When the military is on top XXVII

2 09 2018

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk has an op-ed and a story that deserve attention.

In the stroy, Pravit points out that the “head of a private anti-corruption organization has been silent on its decision to award full marks to junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in its annual assessment.” He refers to a press conference where Chairman Pramon Sutivong celebrated the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand’s 7th anniversary by declaring that his “organisation has helped save 25.1 billion baht of state funds that could have been lost to corruption over the past seven years.”

As it turns out, they don’t mean over seven years but since 2015, when ACT partnered with the military junta.

Pramon claimed lots of “outcomes” that can’t be verified, but correctly touted ACT’s “involvement in the development of their 2017 constitution which the organisation implemented as an ‘anti-corruption constitution’.”

At the media circus, Pramon stated: “I give Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister, full marks. But I admit that there are still a number of people around him that have been questioned by the public…”. He means Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, where ACT has made a comments, but didn’t get into nepotism and military procurement.

When Pramon was asked to “explain how its score was calculated to award the highest possible ranking to a regime that has been marred by corruption scandals, …[he] did not respond to multiple inquiries.”

One activist pointed out that Pramon and ACT gave The Dictator “full marks” when international rankings had Thailand wobbling and had a lower ranking now than in 2015.

A reporter’s questions were said to have included one on whether Pramon considered “staging a coup and monopolizing state funding through the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly as a form of corruption or not.” No response.

Pravit points out that a source at ACT “defended the announcement by saying Pramon, who was appointed by the junta leader to his National Reform Council following the coup, only gave full marks to Prayuth for his ‘sincerity’ to tackle corruption.” That ACT employee flattened out, saying: “He [Pramon] must have heard something that made him feels that His Excellency [The Dictator] Prayuth was sincere…. He may have had some experience from meeting [Prayuth].”

Of course, nothing much can be expected of ACT. It was a royalist response to the election of Yingluck Shinawatra and was populated by royalist “advisers” including Anand Punyarachun and Vasit Dejkunjorn, both activists in opposing elected governments. (By the way, ACT’s website still has Vasit listed as Chairman despite his death in June.)

Pravit’s op-ed is on China in Thailand. Chinese and Chinese money are everywhere, he says. Tourists, property buyers, investors are seen in everything from high durian prices to military authoritarianism.

It is the latter that Pravit concentrates on, citing academics who “publicly warn how the rise of China bodes ill for human rights and democracy in Thailand and Southeast Asia.” PPT commented on this seminar previously. One thing we said was that the emphasis on China, blaming it for the resilience of the military junta seemed a little overdone for us.

But Pravit is not so sure. He notes that China is unlikely to promote democracy, but that hardly needs saying. He does note that Japan and South Korea have “failed to put any pressure on the [2014] Thai coup-makers as well. To them, it’s business as usual.” As it is for China.

Pravit seems to be pointing to the West that was, for a time, critical of the 2014 coup. But, then, some in that  same West were pretty celebratory of the 2006 coup – think of US Ambassador Ralph Boyce and his commentary in Wikileaks.

But Pravit says that “the difference is that China has become much more influential in Thailand compared to Japan or South Korea.” Really? We have previously pointed out that it doesn’t take much work to look up some data to find out which country is the biggest investor in Thailand. But here’s a problem. Pravit cites a deeply flawed book, riddled with errors, that makes more than a few unfounded claims.

We might agree that “[d]emocracy, human rights, press freedom and free speech are at risk if we ape the Chinese model of politics and administration…”. But think, just for a few seconds about this statement. Thailand’s democracy, human rights, press freedom and free speech are not at risk from Chinese supporters but from Thailand’s military. Under the junta, they have been mangled.

Thailand’s generals don’t need Chinese tutors on how to undermine democracy, human rights, press freedom and free speech. They have done it for decades. It comes naturally, whether “relying” on the support of the US as many military leaders did or with China’s support.





Generational change

21 06 2018

Associated with years of military rule and anti-democracy, the old men who have run Thailand for decades are dying off. But they are replaced another group of royalist military thugs who intend to maintain political control and repression for decades to come.

We say this after the announcement of the death of royalist policeman Vasit Dejkunjorn. Usually no one would take much notice of the death of a former deputy police chief. However, Vasit gets plenty of attention because he was seen as close to the dead king, a relationship Vasit played up.

A long time ago we wrote this of Vasit, citing Michael Montesano (where the link is now defunct):

“Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.”

His background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remained a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief. Vasit “retired” years ago, but kept popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. His royalism and extreme views were inflected with racism, extreme nationalism, support for lese majeste and the rejection of constitutional monarchy as being to constraining of his king.

He was associated with all kinds of rightist, royalist and nationalist efforts to eject elected governments.

As expected, his funeral will be a royal one, with Princess Sirindhorn presiding. That’s a sign of a man who did the palace’s work.

Several of the other old men are on their last legs, including Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, now seen in a wheel chair.

In recent years as Prem, Vasit and others schemed against elected governments and worked to mobilize opposition on the streets and in the barracks, they also managed a transition to “tough” military royalists, trusted to carry forward their preferred royalism and anti-democracy well into the future.

Think Meechai Ruchupan’s role in constitutional manipulation and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as military strongmen. This “new generation” of political manipulators are the legacy left by the departing old men.





Lese majeste catch-ups

18 02 2018

Natthika Worathaiwit was one of The Facebook 8 who were arrested by the military dictatorship because of a satirical Facebook community page that poked fun at The Dictator. They were charged with sedition and computer crimes on 28 April 2016. Tow of them, Harit Mahaton and Natthika were charged with lese majeste.

Initially all were refused bail. When six of the eight were bailed, a military court refused bail for Natthika and Harit. The two firmly maintained their innocence. After more than two months in prison, on 8 July 2016, the two were released on bail. A month later, a military prosecutor indicted the two anti-junta critics on lese majeste and computer crimes.

Little more was heard about the case until in January 2018 Natthika revealed that she had decided to flee Thailand to seek asylum in the U.S. She remains critical of the military dictatorship. Prachatai has an interview with her in the U.S.

Prachatai also reports on a case with a curious twist. Back in March 2016, it was reported that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul who later went into exile, conservative royalist Sulak Sivaraksa, the execrable Surakiart Sathirathai and retired ultra-monarchist Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

Later, in July 2014, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) imposed a 50,000 baht fine on ThaiPBS for broadcasting political discussions about the monarchy. The NBTC declared that the broadcasts violated “Article 37 of the NBTC Act. The Commission accused the station of publishing content that instigated conflict, damaged peace and order, or damaged the good morality of the people.”

Royalists and the junta could not abide by notions that Thais could have a reasonable discussion of the monarchy or be allowed to think for themselves about the monarchy.

On 15 February 2018, the Administrative Court invalidated the fine. In doing so, it ruled that the NBTC showed bias (which is standard operating procedure for this bunch of junta minions). That bias got a name:  Lt Gen Peerapong Manakit, one of the NBTC members. According to the report, the “court ruled that bias on the part of … [Peerapong] who proposed the punishment, led to an unfair trial. The court ordered the Commission to refund the fine to Thai PBS…. However, the verdict does not rule whether the show’s content was legal or not.”

It is an interesting ruling. If Peerapong’s name rings a bell, it could be because he is another of those military hogs who can’t keep out of the trough, as reported in The Nation:

… there was a public outcry after an Office of the Auditor-General investigation revealed Peerapong Manakit had topped the list of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission members who had made the most overseas “study” trips last year…. He spent about one-third of his time (129 days) on 20 overseas trips at a cost of Bt12.03 million…. Peerapong has reportedly appointed his wife Janya Sawangjit as his adviser, effective October 1. Her salary is Bt120,000 a month…. It is not clear if NBTC commissioners can take their advisers on overseas trips.

Of course, nothing happened about this nepotism and he remains a commissioner, with a bunch of other military and royal-connected men.





Sulak’s lese majeste case

3 03 2017

Sulak Sivaraksa is a self-professed royalist who has faced at least five lese majeste charges. He is a leading academic and long-time conservative critic of the lese majeste law.

180px-sulaksivaraksa_3-smallHe was first arrested in 1984 in Bangkok and charged with insulting the king. His second case, in 1991 he was again charged after giving a speech at Chulalongkorn University. A third set of allegations were made against Sulak in 2006. Sulak’s fourth lese majeste case saw him taken from his Bangkok home late one night in November 2008 and driven 450 km to a police station in the northeast province of Khon Kaen. The outcome of these cases can be seen at our page on Sulak.

His fifth case saw two retired royalist generals file a lese majeste complaint against Sulak for a speech he made about King Naresuan, a historical figure considered important for the royalist mythology about Thailand.

On 16 October 2014, Lt Gen Padung Niwatwan and Lt Gen Pittaya Vimalin filed the complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station accusing Sulak of “defaming” the former king during a public speech on “Thai History: the Construction and Deconstruction” on 5 October at Thammasat University, Bangkok. It is reported that in the speech, Sulak claimed the legend of an elephant battle between Naresuan and a Burmese king was constructed and he criticized the king of some 400 years ago for being cruel.

Prachatai reports that “police have permitted a renowned royalist intellectual accused of lèse majesté to postpone hearing the charges against him” in this fifth case.

The report adds that Sulak is fighting another lese majeste case. PPT’s account notes a sixth case against Sulak. In early July 2015, it was reported that Sulak could face a sixth lese majeste charge for comments made in a panel discussion on the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy. The discussion was organized by Rangsit University’s Faculty of Economics and the Heroes of Democracy Foundation. We had not heard any more on this case.

The Prachatai report, however, notes yet another case:

In 2016, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, Deputy Police Chief, announced that nine people, including Sulak, and two corporations accused of lèse majesté for their involvement in a talk show aired in March 2013 called Tob Jod (The Answers) on Thai PBS, the only public TV channel in Thailand.

Tob Jod on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013 televised a debate on the lèse majesté law featuring Somsak Jeamteerasakul, an academic now in self-imposed exile in Europe, Sulak, Surakiart Sathirathai, former Deputy Prime Minister, and Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunchorn. The show was hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma.

The five persons featured in the debate are among the nine accused.

We think Sulak holds the record for cases brought.





The academic 9

10 03 2016

It had to happen. The military dictatorship can simply not control itself on lese majeste. The longer it consumes the helium that seeps from its high position, the more bizarre become its lese majeste accusations and charges, not to mention the sentences meted out.

Prachatai reports that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Sulak Sivaraksa, Surakiart Sathirathai and retired Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn, the latter a hard-boiled monarchist. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

In a post from some time ago PPT quoted the then army chief:

… Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has lashed out at the Tob Jote TV programme for broadcasting a debate over the role of the monarchy.” … He considers the “broadcast was inappropriate at a time of political conflict.” So the timing was wrong? Probably not. Prayuth doesn’t want any discussion of the role of the monarchy that goes outside the narrow boundaries of the official treacly narrative.

In the latest report, the “deputy police chief announced after a meeting of a police committee tasked for investigating lèse majesté cases that the committee has concluded that, within the scope of Article 112, the nine have allegedly committed crime. The officer, however, refrained from mentioning in details as to when the case file will be sent to the prosecutor office.”

The military monarchists are, as we have said previously, becoming increasingly unhinged as the king’s death approaches. That event will allow the military regime to extend its rule and manage a succession.





Somsak ++ lese majeste accusations

26 02 2016

Apparently, having academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul outside Thailand and living in exile is insufficient for royalists and the military dictatorship. Reports at both Khaosod and Prachatai confirm that the junta is seeking to charge Somsak with lese majeste along with several others.

The report is that “[p]olice have reopened a criminal investigation into a former history professor who criticized the monarchy in a interview broadcast nearly three years ago…”.

Somsak has been pursued by many royalists and most especially by The Dictator himself for lese majeste, and it is never clear to us if any of these accusations have stuck. In any case, after the junta grabbed power, Somsak read the very clear tea leaves and took off for Paris.

Apparently, this is a new case and stems from “[s]everal people hav[ing] filed complaints of royal defamation against Somsak … since [his] … interview was aired March 2013  on Thai PBS…”.Somsak

ThaiPBS aired a “talk program on lèse majesté law…. The program Tob Joad (The Answers) was broadcast … on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013.” The series “featured Sulak Sivaraksa, an anti-lese majeste law royalist, Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister, and Pol Gen Wasit Dejkunchorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma.”

According to police, no action has ever been taken on these complaints. This proves that police can be sensible, but they are now under great pressure from mad royalists in the junta and outside.

In fact, the deputy chief of Royal Thai Police is appointed to oversee the case or cases, showing just how mad and threatening things have become.

Apparently the deputy chief has to view the show and decide “whether it is considered illegal.”  He’s right to use the word “considered” because the letter of the law simply doesn’t matter in Thailand under the military dictatorship.

If  he decides that someone – let’s say an erratic dunce like General Prayuth Chan-ocha – “considers” the content lese majeste, then “Somsak and other people involved in the TV program will be charged under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, which outlaws any negative remark about the Royal Family, with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.” This might include “executives of Thai PBS TV station…”.

All of this relates to a 12 March 2013 interview with  Somsak, then a history professor at Thammasat University, on the monarchy and the constitution, where he suggested that the royals exceeded the “limits imposed by the legal framework of the modern constitutional monarchy.”

The programs from the show Tob Jote are available at YouTube. Start here.

Of course, he’s right, but the mad monarchists seem to favor an absolute monarchy and a royal deity.





Anti-democratic “academics”

14 12 2013

According to The Nation newspaper, the anti-democratic movement has “many experts” who take roles in the movement, as “committee members, including former MPs, academics, businesspeople, and activists.” Most of the activists are former members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its spin-off and front organizations. The list at the report has this:

Regular academics who advise the PDRC’s leaders include: Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA); Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of Nida’s Graduate School of Law; Charas Suwanmala, former dean of Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Political Science; and Kaewsan Athibodhi, leader of the Thai Spring group….

All of these have been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activists since the early days of PAD. Sombat and Banjerd have long been leaders of yellow-shirted “academics,” showing up for every single group that has spun off from PAD, including the most extreme and reactionary.

Charas has effectively been a propagandist for PAD from the beginning and cooperated with the military junta and its government. His political views are rabidly anti-democratic and pro-monarchy.

Kaewsan is equally right-wing, although his politics seem driven by a personal hatred of Thaksin rather than any ideology as he has had a career in hiring himself out as a loudmouth. Most recently he has joined with racist fascists like former palace policeman Vasit Dejkunjorn.

Added to this list of hardened rightists and royalists is the now quite incoherent retiree Thirayuth Boonmee. He is said to have:

attended a meeting at the PDRC’s war room just before Suthep issued a statement requesting a meeting with Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn and commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the commissioner-general of the National Police.

These “academics” bear much responsibility for the continual undermining of electoral democracy in Thailand. Their efforts are no doubt rewarded in various ways, but their positions place them in a long line of military and royalist anti-democrats who have acted for a wealth and powerful minority against the majority.