500 black shirts

27 06 2011

Prachatai has a wonderful summary account of a story at Matichon online that presents the views of one military officer on the events of April-May 2010, in which he participated.

The account carries considerable weight as it reports an article that “ appears in the Army Training Command’s Senathipat Journal, Vol 59, Issue 3, September–December 2010, as part of the army’s guidelines and case studies on military operations to solve urban unrest.”

In its reproduction of the first part of the article, Matichon helpfully posts the first part of the article and highlights “several interesting points…”.

The first relates to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claim at the Democrat Party’s Rajaprasong election rally last Thursday that it was he and not Teflon Mark – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva – who “gave the order” for the crackdown on red shirt protesters.

However, “the article clearly states ‘the Prime Minister gave orders at the CRES meeting on 12 May for the military to start the operation as planned’.” We imagine that Suthep is dissembling or is saying something about the official chain of command. If Abhisit wasn’t giving orders, it would seem very strange. First, he was at the military base for a very long time and presumably wasn’t just hiding under the bed. Second, Abhisit made claims that he was in charge and so got little sleep as he was deeply involved in operational matters.

The second important point the article makes is that “the government always had a clear policy to use military measures to pressure the red shirts, and the policy of ‘tightening the circle’ was to end the demonstrations, not to open a dialogue.” It adds that this policy contributed the rejection of “a group of senators to offer themselves as mediators on the night of 18 May…”.

Third, the article claims that “part of the reason for the successful military operation was the withdrawal of Chair of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Veera Musigapong and the death of Maj Gen Khattiya Swasdipol or Seh Daeng, because the UDD was deprived of its political and military strategists.”

Veera’s withdrawal has never been adequately explained. Other sources are less sure of Seh Daeng’s role, but if the military identified him as the red shirt military strategist, then Suthep’s bizarre claim that the red shirt leadership did him in makes no sense at all (not that it ever did for PPT). Suthep’s credibility has sunk below zero.

A fourth note of interest relates to the deployment of military units. Many commentators seem to have forgotten that this began with “sniper units … deployed in high buildings on Wireless Road, including the Kian Nguan and Bangkok Cable buildings.” Given the predominance of head and chest shots amongst the murdered, the use of military snipers is pretty clear.

A fifth claim about so-called black shirts is remarkable. It is stated that “CRES intelligence” had it that “there were about 500 armed terrorists among the red shirts, and they were equipped with war weapons including M79s, M16s, AK47s and Tavor-21s.”

Given the very low death and gunshot injury toll that is reported for the military, figures like this are startling. Were more military killed than the government has reported? If not, where are the weapons and the dead black shirts with their weapons? Wouldn’t the military snipers have had ample targets?

The report makes fascinating reading.



Bangkok 18 becomes Bangkok 19

23 05 2011

Apologies for again being slow with this post. PPT is continuing to experience difficulties in keeping up with the volume of material on lese majeste.

The Bangkok Post reported on 21 May that the political police at the Department of Special Investigation “will summon 19 red shirt leaders to hear lese majeste charges related to remarks made during a rally early last month.”

PPT earlier posted on this and added a Bangkok 18 post to our page of pending cases. We’ll need to change that to the Bangkok 19 as DSI chief Tharit Pengdit added Payap Panket to the list of those to be charged.

The other 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Kaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Tharit said a “summons will be issued on Monday [23 May] and sent to the red shirt suspects by mail. They will have 10 days to prepare prior to appearing before authorities on June 2.”

While he can’t complete investigations into the deaths and injuries of April and May 2010, the puppet-like Tharit can get lese majeste cases sown up in a jiffy (as long as they are against the regime’s opponents).

DSI plans to “take the suspects to the Criminal Court to request their detention. The DSI will also go to Bangkok Remand Prison to file charges against red shirt leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Nisit Sinthuprai, who are detained there.”

Tharit also revealed that the DSI is taking over yet another lese majeste case that “involves six community radio stations which allegedly broadcast Mr Jatuporn’s April 10 remarks which were deemed offensive to the monarchy.”

Just because there is a bit of reformist lese majeste static about doesn’t mean that the political police aren’t on the job. Thailand remains a dangerous place for opposition activists. The royalists are keen to crush them.

18 red shirts charged with lese majeste

18 04 2011

From Prachatai

In an expected update to PPT’s many posts on this topic post-10 April, 18 red shirts have been summoned by the political police at the Department of Special Investigation to acknowledge charges of lese majeste.

As PPT understands it, the 18 charged are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Khaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

The Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been heavily criticized going nuclear on lese majeste. The Post says this:

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had acted within his authority when he ordered the Judge Advocate General Department to file lese majeste charges against Mr Jatuporn, Puea Thai MP for Udon Thani Wichian Khaokham and former Puea Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima Suporn Atthawong.

“Soldiers act in line with the constitution, which says the army is duty-bound to protect and uphold the institution of the monarchy,” Col Sansern said.

In a sign of how politicized the Army is, the Post adds:

An army source said yesterday more than 1,000 soldiers attached to the army’s st Division (Royal Guards) will today gather for military training at the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen district, in what is seen by observers as a show of support for the army commander.

PPT thinks we’ll just refer to these 18 as the Bangkok 18 and list them at our Pending Cases. The same report in the Post lists one further complaint of lese majeste. We will report that in a separate post.

We are having trouble keeping up with the mad use of lese majeste to repress opposition.

Updated: Wichian Kaokham responds on lese majeste

18 04 2011

The Isaan Record has an interview with Wichian Kaokham, one of the red shirts accused of lese majeste in the latest, Army-driven, set of cases that use lese majeste as a political weapon against the opposition.

The report explains that the term that appears to have been used against Wichian, a Pueau Thai Party member of parliament, in the recent lese majeste case was first used in parliament last month. The phrase he used was: “Why the hell are you shouting for your father?” [โห่หาพ่อมึงเหรอ]. He used this when Democrat Party members were heckling him. The Isaan Record says this term “amounts to a commonplace, moderately offensive ‘Shut up’.”

Apparently, the term caught the imagination of many red shirts and they chanted it back to him when he was on stage at the red shirt rally on 10 April. The Isaan Record says: “Two days later, on April 12, Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha charged Mr. Wichian with lèse-majesté.”

Wichian claims to be unconcerned by the lese majeste charge: “I didn’t say anything against the royal family. What I said is the phrase from [the debate]…. I just repeated it without any innuendo.” He says the innuendo comes from his political enemies, adding: “I’ve been charged because members of the military along with [Privy Council President] Prem want to destroy me and Pheu Thai. They want the Democrat … [Party] to win the election.”

Royalist's scattered marbles

That seems a pretty reasonable summary of events of the past two weeks.

Update: The Nation lists the 18 red shirts being investigated for lese majeste and sedition. PPT thinks the royalist elite has lost its marbles. The 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Khaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Incredibly, many of these red shirts now look like facing charges of terrorism, lese majeste and sedition.

Further updated: Lese majeste repression and provocation increased

15 04 2011

This post is really a part of a series of posts we have had. They are, in reverse order:

MCOT News adds to our list of reports that show the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s political use of lese majeste as a tool of repression and as an election gimmick. Thailand’s political police, known as the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has said that:

at least 18 leaders of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) made inappropriate remarks about the monarchy at their recent Red Shirt rally.

DSI Director-General Tharit Pengdit said after screening video clips, still pictures and speeches made by the leaders during the rally in the capital on April 10, it was found that at least 18 were allegedly made remarks which were deemed insulting to the revered monarch as well as instigating people to violate law.

Tharit also said he would submit requests to revoke the earlier bail granted to nine UDD core leaders. They are: Nattawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakan, Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praiphana, Yoswasris Chuklom (Jeng Dokchik), Nisit Sinthuprai, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong and Jatuporn Promphan.

PPT suspects that the political backers of the government are either trying to provoke red shirt violence before an election and/or to prevent and election and/or seeking to remove red shirt leaders from the political arena in order to silence them. Whatever is the case, the regime should be condemned for its blatant authoritarianism and political manipulation that some of the world’s worst dictators would be proud of.

Update 1: A reader rightly points out that one of the reasons the Abhisit government feels it can use lese majeste with impunity is because foreign governments themselves are reluctant to criticize the position of the monarchy in Thailand and the political use of lese majeste. The reader says that the recent U.S. State Department human rights report falls neatly into this category. It fails to make a strong and explicit link between lese majeste and political prisoners. PPT thinks the reader is absolutely correct and might have added Amnesty International to the list. Indeed, it seems AI and the U.S. State Department read from the same game plan.

Update 2: The Nation reports on the above and includes a comment from the Puea Thai Party where it claims Army spokesman “Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd had smeared Pheu Thai when he accused an unnamed political party of being behind the red shirts in their moves to insult the monarchy.” Puea Thai said:  “Political parties are loyal to the monarchy. The Army should not mix the job of running the country with loyalty to the monarchy. That is improper. Pheu Thai has many [retired] senior bureaucrats and armed forces commanders. They agree that some of their junior colleagues in the Army are overacting and claiming they are the only group with loyalty to the monarchy…”.

PAD “terrorists” get bail

27 01 2011

While red shirts accused of “terrorism” languish in jail for month after month. Apart from Veera Musigapong, all red shirt leaders and many of their followers were arrested in mid-May and remain in jail 8 months later. The Bangkok Post and MCOT News report that Thai Patriot Network/People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders Chaiwat Sinsuwong and Somboon Thongburan have been released on bail. Chaiwat is accused of “terrorism.”

See PPT’s earlier post on their arrest.

MCOT says that Chaiwat faces nine charges and Somboon has been charged with seven offences. “The duo’s bail request said the accused had no intention to escape legal prosecution as Mr Chaiwat was a former Industry minister while Mr Somboon was also MP and senator. The two had already contacted police for the surrender but the prompt arrest still occurred. The request also claimed that both are elderly people with congenital disease and regular medical checkups are needed. The court granted them a temporary release after Mr Chaiwat pos[t]ed Bt600,000 US$20,000) as collateral for bail and Bt200,000 (US$6,700) for Mr Somboon.”

It does seem that some “terrorists” are less dangerous to the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime than others.

Updated: DSI needs a silent Jatuporn

27 12 2010

It is no coincidence that on the very day that petitions have been filed on behalf of the seven red-shirt leaders seeking their release on bail that the Department of Special Investigation seeks to have red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan locked up.

Those seeking bail have been locked up since May, and have certainly been forcibly silenced. And, if the case of Veera Musigapong is anything to go by, one of the bail conditions – if they get it – will be that they have to remain silent on politics.


Jatuporn is on bail due to his status as a parliamentarian, and he has certainly been defiant and outspoken. Most recently he has been associated with several leaked documents that show DSI investigations pointing at army responsibility for many of the murders of protesters in April and May (see here, here and here as examples). The only surprising thing about these leaks is that the DSI is apparently saying this. As a political police their public face has been one of complete denial.

One piece of fallout for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has been the continuing pressure from the Japanese government. Yesterday a “senior Japanese embassy official on Monday met Thai Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office Ongart Klampaiboon urging the Thai investigators to speed up their probe into the death of a Japanese cameraman killed in April during the Red Shirt protests.” The leaked documents indicate he was killed by the army.

In the face of the leaked reports and very reliable observations regarding political interference in the judicial process, the government relies on mumblings the legal process needing to be followed and how the government wanted to find the “truth.” Of course, in the royalist regime’s Orwellian world, truth is pretty much a manufacture: Minister Ongart Klampaiboon carefully added: “The investigation should carried out cautiously to avoid any adverse impact on any particular party…”. PPT assumes he means the government and military.

So it is that DSI boss Tharit Pengdit seeks to have Jatuporn’s bail withdrawn. As The Nation explains it, Tharit has “claimed that Jatuporn, … who is charged with terrorism had broken the bail conditions set by the court. Jatuporn allegedly posed a threat to the safety of witnesses and tampered with evidence and witnesses. In addition, he allegedly threatened the state investigators and obstructed their work. Moreover Jatuporn had confused the public by wrongly claiming its investigators of preparing an investigation report of the killing of six people sheltering at Wat Pathumwanaram near Ratchaprasong on May 19 and the death of Hiroyuki Muramoto, Japanese cameraman working for Reuters news agency, the petition said.” In the MCOT News report, “Tharit said whether the document leaked by Mr Jatuporn was genuine or not, the DSI viewed his move as violating the law.”

In other words, Jatuporn must be silenced, and the way to do this is to have him jailed. Tharit tried to have bail revoked earlier in the month but this move failed. So he is trying again.

The Bangkok Post includes some details of the court hearing: “The court began considering the request at 2pm. During the hearing, Mr Tharit gave testimony to justify the request. Defence lawyers were allowed to attend the session and cross-examine Mr Tharit, but were not allowed to bring defence witness to testify. The court later said it would make a ruling on the DSI’s request tomorrow at 11am.” It has not been unusual in recent years for the courts to refuse to hear defense witnesses.

Helpfully for the courts and DSI, “Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he personally felt Mr Jatuporn had acted inappropriately with the on intention of creating unrest in the country while on bail.”

Meanwhile, and understandably, Jatuporn is reported to have “lashed out at Mr Tharit’s move to revoke his bail, saying the DSI chief was trying to gag him…”. He added that this “was the DSI’s fourth attempt to have his bail withdrawn following his disclosure of what he said was fresh evidence about the government forces’ crackdown on red-shirt demonstrators in May.”

He added that he hoped “court would give him justice so he could ensure the truth came out. He said he had a team of lawyers ready  present a case to confirm the authenticity of his documents if the court allowed the examination of evidence. He said would reveal the documents in parliament.”

DSI and the government certainly want to stop Jatuporn.

Update: DSI and the government can claim a partial success in getting the courts to shut up Jatuporn. The Bangkok Post reports that the “Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed the Department of Special Investigation’s(DSI) request to withdraw bail for United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship core member Jatuporn Prompan.” That’s the reason for “partial” as they didn’t get him locked up. However, the court has “prohibited Mr Jatuporn from any involvement in a political gathering of five and more people and from disseminating political information which may cause damage to legal cases involving UDD protests.” This means that Jatuporn can only speak of matters political in parliament. Another red shirt leader is effectively silenced by a repressive regime.

Red shirts and the monarchy

6 12 2010

The Nation’s Pravit Rojanaphruk and Budsarakham Sinlapalavan have an interview with Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn the acting chairperson of the  United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship. She is the wife of jailed co-leader of this red shirt organization, Weng Tojirakarn. Tida is a former headmaster of the UDD political school and was, many years ago, with the Communist Party of Thailand.

She is asked: “Your opponents see red shirts as essentially anti-monarchist and a violent movement. What’s your view?”

Thida has already said this: “Our organisation is policy-based, which is the result of meetings of people from different walks of life, who may disagree though we cannot impose our ideas on others. For example, realising a democratic system with the King as the head of state while power will rest in the hands of the people. Even with this kind of written objective, we are attacked as wanting to overthrow the monarchy.”

Her specific response is this:

Non-violent action is very important for us. I regret that when I ran the [political] school I did not lecture on the subject myself. In fact I wanted to invite a peace activist to help teach though the person must be on the side of the people.

[As for anti-monarchist branding] you must understand who make up red shirts. We cannot use the view of one or two [red shirts] to brand 80,000 or a hundred thousand others. [R]ed shirts are people who oppose the [2006] military coup and the amataya (old bureaucratic elites). But even in one’s family, not all think alike. Not even 5 per cent [of the red shirts are anti-monarchists]. Ninety-eight to ninety-nine per cent of [UDD] members agree with our policy of fighting for a democracy with the King as the head of state.

We must acknowledge that the current king has what Thais call barami [reserved power (sic)] because of His Majesty’s work. In Britain, there are a number of people who disagree with its monarchy but why is it that they are not in trouble? [The anti-monarchist remarks among red shirts] come from people who want to pick a fight. Some, like Ji [Ungparkorn] is not even in Thailand. They may be red shirts, but they are not [UDD] member.

It is easy to see that there’s a tussle going on for control of the red shirt base. That was also seen in Ji Ungpakorn’s missive of last week. Of course, the position on the monarchy is central for the repressive Abhisit Vejjajiva regime looks for every opportunity to use lese majeste laws against opponents. So what else can Thida say if she doesn’t want to end up in prison like her husband.

Splitting the red shirts has been one of the state’s strategies for defeating them (maybe they recall the splits in the CPT). Keeping all the leaders in exile or in jail is a part of that strategy, as was the bailing of Veera Musigapong. Maintaining the momentum when leaderless is a challenge and Thida’s position and interview provides some insights.

Red shirts, monarchy and the change that is coming

19 11 2010

Nirmal Ghosh has a useful article in the Straits Times based on interviews with two red shirt leaders who are in hiding. He says the “interviews took place on condition of anonymity, and on condition that the locations were not disclosed.”

Importantly, Ghosh also notes that these leaders “did not represent the whole movement, which as observers know has a wide range of agendas. Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have always had differing agendas.” He also notes that “… Veera Musigapong … split from the rest of the leadership” even before the final moments of the May crackdown. Is that why he was the only one granted bail?

Military repression means leaders are in hiding and cannot meet regularly, meaning that “the evolution of a new strategy” is also hampered.

The leaders who met with Ghosh “acknowledged that there was a growing anti-monarchy vein in the red shirts – and made the extraordinary claim that as much as 90 per cent of the movement’s followers were now against the monarchy.” PPT doesn’t know if this estimate is accurate, but we do know that there has been a huge spike in anti-monarchy views and sentiment. Nothing like this has been seen for decades.

One of the leaders states that Army chief general Prayuth Chan-ocha “is not overreacting” in his frenzied series of plans, warnings and attacks on perceived anti-monarchists. Here, PPT disagrees. Each time Prayuth speaks and acts, we think he builds republicanism. Essentially, though, his task is protecting more than the monarchy; his task is to protect the royalist ruling class. Making lese majeste and royalism the overt political symbols of opposition to red shirts, Thaksin Shinawatra, representative democracy and other opposition means that the political battle lines are remarkably clear.

The leaders are also right to discount the prospects of an imminent “revolution” against the “monied aristocracy that the red shirts have attacked.” Both agreed that “[s]eizing power was not on the cards or indeed possible…”. One of the interviewed leaders stated: “We should encourage democratic activism to run its course. Change is coming anyway…”.

With 2 updates: More and more censorship

10 09 2010

PPT is not surprised to see the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime continuing its determined bid to repress as much red shirt media as possible. The latest case involves the recently relaunched Red Power magazine, put out by Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a red-shirt activist with the 24 June Democracy group.

In a throwback to the times of military despotism, the Nonthaburi Provincial Governor seems to have personally “led police to seize copies of  and halt the printing presses of a company hired to print the magazine.”

Prachatai reports that the story hit the ASTV-Manager, which says that on 9 September, “police used a search warrant from the Nonthaburi Provincial Court to conduct a search of the Golden Power Printing Co at Soi Ngamwongwan 27 in Nonthaburi, which had been hired to print Red Power magazine. The police seized printed materials related to the magazine, and ordered the stoppage of 11 printing machines, which could not be moved but could be used to print other publications. Copies of some books were also seized. The police said that the company ran the printing business without permission, violating the Factory Act.”

It seems that the previous day, Governor Wichean Phutthiwinyu, using the authority provided to him by the “Emergency Decree, led a team of police and officials to search the company, and seized a quantity of unusable printed pages of Red Power magazine, employee records and other documents. Some employees were investigated, and the company was ordered to stop printing the magazine.”

Emergency decree used to stop printers

It is worth noting that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had earlier specifically mentioned Red Power as a potential target for closure. On 1 September he stated that, “This [threat] is not media intimidation. The CRES [Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations] has discussed print media which claims to be mass media. But its content is not normal information. It incites hatred and anger among people, and aims to cause rifts. So the CRES has considered this and ordered legal action against it. I understand that it’s called Red Power or something.”

The fear of red shirt media is great amongst the elite backing Abhisit and his government. They do not want “sensitive” topics discussed at all – monarchy, corruption, military venality – so like the dictators of the past, they attack media and even printers.

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation also comments on this state raid on opposition media. He says there are now “at least four [red shirt] publications now available in some parts of Bangkok and beyond. However, the government appears determined to suppress them, or at least stifle the most vocal ones.”

Following the raid led by the Nonthaburi Governor, Pravit says that  Somyos has gone into hiding after learning that “some 10 plainclothes police officers keeping an eye out for him.” CRES warned “the publishers of Red Power might be guilty of defaming the royal institution, though no evidence has been produced so far.” But it’s always the bottom line for the royalist regime.

Mahaprachachon (from 2Bangkok.com)

Pravit refers to other red shirt publications: People’s Channel weekly, launched in August, and the recent  Mahaprachachon Sudsapda (The Great Mass of People Weekender), with Veera Musigapong as its adviser, and seemingly a”reincarnation of the Truth Today weekly magazine, now trumpeting ‘peace and non-violence’ in order to thwart possible censorship.”

Apparently, many “bookshops and newsagents are refusing to carry red-shirt titles either out of fear of upsetting the authorities or because of their anti-red stance.” Pravit then makes an interesting point:  “As a clear sign of the great political divide between the rich and poor, most of these red-shirt publications are found in the periphery or the poorer parts of the capital. There is only one bookshop in the Siam Square area known to this writer that dares carry these magazines and newspapers.”

He refers to a “culture of censorship” in much of the mainstream media and adds: “Thailand is steadily becoming ‘a censored society’ where some trains of thought can be illegal, or even a crime, making speaking about certain taboo topics an exercise in political courage. Censorship is prevalent in societies that cannot deal with differences openly and peacefully. If those in power can’t accept your views, they try to shut you up. If you refuse to shut up, then you end up in jail either over charges of violating the emergency decree, the lese majeste law or the computer crime law. In extreme cases, you can die just like the red-shirt protesters did earlier this year. Killing can be a form of censorship too, you know.”

Well said Khun Pravit.

Update 2: 2Bangkok.com has more recent red shirt publications here.

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