Tag Archives: article 44

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

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Prayut’s “because I say so” law!!

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Not content with writing his own temporary military constitution just after the May 2014 coup d’état and appointing his cronies and lackeys to the so-called “parliament”, Generalissimo Prayut has also been using the “because I say so” law. Known officially as “Article 44” this law confirms that every whim of the egotistical general is enshrined into law immediately without any argument or debate. One wonders why he even bothers with his appointed parliament.

As 2015 draws to a close it is worth reviewing how this law has been used.

In April Prayut used his powers to decree that after the cancellation of martial law, the military had full powers to keep the peace and security of the land by repressing anyone opposed to the junta. Basically this was martial law used against political activists, while allowing shops and businesses to function normally.

“Prachatai” web newspaper has detailed every time when Article 44 has been used. The first act was to cancel elections to local administrative bodies.

It has also been used to force through “special economic zones” by changing land use at a stroke. Lottery income can be used for any project deemed “beneficial” by the junta. Taksin was also stripped of his police rank under this law.

In a pretend show of firmness, Article 44 was used to control illegal fishing, but it is doubtful whether any real changes will take place. This was just an attempt to avoid sanctions against Thai seafood exports.

Unruly motorbike youths have been “banned” from racing in the streets and their parents have been “ordered” to discipline their children. Any parent failing to do this can face a prison sentence or a fine.

The suppression of drugs has also been placed in the hands of the military, no doubt allowing the soldiers to make profits from doing business directly with the drug lords without competition from the police!

The general has also decreed that the “command centre for resolving civil aviation issues” is placed directly under the control of the junta. This was after international safety bodies had raised serious concerns about Thai aviation safety. The message from this and from the control of fishing is that “only the Generalissimo” can solve Thailand’s problems.

However, the vast majority of Article 44 decrees concern the moving, appointing, sacking and extension of tenure for government officials in a wide variety of departments. All this is designed to place trusted cronies in positions of power and to get rid of opponents …. just because Prayut says so. There was a time when Taksin was accused of appointing cronies and allies to top positions and this was deemed to be corruption by the yellow shirt royalists. But then Taksin was elected by a democratic vote, while Prayut just took power in a military coup, which makes it all alright!

More recently the deluded and vicious general has been ranting against pro-democracy academics who are facing prosecution for contravening his decrees. “If it’s prohibited to speak now, then they should keep quiet! It’s the same group of delinquent academics isn’t it?! I don’t care! If they want to be active then they and anyone who follows them will have to face the consequences! What if people start shooting at them and throwing bombs? They’ll just have to die then, won’t they?” The murdering general who shot down unarmed demonstrators in 2010 and staged an illegal coup in 2014, added: “Do they teach? They should be teaching kids to be good people and to respect the law”!

This is the man who is in charge of Thailand right now. He needs to be overthrown and put behind bars.

What’s growing out of the junta’s dog-mouth?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

There is a popular saying among pro-democracy activists, like Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, that “ivory never grows out of a dog’s mouth”. In other words, democratic reforms will never grow out of the filthy deeds of illegal coupsters, anti-democracy thugs, academics in the pay of the junta or murderous soldiers and politicians.

While Somyot spends his fourth year in jail for a “non-crime” under the draconian lèse majesté law, the illegal and murderous coupsters, anti-democracy thugs and various academics in the pay of the junta are busying themselves designing a non-democratic political system.

The Prime Minister will not have to be an elected politician, the Senate will be “indirectly elected” by direct appointment and selections from the military and their allies, the junta will live on in the filthy damp shadows in order to veto anything it does not like, unelected judges and antidemocratic creatures will rule over any elected parliament, and popular politicians will be “disqualified”. All this is being written into the latest piece of toilet paper called the “Constitution” and this so-called constitution will be endorsed by the king. His weak and shaking hand will be guided by servants of the military to sign the stained document and make it official.

A more detailed critique of the draft constitution will be posted on this site shortly.

This week the junta has increased the number of people authorised to use the authoritarian power of “Article 44” of the junta’s “temporary constitution”. From now on all sorts of uniformed thugs and hirelings, any Tom, Dickhead or baby-Prayut, will be able to strut about barking orders to deprive citizens of their democratic rights. Local commanders and will have a blank cheque to kick down peoples’ doors and do unspeakable things to citizens in the name of “peace and security”. In Patani, the hated Rangers and village vigilantes will also have such power. They will all be able to act like tin-pot war lords. More extra-judicial crimes can be expected with the criminals enjoying impunity.

At the same time the anti-democrats are now finding excuses to not hold a referendum on the draft military Constitution. General Sansern Keawkumnert, deputy junta spokesman, has said that a referendum will not be held if it is likely to lead to “confrontation”. Meanwhile Tienchai Keeranun, chairman of the mis-named and appointed “National Reform Assembly”, has warned that if the people “do not understand the new constitution they might vote against it. His solution is to produce a dumbed-down cartoon version to distribute to the ignorant and un-educated masses. Hopefully there will be some nice colour pictures of benevolent soldiers helping the people under the kind watchful eye of the king.

State-murderer and anti-democrat politician Abhisit Vejjajiva has thrown in his penny-worth of opinion by suggesting that the people should be allowed to “choose” between the previous military sponsored 2007 constitution and the new military sponsored draft. What a choice!

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If we are to have democracy in Thailand, people like Somyot should be freed unconditionally, the coupsters and murderers should all be put in jail and the various military constitutions should be shredded or ceremoniously burnt.

Don’t be fooled by the Thai junta’s “smoke and mirrors”

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

While international human rights organisations and western governments have rightly been calling for an end to martial law and speedy elections, it is important to look at the fine details of any lifting of martial law or the holding of elections in the future.

The junta and its academic servants have been mulling over the replacement of  martial law with article 44 of the military’s temporary constitution, which was brought in after the 22nd of May 2014 military coup. This article can be enacted in the event that the military junta sees fit to use this article for the purposes of so-called “reform” or in order enforce unity or to prevent actions deemed to be a threat to national security, the monarchy, the bureaucracy, or the economy. The article can be invoked whether the threat comes from within the country or from outside. Article 44 gives total power to the junta to order or act in any capacity; legal, executive or judicial, in whatever way is deems necessary.

The mention of any so-called threat to the economy gives the junta a blank cheque to suppress workers’ strikes.

The lifting of martial law and its replacement by the use of article 44 is clearly not a step forward towards freedom of expression or assembly in any way. It could even be a step backwards.

Equally important is the fine detail about any future elections. The junta and its anti-reform servants are busy designing a political system similar to the “Guided Democracies” that exist in Burma or Singapore. The democratic space will be severely curtailed with elected politicians having to check their policies and actions with military-appointed bodies such as the senate, the anti-corruption committee or the election organising committee. The parliament will be deliberately weakened and there will be measures designed to discriminate against Taksin’s political party or any other party that gains mass popular support. The junta will live on in another form, controlling Thai politics from the shadows.

Any measure of the democratic qualities of Thailand’s future elections will have to include serious assessments of the role of unelected bodies and the balance of power between them and democratically elected representatives, parties and governments. For genuine democracy there must be measures to stop military influence in politics and elected governments must be free to set policies rather than be placed in a political straight-jacket by the anti-reformists. There must not be any legal restrictions on the freedom of political parties and the number of politicians in any parliament must clearly reflect the voting preferences of the electorate.

Some western governments will no doubt be eager to jump at the chance to give Thailand’s democracy a “clean bill of health” when martial law is lifted and elections are held. The attitude of many western governments towards Burma’s current military-dominated political system is an important example. But pro-democracy activists and human rights organisations should not be fooled by any trick of smoke and mirrors created by the junta or any false clean bills of health given to the Thai regime by western governments.

Even if there were to be an end to martial law and the abolition of article 44, followed by free and fair elections, which is highly unlikely in the near future, there is still the festering problem of the draconian lèse majesté law. This law has been used with impunity against free-thinkers and activists. Only the other day a pro-democracy activist was sentenced by military court to 50 years in prison (reduced by half because he confessed) for posting comments on Facebook. Lèse majesté is used by the Thai elites in a similar way to the use of blanket and abstract “terrorism” charges in other countries, but Thailand uses both. The result is that there can be no freedom of expression or assembly, and thus no real democracy, until lèse majesté is abolished.