Soldiers murder young Lahu activist in cold blood

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

On the 17th March soldiers in Chiang Mai shot down Chaiyapoom Pasae, a 17 year old Lahu activist. The killing was committed in cold blood. A villager who witnessed the event, which took place at a military check point, told Thai PBS news channel that soldiers dragged Chaiyapoom out of his car and beat him up, stamping on his face. They fired two warning shots and then deliberately let him go. While he was running away they shot him dead. [See news report here https://prachatai.com/english/node/7013 ].

Chaiyapoom was a well-known Lahu activist who was engaged in cultural youth work among the Lahu people in order to help them avoid taking drugs. He wrote songs and received a prize for a short film that he directed.

Another young man who was the driver of the car was arrested and charged with narcotics offences. This young man has been detained in prison because his family cannot come up with the 2 million baht bail set by the courts.

The soldier who murdered Chaiyapoom was briefly questioned by police and given bail until his court hearing.

Military sources claimed that Chaiyapoom attacked them with a knife and was shot “while trying to escape”. The military also claimed that he tried to throw a bomb at them. Conveniently after the event, drugs were found in his car. Thai police and military are famous for planting drugs and weapons on people after they shoot them or after they raid their homes. Villagers who witnessed Chaiyapoom’s murder said security forces planted drugs in his car after the shooting.

There are contradictory reports about whether the military check point had any CCTV. It is usual for check points to have CCTV to take pictures of cars passing through the check points. No CCTV video clips have been released, despite damands for this. Some military sources say there was no CCTV while others claim they have CCTV evidence.

Military and police sources also claim Chaiyapoom had “too much money” in his bank account and that he telephoned people and spoke to them in his Lahu language!

General Wijuk Siribanpot, commander of the 3rd Region Army

General Wijuk Siribanpot, commander of the 3rd Region Army gave a televised interview saying that if he had been at the scene he would have switched his gun to automatic mode and riddled Chaiyapoom with bullets.

Members of the Lahu community report that there was long-standing ill feeling between locals in Chaiyapoom’s village and members of the security forces. Police and soldiers have attacked and injured villagers in the past and they threatened people who exposed this on social media. Chaiyapoom’s elder brother has been threatened by someone who place a bullet on his door step.

Recently another local was shot dead in cold blood at a check point in the same area. This case has not been properly investigated.

A local academic commented that it would be very stupid for anyone to try and transport drugs through the permanent check point where Chaiyapoom was murdered. Drug smugglers used other routes to avoid check points.

It is normal for members of the Thai security forces to be able to commit crimes with impunity. No police or soldiers were ever charged with murder following ex-Prime Minister Taksin’s bloody war on drugs where 3000 people were killed without trial. Many of those killed or disappeared in Taksin’s war were from minority ethnic groups.

No members of the security forces has ever been charged with the cold-blooded killing of unarmed red shirt protesters who were demanding democratic elections. General Prayut, the present Thai dictator was in charge of the military at the time.

The Thai State is run by nationalists who are wedded to the extremist ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy”. The military, who are in charge of the country, have always subscribed to this ideology in an aggressive manner. From Privy Council Head, General Prem, down to various local commanders, the notion that the country is peopled by citizens of various non-Thai ethnicities is deemed to be blasphemy. All Thai schools enforce the Thai language and students who speak to each other in local dialects or languages are often punished. Manic flag waving is encouraged and every citizen is supposed to stand to attention twice a day when the Thai State’s national anthem is played in public places. The lèse-majesté law is designed to support this nationalist ideology and also to protect the elites, especially the military, because the military claim to be the guardians of the monarchy. The religion in this racist ideology is of course Buddhism, thus excluding Islam and other faiths including animism.

This racist nationalist ideology results in the oppression of Muslim Malays in Patani and people who live in remote mountainous areas of the north and west.

People from ethnic minority groups in the north and west of the country, like the Lahu, who have lived either side of the various nation state borders for centuries, are not regarded as “true citizens”. Many are denied Thai citizenship despite being born within Thailand. They hold special identity cards which prevent them travelling outside their local areas without permission from the military and local authorities. Many are forced to register themselves with Thai-language names rather than using their real ethnic names.

In Thai society in general, it is still acceptable for people to refer to various ethnic groups using racist names rather than showing them any respect. Because people from ethnic groups were so poor that they often had to rely on growing opium or being involved in the drug trade, everyone is seen as being involved with drugs. Yet the drug trade is controlled by top military and police officials and gangster politicians from Bangkok.

Junta’s rubber-stamp parliament is a feeding trough for the generals

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Many may rightly wonder why the Thai military junta ever appointed its so-called “parliament” which merely goes through the motions of deliberating national issues and then rubber-stamps the junta’s laws. This is because Prayut is hell-bent on by-passing even this pretend parliament with his dictatorial decrees carried out under Article 44. Naturally, the parliament was a weak and transparent attempt by Prayut’s junta to create a fairy-tale image of Thai Military-style “democracy”. No one has ever been taken in by this nonsense.

photo of Junta's parliament members from Matichon
photo of Junta’s parliament members from Matichon

However, new evidence highlighted by Matichon newspaper, shows that ever since the rubber-stamp parliament was appointed three years ago it has been a feeding trough for the generals and lackeys of the military.

Matichon reveals that at least 50 members of the “parliament” have all been busy appointing their family members as advisors and researchers at the expense of the tax payers. Remember that in Thailand the elites manage to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, the burden of which falls mainly upon the poor and ordinary working people.

Most of those appointing their wives and offspring to lucrative positions are military officers.

Special “expert advisors” to the “parliament” rake in 24,000 baht per month. Less experienced advisors enjoy 20,000 per month, and assistants are given 15,000 baht per month. To put this in context, most ordinary workers on the top rate of the minimum wage earn around half the amount enjoyed by the parliamentary assistants and most workers work a 6 day week. No doubt these parliamentary advisors and assistants do not have to work full time and many may enjoy salaries from more than one source.

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Pornpet Wichitchonchai, chair of the rubber-stamp parliament, explained that there were no regulations prohibiting the appointment of close relatives as advisors. He went on to justify this nepotism by explaining that members of parliament would naturally appoint people who they could “trust” as their advisors.

Deputy chair of the junta’s parliament, Pirasuk Porjit, further explained that he could not interfere or criticise what other members did. Members of parliament had the right to appoint people to be their advisors even if they had little knowledge of legal or political matters.

This is yet another example of the gross hypocrisy of the military junta and all those middle-class extremists who supported the military coups of 2006 and 2014. These people have always referred to themselves as “good people”, unlike “bad” elected politicians who are constantly accused of corruption and nepotism.

Another military corruption scandal has been exposed by an independent anti-corruption website. It appears that students and staff at a military training college, controlled by the Supreme Command, have been enjoying foreign trips to Europe at the expense of the tax payer. Some of the activities on these paid “holidays” include shopping at Britain’s Bicester Village, watching a football match, a trip to the London Eye and a luxury boat cruise in Scandinavia. Top generals have justified all this by saying that the new generation of soldiers need to have a modern international outlook. Shame that they don’t study how the military in Europe is barred from politics by the strength of social movements!

However, as Generalissimo Paryut has often said, his junta cannot be criticised because it was never elected and is therefore not answerable to the public! He has now appointment himself and his cronies to a Super-Board to oversee the “correctness” of state purchases. One could be forgiven for thinking that this is to ensure that the military receives its cut and that this activity is white-washed for public consumption.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/2kjB84E

Thai-style Kangaroo Court Injustice

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

According to the daily newspaper Khao Sod, the Appeals Court recently announced its decision to uphold the death sentences for two migrant Burmese workers convicted of a brutal rape and double homicide on island of Ko Tao. [See http://bit.ly/2mKOdFo ]

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, migrant workers on the island, were convicted of the September 2014 murders of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge largely on the basis of DNA traces police claimed were recovered from the crime scene and Ms Witheridge’s body. No other physical evidence or witness testimony directly linked them to the crime. The crime scene was allowed to be hopelessly contaminated by the incompetent Thai police. The police are also suspected of being involved with the circulation of inappropriate naked photos of Ms Witheridge’s corpse on social media.

The defence was never allowed to independently test the DNA evidence on its own, and many have cast doubt on the integrity of the police investigation and the Thai justice system. The trial came after an investigation widely criticized for unprofessional bungling, and accusations that desperate investigators arrested two men on the margins of society for use as scapegoats. Burmese migrants are continually being scape-goated in Thailand.

The two were being held at the Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok and were not allowed in court. No witnesses were called during the appeals process and defence lawyers were not informed. The Appeals Court simply endorsed evidence and testimony already entered into the record during the initial trial.

There has long been a lack of justice in the Thai court system with the rich and powerful always escaping punishment while ordinary working people are assumed guilty before trial and treated with contempt. Migrant workers receive even worse treatment. All this is due to a number of factors; a lack of democracy, a judicial system under the control of the corrupt elites, the weakness of trade unions and socialist parties who could act as tribunes of the oppressed, and the elite-driven racism which permeates society.

Of course the presence of a ruling military junta only makes matters worse. Generalissimo Prayut initially remarked about the Ko Tao murders that women should not wear bikinis on the beach. He and his ilk always like to create an image of “brutal efficiency” in dealing with problems. Thus the need to quickly find scape goats to “clear up” cases. Prayut has also gone on the rampage, using his “because I say so” article 44 to order the occupation of Dammakeye temple and hundreds of sackings and appointments of state officials. [See http://bit.ly/1RM69fv ]

Since the 2014 military coup, many opponents of the military have been hauled in for “attitude changing sessions”, often in secret locations. Many have faced military courts. Recently the head of the military courts, General Tanin Tuntusawat, explained that the courts cared not a jot about human rights and merely followed the diktats of the junta.

If the junta gets what it wants, no change is on the horizon. Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krua-ngarm warned people that even when Generalissimo Prayut was no longer Prime Minister, nothing would change. This is because he would be head of the National Strategic Committee and the military constitution states clearly that for 20 years after the first elections, governments will have to conform to the military’s National Strategic Plan.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/1WjMcfF

What do the royalist really want?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In recent times we have seen anti-democracy mobsters roaming the streets of Bangkok demanding “True Democracy under the power of the King”. The military is constantly harping on about need to protect the institution and prerogatives of the monarchy. If we were to take the hysterical shouts from the Thai royalists at face value, we would be led to believe that they want to see a return to an Absolute Monarchy or at least an increase in royal political power.

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Yet this could not be further from the truth. These demands are a coded way of saying that they want less democracy and more authoritarianism under the power of the military and the conservative elites with the monarchy simply being used as a rubber stamp for everything they do.

Ever since the 1932 revolution led by the People’s Party that overthrew the Absolute Monarchy, amid mass support from the general population, there has been only one single royalist revolt and that was 1 year later in 1933. The Boworadet Rebellion was led by royalist Prince Boworadet in October that year. It lasted 12 days and was decisively defeated by government troops backed up by volunteers including trade unionists.

Decisive action by government troops and citizen volunteers defeated the Boworadet Rebellion .
Decisive action by government troops and citizen volunteers defeated the Boworadet Rebellion .

This was really the end of the dreams of the royalists that they could restore the absolute power of the monarchy. From this period onwards, according to historian Thongchai Winichakul, the royalists merely sought alliances to increase the importance of the monarchy in political society.

Pibun
Pibun

Until the military coup carried out by Sarit Tanarat in 1957, the most powerful factions of the armed forces and police under the triumvirate dictatorship of Pubun, Pin and Pao were strongly anti-monarchy, seeking to severely restrict the public duties and role of the king. The civilian faction of the People’s Party under Pridi, even though it compromised about moving forward to a republic, was never the less totally against restoring the power of the king.

Pumipon visits his patron, Sarit, who was on his death bed
Pumipon visits his patron, Sarit, who was on his death bed

It was the rise of Sarit, a military man with no connection to the 1932 revolution, that the royalists saw their opportunity to increase the status of the monarchy. This was made much easier by the heightened tensions in South-East Asia under the Cold War. The monarchy became a conservative anti-communist symbol and the U.S. very much supported this and the dictator Sarit.

But at no point did the royalists even dream of re-establishing the absolute power of the king. The military dictators who were in power in the 1960s, including Sarit, had no intention of giving up their power to the monarchy either. Their promotion of the king was so that he could be used more effectively as a tool to justify their actions and to justify elite class rule.

When we consider the situation in modern day Thailand, neither the present military junta nor politicians like Sutep Taugsuban had any intention of handing over their power and influence to the ailing king Pumipon and they certainly do not want king Wachiralongkorn to rule over them.

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The military justified their 2006 and 2014 coups by claiming that they were protecting the monarchy when the monarchy was never under threat from Taksin and his allies. It was merely their standard justification for toppling democratically elected governments. The military are very confident about using the monarchy for their own ends. They have had years of practice and high-ranking and retired military generals surround the throne via the Privy Council, allowing them to run the monarchy.

Politicians like Sutep and the middle-class Yellow Shirts also need a justification for calling for the overthrow of elected governments or for wrecking elections. When they call on the monarchy to intervene, as they did in 2006, it was a call for a military coup under the guise of a “neutral and unifying” king. When in 2014 they called for “True Democracy under the power of the King”, they wanted authoritarianism under the power of the military and themselves. At that point king Pumipon was clearly on his deathbed and incapable of intervening in anything. Their excuse for the destruction of democracy was that the poor were too stupid to deserve the right to vote and were therefore manipulated by Taksin.

The middle-classes, the military and the conservative elites have appropriated both “the Nation” and “the Monarchy” to mean themselves.

Rumble at the Temple

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

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Prayut with his favourite fascist monk

Following the appointment of Umporn Prasattapong, Abbot of Wat Ratchabopit as the new Supreme Patriarch, the cog-wheels of the military junta are turning in unison with those of the fascist monk “Putta-Isara”. The military have now launched a full scale attack on the Dammakeye Buddhist sect.

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Umporn was appointed by Generalissimo Prayut, although according to procedure, he was officially appointed by King Wachiralongkorn. We all know how much Wachiralongkorn knows about or follows Buddhist teachings!

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Previously the guy in line for the top monk job was Chuang Sudprasert, the abbot of Wat Pak Nam and acting Supreme Patriarch, but he was accused by the Department of Special Investigation of forging documents over the importation of old classic cars in order to avoid tax. Previously Chuang had praised Prayut’s military junta in July 2014, hoping to become Supreme Patriarch. Chuang was believed to be close to the monks from the Dammakeye (Dhammakaya) sect.

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Dammakeye is a huge sect with a massive flying saucer shaped temple just north of Bangkok. It is steeped in scandal and accusations of accumulating untold riches. Urban middle class followers believe that the more you donate, the more merit you acquire. They also believe that people are poor because they sinned in their past life. Rich and powerful people have supported this sect for in the past.

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Chaiboon Sittipon or “Tammachayo”, abbot of Dammakeye, is currently trying to avoid arrest on corruption charges. Prayut used his dictatorial “Article 44” to order the police to invade the Dammakeye compound in a failed attempt to arrest him. Hundreds of Dammakeye monks and followers had a number of confrontations with the police. One man has tragically taken his own life in protest against this crack-down. Many are rightly questioning whether “Tammachayo”, or anyone else for that matter, can ever get a fair trial in the junta controlled courts.

The military dictatorship has also used Article 44 to place a police general in the post of director of the national office of Buddhism.

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We must condemn the military junta for using its illegitimate power to try to crush Dammakeye. People should be free to believe or not to believe in any religion of their choosing.

We must also condemn any Buddhist monks, including supporters of Dammakeye, who incite hatred towards Muslims. The extremist anti-Muslim Burmese monk “Wirathu” has come out in support of Dammakeye.

Make no mistake, the side-lining of the abbot of Wat Pak Nam for the top monk job and the invasion of Dammakeye is totally about politics and little to do with corruption or Buddhist morals. After all, the junta has remained very quiet about the corruption of Generalissimo Prayut’s relatives and the fact that top generals and their allies are getting paid for their various jobs, even though they never turn up to do any work or attend meetings.

The abbot of Wat Pak Nam was deemed unacceptable to the junta because Prayut’s favourite fascist monk, Putta-Isara, and the yellow shirts, did not want the Pak Nam and Dammakeye factions to be in a position of power.

We should never forget that fascist monk Putta-Isara helped to wreck the February 2014 elections alongside Sutep’s mob. Putta-Isara’s followers used fire arms to intimidate those wishing to vote. Because he is Generalissimo Prayut’s favourite monk, he was recently allowed a free hand to demonstrate in the streets while others were prohibited. He has also accused Dammakeye of wanting to “overthrow the monarchy”, a standard charge against one’s opponents in Thailand. After Prayut’s strong-arm tactics against Dammakeye, Putta-Isara publically thanked him.

An anti-government protester shoots his rifle, hidden it inside a sack, toward pro-government protesters during clashes in Bangkok February 1, 2014. Dozens of gunshots and at least two explosions raised tension amid anti-government protests in Thailand's capital on Saturday, a day ahead of a general election seen as incapable of restoring stability in the deeply polarised country. REUTERS/Nir Elias (THAILAND - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

All this fighting between Buddhist sects and the involvement of the military junta, merely strengthen the argument that religion should be totally separated from the state and that religious hierarchies and top positions like the Supreme Patriarch, should be abolished.

Military junta orders the building of more coal-fired power stations

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Generalissimo Prayut, backward head of the Thai military junta, and Chair of the National Energy Committee, has ordered that the Electricity Generating Authority push ahead with controversial coal-fired power stations in the south at Krabi and Tepa in Songkla. This is despite opposition by environmental and conservation groups in the area. These groups came to peacefully protest outside Government House in Bangkok, but the military regime ordered the arrest of its leaders under draconian laws which outlaw the right to protest.

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Opposition to these coal fired power stations is based on the negative impact on the local environment in Songkla, Krabi and Patani. The power stations and the docks for unloading imported coal, will destroy natural habitats including mangrove forests and coral reefs, which are also important for local fisheries. They are also located in areas of high tourism, where people come to visit the natural beauty of the environment.

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But this is not merely a “not in my back yard” issue. It is widely accepted by most scientists and intelligent citizens that the burning of fossil fuels, especially in coal-fired power stations, is causing dangerous global warming.

Many countries are trying to phase out coal-fired power stations and to increase electricity generation via alternative sustainable means, such as solar and wind power. Not so, the backward military idiots that are now running Thailand.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is wedded to coal and gas and its propaganda about the new power stations claims that they will use the most advanced technology which will reduce dust and damage to the local environment. Nothing has been said about the continued burning of fossil fuels and the problem of carbon dioxide generation which causes global warming.

The south of Thailand is prone to powerful cyclones which cause flooding and storm damage. These storms will only get worse as the temperature of the Earth increases.

The EGAT has been working with the local authorities, which are under the military, to conscript local people to come out and “show their support” for the power stations.

Thailand has a great abundance of sunshine and it would make perfect sense for the state to vigorously promote a national plan for vastly increasing electricity from solar power. New solar power technologies are being developed in China and Spain and the cost of developing solar power is rapidly decreasing, especially when carried out on a large scale.

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Any forward-looking government in Thailand would be pushing ahead with solar power and wind power while phasing out coal and gas power stations. But the pig-headed backward Generals have no such plans. They also, quite naturally, wish to develop dangerous and costly nuclear power so that they can have access to nuclear weapons technology in the future. The junta and their conservative allies in the courts have also successfully delayed progressive plans for high speed rail links put forward by the previous Yingluck government. Such high speed rail projects would also reduce global warming by cutting unnecessary airline travel within the country.

The issue of coal-fired power stations is yet another example of how the Thai military junta can use its dictatorial powers to ride rough-shod over the wishes of citizens and the reasoned arguments against increased use of fossil fuels.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/2aGcSun

They are ALL corrupt

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Now that the scandal of Rolls-Royce bribery of politicians and state official in Thailand has been exposed, we can draw some initial conclusions.

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In the case of bribes to “encourage” Thai Airways to buy Rolls-Royce T80 engines for its fleet, bribes were paid a total of three times. Between 1991 and 1992, $18.8 million were paid. Between 1992 and 1997 another $10.38 million was given and between 2004 and 2005 a further $ 7.2 million was handed out.

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A further Rolls-Royce bribery scandal involves payments amounting to $11 million to “persuade” PTT Public Company Limited, the Thai state-owned SET-listed “oil and gas company”, to award a total of 6 contracts to Rolls-Royce Energy Systems, Inc. (RRESI). These bribes were paid at various times between 2000 and 2012.

We do not know yet which individuals pocketed the bribes, and given the state of the police and the justice system we may never know. But what we can point to are the top state officials who should be held responsible for allowing this corruption to happen or for not instituting proper checks on large commercial transactions.

The Prime Ministers during the periods when all these bribes were paid were the following:

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(1) Anand Panyarachun, technocrat and so-called “Mr Clean”, who was appointed as an unelected Prime Minister by the military junta, after the coup d’état in 1991. The power behind this Prime Minister was Dictator Suchinda Kaprayoon.

(2) Chuan Leekpai from the Democrat Party.

(3) Banharn Silapa-archa from the Chart Thai Party.

(4) Chawalit Yongjaiyut from the New Aspirations Party.

(5) Taksin Shinawat from Thai Rak Thai Party.

(6) Surayut Julanon, military dictator following the 2006 coup d’état.

(7) Unelected Abhisit Vejjajiva, Democrat Party leader, appointed by the military under Prayut Chan-ocha and Anupong Paochinda.

(8) Yingluk Shinawat from the Pua Thai Party.

Some of the top officials at Thai Airways were military men and civilians associated with the 1991 coup and Thanong Bidaya, a Thai Rak Thai politician.

What can we conclude from all this?

Firstly, that rampant corruption has taken place and is still taking place under various military juntas who came to power in coup d’états, claiming to overthrow corrupt civilian governments. Given the long history of military corruption in Thailand under Pibun, Sarit and Tanom, this is hardly surprising. Even under elected civilian governments top generals sit on the executive boards of state companies.

Secondly, corruption also took place under elected and non-elected civilian governments of all the main political parties, including Thai Rak Thai, the Democrats and supposedly technocrat-led governments.

Thirdly, the entire Thai ruling class is steeped in corruption of both an illegal and legal nature. “Legal” corruption is taking place today because military generals have come to power and then appointed themselves and their friends and relatives to high paying positions.

Fourthly, corruption is an integral part of the world capitalist system, with Western multinationals paying bribes on a regular basis to avoid so-called free market competition. Corruption is not just a Thai problem, it is also endemic in the USA, UK and other European countries. We can see this in the “conflicts of interest” in the Trump administration and involving British cabinet ministers and payments to members of their families and dishonest claims for expenses by French and British politicians.

The difference between Thailand and many Western countries is that social movements, trade unions, opposition political parties and the press have more freedom and power to expose such corruption. The crucial role of mass movements can be seen only this past week in Romania, where a mass movement forced the government to withdraw a law which would have white-washed corrupt officials.

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In Thailand, the problem of corruption is closely linked with the lack of freedom of expression and the weakness of independent mass movements from below, including the trade unions.

Thai politics