Who cut the forests?

23 07 2015

Self-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has an opinion on pretty much everything. As The Dictator his opinion is widely heard even if his opinions are those of a cloistered military bureaucrat with little knowledge of real life.

Recently he has had opinions on the environment, commenting favorably on the proposed coal-fired power station down south and denigrating those who oppose it. Military dinosaurs have a penchant for the past, and coal-fired power stations seem set to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Continuing on the environment theme, the military junta ordered an end to deforestation. Recently, The Dictator has remarked that elected governments had destroyed 8.6 million rai of forest in the north and northeast.

Former Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong seemed a little miffed by this allegation. Watchara stated:

It sounds like the PM is blaming democratic governments – but the true reason forests disappeared was that government officials did not do their duty. Some, like those from the Royal Forestry Department, the Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation or the Department of Provincial Administration, sought vested interests….

He added:

Another reason the country’s water resources had turned into bald mountains was that a giant conglomerate lures poor farmers to grow corn to be used as animal feed. This has caused natural disasters like floods, landslide and drought….

We guess he means CP. We’d also note the data on land ownership from an earlier post, reproduced here, which suggests another phenomenon at work; the acquisition of large plots of land across the country.Land 2The CP lot come in second, but are a long way behind the biggest landowner. That Sino-Thai tycoons own huge swathes of land seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon associated with the 1980s boom that began under the premiership of General Prem Tinsulanonda. That followed a huge expansion of agricultural land in the 1960s and 1970s that cleared considerable forest.

The same PPT post had the ownership list for politicians from a couple of years ago. If those top 10 politicians were added together they would have been listed at no. 5 in the list reproduced above. Most of those politicians were serious business people before entering parliament.

Watchara goes further, accusing The Dictator of negligence: “Even in areas under the jurisdiction of the military during the period the PM was then Army Chief, the mountains turned into ‘bald’ mountains. Did the PM ever look into the problems?” He states that “forest encroachment also took place during the Prayut government,” and suggests that the current military dictatorship and the fear it engenders prevents “decent state officials” doing their jobs.

“Politicians and senior officials encroach upon reserve forests, water sources, mangrove forests and the Sor Por Kor land. How can the Land Department issue land title deeds for them? The PM must order a check of all plots and exercise Article 44 to confiscate the land,” he said.

Watchara response is to demand even more use of dictatorial powers (sigh…) and “urged Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Borwornsak Uwanno to incorporate in the charter draft a rule that MPs, Senators, ministers must not be involved in forest encroachment, either directly or indirectly through nominees.”

Given his comments on the military, perhaps he thinks that most future MPs, Senators and ministers will be from the military.

PPT well recalls the encroachment on forests that was encouraged in the war against the CPT (opens a PDF). Many of those areas are those where the “forest encroachers” turn out to be people the military and other security organizations encouraged to settle in and clear forest hill areas in the north and northeast a couple of generations ago.

Even in the late 1980s there were endless streams of military-registered logging trucks coming out of military-controlled hill areas that were deforested. Over several decades, many of the military brass made huge fortunes through their involvement with forest and land encroachment in those areas and along Thailand’s borders.

They worked in tandem with local businesspeople-cum-politicians and with Sino-Thai tycoons.

Snitching for the royalist elite

4 10 2014

It is well-known that lese majeste charges are thrown at political opponents in order to discredit and silence them. The most proficient at this political ploy have been the anti-democrat zealots associated with the Democrat Party. Watchara Petthong, a former Democrat Party party-list MP is particularly notorious for slinging lese majeste mud at his opponents and has been doing it for years.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Watchara with “evidence”

This time he has filed a lese majeste complaint against Thaksin Shinawatra, Tom Plate and Suranand Vejjajiva and the company Matichon for publishing Plate’s translated book, Conversations with Thaksin or Jub Khao Kui Thaksin Shinawatra.

PPT has not been a fan of the book, finding it lightweight and uncritical. But that matters little in these circumstances for not only has the book “been available in the local market for more than two years” but Plate was apparently careful about the lese majeste threat. The English original was published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish. The Thai translation, completed by Suranand, was published in 2012 and was reprinted earlier this year.

As is expected of lese majeste monsters like Watchara he claims that “some parts of the book contained material harmful to the royal institution and had been quoted worldwide.” PPT has read the English version, and we didn’t see anything remotely like a slur against the king, queen or heir apparent. Yet the lese majeste crazies can always construe and misconstrue when they want to settle a score or create trouble.Thaksin Book

Watchara is to be condemned for his puerile and self-serving nonsense and for hiding behind the repressive law and the throne. He’s not the first, though, for another anti-democrat, Somkiat Onwimon, babbled about this book on the anti-democrat stage in January 2014. At the time, Somkiat seemed to mistakenly think the book hadn’t been published in Thailand, but was simply looking for yet another excuse to attack Thaksin.

Tom Plate is undoubtedly an enthusiastic supporter of Thaksin. For crazed ultra-royalists, that seems to be a”crime.” Watchara’s warped world is marked by fear that the royalist control may crash, worry that the aged and ill monarch is unable to hold the royalist world together, and the threat that popular and electoral politics offers an alternative to armed feudalism.

Updated: Court battle gains some heat

27 04 2013

A few days ago, PPT wrote that we were heartened that the politicized judges at the royalist Constitutional Court were being challenged. Then we noted that these judges deserved to be challenged for their political bias, corruption and, above all, for their seeming inability to comprehend the wording of the constitution they are meant to rule on. Repeatedly, this set of judges have delivered rulings based on their interpretation of what they believe the royalist-military junta and government would have preferred but didn’t actually write into their constitution.

It now seems that the battle with the kangaroo court is heating up. At The Nation it is reported that the government’s “Pheu Thai Party is planning to hold 10 major rallies … in a move to seek public support for its bid to amend the Constitution and push through the Amnesty Bill.” The focus on the bid to change the constitution is a direct challenge to the Constitutional Court. The first rally was due to be held today in Udon Thani followed by another in Khon Kaen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a red shirt protest has been underway for several days, challenging the judges. The Nation reports that these red shirts have been calling for the judges to quit. So this group is calling for impeachment and seeking to have the “Budget Bureau stop paying their salaries.” These red shirts “vowed to continue protesting to pressure the judges to quit or have them find another way out.” There were some minor clashes when some of the red shirts sought to enter the Court’s grounds.

Constitution Court judge Jarun Pukdithanakul opined: “I do not know what is wrong with our country. It is as if boxers are battling referees.” This is the same Jaran who filed a libel case against red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan and who defended the corruption in the Court shown in leaked videos, with him as one of the allegedly corrupt judges. Rather than boxers fighting the referees, the analogy might be that the referees are delivering decisions that have no relationship to the rules, selecting victors according to the bribes they have received.

And when “Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has given a moral support to the Constitutional Court judges, urging them not to be perturbed by the protest,” the politicization of the judges is readily apparent.

Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh, who has featured at PPT for comments that are silly, stupid and always biased, has had the rally recorded and, according to The Nation, has had the Court file “a police complaint against the four red shirts who have been leading the rally outside the court complex, accusing them of defamation and inciting unrest.” The court has accused four red shirt leaders “of violating Articles 136 of the Penal Code in the speeches they delivered in front of some 200 red-shirt demonstrators.”

At the same time, Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong has “written to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking her to provide 24-hour protection for the judges. He said the protection was necessary because the protesters threatened to harm the judges and burn down the courts.”

Finally, and also at The Nation, Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the Independent National Rule of Law Commission, has “urged the Constitutional Court judges to review their role in order to avoid a political crisis and also called on the red shirts to not opt for violence in their campaign to remove the court’s judges.”

Interestingly, Ukrit said “his commission agreed that the judges’ decision went beyond their jurisdiction.”

Parinya Thewanarumitkul of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law, said “the judges should review their ruling on provision 291 of the charter amendment by going beyond their authority as indicated in the Constitution.”

Proving that it is not just judges who are dumb, “red-shirt leader Pongpisit Kongsena, who is spearheading a campaign to oust the Constitutional Court judges, said the group would file a complaint with the police, accusing former Constitutional Court president Chat Chonlaworn of lese majeste.” Using lese majeste is simply a stupidity that deserves to be hosed out like horse manure. It directs attention away from the issue.

Update: According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the four red shirts who have been defamation and inciting unrest are fighting back, urging civil disobedience and citing the Court’s lack of legitimacy, while urging a “capture” of the judges in “citizen’s arrests.” The heat is on high.

Robert Amsterdam responds to Democrat Party royalist

14 10 2011

A couple of days ago PPT posted regarding Democrat Party MP Watchara Phetthong’s call for police to arrest Robert Amsterdam on allegations of lese majeste Watchara had made months ago. Amsterdam has now responded.

International lawyer Amsterdam stated:

“It is very disappointing that instead of open, civil debate, members of the Democrat Party prefer to threaten jail…. In the past we have exhaustively shown that Mr. Watchara’s allegations are groundless, and this inappropriate abuse of the law to protect himself and his party from accountability is gravely offensive.”

Amsterdam continued:

“These are serious matters which require serious dialogue between all parties. The last thing that the Thai people need is to feel frightened and intimidated when they are speaking out about what happened on the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010. As far as I know, there is no law in Thailand against requesting justice and urging accountability of the Army.”

Further updated: Democrat Party continues to bang the lese majeste drum

12 10 2011

The Democrat Party has never really been a true party of democrats. Rather, its history, from the day it was formed, is of a royalist party. Yes, it opposed military rule at various times, but that was only to promote the monarchy as an alternative and to oppose the 1932 Revolution; it was never to support a functioning parliamentary democracy where all votes were equal.

In keeping with that inglorious tradition, in the post 2006 military coup period, it has been the so-called Democrat Party that has been most royalist. It is also the party and government that has most utilized lese majeste as a means to repress political opponents and, in its collective royalist logic, to  support royalism as a political system.

Now in opposition (again) – a good place for a royalist party that can’t win elections – it continues to bang the lese majeste drum. It does this because it believes that royalism and the monarchy has been brought down a couple of notches (largely by the efforts of the so-called protectors of the monarchy like the Democrat Party) and because it feels that the monarchy is a weak spot for the Puea Thai-led government.

We might add that another reason it bangs on about the monarchy and lese majeste is because the Democrat Party has no alternative policies. In the last election campaign it simply plagiarized Thai Rak Thai policies.

So it is certainly no surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that “Democrat list MP Vachara Phetthong [Watchara Petthong] said on Wednesday he has sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung asking him to order police to arrest Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer acting for deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.”

Watchara raised the issue of Amsterdam being subject to a lese majeste complaint over contents in his report “Massacre in Bangkok“. In fact, it was Watchara who made the complaint. (See PPT’s earlier post on another lese majeste complaint by the same Democrat Party member).

Watchara said Amsterdam “had travelled to Thailand and was seen at a Bangkok prison visiting some red-shirts in detention. He did not say when Mr Amsterdam arrived. Since Mr Amsterdam is the subject of lese majeste complain filed with police he should be arrested.” Legally, we think Watchara is wrong as no charge has apparently been laid, but that is really beside the point.

Watchara said “his letter to Mr Chalerm, who is in charge of the Royal Thai Police Office, asked him to order acting police chief Gen Priewpan Damapong to order the CSD or local police to arrest the man” threatening them with charges of “neglect of duty in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code” if they didn’t act.

The Democrat Party’s DNA means that they are unable to shed lese majeste as a tool of political repression and become true elements of a democratic society.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post has an updated story – mixed in with a story about Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha – that adds some comments from Amsterdam, who stated that “he was glad to be visiting Thailand again.” He added that “it was very important to establish truth of what happened during last year’s bloodshed, when so many people lost their lives, otherwise democracy would not evolve in Thailand. The soldiers involved could not be left unpunished. There should not be laws to allow a coup to happen…”. He singled out Prayuth as a particular problem for he often espoused political positions.

Amsterdam also confirmed that he had visited some red-shirts in prison, and observed that “they were in a very poor condition.” He made the point that they “should not have been jailed on security-related charges, but should have been allowed bail…”.

Update 2: A YouTube video is available of Amsterdam’s press conference in Bangkok. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.

Democrat MP jumps on the lese majeste bandwagon

19 04 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that Democrat Party member of parliament Watchara Petthong has “filed a lese majeste complaint against Puea Thai MP Manit Jitjanklab with the Crime Suppression Division.” His claim is that Manit made remarks Watchara considered “offensive to the monarchy” during the Truth Today political talk show broadcast on 13 April 2010. He provided a video a]of the show as evidence.

Watchara was last mentioned at PPT when he got twisted out of shape over the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, and called for charges against those involved with the report Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.”

Watchara is another self-appointed “protector” of the monarchy who emerges at exactly when lese majeste is being used to thrash political opponents.

Updated: The missing headline: Lese majeste

22 02 2011

There is currently a storm of lese majeste activity in Thailand but very little of it is in the English-language media (except for the ever reliable Prachatai). Self-censorship would be the usual explanation, but the Thai press reports such cases, so we think it is a case of cleaning the headlines for international consumption.

The Manager keeps reporting these lese majeste cases as victories for the forces of good against evil while failing to notice that lese majeste repression is easily turned on anyone deemed an opponent of the amart’s regime.

PPT has posted on several lese majeste cases and issues in recent days: Chiranuch Premchaiporn‘s court case, Surachai Sae Dan‘s most recent arrest, Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul‘s court case, and the threat to track down lese majeste internationally. To this incomplete list we can add the lese majeste accusations raised against Thaksin Shinawatra, Robert Amsterdam and editor of the Fa Diew Kan/Same Sky magazine Thanapol Eawsakul. The accusations are made by a Democrat Party member of parliament.

Back in November, the MP, Watchara Petthong, called for charges against those involved with the Amsterdam & Peroff “White Paper,” on the violence of April and May 2010, which Watchara said was “offensive to the monarchy and the courts.” At the time, the Thai version of the book did not name of the author, but listed Amsterdam & Peroff as the publisher and Kled Thai Co as the distributor.  Its first edition ran to 5,000 copies and each sold for 100 baht. It became a best seller.

Watchara has reportedly lodged the complaints calling for charges with the Crime Suppression Division late last week. He did this because he says that his calls last November were ignored. He filed the charges himself and gave police copies of the book as “evidence.”

It remains unclear why Thanapol is included as he is not listed as the publisher of the book. Both Thaksin and Thanapol have faced earlier charges related to lese majeste.

Robert Amsterdam, who now joins the ever-lengthening list of those facing lese majeste charges at PPT’s page on Pending Cases, has responded at his blog. Amsterdam makes the point that this is “not the first time accusations of this sort are leveled against us {he and Thaksin] by Democrat Party politicians. In the wake of the White Paper’s release in July, Democrat Party spokesperson Dr. Buranat Samutrak made similar charges.”

Amsterdam states: “the White Paper does not contain any instance of lese majeste.”He says that Watchara raises objections to two points:

First, Mr. Watchara resents that the White Paper pointed out that His Majesty the King did not publicly intervene in the wake of the 1976 and 2010 demonstrations, as he did in 1973 and 1992. That, of course, is factually true; besides, the White Paper does not make any value judgment about this historical fact. Second, Mr. Watchara suggests that simply pointing out that many people are being arrested and jailed for lese majeste constitutes an insult to the monarchy. Again, it is an empirically verifiable fact that an unprecedented number of people have been thrown in jail for lese majeste since the Democrats cheated and bribed their way into power (a 1500% increase of cases in 2009). Condemning the arrests certainly does not constitute an insult to the King, but rather an attack on those, like Mr. Watchara and his party, who constantly invoke the King’s name for their own political gain.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Amsterdam suggests that:

… [t]he odd timing of his attack betrays a transparent attempt to stifle free speech, as international awareness of the unlawful conduct of the Democrat Party during the Bangkok massacres increases day by day. The White Paper, in both English and Thai versions, online and print, have reached a circulation surpassing approximately 50,000 copies and downloads at this point, which may explain why the junta saw fit to invent an LM claim out of thin air. It already seems apparent that Mr. Watchara’s main goal is stop the sales of the book in Thai bookstores.

It seems that Watchara is prompted to this act of lese majeste repression by the fact that Amsterdam & Peroff have a new and updated version of the White Paper available for download. He is attempting to limit the impact of the second report, but the horse has already bolted. More insidious, though, it is likely that the current wave of lese majeste repression is both an attempt to secure political advantage for the current government and to repress while the world’s attention has shifted to the Middle East.

Update: Amsterdam has more at his blog.


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