Updated: More political prisoners

28 06 2020

Along with every other media outlet, Khaosod reports that, on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a July 2007 protest that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. The rally accused Prem of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Nattawut Saikua, Veerakarn (then Veera) Musikapong, Weng Tojirakarn, Nopparut Worachitwuthikul, and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for “illegal assembly and using violence to resist police orders.”

Fellow UDD leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn observed that these men are political prisoners. The five were immediately taken from the court to prison.

While the reports refer to the five as red shirts, it needs to be noted that the wearing of the color hadn’t taken off at this time and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship-led rally and march had most people wearing yellow shirts, which was a display of “loyalty” following the 2006 60th anniversary of Bhumibol’s reign.

Another UDD leader, Jatuporn Promphan, reflected on the double standards in the judicial system: “I once said to them that on our way of fighting, it’s either death or imprisonment…. Over the past decade, we took turns getting in and out of the prison.” Jatuporn is “also due to stand trial on the same offense…”.

The double standards refer to the efforts by several royalist regimes supported by the pliant judiciary to lock up red shirts and UDD leaders while those from the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee who also occupied parts of Bangkok and several state properties for extended periods, with considerable violence, get off quite lightly.

Few of the reports said much about the rally at Gen Prem’s free lodgings, so PPT went back and looked at reports from the time.

Asia Sentinel had a perceptive report. It began by observing:

On Sunday night, UDD leaders caught police unaware by marching with thousands of supporters to the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister who is held in high respect by much of the Thai public due to his proximity to the king.

King, queen, Prem and military coup leaders

The protesters accused Prem, who was in the compound at the time, of acting as the puppet master behind the coup last September that ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. They called on Prem to resign.

The UDD set up a makeshift stage in front of Prem’s house on Sunday afternoon and made speeches for five hours or so, according to witnesses and news reports. But in the evening, after the protesters vowed to permanently camp outside the residence, riot police attempted to break up the gathering and arrest the leaders, prompting demonstrators to hail rocks, chairs, sticks, water bottles and pieces of broken flower pots at the police, who eventually retreated.

Most reports put the UDD crowd at 5,000 to 10,000, with some counting up to 20,000. The police eventually mobilized about 2,000 officers. The police:

made two more attempts to arrest the protest leaders, charging at  demonstrators with clubs, pepper spray and tear gas. Each time the demonstrators fought back with fists, rocks, sticks, bottles and anything else they could find.

Weng said the protesters withdrew when threatened with the army, saying, “We didn’t want anybody killed from this event.”

The police claimed that 200 of their officers and about 70 protesters were injured. Six protesters were arrested and charged with “causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage to state property…. Police were also seeking arrest warrants for eight or so other UDD leaders…”.

The report wonders about the police action, saying:

It’s unclear why authorities attempted to break up the protest this time as many similar
protests had occurred earlier without incident. Some observers said the army may have been spooked by UDD statements that the group would camp out in front of Prem’s house — an unacceptable scenario for generals who swear allegiance to the royal advisor.

It also notes Prem’s coup role:

Although Prem is supposed to be non-political as a privy councilor, coup opponents blast the 86-year-old for a series of speeches he gave a year ago in which he donned full military garb and said soldiers should be loyal to the king instead of the government. Many observers said the speeches set the stage for the coup.

The Irrawaddy (July 23, 2007) carried a report that royalists declared Thaksin behind the UDD. The then president of the Constitution Drafting Committee Prasong Soonsiri, cheered the arrests, saying: “He [Thaksin] is probably responsible for supporting the clash, and he won’t stop there…”. This was a widely held view among the military-installed regime led by former Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Shortly after the event, the Union for Civil Liberty issued a statement:

Declaration concerning the avoidance of violence during a conflict of opinion

During a protest by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DADD) at the home of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda in the Thewes district of Bangkok, there occurred violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Alleging the part played by General Prem in organizing the military coup of 19th September 2006, protestors called for his resignation. As a result of the clashes which took place in the late evening of Sunday 22nd July, according to news media, 106 persons were injured.

The Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) maintains that the holding of non-violent protest to make known a political viewpoint is a civil right and a fundamental component of the democratic system. It is the duty of government to assure that the right of citizens to exercise this right is respected at all times, whether their action is against or in support of government, or to express other political opinion.

It is a matter of great regret that the protest on 22nd July last could not enjoy such a right to free expression due to the action of the police in blocking the protest march to the residence of General Prem in the Thewes district. The action angered some participants in the protest leading to the use of force and many casualties both among the protestors and the police.

To avoid the recurrence of such violence, perhaps on an even larger scale, the Union for Civil Liberty submits the following proposals:

1. Appoint a committee of persons acceptable to the public to investigate the events which occurred on the evening of the 22nd July for presentation to the Government and to the public.

2. Take court action against those who have acted illegally, whether the police or the protestors, in order that justice be done and human rights be protected.

Statement issued on 23rd July 2007
Union for Civil Liberty

So, for seeking to exercise their freedom of expression, these men are jailed. The regime that went after them was a junta-appointed administration that was vehemently royalist and anti-Thaksin. The double standards are as clear as they ever were.

Update: For another take on double standards, especially in comparing red shirts and yellow shirts, read this op-ed.





Red shirts engaged in political struggle

15 08 2019

Khaosod reports that the Court of First Instance has acquitted 24 red shirt leaders of terrorism charges related to protests in 2010.

Most significantly, in its ruling, the Court “stated that the Redshirt leaders engaged in ‘a political struggle and not an act of terrorism’.” However, one of the defendants, Weng Tojirakarn, said that “the prosecutor will likely appeal the lower court’s decision.

In fact, it was state officials who have been found by several courts to be responsible for most of the murders that took place in April and May 2010. Independent reports tend to agree.

Those who ordered the bloody crackdowns in 2010 – Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban – got off (but have been ruthlessly punished by voters) and their eager military accomplices murdered with impunity, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Anupong Paojinda.





Updated: Remembering red shirt murders

11 04 2019

Khaosod reports that some of the official red shirts held a religious ceremony to mark the anniversary of a crackdown that killed many of their supporters on 10 April 2010.

Weng Tojirakarn, Jatuporn Promphan, Nattawut Saikua and other red shirts met at “a temple in northern Bangkok under the close watch of police officers.”

Weng said that he wanted the truth to come out about these events and declared that “his organization will continue to pursue justice on behalf of those who lost their lives.”

Legal cases against those responsible have gone nowhere.

The awful events of that evening are available at our site (scroll down to Battle for Bangkok I), although many of the links no longer work.

Update: A reader pointed out that New Mandala has an excellent piece by Saowanee T. Alexander on red shirts and voting in the northeast.





Junta vs. red shirts

11 03 2018

The military junta is intensifying internet censorship again. For us at PPT it is kind of difficult to determine if we have posted anything that gets their minions excited or whether it is just a broader effort to crack down on stuff considered of the opposition.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS recently reported that the junta is still trying to keep the military boot firmly on the neck of the official red shirts.

The Bangkok Military Court has recently had 18 red shirt leaders before it, including Jatuporn Promphan who is already jailed. They face charges of “defying the order of the National Council for Peace and Order in 2016.” Yes, that is 2016.

Jatuporn was in chains and “escorted by soldiers.” The junta treats its opponents in ways that are meant to degrade but actually demonstrates the repressive and vindictive nature of the military regime.

Apart from Jatuporn, the others “included Nattawut Saikur, Mrs Thida Thavornset, Weng Tochirakarn, Yongyut Tiyaphairat, Korkaew Pikulthong, and Virakarn Musikapong.”

The faked up charges relate to the “holding political assembly of more than five people after they held a press conference at Imperial Department Store in June 2016 to announce the formation of the Centre for the Suppression of Referendum Fraud.”

This was when the junta was forcing through its constitution in a unfree and unfair referendum.





Further updated: More on the “assassination plot”

26 11 2015

We get the impression that the military dictatorship remains confused and anxious. The story on the “assassination” plot is changing by the minute.

Yesterday the “authorities” claimed that they had foiled a royal assassination plot and arrested three men. Today, according to Khaosod, a police general says “he was no longer sure about their [the “plotters”] objective.” And, there’s only two in custody and another seven being “hunted.” It turns out that these two have been in military custody for a week.

Confused? You bet!

More significantly, The Dictator, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and his police say red shirt activists are behind what is now described as “a disrupted terror plot.”

They appear to be making political capital from the tragic events in Paris and hoping that by calling the so-called plot an act of “terrorism,” the rest of the world may believe them.

Bizarrely, the “authorities” are also claiming that the “red shirt cell” is one they said they destroyed last year when they arrested two dozen persons who have still not been brought to trial after 17 months.

Deputy police chief Sriwarah Rangsipramkul said the military detained “two Redshirt supporters” for “an unspecified conspiracy to cause ‘unrest,’ possibly by assassinating junta chairman Prayuth.”

Confused? You bet! It gets worse:

“They have targets, but we cannot confirm what those targets are,” Sriwarah said. However, he believes the group could have been thinking about seizing army barracks in the northeast as a starting point to unleash their alleged campaign of terror.

Confused? You bet!

Red shirt leaders say the alleged plot is “a work of fiction” meant to “distract the public from ongoing embarrassment over alleged corruption in the army’s Rajabhakti Park…”. Weng Tojirakarn said the story was a “farce.” Worachai Hema said it was “absurd.”

Just to make the whole thing more theatrical, The Dictator “told reporters today he’s undeterred by the alleged threat and will continue visiting northeastern provinces for government affairs.” He puffed out his chest and declared: “I can visit any area. I’m already risking my life these days anyway. I’m not afraid. Don’t you think I’m not risking my life now?”

Confused? Maybe not. Prayuth gets to show he is a tough guy and the Army has interference running for it.

Update 1: A Bangkok Post report updates the confusion. It continues to report that the arrested men have been “charged with violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law, and the Computer Act.”

Pol Maj Gen Chayapol Chatchaidej “said that apart from Pol Sgt Maj Prathin and Mr Nathapol, there were seven other people involved in a plot to stage terrorist attacks and capture military and police camps as well as government installations in many northeastern provinces.” Many? Really?

Of course, the “two had confessed to the crime…”.

The seven others in the “team” are listed as: Phitsanu Promsorn, 58, Wallop Boonchan, 33, Chatchai Sriwongsa, 24, Meechai Muangmontree, 49, Thanakrit Thongngernperm, 49, Veerachai Chaboonmee, 33, and Pahiran Kongkham, 44.

Update 2: The military dictatorship is following a familiar path in the claims they are making regarding this so-called plot. First a plot. Second, a claim involving monarchy. Third, a fumbled “story.” Fourth, blame is directed to red shirts. Fifth, opponents exiled overseas are claimed to be “involved.”

Prachatai has reported on the final element of this construction: “The police also announced that two suspects caught said during the interrogation that certain anti-monarchy figures overseas who posted messages defaming the monarchy on social media are involved in the plot.”

So all the military’s pieces are put in place. Now all they have to do is convince others that this “plot” actually existed.

The Prachatai report also seems to “answer” a question PPT raised when the “plot” was first “revealed.” We wondered how the “plot” resulted in lese majeste charges. The report “explains”:

The police chief added that the suspects also face charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, for contacting each other via Line Chat Application to prepare the terrorist plot on the auspicious event for the King.

Lese majeste is now to be used for king, royal family, regent, dead kings and events….





On May 1992, part III

18 05 2015

PPT’s third and final post today is also on the commemoration of the events of the civilian rising against military-dominated politics in May 1992. In both the earlier posts, here and here, we were concerned at the attempt by various individuals and groups attempting to rewrite history by making this event one that is bizarrely congruent with the May 2014 coup and anti-democracy.

As if to prove how disingenuous this tripe is, a revealing report at Prachatai indicates the nature of the current military dictatorship.

Simply and nastily, the dictatorship “ordered  a cancellation of public speeches of anti-military figures at an event to commemorate democratic uprising in May 1992.”

At “the Heroes of Democracy Foundation, a group of military officers on Saturday came into the office of the foundation in Pak Kret District of Nonthaburi Province, north of Bangkok, at around 1 pm and ordered the foundation staffs to cut out a planned speech session by pro-democracy speakers.”

One of the speakers was to be Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, who is a well-recognized anti-coup protester, and “slum angel.” Others due to speak included Weng Tojirakarn, a red shirt leader, and Chalard Worachat, an activist known for his hunger strike against the 1992 military intervention and which was a principled protest leading to the civilian uprising.

The military dictatorship prefers a version of history sanitized of its murders. As the brief Wikipedia account explains, an “investigation”  by the “Defense Ministry’s Fact Finding Committee led by General Pichitr Kullavanijaya,” identified military culprits, “but it is still kept from the Thai public.”

Pichitr has been rewarded by being made one of the king’s privy councilors and is a royalist political activist.





Death and after III

12 10 2014

A couple of days ago, PPT posted on Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan deciding that he was such an important boss that he could tell people how to behave at funerals. The Deputy Dictator feared that the funeral of former Puea Thai MP and red shirt leader Apiwan Wiriyachai might become an opportunity for expressions of resistance to the royalist military dictatorship.

ApiwanApiwan died in exile, forced out of the country by the military coup in May, and harassed with lese majeste charges.

At The Nation it is reported that “huge numbers” of red shirts gathered at the international airport, which was also “heavily secured” as Apiwan’s body was returned from Manila for a funeral.

Key red shirt leaders present included Weng Tojirakarn, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua and Jatuporn Promphan, surrounded by “hundreds of police and soldiers [who] guarded all entrances.”

The apparently fearful police “frequently warned the crowd not to express anything political in nature.” Unusually wealthy businessman, junta sycophant and incompetent police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang was there to ensure the “gathering was non-political.”

Jatuporn said that” many red-shirt supporters were likely to attend the funeral rites for Apiwan, as he had fought side by side with them.” Yingluck Shinawatra was also expected to attend the funeral despite the military dictatorship attempting to limit her participation in public events.

Many will find the dictatorship’s interference with a funeral distasteful and lacking appropriate respect.





UDD finds some voice

18 09 2014

Following the May military coup, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship has been very quiet. Some of this has to do with the extent of the military crackdown and the power of the military dictatorship. Yet some of it is a failure of organization and capacity on the UDD’s part.

At last, though, the UDD leadership has done something that can be considered political. Ever so carefully, they have confronted Thailand’s acting police chief the sel-promoting Somyos Pumpanmuang on his circus-like parade of “men in black” last week.

UDD leaders Jatuporn Promphan, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Weng Tojirakarn and some red shirt lawyers met with Somyos regarding an open letter the group submitted “asking that investigators strictly work within the law” when dealing with the MiB cases.

That may seem lame to many as Somyos is about as politically biased and unprofessional in his police work as could be imagined, but the point is made.

MIB

No attempt to link to red shirts in this!

The UDD leaders “complained in the letter that information initially released by police at a their Sept 13 press conference led the public to think that the suspects had caused the death of Col Romklao … and four other soldiers during a clash between the military and red-shirt protesters at the Khok Wua intersection on April 10, 2010.”

Speaking after a meeting with the UDD leaders, the top cop and former mining company director said “police had never named any group as being behind the five ‘men in black’ arrested last week.” He added that “he never asserted they were responsible for the death of then-Col Romklao…”.

That’s a fabricated untruth. He had them dressed up and took them out to “scenes of the crime” and forced them to re-enact their alleged crimes. He had red ribbons tied to the alleged MiBs.

No one can ever believe this man.

When Somyos bleats that “all the suspects would be treated with justice,” you know he is concocting this for he has already thrown the book of justice out the window in his fancy dress party for alleged MiBs.

Remarkably, Jatuporn reckoned “he was satisfied with the deputy police chief’s explanation.” He should have expressed appropriate skepticism of the lying general. At least the UDD complained that the ridiculous antics of Somyos and other cops were “intended to lead the public to believe the political violence in 2010 and 2014 was linked, without giving providing evidence.”





Updated: Coup!!

22 05 2014

PPT went out to eat and of course, the coup was announced.

This event is not unexpected, and the tenor of announcements in the controlled media is that a National Order and Maintenance Committee – the military bosses – are arresting people (not yet clear who and how widespread), grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over. There are some unconfirmed reports of shooting.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies.

It is becoming clear that the plan is exactly what the royalist and anti-democrats have wanted: a search for a “neutral” premier. Look for a former military commander or a privy councilor or someone who fits both categories.

Weng

Given that the Bangkok Post published not one but two op-eds supportive of military intervention today, we assume the editorial board is dancing in the streets (until curfew at 10 P.M. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who stated, among other now dumb as a box of rocks statements, this:

Look for an interim government, appointed. Look for reforms, not necessarily to tackle corruption or to solve the education crisis, those issues take years, and we wouldn’t want an appointed government for years.

But definitely look for reform measures to ensure future political stability and economic opportunity. In this, look for factions and individuals to be persuaded to fall in line and do as told.

In addition, look for these measures to be more effective in setting Thailand on the ‘’right’’ course, as compared to after the 2006 coup.

Then, look for a reasonable period of time until the military is sure that the peace is kept. Three months, six months, a year, however long it may take.

After which, look for the return of the democratic election and things to actually go back to normal – well, normal for Thailnd, that is.

A scenario is mere speculation based on past lessons to ascertain likely future possibilities. If there is any certainty, it is that democratic elections will return.Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post:

Dopey shit

Pretty base “journalism.”

Update: Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post manages an  editorial that seeks to polish Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justify military intentions, but concludes with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.





Updated: Ji says its a coup

20 05 2014

As we often do, we post Ji Ungpakorn’s take on events. The only way this may not be a coup is if the military make space for elections that are held as soon as possible. That means in just over 60 days:

Smells like a coup, tastes like a coup, looks like a coup

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Today Thai army general Prayut Chanocha declared martial law without consulting the caretaker government or any other elected representatives. Troops took over all radio and TV stations and are positioned along major road intersections in Bangkok.

Despite the fact that he claimed that “this is not a coup”, Prayut’s actions smell, taste and look like a coup. This is from a man who has blood on his hands. Four years ago to the day Prayut oversaw the shooting down in the streets of almost ninety Red Shirt pro-democracy demonstrators. Before the elections in the following year he made public statements against the Pua Thai Party. He had previously been a key figure in manoeuvring Abhisit’s anti-Democrat Party into an unelected government in 2008. He has never been brought to court for his crimes and was on the list of those who would be given total amnesty in Yingluk’s abortive amnesty bill.

The military say that the declaration of martial law is just to maintain peace and security; if so, it is too little too late. If the military were really concerned with keeping the peace they would have acted against Sutep’s anti-Democrat mobs when they invaded government ministries in order to overthrow the elected government at the end of last year. They would have arrested Sutep and his armed thugs who used violence on the streets to wreck the February election.

But the military are just team players on the side of those who want to destroy Thailand’s democratic space. They have sat on their hands and watched with glee as the Yingluk government was gradually destroyed and the elections wrecked. Now they estimate that their allies among Sutep’s mob and the kangaroo courts have created enough chaos to legitimise military intervention.

Make no mistake, this military “non-coup” will not ensure that free and fair elections take place and it certainly won’t protect freedom of expression. The “non-coup” will instead smooth the way for an unelected “temporary” Prime Minister. It will smooth the way to fixing the democratic process so that unelected powers can control any future elected government. It is part of the process of decreasing the democratic space.

Democracy can only be built if significant numbers of Red Shirts realise that Pua Thai and the UDD leadership are unwilling and unable to lead a fight. The building of an independent pro-democracy movement based upon the Red Shirts with clear links to the progressive working class and peasantry is long over-due. Such a movement cannot be built over night but it can and must be built.

Update 1: Not just Ji says it is a coup. TIME’s headline is: “Thailand: If It Looks Like a Coup, and Smells Like a Coup, It Is a Coup.” It quotes red shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn: “Martial law must be [imposed on] a specific area, but this is the first time the army commander declared the whole country under martial law, so this is a special kind of coup d’état…”.