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.





Updated: Suppressing support

13 08 2017

While one report has it that an ex-judge thinks Yingluck Shinawatra will be set free, the military dictatorship continues to worry about a “rally” at the court on 25 August.

Her supporters are being harassed by junta thugs. As a report at The Nation puts it: “The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has toughened security measures and called on people to not show up at the court, citing security reasons.”

It reports a “red-shirt leader from Ratchaburi province, Pongsak Phusitsakul, [who] confirmed that most activists, including those at provincial level, are being watched closely by security officers.” It is added that “activists are being constantly visited by the authorities.”

Because of harassment and because van drivers have been warned off, “supporters were expected to travel to the court by themselves and in the smallest groups possible to avoid security checks.”

The activists “maintained that they had not heard of any organised mobilisation, noting that those red-shirts at the forefront of the protest movement were under close scrutiny by the authorities.”

The yellow-shirted social media has been especially active, goading the junta with claims of mobilization, causing the junta to respond.

The latest response is by Interior Minister General Anupong Paojinda. He has”ordered a probe into an allegation that local administration budgets were used for travel expenses for transporting people from several provinces” to Bangkok on 1 August to support Yingluck.

As the report describes it, this allegation “was floated by the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG)…”. It claims to have evidence that such financial support was provided, but has not produced any evidence for this claim or said how the OAG came to investigate this allegation so quickly.

The Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas had a letter sent to the “Interior and Defence ministries urging them to review the use of local administration organisations’ budgets” but apparently did not show evidence.

In fact, “Gen Anupong said yesterday he had ordered a probe into the issue…”, suggesting a fishing trip for “evidence.”

This is a whole of government effort is to limit the numbers showing up to support Yingluck.

Update: Interestingly, a report at The Nation appears to confirm that the Auditor-General is making politicized accusations sans investigation. It states:

There are reports that some local administrative body officials have planned trips under the pretext of other missions. Local government officials have told us that there are plans to bring participants to the court too,” Pisit said yesterday. “Such actions happened before on August 1.”

In other words, Pisit doesn’t have more than claims, although he says “his office was investigating the reports and would consider releasing the names of those involved.” The reports are mainly from yellow shirt social media and Pisit is acting for the military junta.

In response, Puea Thai Party people have urged Pisit to name names. Surasarn Pasuk said: “In my opinion, local administrative bodies have been very careful during the past few years under close scrutiny. I don’t think they will dare using the state budget for such purposes…”. He’s right. Each local authority is overseen by the locally-based military.





Threatening Yingluck’s supporters

11 08 2017

The military dictatorship’s fears around Yingluck Shinawatra’s next court appearance grow by the day.

We have mentioned several of the junta’s efforts to undermine any displays of support for her. As the junta does these things it also reveals the deep-seated “beliefs” that underpin the broad yellow-shirted anti-Thaksin movement about the Shinawatra clan and red shirts.

Essentially, that view is that, as Thaksin’s voters were, Yingluck’s supporters are paid, duped and/or ignorant.

So it is no surprise that The Nation reports that the Ministers of Interior and Defense have been told that “local administrative organisations had misused their budgets by funding trips to Bangkok for ‘hidden’ political motives.” While no evidence is produced for such claims, the notion is that ignorant villagers are being “used” by “political interests.” Those ministers have been ordered to ensure that there are no more of these claimed “paid” trips to Bangkok.

Taking the “villagers are stupid” line further, The Dictator has ordered uniformed thugs “to ask people gathering in support of Yingluck whether they knew why they were attending the event and whether they had travelled on their own or were mobilised in large groups.”

These “allegations that free transport is being provided for people to travel from the provinces to Bangkok” actually appear to originate in the social media accounts of rabid yellow shirts and other anti-democrats.

Deputy Dictator and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan “also said he had heard people would be brought from the provinces in large numbers to support Yingluck.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, reckons “some” Yingluck supporters “go because [they] … are hired to do so…”.

He warns/threatens that “Yingluck’s supporters … must not violate the law, express contempt for the court, create chaos, violate other peoples’ rights or cause traffic congestion.”





Updated: Ultra-royalist professors attack students

4 08 2017

The desire of royalists to see everyone kowtowing to monarchy has become a crusade for many, egged on by the royalist regimes of recent years. The ballooning use of lese majeste is only one element of this. There’s also the multitude of “little” enforcements, many aimed at students, making them acknowledge hierarchy and status.

One might have thought that by the time students got to university, such childish royalism might have been more limited. But in Thailand’s infantile world of royalists who think they need to make the “children” kowtow to the seniors/teachers/royals, there’s uniforms, royalist ceremonies (many “invented” recently and said to be “traditional”) and royalist propaganda deluging universities (not to mention military thugs and other “authorities,” in uniform and plainclothes).

One of the saddest stories we have seen coming out of Thailand under the military dictatorship is from Chulalongkorn University, a bastion of ultra-royalists and political yellow shirts.

The Bangkok Post’s story is of the “freshmen initiation ceremony at Chulalongkorn University,” itself a ridiculous effort to enforce hierarchy and to instill royalism, said to have “descended into chaos and controversy when a group of students staged a walk out and one of them was put in a chokehold by a lecturer.”

Yes, you read that right, a university-level “lecturer” attacked a student. It is Khaosod that identifies the “lecturer” as “assistant professor Ruengwit Bunjongrat.” We clipped this picture from his page at the Botany Department, where he is listed as holding a Masters degree.

Khaosod also has some video of the event, where another unnamed professor tries to stop it being filmed, cursing the student filming as an “asshole.” It says the student who was assaulted by the royalist Ruengwit was Supalak Damrongjit, who is a fourth-year student at the Faculty of Economics and also vice president of student council.

This royalist assault took place at one of the invented traditions at Chula which had students dressed in white uniforms made to sit on the ground in a very light rain and “prostrating themselves to pay respect to the monument of the university’s founder, King Rama V, and take an oath before the monument.”

Student activist and president of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Council Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who “has campaigned against sitting on the ground and prostrating during the ceremony,” claimed “a deputy university rector promised that the university would provide an area for students who did not want to sit on the ground.”

He says “the lecturers broke these promises as all students were ordered to sit on the ground to pay their respects…”.

Netiwit walked out. That was when the assistant professor grabbed another student in a headlock and abused him.

One of the university’s deputy rectors, Associate Professor Bancha Chalapirom, babbled that “the university did not force students to sit while it was raining. He said there was a slight drizzle and students agreed to carry with the ceremony and were given raincoats.” He says no one was forced to sit or prostrate.

That seems neither here nor there as the professors tried to stop students leaving the ceremony.

Bancha “described” the events leading “up to the professor restraining the student…”. He says:

“The freshmen paid respects three times, recited their oath and sang the song. But during the ceremony, Netiwit and his friends came out to pay respects in an awkward way as the student council. This made the officials overseeing the ceremony come out and pull them aside, and though it looks like an assault, it wasn’t…”.

Bancha said royalist Ruengwit is “hospitalized for stress after the incident went public.” We have no sympathy. But Bancha went further declaring the attacker as “a person who loves students and didn’t want anything to happen, so he went to pull out the students…”. Royalist love can be tough love. Ask those who have survived murderous royalist attacks in the past.

When all Thais should be ashamed, yellow shirt social media is fulsome in its praise of the royalist thug professors.

Update: Kong Rithdee at the Bangkok Post has an insightful op-ed on this shameful royalist assault

… you just can’t manhandle your students like that, no matter how many wrestling matches you’ve watched or how detestable you find youthful activism. Physically restraining a student who might or might not have shown disrespect, by a professor of all people, and in a public gathering being observed by reporters? What can we expect next? Baptism by fire? A crucifixion?…

Like everything in Thailand these days, the Chulalongkorn incident is symptomatic of a heavily polarised nation. Every dispute, every conflict, every argument reignites the debate between tradition and progress, between the reactionary and reformist, between the headlocker and headlocked. Even the most respected institute of higher learning, supposedly the nation’s cradle of intellectualism, has become a mud-filled, gladiatorial pit where underdog fighters face the wrath of their Roman rulers. They got the thumbs-down and look what happened….

Like everything in Thailand these days, the Chulalongkorn incident is symptomatic of a heavily polarised nation. Every dispute, every conflict, every argument reignites the debate between tradition and progress, between the reactionary and reformist, between the headlocker and headlocked. Even the most respected institute of higher learning, supposedly the nation’s cradle of intellectualism, has become a mud-filled, gladiatorial pit where underdog fighters face the wrath of their Roman rulers. They got the thumbs-down and look what happened.

And that’s fine. A university should be a battleground for ideological contests. What isn’t fine is anger manifesting itself through violence. Without being alarmist, sometimes it’s good to remember that Oct 6, 1976 didn’t happen in a vacuum. One thing lead to another, and another, and then to something that could never be undone.