Remembering 1976: After the massacre II

6 10 2022

This is the third publication we are posting as a way of recalling the terrible events of 6 October 1976, focused on Thammasat University.

It is the second of two publications from the period that assess the immediate political outcomes of the massacre.

European Co-ordinating Committee for Solidarity with the Thai People (c1978) Political Repression in Thailand is an activist pamphlet. Its table of contents is:

  • Thailand – Facts and Figures
  • Chronology of Events in Thailand 1932-1970
  • Politics and Violence in Thailand
  • Political Detention in Thailand
  • Suppression of Trade Unions in Thailand
  • Government Atrocities in Rural Areas

A list of resources and contacts at the time is also included.


Screwing down activism

10 01 2022

The screwing down associated with repressive regimes is an ongoing task for Thailand’s royalist regime, with Prachatai providing recent examples of how this political repression seeps across the political landscape.

In one report, Prachatai looks at cultural matters, focusing on the 29th annual Bangkok Critics Assembly film award ceremony. The video recording removes “references to imprisoned pro-democracy activists … from the speeches of awardees from ‘School Town King’, a film that took home seven awards.”

According to one report, “references to the detainees in the speeches of every awardee but one were cut from a nearly five-hour long video of the award ceremony, held on 24 December 2021 at Lido Connect in Bangkok.  The only speech not  ‘edited’ was given by Sinjai Plengpanich, who accepted an award on behalf of M.L. Pundhevanop Dhewakul.”

In all, “seven speeches were cut, including one by his film’s editor Harin Paesongthai, who received an award for his work.” In making his speech, Harin said “the film sought to address inequality and oppression in society,” adding: “not only in the education system … [but the social] system where we are dominated from the smallest unit to the largest, by the people on top.” In supporting political prisoners he stated that he wanted to: “… use this opportunity to support and stand with the fighters who are being unfairly detained. Free our friends. There are still people suffering, detained because of the injustice of the system … I believe that there will be a better day for us. Justice must take place.”

In another Prachatai story, union activist Thanaphon Wichan was recently prosecuted for attempting “to give a Labour Minister a petition calling for assistance for labour[er]s amidst the pandemic.”

Back on 29 October 2021, Thanaphon, a representative of migrant workers, together with several labor groups, went “to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter to the Minister of Labour to follow up on their previous petition to demand a solution to construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand a solution to other concerned issues including expenses incurred from entering the registration process which still lacked the clarity.”

This visit had been coordinated “with representatives of the Ministry of Labour beforehand.”

That action was disrupted when “the Cambodian migrant workers who accompanied her were arrested right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.” The Ministry the authorized a complaint to police, claiming Thanaphon committed offences against the Immigration Act. No evidence was found, so another charge was concocted: “being complicit in the organization of a gathering and an illegal assembly in a manner that risks spreading the disease in the area designated by an announcement or an order as a maximum and strict control zone and an area under strict surveillance except for permission has been obtained from competent officials, an act of which is a breach of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005).”

We have lost count of how many times this emergency decree on health has been used to silence activists.

Thanaphon and her lawyers say the case “is tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP.”

Because of the prior coordination with the Ministry, her lawyers argue that “the Ministry of Labour was obliged to act to ensure the enforcement of the disease prevention protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

She was allowed bail, but the message is broadcast to all activists: the screws are being tightened, the regime is out to silence you. If you refuse, face state lawfare.

Updated: Organized labor is always suspect

13 01 2016

Despite the fact that some elements of the now very small labor movement in Thailand has tended to be quite supportive of the two most recent military coups and anti-democrat protests, the military dictatorship still doesn’t trust organized  labor.

Most support for the rightists and militarists has come from state enterprise unions, which have been led around by the nose under the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy back when Thaksin Shinawatra was under attack.

Of course, the military goons have long tried to control and weaken organized labor and have often been in the pay of employers keen to repress any organization among workers.

Last week, as reported at Prachatai, leaders of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) complained that military and police officers have intimidated  them. This comes “several days after the committee investigated the detention of labour union leaders of an electrical appliance company.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia, president of the TLSC, said she was being followed by “4-5 military officers both in uniform and plainclothes” at her workplace and her home.

Yongyut Mentapao, TLSC’s vice president, also says he “had been followed by military and police officers from unidentified units…. He filed a complaint at a police station about the intimidation…”.

This followed “the detention of Chalee Loysoong, [another] TLSC Vice President, and Amorndech Srimuang, leader of the labour union of Sanko Gosei Technology Ltd., an electrical appliance manufacturer in the eastern province of Rayong, on Tuesday, 6 January 2016.”

These two were detained at the Ministry of Labor because “they led about 500 Sanko Gosei workers to the Ministry to ask Gen Sirichai Distakul, the Labour Minister, for assistance in negotiating with Sanko Gosei.” That company had closed and had protesting workers thrown out.

In detaining the union leaders, the police threatened them with charges for unlawful assembly.

As usual, the regime’s thugs work for employers and against any effort by people to organize or mobilize. Untamed union leaders are thus a threat.

Update: Demonstrating their thuggishness and incapacity for much other than repression, the dolts in the military decied to “visit” – i.e., threaten – Wilaiwan “at the office of the Om Noi/Om Yai Labour Union in Samut Sakhon Province.” About five men in uniform were responding to the statement by TLSC “condemning the authorities for using the Public Assembly Act and detaining labour union members” protesting the event outlined above.

The politically daft thugs “cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives officers absolute power to maintain security, and informed the TLSC leader that from now on she must inform the military first before making any political moves.”

Triumph unionists on trial

24 08 2012

PPT is a little late posting this, but it is important. The Human Rights Lawyers Association asks that observers attend the trial of Triumph International Labour Union members. We have posted before on this case. See posts here and here.

23-24 and 28-30 August 2012 at the Court Room no. 809, Criminal Court, Bangkok

Any interested persons are invited to attend the trial of the case stemming from the demonstration of Triumph International Labour Union members. Its prosecution witness examination will be conducted from 23 August 2012 and 24 August 2012(morning), and defence witness examination on 24 August (afternoon) and 28 – 30 August 2012 at Court Room 809, Criminal Court, Ratchadapisek, Bangkok.

Ms. Jitra Kotchadej, Ms. Boonrod Saiwong and Ms. Sunthorn Boonyod, three unionists, are prosecuted by the Special Criminal Litigation Division, Office of Attorney General, for assembling of ten people upwards to commit any act that has breached public order. They are accused of being core members who have stimulated other people to commit the crime. Also, they are accused of resisting the order of officials to stop the wrongdoings (violation of Sections 85, 215 and 216, Penal Code).

The demonstration took place on 27 August 2009 in front of the Government House and Parliament as a protest against the massive layoff of workers by the company. The government was urged to address the workers’ grievances.

On that day, the police used Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) making very loud noises in an attempt to disperse the defiant demonstrators. Such a harsh response to the demonstration has yielded strong condemnation from fellow activists and a demand was made for the revocation of the arrest warrants against the workers. The government and the National Human Rights Commission were urged to carry out an inquiry into the alleged abuse committed by the police officers. Instead, the public prosecutors have decided to press ahead with prosecution against the labour activists. The witness examination shall commence on the aforementioned date, time and venue.

For more information, please contact:

Khoomklao songsomboon: +66 86 785 6665

Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA): +66 2 693 0682

Are striking railway workers also traitors?

28 10 2009

PPT has been watching the stories on the strike at the State Railways of Thailand (Bangkok Post, 27 October 2008: “Cabinet approves hiring of new rail staff”). The Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government has now decided to act as strike breaker. There is no surprise there. The Democrat Party has never been particularly supportive of labor or labor rights, reflecting their links to the business and royalist elements of the elite.

The only observation we’d make is to point out that it was state enterprise workers who began the rallies against Thaksin Shinawatra and who were serious opponents for a series of previous governments.

There is also talk amongst Democrat Party ministers and in its cheer leading press calling for the privatization of the SRT. Again, proposals for the privatization of state enterprises were amongst those that set the state enterprise unions against Thaksin and into the PAD fold.

While PPT can well imagine that PAD and unionists might join the NGOs that remain signed up to the anti-Thaksin fight and so ignore direct challenges to their core interests, the Democrat Party is playing a risky game here. Sure, the middle class public in Bangkok will cheer the government, but they have always cheered anti-union actions. The state enterprise unions are, however, serious political actors.

Update: The Bangkok Post (28 October 2009: “Rail staff accused of train sabotage”) suggests that the royalist government is considers itself to be facing “traitors” in many areas. In this increasingly bitter strike, the management of the SRT has accused workers of attempting to block a train being driven by a strike-breaking employee.

It is not surprise that the 10 workers targeted are all union members and leaders: “SRT governor Yutthana Thapcharoen said railway management had decided the staff allegedly responsible would have to be fired for severe misconduct.” This is standard tactics by employers in Thailand’s private sector but may be more difficult against state enterprise workers.

The report states that an SRT source “said about 10 key union members were singled out for dismissal. They were accused of persuading railway workers in the South and the Central Plains to strike.” Traitorous acts in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand?

The strike-breaking driver “said the SRT management ordered him to file a complaint with police against local union members.”

Meanwhile, “railway union members yesterday filed a complaint with the senate committee on human rights, liberty and consumer protection.” It will be interesting to see how this committee responds for it is dominated by PAD supporters and PAD received strong state enterprise union support. At the same time, these mainly appointed senators are also self-appointed protectors of middle-class interests, so they are almost naturally opposed to unions and union action.

The panel will discuss the complaint tomorrow.

Repression of Triumph protestors continues

8 09 2009

Readers will recall our earlier post on the use of Internal Security Act provisions against leaders of the laid-off workers from Triumph International.

The Clean Clothes Campaign now has an interesting and disturbing post on this issue (7 September 2009: “Leaders of Peaceful Protest Against Triumph Threatened with Arrest in Thailand”). Of note is this: “hundreds of Triumph workers assembled in front of the parliament to hand a petition to the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. However, [Abhisit] refused to meet with the union representatives, and instead the workers were confronted with police using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). This controversial military weapon consists of a high concentration of sound waves that can cause temporarily deafness and blurred vision, as well as permanent hearing loss. According to human rights organisations, this non-lethal weapon can be classified as a technique of political control that poses a threat to civil liberties.”

The Campaign allows protests to be lodged here.

Continuing the repression

29 08 2009

Just a few hours ago PPT posted about our deep concern that the Democrat Party and the government it leads were set on short and slippery path to authoritarianism and seemed remarkably comfortable on it. As if to confirm this, Prachatai (29 August 2009: “Police to arrest Triumph labour leaders for blocking roads at Government House and Parliament”) has a report on efforts to stop all protest as the police seek the arrest of the leaders of a union engaged in action against Triumph International. Also see ออกหมายจับหน.ม็อบไทรอัมพ์พาพวกยึดทำเนียบ and ตร.ออกหมายจับ 3 แกนนำคนงานไทรอัมพ์ฯ ฐานชุมนุมปิดถนนหน้าทำเนียบฯ ก่อความวุ่นวาย ทำปชช.เดือดร้อน. We had earlier posted about the links between labor and human rights.

The report states that “police have issued arrest warrants for three Triumph labour union leaders who led members on a protest that blocked roads at Government House and Parliament.” The warrants were issued for Sunthorn Bunyod, Bunrod Saiwong,  and Jitra Kotchadej, “on charges of gathering in a group of 10 people or more, leading or ordering people to cause unrest, and ignoring police orders.”

Their action involved, on 27 August, leading 300-400 union members to petition the Prime Minister for help in their dispute with Triumph, which had laid off 1,959 workers . Because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva didn’t appear, the “protesters were dissatisfied” and apparently “blocked the road in front of Government House.” When they heard that Abhisit was attending a meeting at Parliament House, “the protesters went to block the road there as well…”.

Jitra, an advisor to the Triumph Labour Union, said that “she had yet to receive the arrest warrant or be notified by the police. The union will meet and discuss on what to do.” Justifiably, Jitra “questioned why workers who come out to protect their own rights have to face such severe charges” under “Criminal Code Article 215 for leading or ordering public unrest which carries a maximum of 5 years in prison or a 10,000 baht fine or both, and Article 216 for ignoring police orders to stop the unrest, which carries a maximum of 3 years in prison or a 6,000 baht fine, or both.”

The answer for Jitra seems clear enough for PPT: this government is becoming increasingly authoritarian in its bid to stay in power.

Update: For more about the Triumph dispute go here.

Ji Ungpakorn on PAD and unions

16 08 2009

Following up on emails he sent to friends and supporters a couple of weeks ago, Ji Ungpakorn now has an article in Australia’s Green Left Weekly (15 August 2009: “Unions should not support Thai fascists”)attacking the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the international unions supporting it.

Ji points out that a little while ago the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) general secretary David Cockroft issued a letter addressed to the Thai government in support of three trade unionists who were said to be facing possible charges for PAD’s siege of the international airport and the domestic airport at Don Muang last year.

Ji describes PAD as a coalition of interests that included “NGO, trade union and social movement leaders” but that “moved sharply to the right, becoming fanatical royalists…”. He adds that some “PAD members have fascist tendencies. Last year, PAD members wrecked Government House and blocked the international airports. Behind them were the army and the palace.” He says that PAD leaders “aim … to reduce the voting power of the electorate in order to protect the conservative elites running Thailand.”

While the ITF apparently quickly removed their statement in support of PAD following negative reactions from readers and members (see here and here), the source of their support for PAD relates to the fact that one of PAD’s leaders, Somsak Kosaisook, remains an adviser to the State Railways Union of Thailand (SRUT), having been its president, and represents the SRUT at the ITF Asia/Pacific Railway Workers’ Section (see the document here).

On union matters, some time ago PPT reported that the struggle against Triumph and its union-busting activities in the region. Readers may find the update at Prachatai of some use, as the workers continue to struggle against the company.

Update: Letters from various unions supporting PAD can be found here.

Unions should not support Thai fascists

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