Updated: Reds for the junta

17 07 2018

When the military ran its coup in 2014 one of its immediate goals was, along with the Puea Thai Party, to neuter the red shirts. The red shirts were seen as an existential threat having established themselves throughout the country and especially in the Central, Northeast and Northern regions. The red shirt ideology was in support of electoral democracy and its supporters included groups considered willing to oppose the military’s violence with violence of their own.

More than any other group, the military identified the red shirts as political enemies and it put considerable efforts into de-fanging, disrupting and disorganizing them.

Recent media reports suggest that the junta may be congratulating itself on its anti-red shirt efforts and has caused the official red shirts to react.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) “have slammed suspected efforts by the Sam Mitr Group (Three Allies) to poach their members to support Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returning as premier after the next election.”

They were reacting to rumors, now confirmed, that Surin’s Theppanom Namlee, described as “a key member of the … Surin red-shirt group…”.

While Nattawut Saikua and other key UDD figures panned the Three Traitors and damned them for underhanded tactics, it does appear that the junta and its allies associated with the hastily manufactured Palang Pracharath Party, with massive state funds and human resources, are having some success in fracturing the coalition that has held through years of political repression and legal harassment.

If the junta is having this kind of (negative) success, no one should be too surprised. After all, the state is skilled at such tactics and has used them for decades to splinter opposition.

What is a fly in the political ointment is the junta’s realization that it can only “win” its own rigged election by allying with people it previously despised as republicans and Thaksinites.

Update: See more on this story here and read about the junta’s planned use of Puea Thai and red shirt defectors in campaigning here.





When the military is on top XXII

2 07 2018

When the military is on top it sets the rules for politics and seeks to ensure it wins its “election” whenever it decides to hold them.

Of course, that decision on elections means having all of its political repression and political pieces in place. Those processes have taken more than four years (and counting). The main tasks of the military dictatorship have been to concoct a legal and constitutional structure that disadvantages notions of popular sovereignty and keeps the military on top. A related and critical task has been to crush and atomize the red shirts and its leaders and to undermine the Puea Thai Party and most of its leadership.

A recent report in the Bangkok Post, while highly influenced by the junta’s perspective, suggests that the dictatorship feels it is finally successful, or nearly so.

The Pheu Thai Party has been thrown into disarray as it wrestles with a political group seeking to poach the party’s members to join a pro-regime party and support the return of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to power.

A gathering of dozens of political bigwigs last Wednesday at the Pinehurst Golf & Country Club hosted by the so-called Sam Mitr group, or Three Allies, has confirmed the speculation. This grouping is run by former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkij, former industry minister Somsak Thepsuthin and and the other one believed to be Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

The Pinehurst event, which was brought forward from June 30, was attended by about 50 former MPs many of whom were formally with the Thai Rak Thai Party and the People’s Power Party. Those parties were dissolved by the Constitutional Court for electoral fraud. Others were from the Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai parties.

However, political insiders claim the group led by Mr Suriya has a major announcement to make later this week. The announcement is believed to involve the inclusion of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka the red shirts, a staunch opponent of the regime, into the bloc.

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has been coordinating these campaigns. That’s why little things like a luxury watch scandal is ignored by the puppet National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The dictatorship’s Palang Pracharath Party, ignored by the puppet Electoral Commission, has been hoovering up former Thaksin Shinawatra associated politicians and its associated groups have been holding “campaign rallies” with The Dictator in attendance and him splashing about state funds as MP buying and “policy corruption” takes hold of the junta and its party.

The latest political meeting – also ignored by the puppet EC – brought dozens of former MPs together at the Pinehurst Golf Club.

More interesting is that the defector’s group leaders Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Somsak Thepsuthin, Chalong Krudkhunthod, Anucha Nakasai and Pirom Polwiset have worked with military commanders locally in co-opting former red shirts.

According to Post source, “mid-level leaders of the UDD in several provinces [have been asked] to join the pro-regime party.” Revealing is the view that the “switching of allegiances is not a surprise because local red-shirt leaders have been ‘inactive’ since the 2014 coup and those who remain critical of the regime are hard-core UDD leaders such as Natthawut Saikuar and Worachai Hema.” Of course, Jatuporn Promphan remains jailed as the junta fears his appeal to red shirts and voters.

In this view, “the UDD is collapsing and those in power have been working to dismantle the Pheu Thai Party’s power base.” See above.

One aim is to siphon off some 80% of Puea Thai’s former MPs. The source at the Post states: “It’s every man for himself. The UDD is no longer here. The group failed to launch a political party so they came around to hook up with the Phalang Pracharat Party.” Why? Money and power and the promise of more: “One of the former Pheu Thai politicians who joined the Sam Mitr [Suriya, Somsak, et al.] group said he decided to defect because the group has a clear strategy and resources at its disposal.”

As we have long pointed out: “The regime and its allies are expected to go all-out to reduce competition including recruiting veteran politicians and using state mechanisms in their favour…”. The source added:

A lot of work has been going behind the scenes and several politicians have defected to the party. But Mr Suriya and Mr Somsak are the ones who show to the public that the UDD is disintegrating.

That the military leaders considered the red shirts an existential threat is clear. That’s one of the reasons why there was a coup in 2014.





Calling out the NBTC

12 05 2018

It has taken a long time but two journalists’ associations have finally called out the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

The Thai Journalists Association and Thai Broadcasting Journalists’ Association have opposed the NBTC’s decision to shut down Peace TV for one month.So far so good, but then it all unravels for the associations and their apparent support of media freedom.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the station, associated with the official red shirts, has been closed by the junta’s NBTC, and the associations have been very reluctant to speak out.

This time, the NBTC revoked Peace TV’s license for “content of some programmes on air between March 26 and April 9 deemed inciting conflicts by the telecom regulator.” In making the decision, the junta’s lapdog regulator mentioned its boss’s Orders.

Nothing new in any of that as far as we can tell.

But finally recognizing the obvious, the two press associations “said the reference to the junta’s two orders to take action against Peace TV had jeopardised the NBTC’s credibility and showed that it had allowed outside influence to compromise its independence.”

“Jeopardized”? Really? The NBTC’s credibility was shot, trampled on and buried years ago.

The associations “also said the temporary closure was in violation of press freedom protected under the constitution.”

Well, yes, but it is the junta’s constitution and the junta can do anything it wants.

Then the associations supported violations of press freedom by suggesting that “[i]nstead of closing the station, the NBTC should selectively ban the programmes in question…”.

It seems the associations favor selective media freedom.





Updated: A catch-up II

28 03 2018

Continuing our catch-up:

Khaosod reports on the prosecution of red shirt leaders: Nothing unusual about that. After all, one of the central tasks of the military dictatorship has been to break up and disburse the red shirt movement, jailing leaders and repressing the movement since the 2014 military coup. The unusual bit is that this prosecution refers to events in 2009. Prosecutors accuse red shirt leaders “group of inciting unrest and an open rebellion against the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva in a April 2009 protest, which saw parts of Bangkok occupied for several days.” Political advantage is being maintained.

Reuters reports on new political blood: It says that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit sees little prospect of winning a junta “election.” He says: “Election laws are unfavourable to us, timing is unfavourable to us, the attitude of the government is unfavourable to us…. The chance is very slim. But a little hope is better than no hope at all.” Joshua Kurlantzick is quoted: “Political success in Thailand depends on being able to placate the military and royalist elite…”.

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has a new article available: Entertaining Ananda is the “story of Britain’s bumbling efforts to win the loyalty of Thailand’s young king [Ananda Mahidol] in the last months of his life.” PPT hasn’t read it yet – it is rather long – but it looks very interesting, based on documents from British archives.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the 10 United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders have all entered not guilty pleas in the case mentioned above. The court “set May 28 for the examination of evidence and witness lists submitted by both the accused and prosecutors. Witness testimonies are to begin in August.” The charges are “illegal assembly and stirring up unrest from Jan 31 until April 4 of that year [2009] by organising rallies at several important government offices…. They are also accused of being involved in two more serious incidents — the torching of a public bus and the hijacking of a petrol tanker that was later found abandoned during a violent street protest.” (Some aspects of the report are historically inaccurate.)





Junta vs. red shirts

11 03 2018

The military junta is intensifying internet censorship again. For us at PPT it is kind of difficult to determine if we have posted anything that gets their minions excited or whether it is just a broader effort to crack down on stuff considered of the opposition.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS recently reported that the junta is still trying to keep the military boot firmly on the neck of the official red shirts.

The Bangkok Military Court has recently had 18 red shirt leaders before it, including Jatuporn Promphan who is already jailed. They face charges of “defying the order of the National Council for Peace and Order in 2016.” Yes, that is 2016.

Jatuporn was in chains and “escorted by soldiers.” The junta treats its opponents in ways that are meant to degrade but actually demonstrates the repressive and vindictive nature of the military regime.

Apart from Jatuporn, the others “included Nattawut Saikur, Mrs Thida Thavornset, Weng Tochirakarn, Yongyut Tiyaphairat, Korkaew Pikulthong, and Virakarn Musikapong.”

The faked up charges relate to the “holding political assembly of more than five people after they held a press conference at Imperial Department Store in June 2016 to announce the formation of the Centre for the Suppression of Referendum Fraud.”

This was when the junta was forcing through its constitution in a unfree and unfair referendum.





Updates on two lese majeste cases

26 01 2018

Prachatai has reported on two lese majeste cases.

The first involves singer Tom Dundee or Thanat Thanawatcharanon.

A red shirt singer, Tom was sentenced in June 2016 in two lese majeste cases to a total of 20 years, reduced to 10 years and 10 months after he finally agreed to plead guilty to end cases that were dragging on interminably because he had refused to plead guilty. This has become the junta style in lese majeste cases and amounts to a travesty of justice and an infringement of basic legal rights. His cases were heard in secret, in closed courts.

In another twist in Thailand’s injustice system, it is reported that a” prosecutor in Ratchaburi has indicted a red-shirt country singer for lèse majesté, without giving prior notice to the suspect and his lawyer.” On 25 January 2018, Tom was “accused of making a speech deemed defamatory to the monarchy during a protest of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship — the redshirts.”

Apparently, this is an old case that Tom and his lawyers thought it had been dropped. As we have said before, lese majeste cases are seldom announced as dropped, but are held in abeyance and can be reactivated at any time.

With little notice, it seems the court urgently summoned Tom to appear. As a result, his “lawyer could not present at the court during the indictment.” Meanwhile Tom is held at Ratchaburi Prison.

In lese majeste cases, the injustice system never worries about things like rights under the law.

The second case involves Nurhayati  Masoh, a blind woman arrested some time in November 2016, accused of lese majeste. The 23 year-old unemployed Thai-Malay Muslim from Yala was convicted on 4 January 2018 and sentenced to three years in jail after she agreed to plead guilty.

In a bizarre twist to the case, it is reported that on 23 January, Nuruhayati’s relatives were told by an officer from Yala Provincial Court “that the convict was released on bail. The lawyer and her family confirmed that they did not know who is the bail guarantor or how much the bail cost.”

That her lawyers knew nothing of the bail application suggests something odd is going on and that someone very high up is involved.





Updated: Yet another anti-monarchy “plot”

3 10 2017

Thailand’s recent politics has been awash with rightist and royalist claims of “plots” against the monarchy. The military dictatorship claims to have “discovered” another such “plot.” This time the plot is claimed to be a plan to disrupt the funeral for the dead king.

PPT can only express disdain for this political ploy and we can only wonder if anyone still believes such nonsense. As much as we’d like to see an an anti-monarchy plot in Thailand, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is one in the works now.

One of the first “plots” was the entirely concocted “Finland Plot.” The claim peddled by many associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and fabricated by notorious royalist ideologue Chai-anan Samudavanija and others. It claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra and former left-wing student leaders had met in Finland and come up with a plan to overthrow the monarchy and establish a communist state. These inventions were published in the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned newspapers and repeated many times by PAD.

As bizarre as this nonsense was, Wikipedia notes that the allegations had an “impact on the popularity of Thaksin and his government, despite the fact that no evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of a plot. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers. The leaders of the 2006 military coup claimed Thaksin’s alleged disloyalty as one of their rationales for seizing power.”

Back in 2015, even the politicized courts held that ultra-royalist Pramote Nakornthap had defamed Thaksin with these concoctions. Not surprisingly, many ultra-royalists continue to believe this nonsense.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Equally notorious was the anti-monarchy “plot,” replete with a diagram, that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government concocted when faced with a red shirt challenge in April 2010.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution to Emergency Situations claimed to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the monarchy and said “intelligence” confirmed the “plot.” Indeed, the bitter Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council “confirmed” the “plot.” The map included key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, members of the Puea Thai Party and former banned politicians, academics and hosts of community radio programs. Then Prime Minister Abhisit welcomed the uncovering of the “plot.”

CRES spokesman and then Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who just happens to be the current dictatorship’s chief propagandist, repeatedly declared this plot a red shirt effort to bring down the monarchy.

We could go on, but let’s look at the current “plot,” which not coincidentally comes from the same military leaders who were in place in when the above “mapping” of a republican plot was invented. It is the same coterie of coup plotters (and that was a real plot) that repeatedly accused Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul of various anti-monarchy plots and he was “disappeared” from Laos, presumably by the junta’s henchmen-murderers.

In the new “plot,” Deputy Dictator General Wongsuwan has declared:

Anti-monarchy cells are conspiring to disrupt the funeral of His Majesty the Late King this month, deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said Monday.

Gen. Prawit described the alleged agitators as those who “have ill intentions toward the monarchy.” Although he gave no details, he said full-scale security measures would be implemented throughout the rites to place over several days culminating with the Oct. 26 cremation.

Prawit added that “[a]uthorities have learned of threats inside and outside the country, especially from those who oppose and have negative thoughts about ‘the [royal] institution’…”. He put “security forces” on “full alert.”

Careful readers will have noticed that the first mention of this “plot” came from The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha almost two weeks ago.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart “refused to elaborate in detail on the supposed threat in the latest intelligence report” but still declared that “[t]hose involved were among the ‘regular faces’ abroad wanted on lese majeste charges, but who still incite negative feelings towards the monarchy among supporters through social media.”

The fingerprints on this concoction are those who have regularly invented plots for political purposes. That’s the military. They read all kinds of social media and put 1 and 1 together and come up with anti-monarchy plot.

We tend to agree with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is reported as saying:

The cremation provides an opportunity for the security forces to strengthen their position politically using critics of the monarchy as an excuse to increase the state’s heavy handed policy to control society more tightly…. Critics of the monarchy hardly pose a threat considering how much they have been suppressed since the coup….

The cremation and the coronation that will follow are critical political events for the military dictatorship. They want to be seen to be ensuring that everything runs smoothly for both events as the junta moves to stay in power, “election” or “no election.”  Finding a “plot” can make them look even more like the “protectors” of the monarchy.

Update: We don’t know why, but Khaosod’s most recent report on this “plot” seems to be supportive of the the junta’s claims. The claims this report makes amount to little more than reporting chatter. Similar chatter has been around for some time, encouraging individual acts that do not amount to anything like rebellion or disruption.

Some of the material that has been circulated may well derive from the state’s intelligence operatives seeking to disrupt and identify red shirts.  The thing about concocting a plot as a way to discredit your opponents is that there has to be elements in it that seem, at least on a initial view, feasible and believable. That was the point of the diagram produced above, naming persons known to be anti-monarchy. Putting them in a plot is something quite different.