Tag Archives: impunity

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.


Who will end the long tradition of impunity?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Six years ago, 4 Thai state criminals: General Prayut Chan-ocha, General Anupong Paojinda, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Sutep Tuaksuban, organised a bloodbath on the streets of Bangkok. They ordered snipers to gun down unarmed pro-democracy red shirt protesters. Streets were declared “free fire zones”. Nearly a hundred people were shot down in cold blood. Troops stationed on the sky train railway line picked off civilians sheltering in a nearby temple. Among the dead was a volunteer nurse.

These state criminals have never shown the slightest remorse for their actions. Statements like “unfortunately some people died” or “protesters simply ran into the bullets” revealed their mentality.

Four years later Prayut Chan-ocha and Sutep Tuaksuban acted together to destroy the democratically elected Yingluk government. Sutep and his thugs, including Prayut’s favourite fascist Buddhist monk “Isara”, violently wrecked the elections and Prayut staged a military coup not long after and set himself up as Prime Minister. These two thugs are still working together to support the military’s appalling draft constitution.

Soon after the 2010 bloodbath, the red shirt lawyer Robert Amsterdam, initially hired by Taksin Shinawat, compiled a detailed document of the military’s crimes. The aim was to send it to the International Criminal Court and bring these criminals to justice. Nothing came of this noble but rather naïve initiative.

One reason why these four murderers were never brought to justice at the International Criminal Court is that the Pua Thai government led by Yingluk Shinawat refused to vote to bring Thailand into the jurisdiction of the court. Some said they had to tread carefully because the military were breathing down their necks. Maybe so, but appeasing the military got them nowhere. They staged a coup anyway. Previously, the Yingluk government had won a landslide election victory in 2011 and had plenty of legitimacy and mass support to take on the army with the help of the red shirt movement. They chose not to act.

Undoubtedly, one reason why the Pua Thai government was so reluctant to bring prosecutions against the 4 state murderers, either in an international court or in a Thai court, was that Taksin himself is a state criminal. When he was Prime Minister, many truckloads of Muslim Malays were deliberately murdered by the military and the police in Patani. A Muslim lawyer working for the cause of justice in the south was also disappeared by the police.

There is a long and disgraceful tradition of the Thai elites getting away with murder. It stretches back to 1973 and beyond. No single state official has ever been brought to justice for massacring civilians in 1973, 1976, 1992 or during the present crisis.

Yet people who dare to verbally criticise the status quo are often put in prison for years under the terrible lèse majesté law.

So who will end this culture of impunity? Certainly not any future elected government made up of Taksin’s allies or Abhisit’s so-called “Democrat Party”! They have all shown their true colours.

Ironically, the lèse majesté law prevents open debate about the role of the king. This means many mistakenly believe that the weak and ineffectual king, who is a creature of the military, ordered the killings. He did not. But neither did he condemn them. He never has defended freedom, democracy or justice. His death will not change a thing. The elites are united in their contempt for ordinary citizens, deeming us to be worthless while living off our backs.

No outside power, whether it be the International Criminal Court, the USA or the EU, will ever help bring Thai state criminals to justice.

No “good” Thai constitution can deal with this problem either.

The only force capable of ending this impunity is a mass pro-democracy movement which can rip apart the monopoly of power held by the elites and transform the Thai state, crushing the power of the military. To achieve this is not easy, but it has happen before in many countries and it depends on being serious about political organisation and the use of the latent power of the working class.

As Joe Hill said…don’t mourn; organise!

The long and disgraceful tradition of impunity for Thai state murders

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In just one week at the end of 2015, the long and disgraceful tradition of impunity for state murders was reinforced once again in Thailand. That week former unelected Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his thuggish right hand man Sutep Teuksuban were cleared of wrong doing for their part in ordering the cold-blooded murder of nearly a hundred pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010. This was no surprise since the present junta leader Generalissimo Prayut was also centrally involved in this state crime and had a hand in appointing the Abhisit government against the expressed wishes of most citizens in the first place. The grotesque justification for this crime was the need to clear the roads around luxury shopping centres. The unarmed protesters were demanding democratic elections.

In the same week the courts squashed the long-running case concerning the murder of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaichit. Somchai was defending a group of Malay Muslims who were tortured by police into confessing that they took part in a raid to steal weapons which was carried out at an army base in the south. Somchai was “disappeared” by policemen from several different units, indicating a green light from the top. Taksin Shinawat was Prime Minister at the time. Taksin also has blood on his hands from the deliberate murder of unarmed protesters at Takbai in 2004.

Impunity for state crimes in Thailand has a long tradition stretching back to 1973 and beyond. No government official, politician, policeman or soldier has ever been put on trial for unspeakable crimes of violence committed back in 1973, 1976 and 1992. All these crimes were carried out in order to defend dictatorships.

Impunity for state crimes also extends to non-state actors who are allied to the state, such as the violent mobs in 1976, and more recently the royalist mobs led by the yellow shirt PAD, the fascist monk “Buddha Isara” and Sutep Teuksuban.

It is obvious that there are no standards of human rights in Thailand.

Why is this so? The main explanation is the prevailing conservative attitude of the elites, reinforced by military brutality, which does not tolerate the fact that citizens should be equal. The Thai people are usually called “Ras-sa-don” which means “people who live in the land belonging to the king”. It is an out of date concept and is incompatible with the modern democratic world.

In the work places, employers think that they have absolute rights over their employees. The attitude is fully enshrined in labour laws as well as in the minds of the judges who fail to deliver justice. When judges sit in court they look at the poor with contempt. The children of the rich can get away easily when they kill people because “daddy” buys the police and judges.

We see inequality in the mainstream body language in Thai society. Ordinary people have to crawl to show their respect to people who are in power or are their seniors. This grotesque culture has been taught through schools and families. In the elite households they make their maids crawl to them as well. The unequal concepts can be easily seen in daily conversations, especially with personal pronouns which signify social position. Women are told that they need to call themselves “Noo” which means “little mouse” in a childish fashion. The idea simply identifies women as second class citizens.

Yet all this is only half the picture. The other half is about the continuing struggle by ordinary people against injustice and inequality. This is met with violence from above, but on many occasions dictatorships have been overthrown and the elites pushed back. But what is needed more than anything is a powerful mass social movement which can establish more long lasting democracy and high standards of human rights. Throughout the world, and including Thailand, independent trade unions have played a vital part in this struggle. Without such a movement, impunity for state crimes will continue. “People Power” is the key here. Hoping to establish a “Truth Commission” by well-meaning academics will achieve nothing without this power.

We need to abolish the National Human Rights Commission. The organisation is full of soldiers, police and academics who stand against democracy. A pro-democracy mass movement, which can influence public opinion, is much more effective than a state-sponsored human rights commission.

We need to overthrow the physical and political power of the army and the ideological influence of the monarchy in order to bring state criminals to justice. In the long term, we need to increase the rights in work places, schools, and universities and we need full gender rights. We need human dignity and respect. These things have to be fought for because no one is going to hand them down from above.