Updated: Courts, media, monarchy and constitution

4 12 2020

A couple of short reports that PPT found interesting.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court also ruled that:

… summons orders issued by the now-defunct military regime are unconstitutional.

The court ruled by a vote of 7-2 that NCPO Announcement No.29/2014 contravened Section 29 of the constitution.

The court also ruled by a unanimous decision that NCPO Announcement No.41/2014 runs counter to Section 26 of the charter.

Announcement No.29 ordered people to report to authorities while Announcement No.41 stipulated penalties including criminal action against those who failed to report.

Given that several hundred were detained, this ruling opens a channel for former detainees like Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut of Thammasat University and a law professor to look at filing “a suit for damages from former members of the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”.

In another story, we zoom right. Right-wing ultra-royalist Warong Dechgitvigrom and his nutter friends in Thai Pakdee have “asked the Constitutional Court … to halt the charter change process, claiming it could overthrow Thailand’s system of governance.”

As happened in the recent past, rightists oppose any move to change even punctuation in the charter claiming the sky will fall. Watch what the Court decides on this.

The third story is about how to make the media monarchist. We all know that the media is under pressure to make the monarchy look great, but The Dictator recently complained:

During a visit to the Defense Ministry today, [Gen] Prayuth Chan-o-cha was expounding on why the media should remain neutral amid protests to his rule when he noted “inappropriate” newspaper front pages on which photos of the king and queen appeared smaller than those of recent protests.

“What does this mean?” he said. “You have to weigh whether this is appropriate.”

The report then explains pro-monarchy edicts:

Prayuth was getting at guidelines long observed quietly by newsrooms on how to uphold the supremacy of the monarchy by strictly adhering to rules for how it is presented. While most newspapers around the world position front page stories based on their news value, impact and photographs; Thai newsrooms follow agreed-upon rules dictating what appears on A1 – and where.

For example, obligatory royal news items – usually routine ceremonies or dedications – must appear above other stories, with royal faces minor and major appearing higher than anyone or anything else on the page. As with every television channel’s inclusion of “royal news” at the peak prime time of 8pm, it serves to reinforce the primacy of the royal family in everyday life.

It’s good to know what the regime expects.

Update: For a more detailed explanation of Worachet’s Constitutional Court decision, see Prachatai. That report also cites Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is reported as saying:

If the Court decided that the Orders contravened the Constitution, then they became ineffective. “After 2017, it is admitted that some people were summoned in the belief that the order was not unconstitutional. But when the Court decides that it is unconstitutional, then it is,” Wissanu said.

However, Wissanu confirmed that the Court’s decision would not be retroactive and defendants could not sue officials. “Because the officials proceeded in the understanding that it was not unconstitutional, and because there was no ruling, if they had not proceeded, they might themselves have been guilty. For now, if anyone is still being prosecuted or consideration of the case is unfinished, they must all cease.”





Hardening lines II

16 08 2020

With another student-led gathering planned for today, rightist ultra-royalists are networking in opposition.

Thai Post reproduces a letter being circulated to oppose the students and their ten demands. This group appears to be the handiwork of Tul Sitthisomwong, the Chulalongkorn University medical faculty lecturer who has quite a history.

Clipped from The Nation several years ago

We think PPT’s first mention of Tul was in early April 2010 when he was a part of a pink shirt – channeling the king – rally, opposing red shirts. Abhisit Vejjajiva, then premier, gave them lots of support. At the time, Tul claimed that the group saw “themselves as a civic group opposing the offensive attempts against the monarchy, an unjustified snap election and runaway protests disrupting normalcy and peace.” Despite his claims that the pink shirts were not linked to the People’s Alliance for Democracy, Tul acted as a representative and member of PAD. The pink shirts later morphed into the “multicoloured- shirt group” and the “Citizen Protecting Homeland Group” or sometimes rendered “Citizen Network for Protection of Motherland.” In 2012, royalists including Tul cheered two thugs who had beaten up Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut because he called for reform of the lese majeste law. In 2013-14, Tul Sitthisomwong joined People’s Democratic Reform Committee rallies.

In other words, Tul’s has been around at the beginning of every royalist movements since the mid-2000s. His beffuddled understanding of monarchy is reproduced here.

The mobilizing of ultra-royalists has been a task often assigned to the Internal Security Operations Command, and has often been a precursor to increased political conflict.

While ultra-royalists are organizing, the media is being censored. In a remarkable op-ed at Khaosod, on the divide between youngsters and the old man royalist-military elite, Pravit Rojanaphruk demonstrates censorship.

The demands are listed here.

Meanwhile, universities have been ordered to prevent students from expressing their views on the monarchy.

Former communist, former academic, former failed politician, opportunist, bow-tied buffoon, and newly appointed Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Anek Laothamatas demanded universities fall into line on royalist boundary riding and indoctrination:

Universities must be strict with their students in this respect and they must take responsibility if they fail to act, Mr Anek said.

“Teachers must explain to their students how important the monarchy is. Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. We must work together to prevent students and outsiders from insulting the monarchy. You can’t afford to turn a blind eye,” Mr Anek said.

Those present at the meeting included the presidents of Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, Thammasat University, Chiang Mai University, Khon Kaen University, and Silpakorn University.

We imagine that this hardening of response, including arrests, represents the regime’s response to “royal advice” received during the king’s few hours in Bangkok earlier in the week.





Money and power

21 03 2018

The military dictatorship’s “election” campaigning is intensifying. It is a campaign to strengthen the regime, whether it goes to an “election” or just remains in power through “election delays.” The intensity of the campaign and related action suggests a regime feeling stressed and worried about its capacity to retain power.

As we have noted several times, the military regime has been pouring money into the electorate. Its latest effort involves a plan to “inject 30 billion baht into more than 82,000 villages nationwide…”. This effort reeks of the so-called populism that the regime once criticized but has readily embraced as a means to retain power.

In fact, the regime has a “supplementary budget of 150 billion baht approved in January by the cabinet to spur the grassroots economy.” In other words, the 30 billion is just a part of the regime’s new “election” fund. Its going to rain money, especially in rural electorates.

The National Legislative Assembly will shortly endorse the supplementary budget with the regime urging NLA deliberation now, declaring “it is essential to disburse funds that can spur investment and the economy in general under the government’s Pracharath people-state partnership scheme.” That’s just one of the junta’s electoral campaigning fund.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continues his personal campaign for nomination at prime minister following the junta’s “election,” should it decide to allow one. He’s visiting the northeast.

While campaigning, The Dictator still had time to use Article 44 to sack anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. Somchai is a bright yellow election commissioner who has come to clash with the junta because he wants to keep his job but the regime is dismissing all commissioners. Presumably the junta finds the current commissioners, already under-strength, a little too unpredictable when it comes to its delayed “election.”

Somchai paints himself as a martyr, declaring: “It’s been an honour to reveal the face of the NCPO.” In fact, Somchai had a large role in preparing the political ground for the 2014 military coup, and feels the regime should be rewarding him, not appointing a new EC. He should be apologizing for his role in bringing the military dictatorship to power.

Then there’s the military arm of the junta. Army boss and junta member Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart has gone a bit crazy after Nitirat member Worachet Pakeerut raised the specter of a 1992-like uprising if The Dictator becomes an outsider premier following an “election.” Gen Chalermchai demands that no one speak of The Dictator’s political desire.





Unleashing barbarism

9 05 2017

Prachatai reports that “[t]wo belligerent youths have entered Chulalongkorn University to look for Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a progressive student activist recently elected as the Student Council’s president of Chulalongkorn University.”

On 8 May 2017, two thugs “rode a motorcycle onto the university’s campus in Bangkok and visited the Political Science Faculty to look for Netiwit.” These thugs “reportedly used threatening language to ask for the whereabouts of the student activist.”

Netiwit filed a complaint with police, stating:

Please give me and the new generation opportunities to prove ourselves. If [you] think differently, it is alright, but we should talk if [you] really love Thai society. Do not let the world and other people see that our society is a barbaric one that favours violence. I am afraid of course, but I shall continue to fight….

This threat came after The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha publicly criticized and chastised Netiwit.

We have seen this unleashing of thugs before. In a post in 2012, we said

PPT doesn’t think it a coincidence that as the Army chief [General Prayuth Chan-0cha] returns to threatening behavior that the (relatively quiet) Nitirat group receives threats. At Prachatai it is reported that on 17 August, members of Nitirat “went to Chanasongkhram Police Station to file a complaint after mysterious men had been seen at their [Thammasat University] offices taking photographs of their schedules to meet students.”

Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut told Prachatai that “similar incidents had seemed to happen more frequently lately at the campus in Tha Phrachan.”

This followed an attack by two thugs on a motorcycle on Worachet, who was beaten up. Prayuth had led a coterie of right-wingers and royalists in criticizing and chastising Nitirat and Worachet for proposing changes to the lese majeste law.

In other words, as well as unleashing official thugs on a daily basis against political opponents, General Prayuth now has form for inciting vigilantes. That behavior is in line with political tactics used by Thailand’s military over several decades.

Thailand under military regimes is violent and barbaric.





Nitirat and the referendum

26 07 2016

Nitirat, which some time ago issued an analysis of the flawed military charter, recently held a meeting Thammasat University that made demands of the military junta.

The Bangkok Post reports that Nitirat and others demanded a more participatory charter-drafting process. More interestingly, they also demanded that the “regime must step down and let the people take part in a process to draw up a new constitution if the draft charter is shot down in the Aug 7 referendum…”.

The call was from “[f]orty-three civil, academics and student groups [which] also issued a statement opposing the draft charter.”

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a Thammasat University law lecturer and member of Nitirat, “told the seminar the regime must relinquish its power and must not be involved in the process to draft a new constitution if the draft charter is voted down.” He added that, if the referendum fails, the “2014 interim charter … must be abolished and replaced by an interim charter drawn up by the public to pave the way for the general election.”

His colleague Worachet Pakeerut warned that it is still “unclear if the referendum will take place as planned given that the leader of the National Council for Peace and Order [junta] has power under Section 44 … to decide whether to postpone the referendum.”

One journalist stated:

… it was Nitirat group leader Mr Worachet who stole the show not just for explaining clearly how the draft charter is undemocratic but also for rekindling the fight for democracy and rule of law that seems to have weakened after years of repression.

If the regime was watching how people reacted to Mr Worachet’s speech — the standing ovation and cheers — it should be worried, very worried.

The response on Worachet’s role initially came from Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. He declared that the law professor “might be prosecuted under the Referendum Act for campaigning for ‘vote no’.” Wissanu said that Worachet “told the audience while he was on stage that they should vote against the draft constitution, which could be viewed as a violation of the Referendum Act.”

In his speech, Worachet also remarked, that: “If the draft charter fails to pass the referendum, the legitimacy of the NCPO will be called into question…”.

Our view is that “win” or “lose,” the junta, its draft charter and the referendum are all illegitimate. At the same time, we agree with the groups at the seminar that a No vote is necessary as well as a close watch on the junta “fixing” the result.





Barbarians on campus

22 11 2015

The headline is from an excellent Bangkok Post Spectrum article by Nanchanok Wongsamuth that comments at length on the intimidation of students and faculty at Thai universities. In it, dean of Ubon Ratchathani University’s political science faculty Chaiyan Rajchaigool, describes the military’s campus patrols as “barbaric”.

He observed that the patrols, where the military drives around campus, appears armed on campus, visits classrooms, talks to faculty and administrators, “intimidated students and faculty members, likening it to treating them as if they were guilty of thought crime.”

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “denounced university lecturers as having instigated rebellious thoughts and actions among students.”

PPT won’t repeat all of the article, which deserves a full reading. We simply reproduce bits and pieces that struck us chilling, revealing and important.

Titipol Phakdeewanich claims not to discuss politics on Facebook. His colleagues at Ubon Ratchathani University “describe him as not politically vocal, and his criticisms as not provocative or hostile, but within the boundaries determined by normal Thai politeness.” Titipol says: “My work does not involve opposition against the NCPO or the government…”.

Yet because the military is so fearful and so conspiratorial that he teaches on democracy and human rights is a threat to national security and the monarchist regime. Since “his first unofficial meeting with military officers in December last year, the army’s continued presence in classrooms, seminars and events involving international organisations has left the political science lecturer feeling fear and concern.” He has reason for his worries: “Titipol has been monitored [by the military] at eight different events that he knows of, each involving an international organisation.”

[T]he army has banned political gatherings of more than five people, it has often included seminars and academic discussions under that rule. Many event organisers are required to submit requests to authorities prior to staging a discussion. Most of the requests related to democracy, politics and lese majeste, however, have been rejected, often without any explanation.

The Army has watched and been suspicious of “topics ranging from corruption and scholarships to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.”

Titipol has links with the UNDP, U.S. Embassy and EU Mission. Military officers ask him: “what exactly are they trying to lead you into believing today?” He observes “they now see democracy as propaganda and a threat to national security.”

Read some of the comments under the story and you see that there is a stream of paranoia, from Left to Right, that views the U.S. as a Thaksin Shinawatra-supporting regime that wants to overthrow the monarchy and regime in Thailand. Madness, no real evidence other than conspiratorial blogs, but actually believed by some, including elements of the ruling regime.

Meanwhile, the climate of fear has extended into classrooms, where critical thinking is toned down and lecturers tell Spectrum they are reluctant to discuss “sensitive” issues, for fear of army surveillance. As well as overt means, there is also a fear that someone in a class may be spying or even reporting the content via family connections.

Faculty and administrators are required by the military to “closely monitor the activities of their students…”.

Vinai Poncharoen is an associate professor at Mahasarakham University’s College of Politics and Governance. he military fears him: “Last month, an army colonel and his subordinates held a meeting at the university with Mr Vinai, the faculty dean and vice-dean.” Vinai stated: “I told them I would not stop posting about politics on Facebook…. The colonel threatened me that this would be his last request, but refused to tell me what would happen if I violated his rule.”

The result is self-censorship: “when teaching Thai politics, he is careful when discussing the monarchy and instead uses obscure references.” He knows that there are spies on campus: “A staff member from the student affairs division had attended one of his lectures and the university’s legal adviser also attempted to add him as a Facebook friend.” Spying works better when threatening: “They [the army] said they have a spy in the university watching over me…”.

Assistant professor of law at Thammasat University Sawatree Suksri has “monthly visits to her house by three to five army officers who arrive in pickup trucks…”.

The meetings are described “as intimidating.”  She states: “Regardless of their manner, I don’t think the presence of military officers at home is considered normal…. It is a form of intimidation. It is sending the signal that we are no longer free.”

Since then, three to five officers meet him at the faculty every one to two months in what he describes as a “very polite” manner.

Worachet Pakeerut, already facing charges, has “three to five officers meet him at the faculty every one to two months.” He says:

Having people check on us all the time is like having ‘Big Brother’ watching over you. And for what? They are wasting their time, but on the other hand it is probably a psychological act.

A network of university professors recently declared “universities are not military camps.” They stated:

We jointly declare that in order to bring Thailand out of the conflict … there is a need for the creation of a society that has tolerance towards differences of opinion, transparency in solving conflicts and a fair and accountable judicial system…. Such a society is one that is governed under a liberal democracy … and educational institutions have a direct role in creating a democratic society.

Those involved have been summoned by the dictatorship’s enforcers and are expected to explain themselves.

Sadly, university administrations work in the interests of the military barbarians.





Worachet at the military court

28 05 2015

Prachatai reports that Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut has appeared before a military court. On Tuesday, “the first witness hearing in the case where Worachet … is accused of twice defying the coup makers’ orders to report in” following the May 2014 coup.

Worachet is accused of defying the military junta’s NCPO Orders No. 5/2014, issued on 24 May 2014, and No. 57/2014, issued on 9 June 2014.

The court hearing was attended by “[o]bservers from Thai and international human rights organizations and the US and German Embassies came to observe the trial.”

Worachet faces a maximum jail term of four years.

Under the military dictatorship, appearances before military courts by civilians has become common. Military courts do not operate under “normal” law and may be influenced by military hierarchies.





Rewarding the anti-democrats II

9 10 2014

Yesterday we posted on the rewards dished out to anti-democrats by placing them in the military dictatorship’s puppet National Reform Council.

A report at The Nation stresses just how much rewarding has gone on. Two of the major ideologues of anti-democratic movements from the People’s Alliance for Democracy to the Democrat Party-led anti-democrats of 2014, have been Chai-Anan Samudavanija and Chirmsak Pinthong.

Chai-AnanChai-Anan, who has long been funded by Sondhi Limthongkul, considered a palace insider and a staunch monarchist, is reportedly “among the leading candidates for the NRC presidency.” Back in May, Chai-Anan was amongst a group of elite conspirators who wanted the king’s intervention to “solve” the political crisis in their interests. They ran to aged General and Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda to seek his intervention with the aged monarch. This was another manifestation of the old man country. You get a flavor for their perspective from earlier, very popular posts at PPT: Dangerous old men or just silly old men? and A country for old men? (also available as ประเทศนี้สำหรับคนรุ่นเก่าหรือไง).

Back in 2009, PPT commented on Chai-Anan:

Chai-Anan Samudavanija, formerly a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, is a long-time ally of Sondhi Limthongkul. He was also a supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra for a considerable time, and seemed to stay longer than Sondhi. Chai-Anan jumped ship when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was in Sondhi’s hands. Chai-Anan is also close to the palace, as director of Vajiravudh College and a member of the Royal Institute.

Chai-Anan has been a regular commentator at ASTV and his columns have been rather incendiary whenever the political temperature has risen over the last couple of years.

In another post, we pointed out that Chai-Anan was one of those who promoted the infamous PAD propaganda claim of a “Finland Plot” that linked Thaksin Shinawatra to a republican plot involving former communist activists. This pre-2006 coup device was meant to further establish the palace-Thaksin battle lines. As chairman of his own Institute of Public Policy Studies, long funded by PAD leader Sonthi, Chai-Anan has engaged in some some dubious name-calling and attacked representative politics. He has stated that electoral politics need to be re-considered and has been a supporter of the “Thai-style democracy” notions of non-democratic legitimacy.

ChirmsakChirmsak, a former senator once collected some valid criticisms of Thaksin Shinawatra in government but was soon captivated by the People’s Alliance for Democracy and dominated by a deep personal hatred of Thaksin. Back in 2010, he was howling about “civil war” and suggesting that Thaksin supporters are either paid by the tycoon or are traitors to the royal Thai state. As for those who were duped into voting for pro-Thaksin parties or into becoming red shirts, Chirmsak couples “the poor” with the “ignorant.” Like other right-wing intellectuals, Chirmsak remains so resolutely dismissive of many millions of his fellow citizens. Hence, he dismisses elections by talking of “a political party owned by an individual …[where the] party founders had no ideology and relied on their financiers to sustain the party.”  For Chirmsak – and he is absolutely logical and consistent in this –  the solution is appointed “independent MPs.”

In 2012, Chirmsak supported the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group. At one of its rallies, he joined with a range of royalists including Tul Sitthisomwong and Kaewsan Atibhodhi when they cheered two thugs who had beaten up Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut. Worachet had once written in books edited by Chirmsak, criticizing Thaksin, but that counted for nothing when Chirmsak went after him as a political turncoat.

These are the political types who will chart “reform” for Thailand.





On “defying” The Dictator

8 09 2014

The military dictatorship is using military courts to threaten and make examples of those who it considers “defy” it.

The Bangkok Post reports that a military court sentenced singer and activist Tom Dundee (Thanat Thanawatcharanont) to “a six-month jail term, suspended for two years … and a fine of 10,000 baht for defying a National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order to report to military officials.”Tom Dundee

Lawyer Winyat Chartmontree said that Tom still has a lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act case outstanding, which “was still being handled by police investigators.”

The military court “also sentenced Anurak Jentavanich, alias Fore Senthangseedaeng, to three months in jail and a fine of 5,000 baht for defying the NCPO’s order.” His jail term was also “suspended for two years.”

Meanwhile the case against Nitirat lawyer Worachet Pakeerut continued, and he “appeared before the Bangkok Military Court to testify in a case in which he is alleged to have defied the NCPO’s order.” The case was “adjourned the hearing to Nov 24.”

Defiance will not be counternanced by The Dictator or the dictatorship.





Obey us or face a kangaroo court

4 08 2014

Military dictatorships favor laws that favor them. Thailand’s military is, itself, pretty much lawless. More accurately, we might say that it ignores laws that distract it from its appointed task of protecting the monarchy and the system of privilege and class domination associated with it. Laws that relate to murder, torture, mutiny, corruption, and so on do not generally apply to the military.

Yet when it comes to its opponents, even civil laws are insufficient, and the military dictatorship concocts laws that are overseen by kangaroo courts run by the military itself.

Hence, we see something known as the Bangkok Military Court indicting former education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng and Thammasat University lecturer Worachet Pakeerut on charges that amount to refusing to accede to the illegal demands of an illegal regime.Military court

The dictatorship hates Worachet because he has said that the lese majeste law needs “revision.” He’s charged as a “warning” to all those the military considers suspect for failing to display totally blind loyalty to the feudal institution.

Chaturon could go to jail for four 14 years and was:

released on 400,000 baht bail on the condition he must not travel out of the country without the court’s permission, must not take part in a political rally and must not express opinions in a way that may lead to public unrest. He is required to appear before the court in 30 days to accept or deny the charges.

Yes, the “charges” are little more than an attempt by the military dictatorship to shut him up. He seems to frighten the supposedly tough military bosses.

 








%d bloggers like this: