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.

Updated: Intimidation intensifies

27 04 2016

The military dictatorship appears to have moved into a period of even deeper repression and intimidation. Part of this has to do with the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra. Some of it has to do with the junta cracking down on widespread opposition to it charter and its anti-democratic intent. And there may be other motivations that have to do with junta fears.

We can’t post on all of the reports of this new and deepening intimidation. Rather, we provide a listing of recent reports. It quite a list over just a week. The pattern is clear. As Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk stated that a “climate of fear” is “growing in the country ahead of the referendum.” He added that the “junta is mobilising state machinery and everything is being used to promote the draft constitution while people who oppose the draft are being targeted…”.

In fact, as we will show below, as bad as this is, in fact, the intimidation is broader than this.

The junta has threatened Bencharat Sae Chua, a lecturer of Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. The lecturer is distributing information for a vote against the military’s draft charter has been threatened with Section 61 of the Referendum Act of 2016. This could mean up to 10 years in jail.

Puea Thai Party members have been targeted. It is reported that some 300 police and soldiers searched the homes of two politicians among others in Nakhon Sawan, accusing them of being “influential” figures. The military barred reporters from the houses they searched.

Earlier today it was reported that at least four people were abducted by the military in the early hours of the morning. Two men were abducted in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The four are accused of being red shirts.

Within a couple of hours, the number abducted by the military rose to eight, with the military then saying they held 10 persons. Two of those abducted worked closely with red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan. Of the 10, eight were taken in Bangkok and two in Khon Kaen. The two in Khon Kaen were accused by the military of “belonging to the New Democracy Group and the Resistant Citizen Group led by Anon Kampa.”  Activists called for protests.

At least some of those arrested seem to have been subject to complaints by the hopelessly biased puppet Election Commission. It  filed its first charges under the new referendum law that criminalizes political commentary. The charges were against a Facebook group for posting “foul and strong” comments criticizing the military’s draft constitution. The puppet EC claimed that the Facebook page had used “aggressive, harsh and rude language to urge readers to vote against the draft constitution to be put to a public vote Aug 7.”

Earlier, it was reported that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan stated that both the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and the red shirts were under investigation for “announcing their stands on the draft constitution.” So far we can find no evidence of action against the PDRC.

A couple of days ago, the military “indicted six activists for demanding an investigation into the Rajabhakti Park corruption scandal.” Those indicted are reported to be “Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from New Democracy Movement, Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and core leader of Resistant Citizen, Kititach Suman, Wisarut Anupoonkarn, Koranok Kamda and Wijit Hanhaboon…”.

Last week, in Udon Thani, soldiers intimidated anti-mine activists ahead of a planned forum on the environmental effects of a potash mine in the province.

Around the same time, Watana Muangsook complained that “certain people pressured the Charoen Pokphand Company (CP), one of the biggest conglomerates in Asia run by the family of his former wife, to convince Weerada Muangsook, his daughter, to leave the country.”

In the south, the military has summoned the leader of a sea nomad community on Rawai Beach in Phuket, to a military camp. There he was intimidated by the military who accused of violating a junta order which gives almost absolute power to soldiers with the rank of sub-lieutenant upwards to maintain national security.

Update: Members of the Neo-Democracy Movement and the Resistant Citizen group organized a protest against the arrests at the Victory Monument.Police grabbed and detained 16 of the protesters at the Phaya Thai police station. They were detained for protesting by standing still in a group.

UN statement on military dictatorship in Thailand

23 04 2016

As reported in the New York Times, on 22 April 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on Thailand.

We are not at all sure why the UN High Commissioner thinks that a military-dictated constitution, prepared by a puppet drafting body and which, if passed in an illegitimate referendum, promises to remove virtually all the hallmarks of a democratic constitution, could provide “a solid foundation for a sustainable democracy in Thailand.”

For the other bits that make more sense, this is the statement:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday expressed growing concern about the military’s deepening role in Thailand’s civilian administration, as well as tight curbs on dissent, as the Kingdom prepares to vote on a final draft Constitution.High Commissioner Zeid said that several critics of the draft Constitution have already been arbitrarily arrested, detained and harassed since the draft was made public at the end of March. On Monday, former government minister Watana Muangsook was detained by the military over remarks he posted on social media criticizing the draft. He was released on bail yesterday. On Tuesday, five human rights defenders were taken into military custody for joining a peaceful assembly against the Government’s restrictions but have since been released.

Zeid expressed particular concern that the clampdown on criticism would intensify following hardline comments by the Prime Minister and other senior Government figures. A new law governing the referendum places limits on groups and individuals advocating for or against the draft Constitution. The law, which is awaiting Royal assent, could be interpreted arbitrarily and used against opponents.

“An open and dynamic public debate on the draft Constitution would foster national unity, strengthen the legitimacy and acceptance of the Constitution and provide a sense of collective ownership,” Zeid said. “I urge the Government to actively encourage, rather than discourage, dialogue and engagement on the draft Constitution. This would be an important step in establishing a solid foundation for a sustainable democracy in Thailand.”

While the High Commissioner said he appreciated that the public had been allowed to make submissions and some human rights provisions have been incorporated into the draft Constitution, he stressed the need for the general public, members of political parties, civil society, including NGOs, journalists and academics, to be given the space to express their views without fear of harassment, reprisals or arrests.

Since the military coup of 2014, the Thai Government has issued a number of new orders to strengthen the role of the military in policy-making and law enforcement after years of political upheaval and violent protests.

“Extending the military’s powers is not the answer to rebuilding Thailand’s political landscape,” the High Commissioner said. “On the contrary, Thailand has competent civilian institutions and should be looking to strengthen the rule of law and good governance, not undermine it.”

On 30 March 2016, the military government issued Order Number 13/2016 providing military officers and paramilitary forces with a range of powers over a number of offences under at least 27 laws. These include authorising officers to search places, seize assets, suspend financial transactions, ban suspects from travelling and detain individuals for up to seven days, without any warrant, judicial oversight or administrative accountability. Although the Government has stated these powers are targeted at organised crime, there are fears they will be used against opponents. Another Order issued by the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) on 4 April 2016 gives the military more power in the Southern Border Provinces of Thailand which have been prone to violence and conflict.

In addition, the final draft Constitution released in March institutionalises the role of the military in policy making and law enforcement. Section 265 and 279 of the draft provide for the legalisation and continuation of military orders issued under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, which has effectively allowed the head of the NCPO to issue any legislative, executive or judicial order. Over the past year, 61 NCPO orders have been issued under Article 44.

“As a matter of priority, I call on the Government to suspend the application of these dangerously sweeping laws and orders that have bestowed more power upon the military,” Zeid said.

The High Commissioner also repeated his call for all cases involving civilians to be transferred from military to civilian courts. He appealed to the Thai Government to fully abide by the international human rights treaties it has ratified.