Tag Archives: Military junta

Junta Lies and Repression Continue

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Meechai Ruchupan, the Thai military junta’s pet legal expert on the destruction of democracy, has been complaining about people who keep demanding freedom and elections. “If democracy just results in the election of corrupt politicians, why have democracy, he asked.” He trotted out the usual excuses for military rule which have been used by anti-democrats for decades. Thai people are “stupid, backward and don’t have any discipline”, he claimed. “That’s why we can’t have democracy”.

Meechai

Dinosaurs like Meechai always crawl out of the swamp when the tanks roll into town. He, like other members of the elite believe that they are the only ones with any intellect and honesty. But his lies prove otherwise. The Thai military is renowned for its corruption and this always gets worse when they are running the country.  [See http://bit.ly/2nRS0BG ]

He is, however honest about one thing. His rants against democracy reveal that all the so-called “reforms” in which he is engaged are not really designed to restore democracy at all. The aim is bad old, Asian-style, “Guided Democracy”.

As for Generalissimo Prayut, there seems to be no need for a quick return to democracy either. According to his angry exchanges with reporters, he said: “I am a democrat….. If the country isn’t ready for democracy, I’ll stay on longer, even shutting the country off from the rest of the world. Those protesting against the government will be the first to be dealt with.” He went on to explain that “so-called human rights activists complain about people being detained and sent to military camps for attitude changing sessions. If this is an abuse of human rights we can just throw them in jail, how about that?”

The junta shut down the non-government Voice TV station for a week for daring to air programmes critical of the junta. At the same time the junta has been explaining that democratically elected politicians in the past wanted to keep the people ignorant so that they could rule over them with ease. The military want people to “think for themselves”, they claimed. The way to encourage people to think for themselves is obviously to make sure they all think in the same manner as the junta.

This explains why the junta has been cutting the education budget and always sends round the uniformed thugs to close down any academic seminars or meetings about the political situation in the country.

The junta’s Foreign Minister also criticised a United States report on the lack of democracy in Thailand. He explained that Thailand now had “more democracy than before”. It is a wonder he didn’t go on to affirm that the Earth was flat and that democratically elected politicians in the past had all been aliens from outer space!

While the junta is busy crafting “democracy”, the brutality continues. Following the extra judiciary murder of Chaiyapoom, the Lahu activist in the north, two further extra judiciary killings have taken place in the south, in Patani. [See http://bit.ly/2o4Wq99 about Chaiyapoom.]

In addition to this, the culture of militarism and violence is proving fatal for some young recruits. Private Yutenun Boon-nium is the latest to die after being violently punished for “breaking military discipline”. His mother has vowed not to cremate his body until a proper investigation is carried out. Even if some low-ranking officer is found guilty of this latest crime, which is unlikely, the top commanders will get off scot-free. So will the generals who placed themselves in control of the country. This isn’t just an isolated event. The fact that the junta placed soldiers in charge of every level of society and have created a culture where uniformed thugs can just search peoples’ houses, drag them off for having the “wrong politics” and close down meetings and media at will, teaches soldiers at all levels that they can be as violent as they like.

There will be no freedom and democracy or any civilised society in Thailand until we get rid of the military.

Why is the Thai junta paranoid about pictures and news of king Wachiralongkorn?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The Thai junta has warned that anyone who follows, contacts, or shares posts online with three prominent critics – historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, journalist and author Andrew MacGregor Marshall, and former diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun – will be prosecuted under the Computer Crimes Act. Why is this happening? To understand this paranoid behaviour we need to look at the role of the Thai king today.

However, latest article about King Wachiralongkorn by my friend Claudio Sopranzetti in Aljazeera is disappointing because it is a sensational and unreal depiction of the awful Wachiralongkorn [see http://bit.ly/2oXtDae ].

Firstly, Sopranzetti claims that the king is trying to wrestle power from the military junta. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wachiralongkorn is on the throne because the military put him there. Like his father before him, he is totally beholden to the military who use the monarchy to justify their own power and “right” to intervene in politics.

The idea that Wachiralongkorn has been increasing his power is also parroted by The Guardian.

When talking about “power”, it is important to understand that it is a concrete thing, not some abstract concept. Political power comes hand in hand with the “power to shape society and politics”.

There was never any evidence that former King Pumipon ever had such power. He never shaped Thai foreign policy or had any influence on the direction of domestic political policies. He could not order military coups because he did not control the military. Pumipon always went with the flow, at times praising Taksin and his government. Pumipon shared his right-wing conservatism with most of the military and bureaucratic elites. It wasn’t his ideas that influenced events. He had no influence on the policies used by the Taksin government to dig Thailand out of the 1996 economic crisis. The anti-Taksin movement which emerged much later was not his creation. The conservatives merely claimed they were monarchists in order to try to obtain legitimacy. Pumipon once told the military not to buy submarines because they would “get stuck in the mud of the Gulf of Siam”, but no one took any notice of him. His “Sufficiency Economy” ideology was repeatedly quoted by the elites, but never acted upon by anyone. [See more here:  http://bit.ly/2oppTvb ]

Wachiralongkorn is less politically aware than his father, being completely uninterested in Thai society and politics. There is zero evidence that he is trying to wrestle power from the military in order to influence domestic political policy or foreign policy. [See also http://bit.ly/2kBwOlm ]

Secondly, Sopranzetti, and other commentators, can only raise the issue of Wachiralongkorn’s insistence on amending the constitution in areas that merely affect the organisation of the royal household, as an example of his quest for “power”. But Wachiralongkorn merely wanted to control his personal household staff and ensure that when he spent a lot of time in his palace in Germany, someone wouldn’t appoint a regent over his head without his approval. This is hardly an example of Wachiralongkorn amassing power to rule over the Thai population. As I have previously written, “Wachiralongkorn wants the Crown, but not the job”. He isn’t interested in the slightest in Affairs of State. His only interest is in his own “affairs” with numerous women, some of whom have been promoted to high army ranks. He also once promoted his former dog to an air force rank.

Wachiralongkorn’s so-called “power” is much more akin to that of a petty local Mafia boss who wishes to protect his patch.

As for the so-called “fear” factor, it must be frightening for those in his immediate household circle to serve such a self-centred and erratic boss. But a WikiLeaks episode some years ago exposed the fact that many high-ranking generals viewed Wachiralongkorn with irritation bordering on contempt.

Thirdly, Sopranzetti claims that the student activist Pai Daodin was jailed under the lèse-majesté law as soon as Wachiralongkorn became king, implying that Wachiralongkorn had something to do with it. This is conspiratorial nonsense. Pai Daodin is a pro-democracy activist and constant thorn in the side of the military junta. They were itching to get him for months and when he shared the BBC’s biography of Wachiralongkorn on social media, it was just the excuse they were looking for. We need to remember that hundreds of other Thais shared the same article but have not been charged with lèse-majesté.

Finally, Sopranzetti fails to understand that in order to be able to use the present and past king as a legitimising figure in their class rule over the population, the military and elites have to give them something in return. Since the image of the monarchy is there to protect the elites, the monarchy acts like a guard dog with all bark and no bite. But guard dogs need to be thrown a bone every day to keep them in line. The bone thrown to the Thai monarchy is the immense wealth given to them, the freedom for them to live their lives as they please, and the willingness of the elites to pamper the royal ego by grovelling on the floor in front of them and pretending to be under the dust of their feet. This latter bit of theatre is for the benefit of ordinary citizens while real power is in the hands of the elites.

Just like the top bosses of most religions who claim to speak on behalf of non-existing gods, the military claim to speak on behalf of the monarchy.

In addition to this, in order to make this trick work, the monarchy needs to appear to be worthy of some respect. Yet Wachiralongkorn’s personal life style makes this difficult. That is why the exiles   Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Andrew MacGregor Marshall, have been singled out by the junta for publishing 2016 photos from Germany, of the tattooed Wachiralongkorn with his skimpily dressed girlfriend. They have also published news of his latest escapades. This poses a danger to his credibility to be a monarch in the eyes of most Thais and they are  therefore a threat to the military.

Discrediting the monarchy is useful in undermining the junta, but when taken to extremes, sensational stories about the royals tend to titillate people who are bored with reality while having little benefit in explaining the nature of Thai political society. Most importantly, they add nothing to the discussion about how to overthrow the dictatorship and build democracy through mass movements. Focusing only on the royals lets the military and their anti-democratic allies off the hook.

Reminder: Junta’s constitution pushes democracy back indefinitely

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Just in case anyone feels excited about the new Thai constitution, it is worth a little reminder.

The new military constitution was drawn up by gangsters and thugs in uniform, who murdered pro-democracy demonstrators and used violence to stage military coups and pervert the democratic process. It was “approved” in a referendum where people campaigning to oppose the constitution were arrested. This is not a democratic constitution which could open the door to democratic elections.

The general tone is patronising and banal, with constant references to the monarchy. It talks about the “duties of citizens to be loyal to King and Country and to maintain discipline”. Duty and discipline take priority over the rights of citizens. There are pages of rubbish about the qualities of “good” political leaders and naturally they must be loyal to “Nation, Religion and King”. It is also a neo-liberal constitution, like all the various constitutions since the 1996 economic crisis. So it talks of public health being organised according to a “fair” market economy, the need to maintain “fiscal discipline” and the importance of following the previous king’s reactionary “Sufficiency Economy” ideology. Free state education is not guaranteed up to the end of secondary school. As usual, this is all aimed against redistribution of wealth and state spending which benefits the poor. Naturally, military and Palace spending are not a threat to fiscal discipline.

The constitution outlaws what the reactionaries like to call “populist policies”. This is aimed directly at Taksin-style measures which were hugely popular among the electorate. Such policies need to be outlawed by wise men because the majority of the population are “too stupid” to know what is good for them.

People like Taksin and some other Pua Thai politicians will be barred from office for “legal” reasons, much like the gerrymandered electoral system in Singapore or Burma which bars opposition politicians for dubious legal reasons. However, state murderers like Abhisit and Sutep, will not be banned from office. The constitution white-washes all the crimes of the present junta and allows Generalissimo Prayut to carry on ruling by decree until so-called elections are held at some time in the future.

The Prime Minister need not be an elected MP, if supported by 2/3 of parliament. All ministers must have bachelor degrees, to weed out any ignorant poor people, and the Prime Minister cannot hold office for longer than 8 consecutive years.

The all-powerful senate will be made up of some elected senators but most will be appointed by the military and the elites. The senate will have extensive powers to appoint the Electoral Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Judges. In the past these bodies exercised power over the democratically elected Yingluk government and paved the way for a military coup. The senate will also appoint the useless Human Rights Commission, no doubt ensuring that there are plenty of military and police officers on board. However, parliament will have reduced powers. The senate can also veto government policy. The electoral commission can also censor the manifesto policies of political parties seeking election.

The establishment of a committee to determine the strategy for anti-reforms and so-called reconciliation is designed to engineer “Guided Democracy”. This committee will in effect be a “Super Junta”, with powers to veto any decisions made by an elected government and to take power at any time via a “legalised coup”, if and when it deems fit. Naturally the Super Junta will be dominated by the military top brass. This Super Junta will be enshrined in stone for 5 years, but its length of duty can be extended at will.

The constitution can never be amended to make Thailand into a republic or to allow self-determination in Patani. Any other amendments which have been sanctioned by a parliamentary vote, must be approved by the elite appointed Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court also has the power to sack an elected government.

In summary, in terms of freedom and democracy the constitution is worth less than a roll of toilet paper.

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

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