Updated: After the funeral, more of the same

30 10 2017

The funeral is officially over but the hagiographical syrup and royalist nastiness and threats continue to flow.

As in other periods where ultra-royalism is boosted by the military state, it becomes dangerous for anyone who might dare to express different opinions.

The military regime may also be emboldened by the continued rise of ultra-royalism, which obviously feeds into its political ambitions when it decides to call its “election.” Presumably the coronation will add to all of that political use of royalism.

In the meantime, we might also expect cowed and submissive politicians to become warily more active.

A Bangkok Post editorial has a bet each way. It drips royal loyalty for a couple of paragraphs, observing what should be obvious: “The expiration of the mourning period returns the country to a semblance of normality…”.

It strokes the military dog:

The members of the government under Gen Prayut deserve a respectful thank you for their care and attention to the events brought to a grief-stricken climax last Thursday. The preparations for the funeral of the great King Bhumibol Adulyadej provided impeccable grace, and splendour remarked on around the world. When he seized power three and a half years ago, Gen Prayut promised to unite Thais. Last week, Thai people were united as never before.

In fact, the funeral was fitting in that it marked a crescendo of military-backed monarchism that has defined one of the most politically repressive eras in Thailand’s modern history, with that repression being in the name of the monarchy and claimed to be protecting it.

The funeral was fittingly militarized but few have bothered to think about what this means for Thailand going forward (well, backward, under the junta).

(If one watches the Ananda Mahidol funeral and compares it with the recent event, the military dominance and precision of the latter is clear.)

The Bangkok Post then reminds the junta and its readers that the “funeral occurred in the midst of political questions which now will return to the fore.”

It adds that several of these “questions” are “urgent.”

It lists:

These include the running scandal of Rajabhakti Park‘s improvement plan. The Prachuap Khiri Khan site of the massive statues of the seven great kings has been under a cloud from its inception. The latest controversy is a two-part “improvement”. These consist of what seem to be the most expensive 52 toilets ever installed at a government-supported facility, and five shops. These will cost yet another 16 million baht in “donations” — a word which has become synonymous with “scandal”. In countering the allegations about massive overspending, army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad said the military is ready to disclose full financial details about the project which was investigated once by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He should realise the public anticipates getting the details.

Then there is the ongoing corruption and pathetic excuses for abysmal decisions from former Army boss and Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda. His latest mess is over  laser, speed-detection guns at hugely exorbitant prices.

But, really, is that it? Of course not. As the Bangkok Post itself reports, “[l]ocals in eastern Thailand are opposing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s [the junta] order to reorganise city planning in Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chon Buri provinces to bring it in line with the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) policy.”

There’s plenty of other land and infrastructure deals and shady, opaque stuff going on. And in the corruption in-tray there are all those cases around Rolls Royce that have never seen an out-tray. Just stalling, burying, hiding.

But what about the political repression that has juveniles charged with lese majeste. There is the old man potentially charged with lese majeste for comments about legendary events. And there is the law student, singled out by the military dictatorship for lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai story that was also shared by several thousand others. What of the mothers and others jailed for scores of years on pathetic lese majeste charges? Protection of the monarchy means crushing many and threatening everyone.

Then there’s the missing/stolen/vandalized and enforced historical lobotomy of the “missing” 1932 commemoration plaque and associated lese majeste cases.

Military murders remain unresolved, with a recent tragic example of Chaiyapoom Pasae, shot by troops in very opaque circumstances and with the “investigations” adding farce to tragedy.

And who killed Ko Tee in Laos? We can all guess but probably the assassins, speaking Thai, will never be revealed. That’s the impunity that official murders enjoy.

We could go on and on and on…. After all, the ninth reign saw thousands of state crimes against the people.

Update: Readers will be interested in two views of the events and legacy of the ninth reign at New Mandala. Both are reasonably tame and the first quite lame.





Updated: Yet another anti-monarchy “plot”

3 10 2017

Thailand’s recent politics has been awash with rightist and royalist claims of “plots” against the monarchy. The military dictatorship claims to have “discovered” another such “plot.” This time the plot is claimed to be a plan to disrupt the funeral for the dead king.

PPT can only express disdain for this political ploy and we can only wonder if anyone still believes such nonsense. As much as we’d like to see an an anti-monarchy plot in Thailand, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is one in the works now.

One of the first “plots” was the entirely concocted “Finland Plot.” The claim peddled by many associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and fabricated by notorious royalist ideologue Chai-anan Samudavanija and others. It claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra and former left-wing student leaders had met in Finland and come up with a plan to overthrow the monarchy and establish a communist state. These inventions were published in the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned newspapers and repeated many times by PAD.

As bizarre as this nonsense was, Wikipedia notes that the allegations had an “impact on the popularity of Thaksin and his government, despite the fact that no evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of a plot. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers. The leaders of the 2006 military coup claimed Thaksin’s alleged disloyalty as one of their rationales for seizing power.”

Back in 2015, even the politicized courts held that ultra-royalist Pramote Nakornthap had defamed Thaksin with these concoctions. Not surprisingly, many ultra-royalists continue to believe this nonsense.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Equally notorious was the anti-monarchy “plot,” replete with a diagram, that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government concocted when faced with a red shirt challenge in April 2010.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution to Emergency Situations claimed to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the monarchy and said “intelligence” confirmed the “plot.” Indeed, the bitter Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council “confirmed” the “plot.” The map included key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, members of the Puea Thai Party and former banned politicians, academics and hosts of community radio programs. Then Prime Minister Abhisit welcomed the uncovering of the “plot.”

CRES spokesman and then Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who just happens to be the current dictatorship’s chief propagandist, repeatedly declared this plot a red shirt effort to bring down the monarchy.

We could go on, but let’s look at the current “plot,” which not coincidentally comes from the same military leaders who were in place in when the above “mapping” of a republican plot was invented. It is the same coterie of coup plotters (and that was a real plot) that repeatedly accused Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul of various anti-monarchy plots and he was “disappeared” from Laos, presumably by the junta’s henchmen-murderers.

In the new “plot,” Deputy Dictator General Wongsuwan has declared:

Anti-monarchy cells are conspiring to disrupt the funeral of His Majesty the Late King this month, deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said Monday.

Gen. Prawit described the alleged agitators as those who “have ill intentions toward the monarchy.” Although he gave no details, he said full-scale security measures would be implemented throughout the rites to place over several days culminating with the Oct. 26 cremation.

Prawit added that “[a]uthorities have learned of threats inside and outside the country, especially from those who oppose and have negative thoughts about ‘the [royal] institution’…”. He put “security forces” on “full alert.”

Careful readers will have noticed that the first mention of this “plot” came from The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha almost two weeks ago.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart “refused to elaborate in detail on the supposed threat in the latest intelligence report” but still declared that “[t]hose involved were among the ‘regular faces’ abroad wanted on lese majeste charges, but who still incite negative feelings towards the monarchy among supporters through social media.”

The fingerprints on this concoction are those who have regularly invented plots for political purposes. That’s the military. They read all kinds of social media and put 1 and 1 together and come up with anti-monarchy plot.

We tend to agree with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is reported as saying:

The cremation provides an opportunity for the security forces to strengthen their position politically using critics of the monarchy as an excuse to increase the state’s heavy handed policy to control society more tightly…. Critics of the monarchy hardly pose a threat considering how much they have been suppressed since the coup….

The cremation and the coronation that will follow are critical political events for the military dictatorship. They want to be seen to be ensuring that everything runs smoothly for both events as the junta moves to stay in power, “election” or “no election.”  Finding a “plot” can make them look even more like the “protectors” of the monarchy.

Update: We don’t know why, but Khaosod’s most recent report on this “plot” seems to be supportive of the the junta’s claims. The claims this report makes amount to little more than reporting chatter. Similar chatter has been around for some time, encouraging individual acts that do not amount to anything like rebellion or disruption.

Some of the material that has been circulated may well derive from the state’s intelligence operatives seeking to disrupt and identify red shirts.  The thing about concocting a plot as a way to discredit your opponents is that there has to be elements in it that seem, at least on a initial view, feasible and believable. That was the point of the diagram produced above, naming persons known to be anti-monarchy. Putting them in a plot is something quite different.





Supreme Court confirms double standards

31 08 2017

The only standards promoted by Thailand judiciary are double standards. This has been demonstrated time and again, and most especially since the illegal 2014 military coup. (Illegal because it was unconstitutional, but ruled legal by the courts.)

Who was that who stated this?

There is no tyranny more cruel than that which is perpetrated under color of the laws and in the name of justice—when, so to speak, one is drawn down and drowned by means of the very plank which should have borne him up and saved his life.

Montesquieu was writing in the 18th century and of martial Rome, but his view matches Thailand, where a kid can be murdered by the Army and it doesn’t get to court and that Army can operate on foreign soil and enforce the disappearance of a regime enemy, presumably murdered. It is a country where even mild or hinted criticism of the regime or The Dictator warrants a sedition charge. It is a regime where opposition politicians get decades in jail for “malfeasance” where The Dictator is protected by a “law” that allows him to do anything he wants with no fear of the law.

Shooting red shirts

We could go on and on but to the point of this post. Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have been, in the words of Prachatai, “whitewashed” on their role in ordering two violent military crackdowns on red shirts in 2010, leaving around a hundred people dead and thousands injured.

We at PPT are not at all surprised by this. After all, all the Supreme Court was doing was confirming the double standards established by the lower courts and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

As if to confirm how warped Thailand’s judiciary has become, on 9 June 2017, the very same Supreme Court “accepted a lawsuit against Tharit Pengdit, former director-general of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), and three other persons” for bringing murder charges against the ruling elite’s stooges.

An AP photo from the Telegraph: Protesters surround the coffins used for the bodies of red shirts killed in clashes with troops.





Further updated: Reporting Yingluck’s disappearance

27 08 2017

The military dictatorship states that it did “not allow former premier Yingluck Shinawatra to flee the country…”. It makes this statement due to the widespread view that her no-show at court and her reported flight could have only been possible with junta support. Hence, a deal was done.

Newspapers have been widely reporting that Yingluck is in Dubai. The Bangkok Post quotes an anonymous source from the Puea Thai Party: “We heard that she went to Cambodia and then Singapore from where she flew to Dubai. She has arrived safely and is there now…”.

As far as we can tell from the newspapers, this has yet to be confirmed and Yingluck has not been seen on Facebook or in the media since last Wednesday or Thursday.

The specific threat to the regime over Yingluck’s disappearance comes from the yellowists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (usually said to be “former” but still meeting and demanding).

PAD “is demanding that the government investigate the escape of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and severely punish any state officials who helped her flee the country.” It declared that “Yingluck’s escape reflected a failure on the part of security authorities, leading to speculation that the failure was allowed to happen.”

Like others, PAD:

… pointed out that Ms Yingluck for months had been closely shadowed by soldiers, to the point where she complained on social media about privacy violations. They noted that Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan] on Feb 29 last year had said soldiers were needed to provide protection for Ms Yingluck and to help maintain peace and order in a politically tense time.

One of the junta’s deputy spokesmen, said “the Foreign Ministry was taking steps to revoke the ex-premier’s passport.”

Significantly, he also “said there was no official confirmation of Yingluck’s whereabouts…” or, it has to be said, that she has actually left Thailand. That said, her relatives have expressed no alarm, but have not said where she is. That lack of alarm suggests she has not gone the way of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee, who seems to have been disappeared.

Then there are the assessments of what it all means. Hong Kong’s The Standard expresses it this way:

Yingluck Shinawatra’s escape from Thailand ahead of a court verdict that was expected to land her in jail for up to 10 years will tilt the country’s politics back in favor of the Bangkok establishment….

They mean the winners are the “military, technocrats, old power cliques, and the well-connected in business.”

That newspaper refers to Yingluck’s “escape,” using the inverted commas. It argues about motives:

Instead of letting the woman become a heroine of the masses that her family had dominated for so long, Yingluck can now be portrayed as a coward betrayer of her supporters, and her Pheu Thai party can be reduced to political insignificance.

It is added that The Dictator is “probably grinning from ear to ear” at her “escape.”

While The Standard editorial thinks Yingluck took “flight to Dubai via Singapore aboard a private jet to join her brother [Thaksin Shinawatra],” its observes that the junta seemed to deliberately muddy the waters:

Comments made by the junta after Yingluck’s flight … were extraordinary. For [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] ordered border security be stepped up. Number 2 [General] Prawit Wongsuwan said Yingluck had gone to Cambodia, while a naval source asserted she had escaped by sea…. All seemed to have been said to increase confusion to protect those involved.

Now the junta will have the opportunity to discredit Yingluck as a “fugitive,” just like her brother.

Update 1: Al Jazeera has a useful discussion of the current political condition. In this report, Peua Thai’s Sean Boonpracong “confirms” she has left Thailand, as have several other party sources.

Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya is adamant that there was “collusion between Yingluck and the military authorities…”. It was, he says, a “political decision.” It is “political expediency” and “convenient to both sides, adding its “convenient to everyone.”

Update 2: The junta has now “Thaksinified” Yingluck, seeking to revoke her Thai passports, with The Dictator declaring her “a fugitive after fleeing judgement in her rice scheme trial…”. General Prayuth continued to “explain” that an “investigation … into how she could have left the country.” The Dictator “blamed previous criticism that security authorities were crowding Ms Yingluck. Concerns over human rights had led to the present problem…”.

We were not aware that “human rights” were ever a concern for the regime.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit claimed “that authorities had followed Ms Yingluck closely. She was able to disappear because she had many vehicles.” That seems a lame “excuse” that his critics will find unconvincing.





Fear and repression

10 08 2017

Part of the fear that consumes the military junta is self-created by its fear of the Shinawatra clan. Seeking to punish Yingluck as a way of also damaging Thaksin’s popularity and wealth has come to be viewed as vindictive. Clearly, the fear that has developed over the pending verdict means the military dictatorship has doubled-down on repression.

The police bullying of van drivers for transporting Yingluck supporters is one petty example of this deep fear of responses to the outcome of the trial.

The concocted treason/sedition charges against two Puea Thai Party politicians and a critical journalist are another example. And, we can’t help feeling that the enforced disappearance of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee is related to the junta’s efforts to shut down criticism and opposition before the Yingluck verdict.

Likewise, it is no repressive coincidence that the junta puppets at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has banned the red shirt Peace TV for a month.

The military regime has now declared that it “will not lift its restrictions on political activities any time soon owing to the unstable state of Thai politics and the number of pending lawsuits against politicians…”.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan “explained” that only he and The Dictator can decide on when Thais can participate in political activities (unless they are a junta political ally). He paternalistic statement was: “Wait until I feel happy [with the situation] and I will see to it the restrictions are lifted…”. He cited a “number of important legal cases that are passing through the justice system which could have a destabilising impact on society and politics.”

He went on to warn that “security” would be tightened for Yingluck’s next court appearance.

It is as if the junta knows the court’s decision and is seeking to prevent any response by Yingluck supporters.





Ko Tee dead?

8 08 2017

Following reports of Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s enforced disappearance in Laos there has been little information available. However, reports in the media and on social media make two points that are at odds with each other.

The military dictatorship states that it has heard nothing from Lao authorities to confirm anything about the case. That’s according to General Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the National Security Council. Then Thawip said “he personally believes that Wutthipong is still in hiding.” In fact, such claims by the authorities are common following enforced disappearances.

The diverging social media account is that Ko Tee is dead: “Photos purportedly of Wutthipong’s body have gone viral on social media.”

It is incumbent on the Lao government to investigate the matter, but it is doubtful that the secretive regime there will make any statement.





HRW on Ko Tee’s “disappearance”

2 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on Wuthipong Kachathamakul’s apparent forced abduction.

While the military dictatorship in Bangkok continuing its Sgt. Schultz “explanation,” HRW has called on the “Lao authorities … [to] urgently investigate the abduction of an exiled Thai activist … Ko Tee…. Eyewitnesses stated that a group of unknown armed assailants abducted him in Vientiane on July 29, 2017, raising grave concerns for his safety.”

Providing more details, HRW’s account is that:

On July 29, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene. According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai. The incident was reported to Lao authorities in Vientiane.

It calls on the Lao authorities:

The Lao government needs to move quickly to ascertain the facts and publicly report their findings, including an assessment of Wuthipong’s whereabouts and who might be responsible for this crime that was so boldly carried out in its own capital city.

Lao authorities should mount a serious effort to find Wuthipong if he is still in Laos, and take immediate steps to prosecute any persons in Laos who were involved in this abduction.

It remains unclear who abducted Ko Tee.

We can guess that the military dictatorship in Bangkok would be involved in some way. We also know that enforced disappearance is not unknown in Laos. We also know that the Thai military regime has allowed other security forces – in several cases from China – to abduct dissidents from Thailand. We might also consider this action as a typical action of Thailand’s dictatorship, seeking to silence critics by attacking one as a special example.