Updated: Intolerance

22 06 2014

Thailand’s military dictatorship tolerates not a word or action that is considered dissident. The weekend has demonstrated that this is a regime that expects obedience and operates to instil fear through repression.

Prachatai continues to report the junta’s activities. On Friday it reported that minister in the Yingluck Shinawatra government Chaturon Chaisaeng could now face up to 14 years in jail on a series of charges related to his initial refusal to comply with the dictatorship’s illegal orders. No dissent is to be tolerated when the Dictator makes demands, especially when the refusal comes from people considered capable of intelligent dissent. Chaturon’s new charge relates to the Computer Crimes Act for Facebook posts of his statements opposing the coup and the junta. In demonstrating that it brooks no opposition, the junta indicates its fear of Chaturon.

Another opponent feared by the military is red shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen. She has been missing for many days. She was presumed to be in military custody, prompting Human Right Watch to issue a special call for her to be located. As Prachatai now reports, the military junta has failed to produce her, but has made a statement that “the army is detaining an anti-establishment red-shirt activist at an undisclosed location so she can meditate without any distractions from the outside world.” This raises the specter that the junta is running an Abu Graib-style detention camp. Because “Kritsuda ha[d] a prominent role in providing legal and humanitarian assistance to red-shirt supporters who were affected by political violence” in the murderous 2010 Army-led crackdown on red shirts, she is despised by the Dictator. The junta should be required to produce Kritsuda immediately and release her or lay charges.

In its refusal to accept even silent dissent, the military dictatorship expended huge resources on the weekend capturing anyone considered to be showing such dissent. In one police action, police made it apparent that a red shirt/United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Buddhist ceremony to remember the people murdered by the military at Wat Pathum Wanaram in 2010 could  barely be tolerated. This meant that only 30 people arrived. One of those, was Usanee Sedsuntree who wore a Respect My Vote t-shirt. For that apparently dastardly act, she was taken off by the police for a “talk.” It is not known how many were prevented from attending the ceremony.

A further large police action was conducted at shopping malls to prevent any displays of anti-coup sentiment. Police reportedly detained eight activists “from the Thai Student Center for Democracy group, just half an hour before their planned activity to hand out sandwiches as symbolic protest against the coup at Siam Paragon Mall.” No free sandwiches as this violates the junta’s demands and edicts. Subway is apparently not suspect as it charges for its sandwiches. It is unclear where the students have been detained and for how long they will be detained. Not long after, a lone and well-dressed student, sitting alone, eating a sandwich and reading “1984” was literally jumped on by police and dragged off.

Silent dissent

Update: Adding to this picture of total intolerance is the report that the “Bangkok Military Court on Monday approved a police request to detain Sombat Boonngamanong, leader of the Red Sunday group and founder of the Mirror Foundation, for another 12 days for further questioning.” Sombat is perceived by the military dictatorship as more of a threat to them than Chaturon. This is because Sombat is a canny organizer who has been critical in mobilizing opposition to military fascism in the past, and has a huge following. The excuse for locking him away is that he has violated the Computer Crimes Act, a quasi-lese majeste charge.

Updated: NHRC humiliated

12 08 2013

PPT has posted quite a lot that has been critical of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In our last post on it, we noted that, under Yingluck Shinawatra, the NHRC has become irrelevant as it is recognised as a failed agency. We observed that the process of de-fanging the NHRC has been a post-2006 coup phenomenon. This is because the military junta and the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime that gave the NHRC extra powers, used it as a political tool and stacked it with political flunkies, including current head, Amara Pongsapich.

This political tool of the previous regime has taken more than three years to report on the events of April and May 2010. It is no surprise that the report is dead on arrival. “Biased” is the word most used in describing it. That appears to be an overly generous description. The response has been a humiliation for Amara and the NHRC.

At Khaosod: it is reported that the NHRC report “has been blasted by a number of activists and academics … which, the critics say, shifts most of the blames on the side of the protesters rather than the authorities.” The NHRC report was meant to draw lessons that could be guidelines for future governments. Khaosod summarizes the 90-page report:

that the security forces did commit several inappropriate actions – such as dropping teargas from the helicopters onto the crowd below and censoring a number of websites – but the bigger issue is that it was the Redshirts who “violated human rights” by engaging in unlawful protests and provoking the authorities.

The report concludes that the red shirts violated the law and provoked the violence. This made the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s violent crackdown “entirely lawful,” as was the use of the  Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations and the emergency law. Further, the censorship  – closing down – of opposition media was “justified” by the need to eliminate  “inflammatory” speeches by red shirts.

Any casualties are claimed to have resulted from “clashes between the security forces and shadowy armed militants allegedly allied to the protesters…”. This includes the murders at Wat Pathum Wanaram! This clearly contradicts a recent court finding where the military was held responsible for the deaths.

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

Clearly, the NHRC report is a political document that simply ignores evidence (only 184 of the 1,036 witnesses called bothered to turn up for the NHRC) in seeking to protect the military and Abhisit government allies of the NHRC. This is no idle claim, as Amara spent time with CRES, the military and Abhisit and his lot at a military base during the events,

As red shirt Sombat Boonngamanong points out, looking through this travesty is like “reading a report written by CRES itself”, with former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuegsuban the author of many of the bizarre claims made. He calls it Abhisit’s report.

Other critics are cited in this report from Khaosod.

Amara defense of the report has been staggeringly bad. She:

… told Khaosod that she did state very clearly in her report that the Abhisit administration did violate human rights too by announcing the emergency laws which granted the government a sweeping power in 2010…. However, she insisted that the invocation of such powers were “acceptable” because the former government was observing the situation closely and only used the laws when it was clear that the protests were about to turn violent.

Yet she recently criticized Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra′s invocation of Internal Security Act to handle the anti-government protests. She has been unable to criticize previous governments she supported.

In a televised debate, Amara was even worse, and according to Khaosod:

appeared incoherent and even distracted throughout the interview, especially when pressed to explain about contentious issues such as the armed militants and deaths in Wat Pathumwanararm. Many of her replies were simply “I have not looked into that”, or “I am not sure about that”.

In another Khaosod report, Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch, no enemy of the Abhisit government, accused the NHRC of “bias against the Redshirts and downplaying the heavy-handed tactics of the authorities in its report on 2010 political unrests.”

Of course, the incorrigible Democrat Party leadership wants to translate the NHRC report and use it with an international audience to “prove” its position. We assume Abhisit and Suthep will use it to defend themselves on murder charges associated with the events of 2010.

Update: PPT was surprised to see disgraced NHRC chief Amara in the media again today. She has criticized and warned police “to be cautious about its reported plan to examine the chat-application conversation histories of some suspects.” PPT would generally agree and we have said so, in stronger terms than Amara’s. However, her position is damned by the fact of her hopeless bias. It is all very well to criticize censorship and excessive legal snooping, but she seems to apply her “human rights” measure in an exceptionally partisan manner. It seems that cyber-snooping is a problem, but not censorship and murderous repression when this is conducted by her buddies in the (anti-)Democrat Party. To be a leader on human rights, one needs to understand rights, law and impartiality, none of which seem to be in Amara’s back of tricks.

Prayuth and Suthep dissemble (again)

11 08 2013

Many readers will know that, last week, a Criminal Court declared that six persons killed on Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010 were shot by the soldiers. The court states that five were shot by the soldiers situated on the BTS sky train track above the temple, with the sixth shot by soldiers stationed on Rama I Road.

That seemed pretty clear, but not for Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The outspoken general is reported at Khaosod as insisting “that the military was not involved in the deaths of 6 civilians shot dead as they sought shelter inside a temple during the 2010 military crackdown.”Prayuth locked and loaded

In one sense this should not be surprising as the military has repeatedly “denied any involvement, despite stacks of evidences and witness′ accounts.”

Prayuth “insisted that he never gave order to kill civilians. None of his commanding officers ever admitted they had shot any civilian…”.

Adding to the the mood of rejection of courts, evidence and reality, Prayuth is joined by former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. Also reported at Khaosod, The newspaper points this out:

… the more mind-boggling denial of what happened in 2010 appears to rest with the Democrats, who have repeatedly argued that the military operating under Mr. Abhisit [Vejjajiva]′s government have not killed any civilian or protester throughout the crackdown….

Continuing this mind-boggling denial, with Suthep speaking in parliament, again “denied that the military ever used excessive violence against the protesters.” His explanation was appropriately royalist:

Suthep Thaugsuban (Bangkok Post photo)

“The soldiers were loyal to His Majesty the King. They knew they were the nation′s troops. They acted according to my orders within the lawful power.” Mr. Suthep announced to the Parliament. He said a group of unknown individuals was responsible for any death.

Remarkably, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Suthep claimed (again) that there were no snipers at work shooting down red shirts.

Puea Thai Party MP Khattiyar Sawasdipol, whose father, Seh Daeng or Khattiya Sawasdipol, was cut down by a sniper’s bullet, declared: “Mr. Suthep is lying right inside the Parliament…”.army-snipers

Even more remarkable and showing not a shred of normal human emotion or sense, Suthep reportedly responded: “Maybe your father was shot by one of your own people?”

Such responses derive not just from reprehensible elite arrogance but from the history of impunity for state officials who murder citizens.

With a major update: Soldiers responsible at Wat Pathum

7 08 2013
The South Bangkok Criminal Court has issued its ruling. It has stated that six persons who were killed on Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010 were shot by the soldiers. The court states that five were shot by the soldiers situated on the BTS sky train track above the temple, with the sixth shot by soldiers stationed on Rama I Road. In addition, it states that examinations by the Central Institute of Forensic Science found no gunpowder residue on the hands of any of the six victims,meaning they were not using any weapons. Interestingly, the court found no evidence that men in black were operating in this area, contradicting earlier claims trumpeted by the Democrat Party and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then deputy Suthep Thaugsuban.
Prachatai provides an unofficial translation of the Criminal Court’s decision, which we reproduce in full:

The Court’s Order

The post mortem inquest of six deaths inside Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn

Black Case No. C5/2555

At 09.00, the South Bangkok Criminal Court read an order after completing the post mortem inquest of six deaths that occurred inside Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn as a result of the demonstrations on the Rama I Road.

At the request of the public prosecutors of the Office of Attorney General for an inquest on the death of six persons inside Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn as it was possible that the deaths have been caused by the act of competent officials who claimed to have performed their official duties. The Court was asked to investigate and rule on who the deceased were, where they died, when they died, causes and circumstances around their deaths as per Section 150 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

After reviewing evidence submitted by the petitioners and relatives of the six deceased including eye-witnesses and other experts, the Court was convinced that the first and the third to the sixth deceased were shot dead by high velocity .223 or 5.56 mm bullets which had been fired by competent officials who were military officials under the charge of Ranger Battalion, Special Force Group 2, Erawan Military Camp while the officials were stationed on the BTS rail tracks. The second deceased was shot dead by high velocity .223 or 5.56 mm bullets which had been fired by competent officials who were military officials under the charge of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, 31st Infantry Division the King’s Guard while the officials were stationed on the BTS rail tracks.

The first deceased, Mr. Suwan Sriraksa, the second deceased, Atthachai Chumchan, the third deceased, Mr. Mongkhol Khemthong, the fourth deceased, Mr. Rop Sooksathit, the fifth deceased, Miss Kamonket Akkhahad and the sixth deceased, Mr. Akkharadet Khankaew, died inside Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn, Pathumwan Sub-district, Pathumwan District, Bangok on 19 May 2013 during daytime. The deaths were caused by being shot with .223 or 5.56 mm bullets and the direction of fire was from where the competent officials were stationed to perform their duties to maintain order on the BTS’s rail tracks in front of Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Worawiharn and around Rama I Road. At the instructions of the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES), the officials took control over the area of the Ratchaprasong Intersection. And as a result of that, the first deceased died of gunshot wounds on his lungs and heart causing hemorrhage, the second deceased died of gunshot wound that destroyed his lungs, the third deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed his lungs, heart and liver, the fourth deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed his lungs and liver, the fifth deceased died of gunshot wounds that destroyed her brain and the sixth deceased died of gunshot wounds that went through his oral cavity, whilst no particular perpetrators can be identified.

Update: PPT just read the Khaosod report of the courts findings, and considers that some of its points deserve repeating:

The inquest helps debunk claims made by critics of the Redshirts who have claimed that the the military had not played any role in the deaths of over 90 people, mostly civilians, that perished during the 2010 crackdown….

The notion that these civilians were shot at as they were helplessly penned inside a Buddhist temple has made the incident at Wat Pathum particularly shocking in its level of brutality, even compared with other bloodsheds that have characterised the closing weeks of Redshirts protests….

In an unprecedented move, the court went further than stating that the 6 civilians were killed by the soldier; its inquest also disputed the soldiers′ explanation of their action as a necessary “self-defence” against the shadowy armed militants who, according to the soldiers, were blending in with the crowd around the temple and shooting at the military personnel….

… [T]he Democrat Party has always insisted that the heavy-handed tactics of the military operation authorised by then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which included uses of live ammunition, was necessary to combat Blackshirts militants around the protest site.

Critics of the Redshirts therefore placed the blame of Wat Pathum deaths on the Blackshirts, saying that the military opened fire only after the Blackshirts shot at them from inside the temple….

Former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban once insisted that individuals on Skytrain track shooting at civilians inside Wat Pathum were actually “thugs” wearing army uniforms to create misunderstanding….

The court inquest read out today stated that there was no evidence that the so-called Blackshirts were present inside or around the temple. The entire area has been secured by the military, the court insists, and it is impossible that so many journalists – some of them foreigners – failed to spot the mysterious gunmen…. [T]he gunfire was most likely one-directional.

As for the weapons allegedly found inside the temple and shown to the press later, the court noted that there was no evidence the firearms were found inside the temple immediately after the compound has been secured by members of security forces. Consequently, the court said, the weapons had no connection with the incident on 19 May 2010.

Wat Pathum inquest

5 08 2013

Wat PathumThe court is due to deliver its findings in the inquest into who was responsible for deaths of six civilians at Wat Pathum Wanaram on the last day of the 2010 red shirt protest, when the military cleared the protest site. As we hear more, PPT will post again. For brief background see here.

Real amnesty?

19 07 2013

A few days ago at the Bangkok Post it was reported that relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown by the Army and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government on red shirts are to submit an alternative amnesty bill to parliament, which has six other amnesty bills to consider.

Phayao Akkahad, whose daughter Kamolkade was killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, said the relatives’ bill meant that: “People from all colours will be absolved of any offence they committed or had committed against against them, except for core leaders…”. The relatives’ bill will “seek to bring to justice those who made the decision” on the crackdown. It would also “allow judicial lawsuits to be pressed against persons or groups that killed people and/or damaged private property” and “does not prevent private entities whose properties were damaged in the unrest from launching civil suits against vandals or arsonists…”. Importantly, the relatives have specified “which actions, not persons, will be granted an amnesty…”.

The relatives have now submitted their draft bill to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

PPT thought this proposed bill made sense. Hence, we were somewhat surprised when, at The Nation, Democrat Party leader Abhisit was reported as being “prepared to back an amnesty bill proposed by relatives of the victims of the 2010 crackdown, provided the government withdraws all previous versions of the amnesty bill proposed to Parliament.”

But at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the reprehensible royalist added an important caveat: “the bill needed to make sure that those involved in corruption and offences against the monarchy are not included under the amnesty.”

Everyone knows that the corruption bit refers to Thaksin Shinawatra. But the monarchy bit is part of the never-ending project to re-energize a declining monarchy that royalists consider central to their world.

PPT wasn’t alone in its surprise, for the Democrat Party immediately came under heavy criticism from red shirt-hating royalists.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut was quick to dismiss “criticism that the party has supported an amnesty aimed at exonerating those involved in instigating public disturbances during the 2010 political violence.” He pointed out that his reading of the relatives’ bill was that it “clearly separates offences in violation of the emergency rule and minor offences during the 2010 unrest.”

Bright yellow unelected Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn attacked the Democrat Party and called for it “to clarify its stance on the people’s amnesty bill.” His reading of the bill is that it is “modelled on an amnesty bill proposed by the Nitirat group” and “seeks to grant an amnesty to offenders who violated Section 112 [lese majeste] and to those who set fire to government buildings.” Oops, the royalist whip has been cracked.

Chavanond had Abhisit and the Democrat Party immediately in reverse, saying “the party will not support an amnesty for these violations…”. In other words, Abhisit is not (now) supporting any reasonable amnesty bill, and neither is the Democrat Party.


Remembering 2010

19 05 2013

As another anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s army-led crackdown on red shirts is upon us, it is worth recalling that it is only a year or so ago that the Department of Special Investigation reported its investigations of the deaths.

DSI stated back then that state authorities “may be responsible for the deaths of at least 25 people…”.

Since then, while the DSI under the Yingluck Shinawatra has made some moves towards having Abhisit and Suthep Thaugsuban held responsible, it seems the army brass is again sitting in the world of unconscionable impunity (more on this below).

A series of recent reports reflect on the tragic events of 2010 and on the events since.

At the Red Shirts blog, it is reported that on 12 May 2013, a hearing finally:

took place at the Bangkok Criminal Court on the investigation and autopsy reports concerning 6 corpses found inside the Pathumwan Temple grounds. These victims were shot dead during the government suppression of the UDD protest on May 19, 2010.

Police investigators found bullet holes and:

reported that many more bullet holes could be found all over the temple grounds. Bullet holes were found on a metal sign in front of the temple, on the wall of the temple, on the advertisement sign under the BTS sky train, on the sky walk connecting the sky train stations, on the overpass and many more on the concrete platforms of the sky train.

Soldiers denied investigators access to the sky train tracks and the sky walk area.

Police ballistic analysis showed “23 bullet holes found on the temple grounds and Rama 1 Road …indicated that these shots had been fired from a higher angle and definitely not from a horizontal line of fire.” There was no evidence reported of shots from inside the temple.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the “parents of a boy who was killed as security forces moved in to clear the Ratchaprasong area … claim …  not enough is being done to find the people responsible for their son’s death.”

Pansak Srithep, was the father of 17-year-old Samapan, his only son. Samapan was killed on Ratchaprarop Road, where several people were shot dead. Pansak said “it has been draining for him and other families of those killed during the unrest to struggle to find witnesses willing to appear in court.”

Pansak “wants the government … to do more to help, and said investigators could do more to help with the court cases.” He claimed the Yingluck government “lacked the will to help…”.

The Bangkok Post states that there are currently “37 cases are at the initial inquest stage,” while “[a]nother 15 cases, including the death of Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto and six deaths at Wat Pathum Wanaram, are at a stage where authorities are still determining if the security forces were responsible.” Another four cases “are awaiting a decision from prosecutors as to whether they will proceed,” and five others, “including that of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdiphol, known as Seh Daeng,” are at initial stages of police investigation.

The family of Kamolkate Akkahad, a medic shot at Wat Pathum Wanaram, are “also dismayed by the slow progress…”. They “will not join the main [official red shirt] stage during the event on Sunday.”army-snipers

At Prachatai it is reported that on 29 April, “the Criminal Court began an inquest into the deaths of Mana Saenprasoetsi and Phonsawan Nakhachai who were shot at Bon Kai on Rama IV Rd on 15 May 2010…”. They were two of 16 killed at this location, where video evidence shows army operations, including snipers.

Mana “was fatally shot in the back of the head near the mouth of Soi Ngam Duplee … while he was trying to help people who had been shot there.” Phonsawan, who was assisted by Mana later succumbed to his stomach gunshot wound.

Mana’s  mother Naree stated he was shot “while holding a red-cross flag in his hand”and helping two others who had been shot.

Soon after his death, the authorities (mis)used photos of Mana to justify actions that took place some distance from where he was shot.

Another story at the Bangkok Post directs attention to red shirt dissent on the Puea Thai government’s amnesty push:

Some red shirts see the proposal championed by Deputy Premier Chalerm Yubamrung as a betrayal because it would cover senior Democrat Party figures who were in government when the military crackdown on the Bangkok rally took place three years ago Sunday.

Of course, the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra lot oppose amnesty as a move to bring the man home. Thaksin is due to address supporters via videolink this weekend.

As PPT has stated several times, a blanket amnesty “would simply perpetuate the culture of impunity in Thailand, where senior figures rarely take responsibility for anything…”. The report adds:

Prominent scholars have been criticising the Pheu Thai flip-flop in social media forums. They include Nitirat Group core member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul; Thammasat University scholars Kasian Tejapira and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Hard-core red-shirt activists Nithiwat Wannasiri, Jittra Kotchadet and Suda Rungkuphan also oppose the Chalerm plan.

 They say the party is betraying the red-shirt rank and file, as if a hundred deaths and a thousand injuries were simply the price to pay for the party’s compromise with the old establishment for the sake of its own survival.

PPT reiterates that those responsible for the murder of civilians must be brought to justice as an important step to rooting out the culture of impunity that state officials and the military has when murdering civilians.