Murder and the failure of the justice system

11 08 2018

In our first post on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017, we made several points. We began by saying no one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event.

The junta immediately defended the soldiers who shot the young man:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The courts have decided that the military shot Chaiyaphoom, but no more than this.

The police initially insisted that Lahu activist Chaiyaphoom was linked to drug trafficking. They also stated, immediately, that the killing was in self-defense. They claimed Chaiyapoom was shot after he tried to attack the soldier with a hand grenade while fleeing. Another version of the police story also had him threatening the soldier with a knife. It later emerged that the military used exactly  the same “defense” in a case a month earlier and at the very same military checkpoint.

The story became more bizarre when it emerged that in neither case did the “grenade” explode! It was being alleged that the two used the grenade like throwing a rock.

You’d think the story could be better than this if you were concocting it. But these officials and the military are so sure of their impunity that they can come up with ludicrous, improbable and dumb excuses and just get away with it.

Immediately after Chaiyaphoom’s one-shot death, the police insisted there was no foul play.” And they also claimed that a large number of meth pills were “found” in the car that Chaiyaphoom allegedly ran from. Shut the door, close the books and go home. There’s nothing to see or investigate.

Locals were aghast and knew there was a cover up. When the military suddenly showed up in villages and strong-armed potential witnesses and a few who spoke out, it was clear there was a cover-up.

More covering up followed. The Army boss Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart said his men “had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade…”. Deputy Dictator Prawit Wongsuwan said much the same.

Local witnesses of the shooting told a different story. They were soon silent, no doubt intimidated.

By the end of March, the military and police had refused to release CCTV footage of the killing. Third Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the military had sent CCTV evidence to the police.

Gen Chalermchai also “stated that he had already watched the CCTV recording of the scene. He said the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all questions.’ Releasing the footage might lead to confusion in the investigation process and arguments among society.”

Then in mid-April it was reported that the generals were lying:

Pol Col Mongkhon Samphawaphon revealed to BBC Thai that the police have not received CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

The police submitted a request to the military for the footage. However, the military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.

Intimidation continued.

In mid-May 2017, it was reported that police had received the CCTV video. The police stated that they had “spent a week unable to view critical footage because they didn’t have a computer with the necessary software to watch it.”

Then, almost six months after Chaiyapoom was killed and over five months after the military first stated it had handed the CCTV footage to police investigators, a lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family said he was concerned about the CCTV footage which was prime evidence. He said he did not know whether the military has given the footage to prosecutor.

Later still, the CCTV video remained “unavailable”:

Although the trial in the killing of ethnic Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae began over seven months ago, the court has not yet received the Army’s CCTV footage, critical evidence which recorded soldiers shooting the activist.

According to Sumitchai Hattasan, the lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, the Army had already sent the CCTV hard disk to the police, but the file cannot be opened. The lawyer said that he would ask the court to order the Army to resend the footage early next year.

As court proceedings continued, it was reported:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

In June 2018, a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on Chaiyapoom’s killing was delivered, concluding that “the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

Again, Chaiyaphoom’s lawyer and family petitioned the Army to reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain. The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men.

Now it is reported – some 17 months after the extrajudicial killing – the Army would have the public believe that there is no footage. That’s what they have now told the family.

This is breathtakingly dumb. Those generals, then, were simply lying. They cannot be believed on anything at all. They are scoundrels of the lowest order.

More importantly, they may have engaged in malfeasance justifying legal proceedings against them.

Now it is claimed the tape was erased. It is claimed it was never there having been erased to create space on the tape/disk for additional recording.

So what did the generals view? Porn perhaps? Family holiday videos? Blank screens? We think not. We actually think the generals did not lie. Rather, they saw the events, realized it was incriminating its troops of an extrajudicial murder, and after hiding the evidence, it has now been erased.

That’s a criminal act. The Bangkok Post’s editorial doesn’t say anything about that, but says this:

Thailand has been unable to hold state officials accountable for extrajudicial killings, torture or forced disappearances due to a flawed and biased justice process.

The missing footage once again will prevent the justice system from fulfilling its mission of getting to the bottom of yet another mysterious killing.

Its time to say that the justice system under the military dictatorship is incapable of delivering anything resembling justice.





Political vandalism and the control of history

23 04 2017

1932 plaqueThe political theft of the 1932 plaque has had unintended consequences.

The thief-in-chief was seeking to remove a perceived threat to the new reign and the junta’s constitutional basis for authoritarianism.

One unintended consequence has been to shine a light on 1932. The understanding of that time and the revolution that ended royal absolutism has been “controlled” by royalists for a considerable time. Think of the King Prajadhipok Institute and its mangled version of history. (If the KPI “The history” and “About KPI” seem reasonable, then you are a victim of the royalist control of history.)

Over the past couple of days, the Bangkok Post has had several op-eds that have posed questions about the received “history.” Each deserves attention. We’ll just quote some bits and pieces.

The first is by Wasant Techawongtham. He begins:

The switcheroo involving the 1932 Revolution memorial plaque seemed at first to be a simple act of theft or vandalism. But once the matter was brought to the attention of the authorities, things rapidly spiralled into the realm of the surreal.

And the more people try to make sense of it, the murkier it becomes.

He points out the quite banal and seemingly inexplicable initial responses from the junta:

Both government [junta] spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd and National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree, who can normally answer anything the press might throw at them, were lost for words.

The Dusit district chief who has jurisdiction over the area knew nothing about it either. The Fine Arts department chief not only did not know anything about the switch but claimed — rather hilariously, I should say — that the plaque was neither an artefact nor had any historical value.

The police not only did not know about it but would not accept complaints to look into the matter, claiming — I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry here — that no one owned the object, and therefore no one could file a complaint. Huh?

You have to ask yourself: Is this for real?

The plaque was installed there for only 80-plus years and is associated with arguably the most significant political development in modern Thai history.

He refers to more ridiculousness by the junta and its minions before observing:

The silliness in this country knows no bounds. But this latest episode really takes the cake.

This really worries me. The Thai people under this military regime are already under orders not to think or speak their mind. But now we are supposed to not see or hear as well.

George Orwell would love to have written such a story.

We seem now to be living in another dimension where reality is distorted out of all proportion and truth is anything the powers-that-be say it is.

A second op-ed is by Ploenpote Atthakor. She begins:

… the plaque, which marks one of the most important incidents in modern Thai history, is a hot potato politically.

But though I fully sympathise with those inflamed by this apparent act of “political vandalism”, the extent of the public outcry has surprised me. Like those who are up in arms, I also wish the plaque, which marks the political transition from absolutism or constitutional monarchy, had stayed at its original site.

I believe Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has ordered a probe into the case, will never give a full account of what has happened. Nor could he restore the original plaque to its rightful place….

She seems to believe she cannot say why this is. The vandal-in-chief is beyond criticism. The Dictator is beyond criticism.

She continues by noting the failure of people to understand 1932 or to respect its symbols. Likewise, she does not point to the royalist hold on “history” as the reason for this. It is fine to opine about “the people” being “ignorant,” but the reasons for their alleged ignorance need to be explained. But she sees a silver lining:

… its sudden disappearance has triggered an interest in this particular period of Thai history like never before. The people who removed it probably didn’t expect that.

The third op-ed is by Kong Rithdee. He begins:

Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present (tada!) controls the past. In summary, the military, like quantum physicists or mad sorcerers, controls time: The past, present, future, ad infinitum.

Through their coups, their fantasies and their laws, they control history — meaning the things that have happened or they want us to believe have happened. They also want to control the making of history — history as work in progress — meaning the shifting of glaciers and governments, the removal of memory and the manufacturing of dreams. Through the new 20-year national strategy bill, they also want to control the laying of future laws that will govern our life until eternity….

Much has been pondered about the missing plaque marking the 1932 Siamese Revolution. The erasing of history, an elusive heist, a voodoo ritual? Take your pick, for it looks like the burglary of the artefact is going down as one of the greatest puzzles of modern times. The sorcerers know they can’t change the past, even with chicken blood or powerful mantras, so they feel a need to change the record of the past — the imperfect past written by the revolutionaries who transformed the country into a constitutional monarchy.

He can’t get into the palace’s role although he could look at the role of royalist “historians” in the service of palace and military, writing “politicians” and the anti-royalists out of “their” history that is now “the” history. Or maybe he can, by allusion:

With the new plaque discreetly put in place of the original one, a palimpsest of history is being constructed before our eyes by the hand that appears firm, inexorable, invisible. So invisible that even the CCTV cameras (which only function when you’re speeding) lost all trace of what happened. The ghost did it. Again.

Some might see the ghost as a devil. He concludes:

The mark of dictatorship is when someone controls our life and our choice — that’s harder now because modern dictatorship still operates under capitalism, a system that values choice.

So it’s true dictatorship when someone attempts to control the concept of time — the mad aspiration to rule history and lay siege to the past, present and future while preventing us, the true holders of destiny, from writing our own parts. The clock is ticking but time is frozen. It’s not, as they often say, Orwell’s 1984.

This is a dystopian sci-fi, a country beyond Brave New World.

 





There is no justice IV

4 04 2017

In a post yesterday, PPT wrote of the death of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam. In that post it was noted that Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisart had ordered an “investigation” into the death in military custody.

In that post, we cited Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree warned stated: “Please have confidence. If it is concluded that any officer did this, he will surely face legal and disciplinary actions to the full extent…”.

General Chalermchai has not waited for the “investigation” to be completed before seeking to limit the damage to the military and to the military regime.

He has “expressed regret and responsibility over the death of a 22-year-old private, who is suspected of being brutally beaten at a local army prison in Surat Thani.” He “also apologised to the public over the incident and extended his condolences to Pvt Yutthakinun Boonniam’s family.”

The army chief’s apology was linked to his statement that it is all about errant underlings: “Gen Chalermchai insisted he has always forbidden any kind of physical assaults taking place between his subordinates.”

He went on to say that the “strict discipline” – he means inhumane beatings, torture and murder – “could be a result of old habits among soldiers who were previously deployed along the country’s border.” He described “strict discipline” as involving “rather severe punitive measures sometimes…”.

While blaming errant underlings for “strict discipline” getting out of hand he said “I am responsible for this…. There are still black spots” in training. He added: “I was already trying to fix this and I am working to ensure it will not happen again.”

According to the top general, “those stringent measures [inhumane beatings, torture and murder] have been scaled down recently as military training is conducted under a proper framework, adding he was trying to address the violence in military drills…”.

If they really have been “scaled down,” the large number of video clips of them taking place loaded to social media showing such “strict discipline” in terrible and graphic detail must indicate that “strict discipline” is has been so widespread that it has been normalized.

Remarkably, General Chalermchai “added the incident occurred at a prison that was sometimes neglected by superiors.” Seriously? Or is it that the top brass is happy enough to allow inhumane treatment of those it incarcerates.

Gen Chalermchai said the military had launched an “investigation,” conducted by the military according to reports, but then “insisted the army would not intervene in the judicial process.”

How does that work?

Like “Boss” in the private sector, the military has been doling out “support” and “compensation” to the dead man’s family. This is the “blood money” of the (in)justice system.

Meanwhile, the Army boss reckons that those responsible will be punished, although probably not by the same “strict discipline” that they meted out as normal in the military hierarchy.





Good lads and bad lads

26 03 2017

Remember those nice lads from the south who came to Bangkok and organized protests against the military junta’s coal-fired power station plans? Yes, the lads who have a leader who is a royal and who called for a counter-coup if they didn’t get their way?

Those lads seem to be good lads because they had the junta changing its mind on the power plant process and also forgiving the lads so that none of them have become subjects of harassment and jailing. This is because they are pro-coup.

It seems good lads can even threaten the junta without having to worry too much. Of course, the junta may change its political judgement about these lads, but at the moment they seem “protected.”

Then there are bad lads, defined as activists and drug dealers and troublemakers. Chaiyapoom Pasae, killed with a single shot by the Army, is said in the Bangkok Post to be an activist and artist. That article describes two stories of Chaiyapoom’s death, and its pretty easy to see that the military and police story is struggling to paint him as a bad lad.

One of the very interesting parts of the story is the attached picture, a screen grab from TNN, showing a blurred out image of “the body of Chaiyapoom just after he was shot, as the police, military and their photographers begin to coordinate the stories they will tell the public.” We assume it is accurate in its description and have clipped it and reproduced it below.

We find it interesting because we recall that at first “soldiers claimed that they found certain amount of amphetamine in the car Chaiyaphum was sitting in and that he was resisting the authorities to arrest him by pulling out a knife before running into a bush.” First the knife went missing from the story and now, looking at the picture, the bush is gone too.

Then there’s other pictures:

Earlier there were pictures, leaked by a Facebook page opposing the Single Gateway Internet control idea, that showed Chaiyapoom cooperating with the soldiers’ search. The pictures seem to contradict the claim that the Lahu teenager resisted the soldiers.

The problem with Chaiyapoom’s sad case is that the disbelief expressed by many is causing the authorities to have to embellish and refine their story. In other words to make it more believable by making him appear as bad as possible. But there’s the troubling problem of witnesses who are not in uniform. The driver of the car involved has been held by military and police since the event. There may be others, and if this is a cover-up, then the authorities need to control them.

If previous cover-ups are a model, then this involves intimidation and violence. One measure of the moves being made is a statement by Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree who:

yesterday dismissed reports of a witness to the killing being threatened as untrue, saying officers have been taking care of the witness who had been co-operative and provided useful information.

He went on to threaten the media: “…[he] warned that anything revealed to the media could be libellous.”

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit:

took a man who was Chaiyapoom’s mentor to Na Wai police station to file a report about receiving a threat. The mentor (whose name has been withheld) told the NHRC he found a bullet in front of his house on Wednesday night, after he spoke out in defence of the young activist. He said two men, who did not identify themselves, had showed up earlier at his house to tell him to stop talking about Chaiyapoom.

They will have been military thugs.

The NHRC stated that “[o]ther witnesses were too scared to even talk to members of the rights body team yesterday.”

No soldier who manned the checkpoint at the time of the extrajudicial murder had been transferred or suspended. They were all continuing to work as normal.

Perhaps that’s why the witness who has been threatened is being assisted by the NHRC and will likely “go into a witness protection programme.”

Expect more efforts to paint Chaiyapoom as a bad boy, to intimidate his family and friends and to intimidate witnesses.





Lies and impunity

22 03 2017

The story about the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae gets more unlikely by the day. Of course, it was never a “likely” story, we are just emphasizing that its getting ragged and ridiculous. Ragged and ridiculous is a standard strategy used by the police and military when they murder citizens and need a cover story, no matter how ridiculous.

In our last post, we quoted some dopey police spokesman claiming that Chaiyapoom “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.” This official version of the story was supported by a junta spokesman.

The story has now changed as the military dissembles. Reacting to massive criticism on social media, The Dictator has ordered a “probe” into the death. By whom, we are just not sure, but we would guess its those with impunity seeking to grant impunity to their minion murderers.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan weighed in. He knows what happened:

… he had received a report from Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart, which said officials had to protect themselves as the suspect had intended to throw a grenade that was found at the scene.

“What can they do? The officials also fear dying,” Prawit said, when told the suspect was a youth activist.

That’s pretty clear. Meanwhile,

Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the case would be handled in accordance with legal procedures, adding that officials involved in the operation had to give testimony justifying their actions and police would proceed with their investigation, he said.

As we have said many times recently, there is no justice in Thailand and legal procedures are ways to grant impunity.

Winthai knows what happened:

“If the relatives [of Chaiyapoom] have doubts over the investigation and the case, they can have lawyers raise inquiries during the investigation and court trial,” Winthai said. “The army is ready to make the case clear and give justice to all.”

If only the poor in Thailand could afford to buy the “justice” the rich purchase. If only the poor had an institutional system that worked for them rather than the murderous thugs working for the military dictatorship.

The military’s report states a soldier is charged with something or other, but there are no details. The report says this:

Soldiers stopped, searched and found 2,800 methamphetamine pills in a car in which Chaiyapoom and his friend were riding. The soldiers took the two into custody, but Chaiyapoom broke away and was about to throw a grenade at the troops, prompting the soldier to shoot.

According to Col Winthai in an earlier report on Monday, the soldier fired a single shot to kill Chaiyapoom, and no other troops fired.

Col Winthai, who knows what happened, “told reporters the shooting was in self-defence.”

This is different from the original claims. The boy did not throw a grenade.

But there’s more. Prachatai reports that there are other witnesses:

in an interview that Thai PBS broadcasted on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said several other civilians saw the incident, adding that three gunshots were heard before Chaiyapoom was killed. “Many villagers saw that he was dragged out of the car and beaten. [A soldier] put a foot on his face and fired two shots to intimidate him. When [Chaiyapoom] broke free from the beating and ran, the soldier shot him. They did not allow the villagers to approach the site,” the Thai PBS quoted the anonymous witness as saying.

Based on previous experience, it is likely that the military thugs will be hunting down these witnesses to silence them or, perhaps, charge them with something.

This is how military dictatorships operate.





Going after kids III

21 03 2017

Along with the alleged “assassination plot” or perhaps it is multiple “plots,” against Thailand’s dictator, another unbelievable event has unfolded with the killing of a young Lahu boy by soldiers.

No one has any reason to believe the police or the military on this tragic event. Their story is bizarre, the only credible witness is in their custody and the “investigation” of the killing is being conducted by the people who did the killing.

The Bangkok Post reports on what it says is an “extrajudicial killing.”

The police have “insisted …[the] Lahu activist … was linked to drug trafficking…”. They also claim that the killing “was carried out in self-defence.” As we said in our earlier post, this really does sound like a report from the 1970s or perhaps from the War on Drugs earlier this century.

A police spokesman has claimed that Chaiyapoom Pasae “was shot dead by a soldier in Chiang Mai last Friday as he tried to attack him with a hand grenade.” That spokesman “insisted” there “was no foul play behind Chaiyapoom’s death.”

This is the official spokesman making this claim of nothing untoward when there is meant to be an “investigation” into the events. It is pretty clear where that “investigation” is going.

Locals have called for a broader probe into the killing. They say “they don’t believe the [young] man was embroiled in drug smuggling and that he was an activist dedicated to local causes.”

Experienced in cleaning up such messes and managing official impunity, the police claim that they “found” some “2,800 methamphetamine pills hidden in a car.

Pongnai Saengtala, the driver of the car that Chaiyapoom was in, they say, was being “detained” when Chaiyapoom “ran away.” You can already see that this is is either concocted or that the soldiers and police involved were incompetent dimwits. If Chaiyapoom was a “suspect,” why wasn’t he under guard?

The next claim is equally suspicious: “A soldier chased Chaiyapoom, who turned and threw a hand grenade at the soldier, forcing him to shoot Chaiyapoom. It is not clear where the grenade came from.” That shooting was “only one shot…”.

There’s no story about the grenade going off. In fact, it is being “examined” in the “investigation.” The claim must be that Chaiyapoom threw the grenade as if it was a rock. Earlier versions had him with a knife and a grenade. Believable?

Now, cleaning up, the cops will “trace the source of the drugs that were found in the car…”. We suspect a real “investigation” wouldn’t have to go far to locate that source. As is widely known, the police regularly plant “evidence.”

Yet what they do is “investigate” his family and they will charge the driver and make a deal for a “confession” and for incriminating Chaiyapoom. That’s the pattern of these things.

Of course, the junta is on-side with cops and soldiers:

National Council for Peace and Order [junta] spokesman Winthai Suvaree yesterday said authorities performed their duties according to a code of conduct and none of them would have fired their weapons had it not been necessary.

The military’s death toll of civilians murdered climbs by one more.





A colonel and his ethical blank space

10 08 2016

There have been many efforts to explain or rationalize the outcome of the military’s referendum. That’s to be expected.

However, one statement that caught social media attention was an offbeat statement by junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree who seemed so excited by the (expected) outcome that he seemed to forget all previous history.

He stated that “[p]oliticians critical of the referendum result were holding the country back…”. In fact, over 80 decades, it has been the military’s politicians and multiple political interventions that have held the country “back.” Back here seems to be sometime in the 20th century, with a military preference for absolutist times in the pre-1932 period and then in the 1950s and 1960s.

Winthai thought that the referendum had had “participation from all sectors in society.” We are confused. Which society was Winthai observing? Certainly not Thailand during the no-campaign period on a charter that almost no one has actually seen and read.

Winthai declared that, “What they [politicians, but not military politicians] say can be seen as showing no respect to the people’s opinions.” This is a nonsense. What is being said by critics is that the military’s referendum was a farce and an outcome of repressive politics.

When Winthai calls on these “politicians” to “give factual information based on real circumstance,” he neglects that this is exactly what they are doing. The problem for the junta is that they don’t like facts.

When he demands that “politicians” should “adjust their attitude,” he suggests more repression, arrests and threats.

All of this is normal dictatorspeak. However, when Winthai turns to international politics, he becomes remarkably incoherent, as if he has been reading only yellow shirt social media.

When asked “about the negative reactions from some countries, including members of the European Union,” Winthai claimed that “many people [he means yellow shirts and other anti-democrats like the junta members] wondered just how they [foreign governments including the EU] had reached such conclusions, because they were far away from the real situation.”

He then comes up with the now standardized yellow-shirted claim: “Those countries might well have have received biased information…”. This is a statement of a massive conspiracy centered on Thaksin Shinawatra who they think has superhuman capacity to influence Western governments.

When he states that he these foreign governments “were ethically impartial,” it is as if Wintahi has and understands ethics. We are sure he is clueless on this. Any spokesman for a military dictatorship cannot – by definition – have any ethics, for they are charged with lying for a murderous regime.