Anti-democrats get off lightly (again and again)

1 11 2017

Red shirt activists have spent months and years in prison for their alleged “crimes.” Seldom do yellow shirts of the PAD, People’s Democratic Reform Committee and similar anti-democrat activists get similar treatment from the establishment’s courts. After all, these groups were on the “winning” side and many were closely allied and aligned with the royalist military.

Confirming this, the Bangkok Post reports that the Criminal Court convicted medical doctor Rawee Maschamadol, one of four leaders of the so-called People’s Army and Energy Reform Network (PAERN).

But the court only sentenced him to eight months in jail and fined him 6,000 baht for “colluding in illegal assembly and causing public chaos.” More than this, it suspended the sentence for two years. No jail time for anti-democrats.

The charges related to the occupation of a PTT Plc building during the mass anti-democrat street rallies in 2014, led by the (anti)Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban and related fascists of the yellow-shirted royalist movement.

(Recall that, in February, the “Civil Court ordered the four co-leaders of the PAERN to pay almost 10 million baht to PTT Plc for damages caused by its occupation of the company’s property during the protests in 2014.  The four are Dr Rawee, Thotsaphon Kaewthima, Itthabun Onwongsa and Somkiat Pongpaiboon.”)

There were reportedly 105 co-defendants in the current case, and just two others were given jail terms of a paltry “two months and 20 days, without suspension, for offences committed during the occupation.” Another “defendant was acquitted. The remainder, including the three other co-leaders, were given two-month jail terms, suspended for two years, and fined 2,000 baht each.”

We assume their wrists are smarting from the taps the court has “inflicted” in making politicized rulings.





Yellow finger pointing

25 09 2017

Reading social media and the mainstream press over the past couple of days it seems that the only news is the story of how Yingluck Shinawatra “escaped” from Thailand.

While the military junta is apparently unable to confirm that she did leave the country or where she is, it has been drip-feeding information regarding the alleged police role in her “escape.”

Interestingly, it has been the yellow shirts who have been most skeptical of the regime’s evolving account. It is their pressure that has caused the junta to replace the head of the “investigation” even as it has just begun.

Suriyasai Katasila, a People’s Alliance for Democracy leader who now passes himself off as an academic administrator at the deeply yellow Rangsit University, has questioned the credibility of the “investigation.”

He demands that the junta “ensure that the truth is uncovered by credible investigators.” Reflecting the yellow view that the police force harbors Thaksinites, he wants “other security and related agencies … appointed to take charge of the investigation since police investigators alone were not sufficient to give it credibility.”

Like many others, Suriyasai thinks the junta helped Yingluck “flee,” saying “high-level authorities were responsible for tacitly approving Yingluck’s efforts to flee and police investigators appear to be taking the case too lightly.”

Suriyasai warned that “[i]f the case was not handled seriously, the government and NCPO would be seen as conspiring with other interest groups to cheat the justice system…”.

It will be interesting to observe whether the replacement of of the chief investigator with another policeman satisfies the yellow shirts. The case is important for them in “demonstrating” that the so-called Thaksin regime is being uprooted from the police.





Justice system no longer makes sense

22 09 2017

Double standards rule in the justice system. Sure, some yellow shirts get to courts for their actions, but their cases are slowed to a crawl, subject to seemingly endless appeals and so on. But when it comes to those who are accused of lese majeste or actions the military dictatorship considers threatening or unsettling, the cases sail through courts.

Khaosod reports on the case of Piyarat Chongthep who, wearing a No Coup t-shirt, “stared down a security officer as he ripped his ballot in half while shouting ‘Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy’ at a Bangkok polling station.”

He soon goes to court and is facing 10 years in jail.

While the court outcome is not yet known, there are several things worth considering in this case.

Piyarat declares that he “engaged in civil disobedience,” but he was “charged with obstructing the referendum, causing a disturbance at a polling station and destruction of state property for tearing the 25 satang ballot.”

His aim “was to draw attention to suppression of the public’s right to oppose the junta-sponsored draft charter in an unjust process that give it the veneer of democratic legitimacy.”

As Khaosod reminds us, the military dictatorship enacted “a special referendum law … that criminalized campaigning against it [the referendum].” This draconian law “criminalized all forms of campaigning, but the airwaves were filled with pro-charter messages from the regime while only opponents were arrested.”

Like others we have recently posted on (here and here), Piyarat is disillusioned by the (in)justice system:

After learning the referendum passed by a sizeable margin, he felt the law had been so twisted by the junta that Thailand’s justice system no longer made sense. As a result, when he was released from the police station, he quit his evening law classes.

It is also worth remembering that, back in 2010, in a case that went back to the 2006 election, rightist and yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn was acquitted after he tore up ballot papers. The court found a technicality that meant it could let Chaiyan off the hook as he used the courts to highlight his anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaign.





Updated: Us yes, UDD no

14 09 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the “National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] has warned [the official] red shirts against holding a press briefing planned for Thursday on ways they will pursue justice for red-shirt demonstrators affected by the deadly military crackdown in 2010.”

Junta spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinpan said that “questions must be asked” on “whether the press event is a political activity. If that is the case, the NCPO may have to ask them not to go ahead.” The mouthpiece added that “political activities cannot be allowed during this sensitive period. Once the country’s situation returns to normal, the NCPO would ease restrictions on such gatherings…”.

Got it?

Easy, right? Even the Post gets it, observing:

The regime warning to the red shirts came despite the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban discussing political matters with reporters in July and the People’s Alliance for Democracy holding a press conference on Aug 2 after the Supreme Court acquitted ex-PM Somchai Wongsawat and three others for the deadly dispersal of yellow-shirt protesters in 2008.

The Post is observing the double standards involved.

It might have also noticed that The Dictator denied such double standards in the justice system. At the time, we did suggest that he lied. Now one more piece of evidence affirming his lies is in place.

UpdateThe Bangkok Post reports that, despite the threats, the UDD did hold its press conference. It revealed that “lawyers will next week file a formal petition for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to consider ‘new evidence’ regarding the 2010 crackdown on protesters.” Interestingly, red shirt leaders “said the UDD will also consider distributing information regarding comparisons of the different ways the NACC has treated legal cases involving yellow shirts and red shirts to both domestic and foreign media.”





Updated: The yellow threat

4 09 2017

About a month ago we suggested watching the People’s Alliance for Democracy. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearing of 2008 prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and three others over their role in an attempt at clearing of PAD protesters had the (former) members of PAD agitated.

The Bangkok Post reports that the former “co-leader and spokesman of … PAD … Parnthep Pourpongpan, is warning of the possible return of yellow shirts if justice [sic.] is not served in a case concerning the 2008 deadly dispersal of the group’s demonstrators.”

This is obviously a political threat. It is an attempt to influence the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), seeking to force it to “appeal against the ruling…”. The NACC has refused and PAD says that’s a “political” decision.

PAD’s threat includes “lawsuits to be filed against the NACC members concern abuse of authority…”.

Panthep claims that there may have been “collusion between government figures and the NACC … to shield some people from legal action…”. He regards this “as organised crime.” He warns that PAD will sort this out. Another threat.

If that is the case, he says, then PAD may have to deal with it. Another threat.

“In the end, if no justice is served [he means PAD gets what it wants], no one can tell whether the PAD will return or not (to an active protest role)…”.

Just to turn the knife a bit more, Panthep went after The Dictator. “He said the government has not yet overcome the influence of the Thaksin system as it has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the people.”

Panthep reckons that the “regime’s policies were rolled out to mainly help capitalists or big entrepreneurs rather than the general public, which widens social disparity…”. There’s something in that. And it’s another threat.

The PAD man warns that the “military regime could seek a compromise with Thaksin’s system as a potential partner in holding political power.” That would surely bring the PADistas back. So it’s another threat.

Update: We should have mentioned that the NACC had 15 days to appeal. It has decided to appeal on just one of the four PAD crackdown cases. The Nation reports that the NACC “agreed with the court’s acquittal of the first three defendants…”. That’s Somchai, his deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and then-police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan. The NACC is appealing the case of former metropolitan police chief Pol Lt-General Suchart Muankaew. That is not enough for PAD.





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.





Updated: Junta repression mounts I

16 08 2017

A report at The Nation suggests that the yellow-shirted paranoia over Yingluck Shinawatra’s court appearance is reaching fever pitch among the members of the military junta. That Yingluck fever leads to deepening political repression.

The nine judges hearing the case at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders are under guard, as are their residences. Rumor has it that some decamped to hotels but now worry that Yingluck supporters may stay in the same hotels. Horror!

Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisart “called a meeting of security forces to assess expectations about the situation on the day of the verdict.” His task is to ensure that as few Yingluck supporters as possible are able to get to the court. His men reckon “1,000 to 2,000 people will show up to support Yingluck at the court.”

The military dictatorship has been “closely monitoring movements by Yingluck’s supporters ahead of the verdict” and this surveillance is being ramped up.

The surveillance is concentrated on the northeast and Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Ayutthaya, “where there are strong bases of Pheu Thai Party and red-shirt supporters…”. It is stated that “security officers had been instructed to closely monitor local leaders in other areas in the North and Northeast who might mobilise supporters.”

They are searching for a “plot.” Usually the junta is able to manufacture “evidence” of one. This time they are saying that “the total cost of all the passengers in a single van visiting the capital would amount to Bt100,000,” implying that there’s a plot.

In fact the figure is ludicrous. We think the military is using its own experience of arranging travel and supporters to come to this figure.

The surveillance is being expanded to cover trains and regular tour buses.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to fluster and bluster, threatening to “punish” anyone who broke the law. But, as we know, the junta makes up law on the run, using it for repression, so this is likely meant to threaten.

Interestingly, as we predicted, Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda “said there had not been any irregularities found in the spending of local administration organisations in connection with possible trips to support Yingluck.” We did say that the Attorney General’s office was just reflecting yellow shirt social media fluff.

Update: Reliable social media reports from various provinces in the north and northeast show photos of armed soldiers being deployed in urban areas and entering villages to further intimidate any person considering traveling to Bangkok for 25 August.