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.


Update: No progressive is safe

17 06 2014

Prachatai reports that the military has arrested Worachet Pakeerut, one of the significant figures associated with the Nitirat group of several legal scholars, centered on Thammasat University, where Worachet is a law professor.

Worachet was called in by the military dictatorship in an order on 23 May and then on 9 June. The report states that on 11 May, “Worachet’s wife went to the NCPO to report on his behalf saying that Worachet was sick and unable to report to the military by himself.”

A Nation photo

A Nation photo

The police now say that “Worachet is under detention by the military and he will be sent to investigation officer on Wednesday to be charged for violating the order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO),” better known as the military’s junta.

Another Nitirat member Sawatree Suksri, was earlier “arrested the airport and detained by the military for three days, after she came back from a trip abroad with the United States embassy and did not report herself earlier” as demanded by the dictators.

The dictatorial military junta has issued orders “for 33 people, mostly politicians and activists from the red shirts and the anti-govt movement People’s Democratic Reform Committee [the anti-democrats]” to appear before military interrogators and propagandists. This includes the “[o]wner of Book Re:public, an activist book store in Chiang Mai…”.

The calling in of anti-democrats is nonsense window-dressing by the troglodyte regime as they hunt down anyone who is even mildly progressive in their politics.

Update: According to Prachatai, police have charged Worachet “for not reporting himself to the junta — on time.” In fact, Worachetis said to have been detained at Don Muang airport, returning from Hong Kong. He was taken to the “the Army Club in Theves, Bangkok. He was later taken to the 11th Infantry Regiment for interrogation.” Further interrogation was undertaken at the police Crime Suppression Division. Police charged him “for defying the coup makers’ order …[and] he was later taken to the military court as the police submitted custody petition.” The military court granted him bail and he “was released from Bangkok Remand Prison at about 6.30pm of Wednesday.”