Repressing opponents

6 08 2017

Two reports in Khaosod show how insecure the military dictatorship becomes when it identifies critics of its dominance.

The first Khaosod report is, naturally enough, related to the trembles it has when Yingluck Shinawatra looks popular and seems to have supporters boosting her. The junta has blustered about conspiracies and plots. Who have they targeted?

A day after several hundred supporters “gathered to support former premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s closing statement in her malfeasance trial, the … police … launched a crackdown against the people who drove them there.”

It is reported that “Gen. Srivara Rangsipramkul, who usually handles matters of national security, charged 21 minivans drivers Wednesday with violating the Land Transport Act by straying from their designated routes to bring Yingluck supporters to Bangkok.”

In addition, the regime has sent its uniformed thugs to threaten red shirt supporters seeking to prevent them from showing up at the court. The report states:

Redshirt supporters say these efforts are emblematic of the Prayuth regime’s strategy of uprooting the legacy of its political rivals, the Shinawatra clan, and falling short of that, render it invisible.

A second Khaosod story reports that two former Puea Thai Party politicians and a well-known journalist (for Khaosod) have been slapped with sedition allegations.

Former energy minister Pichai Naripatapan met police last Friday to “acknowledge a charge of sedition filed against him…”.

PPT has mentioned journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk in a previous post. The third is the outspoken Watana Muangsook.

For the junta, “sedition” seems to amount to criticism of the junta.

Pichai’s “crime” is that he “violated the law in things they wrote on social media.” He quoted an academic on economic problems. It seems that this amounts to sedition.

Watana “acknowledged the charge on Wednesday and insisted on his innocence.”

The Article 116 charge against Pravit cites “unspecified Facebook posts…”. He is due back before the police in a few days, when the police say they will finally disclose which of his posts are determined to be “seditious.”

It seems that appearing pathetic is not an issue for the military dictatorship.





Punishment

29 07 2017

The military junta and its minions have been hard at work in recent days, punishing people it sees as political opponents or threats to the royalist-tycoon military regime and its plans for control into the future. All of this political “work” has been around the period of the first birthday “celebration” for King Vajiralongkorn, which seems appropriate, in the reign of fear and threat.

The junta just hates it when the lower classes complain, especially when they are in areas considered politically suspect, like the northeast. So its obedient servants have charged and now prosecuted seven women who have been campaigning against a mining concession extension for Tungkum Co Ltd, a gold mine operator in Loei province. The seven are Phonthip Hongchai, Ranong Kongsaen, Wiron Ruchichaiwat, Suphat Khunna, Bunraeng Sithong, Mon Khunna, and Lamphloen Rueangrit.

Somyos and his money

The Tungkum Company has had significant regime support and the junta see the villagers as having support from anti-regime activists. The case goes back a long way, with the company supported by the usually wealthy (never explained or investigated) former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers opposing mining and environmental degradation.

The women involved are now charged with “breaking the public assembly law and intimidating public officials.” The so-called act of “intimidation” involved “leading more than 100 people to gather in front of Wang Saphung District Administration Office on 16 November 2016 while officials were holding a meeting…” that was to rubber stamp the company’s application.

Business elites and the junta don’t want these little people getting out of hand, especially women (we say more on this below).

In a similar case, the junta’s bureaucratic thugs and something still referred to as the “Supreme Court” – better called the military’s civilian sentencing machine – has sentenced a husband and wife to six months in jail “for trespassing on protected land six years ago.” The court seems quite deranged in its “thinking” sentencing the elderly Den Khamlae and his wife Suphab Khamlae. Deranged in that Den has been missing since April 2016, believed to have been forcibly disappeared by the same authorities that charged him and his wife.

Den’s case goes back to 1985, when “his Chaiyaphum farmland was taken by the government. They were promised land to use elsewhere, but Den and his neighbors later found the area designated for them was already occupied.” His crime is that he wouldn’t bow down to the “authorities,” and with the junta in power, these thugs decided to get rid of him. Suphab’s “crime” seems to have been her campaign to learn what has happened to her husband. As the linked article explains, “Suphab, who has campaigned about forced disappearances since Den’s disappearance, will immediately go to prison.” Campaigning against the royalist-tycoon-bureaucratic state is not just a “crime,” but the dictators are angered by the uppity lower classes and especially those who don’t accept their “place” in the hierarchy.

The court babbled something about Den being “convicted” because he is not proven dead. We can only hope that there are sufficient horrid and vicious ghosts from the disappeared who will haunt these morons in robes for in this life and the next.

The popular Yingluck

Then there are the political punishments meted out to those the junta considers as challenging its right to rule and dictate.

The most obvious example of this is Yingluck Shinawatra. Early in the week, she made the mistake of complaining about the junta’s minions acting against her in ways that she considered foul. Worse (for her), she had a social media exchange with The Dictator. The result has been the sudden revelation that National Anti-Corruption Commission, which essentially works at the behest of the military dictatorship, has 11 other cases against Yingluck that it is “investigating.”

The junta has been keen to punish Yingluck for several reasons and not least because she remains popular. In this instance, though, it seems to us that the junta is punishing Yingluck for speaking up for herself. The Dictator has a habit of punishing those who pick a fight with him but in this case it is also clear that the strong misogynist ideology of the royalist political elite is playing out. The Dictator thinks “that woman” should “know her place.” He’s “teaching” her to know her submissive place. Of course, other royalist lads have derided Yingluck for being a woman in their man’s world.

Finally, at least for today, there’s the is the arrest warrant for Watana Muangsook. It seems that Watana, “a Pheu Thai Party key figure and former commerce minister, and two other suspects on suspicion of provoking rebellion…”. Did we read that right? “Rebellion”? That seems to be how the men who control most of Thailand’s legal weapons view the prospect of hundreds turning out to “support” Yingluck when she’s next in the (kangaroo) court. The junta is giving the impression that its is so frightened that it is suffering collective and premature incontinence.

In this “case,” the so-called “suspects were found to have been inciting people to come to a gathering planned for Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down a ruling in the rice-pledging case in which former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is charged with dereliction of duty…”. The junta reckons this alleged “incitement” can be “deemed a violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code,” meaning sedition!

In Watana’s case, his “sedition” appears to be challenging The Dictator: “In a series of messages posted on his Facebook page from July 19 to July 26, Mr Watana criticised the government and urged members of the public to come out to support Ms Yingluck, also on Aug 1 when she is due to verbally present her final statement in the rice-pledging case to the court…”.

In response, “Watana said on Thursday he has never posted any message urging Ms Yingluck’s supporters to turn up at the court.” So his “crime” would seem to be his violation of the dictum that allows no arguing with The Dictator.





Bored witless

15 06 2017

Forgive us, we are bored by the military dictatorship. It is so, so predictable and so pathetic that we are considering banning it using Article 44.

How predictable? Its like putting a sexy dancer in front of a sexy young dancer. You know how he will behave. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

How about the things that are hidden under nothing happening here-ness?

What about that poor kid shot by soldiers in the north. Nothing. Keep quiet and it won’t go anywhere.

How about the Rolls Royce and related corruption? Ignore it and the media will forget it.

What about police generals being paid by the richest guys in the country to smooth things for them. That isn’t even illegal!

And what about all those unusually wealthy members of the puppet assembly? Not even worth mentioning. That’s just normal corruption and the great and good harvesting their due.

We could go on and on. This regime is corrupt, like many of those regimes before it. But because they are rightist royalists, they are just fine for Thailand’s elite and middle classes.

Well, let’s go on a bit more.

Lese majeste? Hundreds of cases to both shut the activists up and to launder the king’s dirty underwear.

The junta reckons most Thais are stupid, and treats them as such, assessing that they haven’t a clue about democracy and are easily pushed around. A few threats can easily shut them up.

How about those pesky politicians? You know, the bad ones (because they are associated with that devil Thaksin Shinawatra). How many ways can they be repressed. Like all murderous, torturing military regime, the possibilities are many. How about charging them with corruption? That should gag that Watana guy from the Puea Thai Party who keeps saying nasty things about the middle-class cuddly dictatorship.

It irks The Dictator that Puea Thai types are still popping up. Ban them, ban their books, silence them. No debate with these guys.

While the junta is in power, its is almost genetically programmed to buy military toys from Chinese submarines to Chinese armored personal carriers (with the white sidewalls option, they should look stunning running over civilian protesters).

And while talking of Chinese, why not use Article 44 so that all of the land near the proposed railway tracks to link Thailand with China can be taken off poor farmers and become the accumulated wealth of Sino-Thai tycoons and their military allies. Money will fall line rain in the wet season into the already overflowing coffers of the rich and powerful.

It is so predictable it is now boring. What next? The Dictator campaigning for “election”? Yes, that’s already happening.

What about fixing the “election”? That’s a check. Even that anti-election Election Commission can’t be trusted, probably because they are all so thick and need ordering around, so replace them with people who can work out what needs to be corrupted without having to be ordered.

How many more years of this boring nothingness? We reckon the record is about 16 years. The current junta is aiming for 20. Only 16 and a few months to go.

And, an “election” won’t change all of this. It is embedded deeply into the fabric of administration.

It will take a lot of careful undoing when the people get a chance or take a chance.





A feudal future beckons

21 04 2017

Yellow shirt commentators do not worry much about military dictatorship. They see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand.

While most yellow shirts still believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra, it is also clear that not all yellow shirts expected an enforced royal dictatorship that fosters Thailand’s refeudalization.

Nonetheless, yellow shirt anti-electionism and royalism naturally promotes refeudalization.

The symbolic removal of the 1932 plaque is not just a royalist act of political and historical vandalism. It is also one more step by the military junta that marks the path of Thailand’s refeudalization.

The attraction of a feudal political arrangement for the military dictatorship is that it has no truck for notions that the people are sovereign.

In this sense, while symbols can have multiple meanings, expunging those that can be used by those who demand popular sovereignty is a part of the military’s palace alliance and its 20-year plan for a “reformed” Thailand.

This is part of the reason why The Dictator is both mum on the removal of 1932 commemoration plaque and protective of the royalist plaque that replaced it. It is pretty clear that this vandalism initially caused fear among some in the junta. Now, however, they have fallen into line, knowing that by their own design, they are politically bound to the reign.

That the opposition and agitation over the removal of the plaque has largely come from those the junta considers the “usual suspects” has also meant that protection of feudalism and its symbols is an easy and “natural” decision.

The most recent act of protection has been to accuse opposition figure Watana Muangsook of “a computer crime for posting on Facebook that the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque is a national asset.”

As Prachatai explains it:

On 19 April 2017, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Chief of the Royal Thai Police (RTP), revealed that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) filed a complaint against Watana Muangsook, a politician from the Pheu Thai Party, for breaching the Computer Crime Act.

The police apparently think that the use of the term “national asset” is threatening and false.

Watana was due to report to the police. He is the second to face charges or detention over the plaque. Like Srisuwan Janya, Watana has called for the “return of the missing plaque and for prosecution of those responsible for its removal.”

No one associated with the removal of the plaque has been named, arrested or charged. The chances of this happening are pretty much zero.

As one correspondent stated, everyone knows who is behind this act, but no one can say for fear of lese majeste and jail.

Expunging the symbols of 1932 expunges notions of popular sovereignty. That serves the interests of the military-monarchy alliance where King Vajiralongkorn looks like a throwback absolutist.





Going south I

26 02 2017

Things seem to be getting complicated for the military dictatorship. Earlier on, ruling required a heavy boot and an iron fist. Throw activists in jail, charge them, repress intellectuals and academics, press the media, cut off the red shirt leadership and use lese majeste to silence opponents. All a bit 1960s really.

Now, its looking a bit more difficult as the challenges come from several sources. Managing the new king is not all that simple as he’s erratic and dangerous. Some on social media are saying he’s killing minions.

Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook seems to be bothering the generals again. He’s got an “invitation” from the junta’s thugs for another “talk.”

The Wat Dhammakaya dispute seems to have The Dictator flummoxed. With one man having committed suicide as a response to the dictatorship’s heavy-handedness, the whole affair is remarkably complicated.

The most recent move by The Dictator is one that will have many Thais scratching their heads. General Prayuth Chan-ocha has placed an officer of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) official has been appointed as new chief of the National Office of Buddhism. He used Article 44, again.

This means there’s now a cop in charge of Thailand’s Buddhist religious hierarchy. We think this is a first.

THe DSI is also pushing for more involvement from the Sangha Council, further politicizing that body. One explanation for this turn of events is provided in The Nation:

The temple’s core leaders have refused to talk to the DSI, so the agency thought it may be better for the temple’s monks to discuss the situation with their superiors on the Sangha Council, the source said.

Some members of the Council were previously believed to have close ties with the temple, the source said, but at that time a new Supreme Patriarch had not been appointed. But the situation seems to be changing now that the new Supreme Patriarch is in office.

DSI has also accused the monks of holding their followers as “hostages.”

The dictators seem to realize that cracking down on Buddhist monks is politically dangerous, but their methods are now quite odd, suggesting confusion and fractionalization within the junta.





Standing still a crime

25 05 2016

Just a couple of days ago, PPT posted on some of the military junta’s more bizarre bans as it went to extraordinary lengths to suppress anti-coup activists. We mentioned three-finger salutes, reading books in public places and the eating of sandwiches, all seen as threatening displays of disobedience by anti-coup activists. That ridiculousness reached the military court where a three month jail term was given to an elderly teacher accused of sedition for giving flower to an anti-junta activist.

Ever alert to such seditious acts, the balmy lot running Thailand (into the ground) have charged Arnon Nampa, “a human rights lawyer and a core leader of Resistant Citizen, an anti-junta activist group,” with arranging “standing still” activities that were a silent protest against the detention of critics.

Standing still

Standing still can land you in jail in Thailand

According to Prachatai, prosecutors have “charged him with hosting two standing still activities — one on 20 April to demand that the junta release Watana Muangsook, an embattled Pheu Thai politician who was then detained by the military, and another on 27 April to demand that the junta release eight abducted junta critics who were administrators of the Facebook page ‘We Love Gen Prayut,’ a satirical page mocking the Thai junta leader.”

As Prachatai explains, although several “people participated in the standing still activities, the prosecutor filed charges against [Arnon] only, reasoning that he was the coordinator of the activities…”. He could be fined up to 10,000 baht for each offense.





Junta propaganda

5 05 2016

Khaosod reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “has issued six pages of talking points for diplomats around the world to discuss Thailand’s charter referendum and military regime. The talking points are titled, “Thailand – Towards Reform and Sustainable Democracy: The Need for Public Order and Social Harmony.” The cheat sheet outlines “arguments to defend and justify recent authoritarian measures taken by the military regime…”. It was issued on 20 March to deal with Watana Muangsook’s “provocation.”

Readers can look at the Khaosod article for the details. PPT thought we’d translate them from junta speak. In the notes below, we reproduce the military junta’s propaganda demands and then translate this in italics:

Thailand – Towards Reform and Sustainable Democracy

Thailand – The Return to Military Authoritarianism

“The Need for Public Order and Social Harmony”

“Re-establishing Military Authoritarianism is only possible through Repression”

1. Thailand is in a crucial period of transition, in which the Government’s efforts are focused on seeing through the Roadmap for Reconciliation, Reform and Elections in partnership with all sectors of society.

Thaksin threatened the control of the military and royalist elite. The military and the royalist elite got rid of him through military and judicial coups. The military fears that Thaksin’s influence will return if his influence is not erased. To erase Thaksin, the military junta feels it best to erase electoral democracy for voters cannot be trusted. Reconciliation is a process of political erasure, and the military junta is now focused on eliminating everything it thinks has anything to do with Thaksin and red shirts (or any other person, practice or institution that the junta fears or dislikes). 

2. A draft Constitution will be submitted to the public in a referendum set for 7 August 2016. General elections are scheduled to take place in 2017. At the same time, preparations for comprehensive reforms of Thai politics, society and the economy are being laid.

The junta has drafted a Constitution that will return Thailand to a time where the lower classes knew their place and the military was free to pillage the country’s wealth in cooperation with royalists and the business class. The junta’s constitution mean that an election – the schedule is up to the military and has already been changed several times – will mean nothing as the military and its allies will control a myriad of unelected positions and institutions that will neuter any government produced from an election.

3. Public order and social harmony are key for the Government to be able to see through the Roadmap. The Government has, therefore, promulgated a number of laws to ensure that public order and social harmony prevail.

Repression is the key to these regressive plans (known as a “Roadmap”). To facilitate this repression, the military junta has announced a series of decrees and “laws” that allow it to arrest and incarcerate anyone it pleases. The junta can abduct, terrorize and threaten at will and call this “legal.” The junta can be corrupt and engage in nepotism and call this “normal.” No warrants are required to abduct opponents. No bail is required. Military courts are used to maintain “public order.”

4. These laws do not impinge on general freedom of expression — which we believe to be a fundamental element of a democratic society — as long as such expression does not undermine public order and social harmony. In fact, the Government has been receptive to all views regarding the current process of reconciliation and reform.

There is no freedom of expression or speech in Thailand. The media is repeatedly threatened and harassed. Academic freedom has been obliterated. Political expression is outlawed. Thailand is a military dictatorship with all relics of its brief democratic pasts ground under the military boot. The military junta rejects all views that do not accord with its own narrow, fascistic, thuggish and hierarchical view of Thailand’s social order. All “reform” is regressive.

5. However, in recent days, a certain individual has acted in violation of those laws — and repeatedly so despite warnings from the authorities. His actions are politically motivated and are designed to incite discord and division, domestically and internationally. This is a grave obstruction to the process of reconciliation and reform in Thailand which, up till now, has been proceeding apace.

The junta hates Watana Muangsook because he says things it doesn’t agree with. The military would prefer to “disappear” him but interfering foreigners watch his activities. The military believes Watana is acting for Thaksin. The junta also believes Thaksin is the devil. In fact, any critic is considered part of a Thaksin conspiracy to overthrow the narrow, fascistic, thuggish and hierarchical social order.

6. The Government has, therefore, been obliged to take action in accordance with the law. As in all other countries in which the rule of law is upheld, the law in Thailand is held to be sacrosanct.

The junta has repressed Watana by taking him into custody and threatening him. In fact, the military has done this for hundreds of opponents. There is no law under the junta, just its opinions and needs. All Thais are subject to the junta’s demands. If there is more criticism, the military will hit even harder.