was one big loving family in which Muslims were “naughty teenagers.”

Torture is illegal and morally repugnant. It’s also counterproductive: stories of abuse by security forces are potent recruiting tools for insurgents. Though torture is well proven to produce unreliable intelligence, the military still evidently regards it as an acceptable and effective weapon against a ruthless enemy. Sometimes, torture is used not to extract information but to exact revenge for murdered colleagues.

Who can hold the Thai military to account? Not the courts: an emergency law in southern Thailand grants the security forces immunity from prosecution. And not Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is beholden to the army for crushing the anti-government Red Shirt protests in May.

In January, Thailand’s insurgency will enter its eighth year. Peace doesn’t stand a chance until Thailand’s generals see torture for what it is: a cancer in their ranks. Want to win the hearts and minds of Muslims? Then investigate and prosecute the soldiers who abuse them. What people really want is justice, not free dentures.

This is a sorry tale can easily be expanded. Search PPT’s page for “torture” and there are several posts, some of them about the torture of red shirt detainees. The police do it too, and most “confessions” follow a beating.

These are the forces that were let off the leash following the 2006 coup. This is not to say that they didn’t do it before – think War on Drugs and Tak Bai – but the increased power they now hold means that the military and police can do just about anything they fancy. The military and police are vicious enforcers of their own interests which happen to coincide with those of the current regime and its establishment backers.





Further updated: The Nation on independent investigations

3 06 2010

As long-time PPT readers will know, several times in the past we have pointed to the outrageous bias and unprofessional journalism in The Nation – memorably, one of our readers referred to this newspaper as “fish wrap.” So bad has the paper become that it has spawned its own parody site. But let’s take a recent editorial seriously.

The Nation (2 June 2010)  decides to attack Thaksin Shinawatra yet again. This time the editorial writer is incensed by Thaksin’s hiring of Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff as a lobbyist and the apparent hiring of Professor G J Knoops by Amsterdam. PPT earlier listed Amsterdam’s blog as a source of pro-Thaksin information.

The Nation doesn’t like either move.  PPT won’t go into the detail of the editorial or of Amsterdam’s reply (where he seems to think The Nation is a “government-controlled Thai newspaper” – we can understand his confusion, however).

Thaksin’s legal team has made it known that it plans to investigate “human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Thai authorities in its handling of the April and May violence.”

The Nation editorial writer states that the paper is “supportive of a full and independent investigation” and even says that “foreign mediation in the investigation…”.  But the problem for The Nation is that this particularl investigation “is being launched and paid for by a stakeholder – not to mention the fact that this stakeholder has been charged with being the mastermind behind the violence – is not exactly credible or neutral.”

PPT wonders why it is that The Nation has not asked this same question of the military-backed and Nation-supported Abhisit Vejjajiva government? Abhisit has talked about independent investigations but this is always in the context of organizations in Thailand that are anything but independent. There is also talk of the government approaching individuals to join an “independent investigation.” No details are released but we have serious reservations that such an investigation can be independent or impartial.

The Nation adds: “we need to ask ourselves if the state mechanism – namely our legal system – is in such a state of shambles that a foreign mediator is needed at all?” The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Interference in the judiciary and its politicization has expanded exponentially since the king’s call for the judiciary to interven in April 2006.

In rejecting the Amsterdam/Thaksin lobby and PR effort, The Nation says: “how about investigating the deaths of the Tak Bai demonstrators in October 2004?” PPT observes that there has been judicial investigation of this, reporting during the tenure of the Abhisit government. It was a complete whitewash. That’s a serious strike against the judiciary and continues a pattern of almost never finding against the military and police brass.

The Nation also raises “the 2,500 alleged drug-dealers killed extrajudicially in just a few months in 2003 and 2004 under Thaksin’s ‘war on drugs’.” While not a judicial investigation, PPT recalls that an investigation team appointed by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, former army chief and on-off privy councilor, when he headed the military junta’s government following the 2006 coup. It included dedicated Thaksin opponents such as Kraisak Choonhavan, now a deputy leader of the governing Democrat Party. Not only did it find far fewer extra-judicial killings than the usual 2,500 reported, but it failed to move any of the investigations far enough to seek action against those responsible. It seemed to fizzle out and was canned by the Samak government. Back in March, when pushed by the Puea Thai Party, Abhisit said he’d do more on this important case. Nothing so far.

The Nation concludes that “it’s a bit far-fetched to think that the public will take this [Amsterdam/Thaksin investigation] as an honest and fair gathering of evidence and opinion.” PPT can accept that. However, it is equally unlikely that the government can mount an “honest and fair gathering of evidence and opinion.” What is needed is an independent and international investigation.

2 updates: Perhaps not by chance, the Bangkok Post reports that the government is re-opening the investigation into the war on drugs extra-judicial killings. The report states that the investigating committee formed by the Surayud government was being reviewed for its membership and the justice minister claimed to have “approached a number of experts to sit on the independent committee and was awaiting their reply. He said the public would accept the people he had approached.” Let’s see. Earlier, though, there was a report that the investigation was to be completed by the DSI. So what is it? Independent? Probably not.