Bangkok 18 becomes Bangkok 19

23 05 2011

Apologies for again being slow with this post. PPT is continuing to experience difficulties in keeping up with the volume of material on lese majeste.

The Bangkok Post reported on 21 May that the political police at the Department of Special Investigation “will summon 19 red shirt leaders to hear lese majeste charges related to remarks made during a rally early last month.”

PPT earlier posted on this and added a Bangkok 18 post to our page of pending cases. We’ll need to change that to the Bangkok 19 as DSI chief Tharit Pengdit added Payap Panket to the list of those to be charged.

The other 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Kaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Tharit said a “summons will be issued on Monday [23 May] and sent to the red shirt suspects by mail. They will have 10 days to prepare prior to appearing before authorities on June 2.”

While he can’t complete investigations into the deaths and injuries of April and May 2010, the puppet-like Tharit can get lese majeste cases sown up in a jiffy (as long as they are against the regime’s opponents).

DSI plans to “take the suspects to the Criminal Court to request their detention. The DSI will also go to Bangkok Remand Prison to file charges against red shirt leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Nisit Sinthuprai, who are detained there.”

Tharit also revealed that the DSI is taking over yet another lese majeste case that “involves six community radio stations which allegedly broadcast Mr Jatuporn’s April 10 remarks which were deemed offensive to the monarchy.”

Just because there is a bit of reformist lese majeste static about doesn’t mean that the political police aren’t on the job. Thailand remains a dangerous place for opposition activists. The royalists are keen to crush them.

Updated: Wichian Kaokham responds on lese majeste

18 04 2011

The Isaan Record has an interview with Wichian Kaokham, one of the red shirts accused of lese majeste in the latest, Army-driven, set of cases that use lese majeste as a political weapon against the opposition.

The report explains that the term that appears to have been used against Wichian, a Pueau Thai Party member of parliament, in the recent lese majeste case was first used in parliament last month. The phrase he used was: “Why the hell are you shouting for your father?” [โห่หาพ่อมึงเหรอ]. He used this when Democrat Party members were heckling him. The Isaan Record says this term “amounts to a commonplace, moderately offensive ‘Shut up’.”

Apparently, the term caught the imagination of many red shirts and they chanted it back to him when he was on stage at the red shirt rally on 10 April. The Isaan Record says: “Two days later, on April 12, Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha charged Mr. Wichian with lèse-majesté.”

Wichian claims to be unconcerned by the lese majeste charge: “I didn’t say anything against the royal family. What I said is the phrase from [the debate]…. I just repeated it without any innuendo.” He says the innuendo comes from his political enemies, adding: “I’ve been charged because members of the military along with [Privy Council President] Prem want to destroy me and Pheu Thai. They want the Democrat … [Party] to win the election.”

Royalist's scattered marbles

That seems a pretty reasonable summary of events of the past two weeks.

Update: The Nation lists the 18 red shirts being investigated for lese majeste and sedition. PPT thinks the royalist elite has lost its marbles. The 18 are: Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Karun Hosakul, Yoswaris Chuklom, Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai, Veera Musigapong, Chinawat Haboonpat, Wichian Khaokham, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Sarakham (Praiphana), Nisit Sinthuprai, Prasit Chaisisa, Worawut Wichaidit, Laddawan Wongsriwong, Jatuporn Promphan and Somchai Paiboon.

Incredibly, many of these red shirts now look like facing charges of terrorism, lese majeste and sedition.

Red shirts respond to army chief

17 04 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that several red shirt leaders, supported by some 1,000 supporters, have filed a complaint with police against Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha, claiming he has made a deliberately false claim to the police when he charged that the red shirt leaders had committed lese majeste.

Jatuporn Promphan, Weng Tojirakarn, Suporn Atthawong and Wichian Kaokham submitted their complaint to the deputy metropolitan police commander who was “supported by five companies of police, deployed “to maintain peace and order.”

Weng “insisted that UDD co-leaders had no intention to attack the high institution as alleged.”

A related story in The Nation adds that “Jatuporn told police that he instead directed his speech in the rally to Privy Councillor Gen Prem Tinsulanond whether he had involved with dissolution trials of Thai Rak Thai, People’s Power and Democrat parties or not.”

Meanwhile, Jatuporn “said the UDD will on Tuesday, April 19, lodge a compliant against Mr Abhisit [Vejjajiva] and Mr Suthep [Thaugsuban] with the National Anti-Corruption Commission for … the use of force to crackdown on red-shirt protesters on April and May last year…”.

Ji on military threats

13 04 2011

Thai Military make threats against pro-democracy Red Shirts

One year after the Military gunned down nearly 90 pro-democracy civilians in Bangkok and in the run up to the promised first election since the 2006 coup, the Military have been very active in increasing the obstacles to a free and fair election. They are seriously worried about the outcome of this election.

Naturally the Democrat Party Government and its bosses in the Army will not be stuffing ballot boxes or inflating the number of votes for the Government. That would be too obvious and they would be quickly found out. But what they have been doing since the 2006 coup has been a war of attrition to gradually destroy Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party and the Peua Thai Party which is its new incarnation. The Courts and the Election Commission have been used in a bias manner to destroy the chances of a Red Shirt election victory. Bribery and threats have also been used to get politicians to change sides. Added to this we have blanket censorship and the use of the lèse majesté law against government opponents. The Military have also used bloody violence and threats.

Yet Peua Thai Party is doing nothing to try to win the election. They have virtually no new policies and hope that Red Shirts will automatically vote for the party. If they are seen to lose, this will give a great deal of false legitimacy to the dictatorship. There is growing unease among many Red Shirts and the gap between this huge social movement and the professional politicians in Peua Thai is widening.

General Sansern Keawkamnurd, spokesperson for the Army, has announced that the Army is accusing Jatuporn Prompan and two other Red Shirt leaders (Wichien Kaokum and Rambo Isarn) of “lèse majesté” following their 10th April rally in Bangkok. Jatuporn is accused of “insulting the princess” by saying that he too would like to be interviewed on TV by the same presenter. The Democrat Party Spokesman Teptai Senpong supports the Army’s accusation. The recent interview of the King’s youngest daughter indicates how the Thai Monarchy is in the process of degeneration. Firstly, the princess’ speech delivery and the content of what she said, is more likely to remind people of an intellectually challenged individual than a demi-god. She boasts about how rich she is while trying to tell the public about the “good works” of her parents. The interviewer grovels on the ground in front of the princess’ shoes, twice, and she nods with approval. He also grovels on the ground at the same level as the princess’ dog and even shares the dog’s cup cake. The Thai population are supposed to be brought near to tears of joy and loyal emotion by such idiotic spectacles.

The Army has threatened those who are trying to campaign for the repeal of the lèse majesté law (article 112) and urged loyal subjects to “prevent” such activities. The generals claim that foreigners are “impressed” by the greatness of the Thai Monarchy, but are confused by misinformation from Red Shirts.

It is the Army that is the real unconstitutional power in Thailand. They use the Monarchy to legitimise all their actions. This explains why the Army is so manic in defending the Monarchy and in using lèse majesté against democracy activists. The generals stand to lose everything if a republican movement sweeps across Thailand and it looks like that might just happen.

Army commander General Prayut Chan-ocha has declared that the country was always “democratic”, as though the 2006 coup and all that followed, never took place. He reaffirmed the lie that the Military “never shot pro-democracy demonstrators” last year. Yet there is overwhelming photographic and documentary evidence that the Military and the Government ordered the killing of unarmed Red Shirts by bringing in tanks, heavily armed soldiers and snipers to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok. Nearly 90 unarmed civilians, including paramedics and foreign journalists were shot by snipers in “free-fire zones” set up by the Military. The army has now sent troops into villages this April, to coincide with the Songkran festival. They claim that they want to tell the people the “truth” and make sure everyone remains loyal to the Monarchy. General Prayut claimed that many Red Shirts were trying to insult the “holiness” of the Monarchy and told Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan to “watch it”.

The DSI or Department of Special Investigation has been “unable” to release the results of autopsies on civilians killed by the Army 12 months ago. Now the head of the DSI is demanding that Red Shirt leaders, who are out on bail, be returned to jail for making pro-democracy speeches at recent rallies.

Recently the Oxford-educated Finance Minister Korn Jatikawanit, boasted on his facebook site that he had ridden in a taxi driven by a Red Shirt. On leaving the taxi, Korn gave the driver a lesson: “you can hold different views from me but don’t use violence”, he said. Korn is part of the military-installed Democrat Party Government that ordered the cold-blooded shooting of Red Shirt civilians last year.

The “Electoral Commission” has just confirmed that 73 loyal servants of the regime have just been appointed as unelected senators, making up half of the upper house. There are 18 former government officials, 11 military officers and 6 policemen. After the 2006 coup the Military re-wrote the Constitution so that half the senate would be appointed instead of being elected as before. Earlier, pro-military Election Commissioner Sodsri Satayatum said that she would prefer it if the General Election was cancelled. She claims the country isn’t ready for an election. Meanwhile the fascist PAD is destroying itself with internal strife. Their support has seriously declined and they cannot agree about participating in the coming election because they know that they will receive a miserable vote. The PAD staged violent pro-Monarchy and pro-dictatorship demonstrations in Bangkok, including the seizure of Government House and the International Airports. Now some of their leaders want the election scrapped and a Burmese style junta to rule the country. The Thai Military-dominated “security council” has also stated that since Burma now has a new “democratic” government, Burmese refugees can be forced back over the border.

Background to the rise of the Red Shirts

There is a common thread running through the political crisis in Thailand and the political crises that exploded earlier this year in the Middle East. In Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia and many other “developing nations”, societies have been rapidly urbanising and changing over the last 30-40 years. Yet the ruling elites and the power structures which dominated these societies had not changed. Different events triggered uprisings and struggles, but the underlying tensions remain the same.

For the last forty years the Thai ruling class has maintained its power through the Military, the Monarchy and occasionally by the use of an electoral system dominated by the money politics of business controlled political parties. The naked coercive power of the Military and other state institutions is complemented by the ideology of the Monarchy. This is achieved by imposing and socialising the belief among the population that the King is an all-powerful god who is to be loved or at least feared. This belief is a complete myth, but at various times it has been effective in serving the interests of the conservative ruling elites.

This state of affairs has constantly been challenged by mass uprisings and struggle by social movements. But in 2001 a serious challenge to the old order arose from within the ruling class itself. Taksin Shinawat’s Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) won a majority in parliament by winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. His business-dominated party promised and delivered a universal health care system, job creation programmes and a raft of modernisation policies. In the past, elections had been about money politics, where politicians acted as personal patrons of their constituents while offering no political policies. The rise of TRT came to represent a serious, but unintentional, challenge to the conservatives in the ruling class. This sparked a military coup in September 2006, which in turn sparked the building of a pro-democracy mass movement called the Red Shirts.

The Army’s election campaign: Vote monarchy!

13 04 2011

It seems PPT’s earlier post on lese majeste charges against red shirt leaders has underplayed the extent of Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha’s efforts to “protect” the monarchy by using the lese majeste law against political opponents.It is far worse and far more sinister than our post indicated.

If The Nation report is to be believed, Prayuth has gone nuclear on the monarchy. He is now actively campaigning in an election period for the monarchy. In essence, for the royalists in the Phum Jai Thai Party and the Democrat Party.

Prayuth wants a high voter in an election as he thinks a high “turnout is the key to safeguarding the monarchy and bringing about change under a democracy…”.

Getting the number of eligible voters wrong by quite a way, he says: “”I believe if all 60 million [eligible] Thai citizens come out to cast their votes, they can change the country…”. He seems to mean changing Thailand to be a Thai-style democracy where the monarchy rukes.

Prayuth thinks that an election “could end the political turmoil that had gripped the Kingdom.” He seems to mean that if the Democrat Party wins, it can finally claim electoral democracy. And as the party of the royalist elite, the “people” would effectively be safeguarding “the country’s revered institution by weeding out ill-intentioned politicians…”. He means any politician who are in the opposition, associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts.

Commenting on offensive remarks about the monarchy, Prayuth “said he saw no justification for certain individuals to try and fault the King, adding that politicians should not allow their political rivalry to spiral out of control and tarnish the monarchy.”

He continued, “urging voters to punish the instigators of last year’s riots through the ballot box.” He added: “Everyone knows the culprits behind the lost lives and the injuries incurred…”. PPT is sure he doesn’t mean the military! He means those who are in the opposition, associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the Puea Thai Party and the red shirts.

Although the instigators tried to attribute the blame to anti-riot forces, the crowd-control measures had been activated as a last resort and in a defensive manner due to the provocation, the Army head said. Prayuth then got really nasty, when he “pointed out that troops and protesters suffered high casualties while the rally organisers themselves had come out unscathed.” Perhaps he forgets that most casualties were to those wearing red shirts. Or perhaps he remembers and is simply a liar or perhaps he doesn’t care.

The Nation says this is “a veiled attack on red-shirt leaders.” It isn’t. It is a direct threat and the army chief is up to his thick neck in political campaigning for the current regime. Nothin g much else could be expected from the army chief. What is really very sinister is that this political figure who happens to be army chief has the temerity to criticize “red-shirt leaders for trying to link the military to politics in a bid to sway the crowds.”

Related, the political police at the Department of Special Investigation have “launched an investigation into 10 red-shirt leaders, including Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan, on suspicion of their having offended the monarchy during the April 10 rally last year at Democracy Monument.” Do they mean this year?

DSI director-general Tharit Phengdit revealed yesterday that his team of investigators was preparing to charge Jatuporn and rally organisers for lese majeste, as evidenced by their recorded rally speeches.

Tharit said Jatuporn Promphan “had contacted him via telephone to inquire about surrendering to face a lese majeste charge. Other red-shirt leaders likely to face the same charge include Weng Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua, Korkaew Pikulthong, Suporn Atthawong, Kwanchai Praiphana and Laddawan Wongsriwong.

The Army chief has already filed a police complaint against Jatuporn, Suporn and Wichian Khaokham forlese majeste.

So is that 13 accusations of lese majeste in 2 days? Maybe the U.S. State Department can review its so-called human rights report now that the political intent of the use of lese majeste is so clear that a blind monkey could see it.

Updated: Army chief accuses red shirt leaders of lese majeste

12 04 2011

The Bangkok Post reports on the outcome of the Army’s “war room” exercise that was, in part, meant to catch red shirt speakers out. As the report last Saturday expressed it,

Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha] said he was concerned that some red-shirt demonstrators might attack the high institution and incite violence and therefore the army war room was set up.

The war room … will 24-hour monitor the situation and all speeches delivered at the rally stage by UDD core leaders. Legal action will be taken against all law violators.

Prayuth accuses

The outcome is reportedly that the “army on Tuesday filed a complaint against United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship co-leader Jatuporn Prompan and two others [Wichian Khaokham, a Puea Thai MP for Udon Thani, and Suporn Atthawong, a UDD member], saying they might have committed lese majeste in connection with their speeches made at the red-shirt rally at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnern Avenue on Sunday, April 10.”

Importantly, this complaint has been filed at the Samranrat police station, on behalf  of army chief Prayuth.

These same three are also subject to earlier terrorism charges from May 2010 and are on bail. The police are now required “to examine tapes of the three’s speeches to see if they constituted lese majeste.”

Not to be left out of the lese majeste action, the political police at the Department Special Investigation (DSI) and its chief Tharit Pengdit “said at a press conference that his office had listened to tapes of speeches of Mr Jatuporn and 13 other red shirt leaders and found they might have lese majeste contents.” This leads the DSI to submit a “a request to the Office of the Attorney General asking it to consider revoking bail for Mr Jatuporn and other persons who have been freed on bail.”

PPT will shortly add the three names to our ever-lengthening list of those accused of lese majeste who are being investigated. We doubt these political charges will cause any particular rethink at the U.S. State Department, where lese majeste seems viewed as somehow apolitical.

Update: One of Jatuporn’s speeches is here:

The continuing hunt for red shirts

5 06 2010

In a recent post PPT referred to the now blatant authoritarianism of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, backed by the might of the military. That identity is amply demonstrated in three stories in the Bangkok Post.

The first refers to the now totally-politicized government police at the Department of Special Investigation. The DSI is chasing down anyone the government thinks is an influential red shirt with wild charges of “terrorism.” The latest targets are three Puea Thai Party MPs facing these terrorism charges that can lead to a death penalty. They have been ordered to appear at the Criminal Court.

One of the MPs is red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan who had already turned himself in on 25 May and sat in parliament after he was released.

The others are Karun Hosakul and Wichian Kaokham, both of who are reported to have already reported to the department.

The second story is about the army and police hunting down red shirt leader Suporn Attawong “reported to be hiding in a Northeastern province…”. The army “urged the public to pass information on his whereabouts to  police or the army.”

It also reports that provincial governors where emergency law remains in force  “suggested  it could remain in place for a while longer because it does not affect the people’s day to day lives.” Only if the “people” are not red shirts, for the “state of emergency allows authorities to proceed with cases related to red-shirt leaders and core members…”. The army wanted emergency rule to be maintained for the “the next month or two.”

The third story relates to the extension of the detention of  Somyos Prueksakasemsuk by the Criminal Court on Friday. The effective joint-venture government of Thailand, known as the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation’s (CRES) requested and received the 7 day extension. The court made the breathtakingly brilliant decision that as the emergency decree had not been revoked CRES could continue to detain him.

Readers should note that the emergency decree – stated above to not infringe on daily lives – seems to remove constitutional protections. But Somyos is considered by the CRES to be a hated red shirt, so he has no real rights in any case.

The grounds for detaining Somyos remain opaque.

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