Tag Archives: military violence

Thai mass shooting reflects a sick, military dominated society

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The tragic deaths of 30 people in the mass shooting by a crazed sergeant major in Korat reflects a sick militarised society.

Apart from the psychological state of the soldier, which is obviously important, there a number of other significant factors that contributed to this event.


The fact that the military is still in power after staging a number of coups and fixing the recent elections, means that society is dominated by a military culture. This culture normalises the use of state violence in politics. Soldiers not only control the levers of power, but they intervene in the day to day running of society, acting like the police. Armed soldiers visit opposition activists in their homes in order to intimidate them. They act to ban freedom of expression on a regular basis. Merely being in military uniform and holding a weapon is enough to justify these actions.

The Thai military has repeatedly shot unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok with total impunity. Not only did they do this during the red shirt protests, but this obnoxious history goes back to the military induced bloodbaths in 1973 and 1976. The present Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-Ocha, was one of those responsible for the deaths of nearly a hundred unarmed Red Shirt protesters in 2010.

20080219 6 Tula

The military also act with impunity in Patani, carrying out extra-judicial killings of Malay Muslims. In neighboring Lao. military death squads have killed exiled dissidents.

Within the military there is a culture of brutalising young recruits and this has often resulted in a number of deaths.

Because none of this military violence is ever punished; no military personnel have ever been prosecuted for killing unarmed protesters, it has become normal behaviour for armed soldiers to act as though they are above the law. Soldiers swagger around like gangsters, intimidating citizens and aping their bosses who are in government. In the 1970s it was common to see military vehicles driving the wrong way down one-way streets with their lights on.


On National Children’s Day the military bring out all their hardware to “entertain” kids. Some of the real weapons available for the kids to use as “toys” are probably the same as the gun used by the sergeant major in Korat. This socialising of children leads to a tendency among many boys to want to become soldiers so that they can feel important, macho and tough. This has little to do with heroics. The Thai military is not heroic, it is more like a massive mafia, engaged in business deals and bullying. It is probable that the angry soldier in Korat was being swindled by his commanding officer in such a deal.

Members of the Thai army take part in Thailand’s National Armed Forces Day at the Thai Army 11th Infantry Regiment in Bangkok, Thailand January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom – RTX22VQS

Finally there is a total lack of justice and security for the majority of people who are poor. When people have no faith in the justice system and they have no life security, there is a feeling that you need to take things into your own hands or act like a gangster. This is also partly the reason why Thailand has one of the highest levels of gun ownership.

The finger of blame for the tragedy in Korat has to be pointed firmly at those military officers in charge of the country, starting with Generalissimo Prayut.

bloody prayut

Thai Military and NGOs cannot build peace in Patani

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Following news of the fatal shooting of Buddhist monks at Wat Rattananupab in Su Ngai Padi district of Naratiwat, the reactionary Buddhist nationalists in Thai society have been up in arms. These people are not interested in seriously analysing the causes of violence in Patani. The Thai military has also used the event to be even more strident in its attitude to those opposing the Thai state.


Yet, in Patani, ever since it was partitioned between Thailand and the British Empire, there has been an on-going war between the Thai state and those who want independence. The violence associated with this war is a direct result of the oppression of Malay Muslims by the Thai state. Patani is occupied by Thai soldiers like a colony. [For further reading see https://bit.ly/2bemah3 ].


The actions of the Thai military are a serious cause for the continued violence. The military’s extreme nationalism means that since the military coup of 2014, so-called peace talks have stalled. The Thai military is not really interested in solving the problems that have led to the on-going war. It is only interested in talks as a means to get the independence fighters to surrender.

Thai State Crime at Takbai in 2004

When considering the tragic events at Wat Rattananupab, one of the worst aspects is the reaction by Thai NGOs and Human Rights Watch. A long list of Thai NGOs was attached to a declaration condemning the events and calling on the Thai state to bring the perpetrators to justice. Human Rights Watch called the independence fighters “war criminals”. In effect, this means that the NGOs have publicly sided with the Thai state in the war because they see the military as having legitimacy to “bring the perpetrators to justice”. None of this is very surprising since many Thai NGOs welcomed the recent military intervention in Thai politics to overthrow democratically elected governments. [See https://bit.ly/1UpZbhh ].

What has often been missing from declarations of outrage is the fact that 3 Muslim clerics were murdered a few months before the events at Wat Rattananupab and that an assassination attempt was made against another cleric in January. Thai army death squads are known to target Muslim clerics and activists, who they claim are part of the separatist struggle. Those who cannot be found guilty in open law courts are often “eliminated”. In addition to this a leader of the separatist BRN was recently killed by a Thai army death squad in Naratiwat.


Luckily, among the nationalist rants and the stupidity of the NGOs, there have been some voices of reason. Two recent articles sought to provide a more balanced understanding of events. Surapot Taweesak wrote that Buddhist monks have been closely connected to the Thai state for a long time. In Patani the military have a history of getting soldiers to become monks and some carry weapons. Soldiers are also stationed in temples and walk beside monks when they beg for food in the mornings. It is therefore not surprising that the Buddhist establishment is viewed as part of the Thai state. Surapot is a respected scholar of Buddhism and has long been an advocate of the separation of religion from the Thai state. [See https://bit.ly/2RRkMG3 ].


Assistant Professor Channarong Boonnoon from Silapakorn University wrote that those who are enraged by the shooting of monks, and raise questions like “why kill monks?”, are seldom interested in the answer. He explained that despite many individual monks being innocent, the Buddhist Establishment has never distanced itself from those in power and never criticised any wrong-doing by the state. He also confirmed that Buddhist monks in Patani have a history of being close to the military. [See https://bit.ly/2WryRIX ].


After the temple shootings, Thai army rangers took the opportunity to raid a Malay Muslim “Pondok” religious school in Patani. They arrested a number of young men. One was photographed covered in a net like a hunted animal. The military claim that these men were carrying out “unarmed combat training” and that some were illegal Cambodian migrants. Local villagers dispute the military’s story. They believe that the young men, some of whom seem to be under 18 years of age, were just exercising after a long day of studying. The fact that all but the Cambodians were later released, shows that there was no evidence that any combat training took place. The Cambodians were detained on immigration charges and deported.


It is worth noting that many Muslim Cambodian citizens are ethnic Chams. The Chams originally had an empire in southern Vietnam and Cambodia. For hundreds of years they have travelled to and sometimes settled in Malaysia, Indonesia and Patani. In modern times they are drawn to Patani because of their common Malay language and their religion and the fact that Patani Pondoks are highly regarded. It is also worth remembering that Cambodian and Burmese migrants are the favourite scapegoats of Thai nationalists and the Thai military has a history of harassing people in religious schools.


Those who are genuinely interested in building peace in Patani know that for there to be peace there has to be justice for the local Malay Muslim population. Locals of all religions and cultures who are living in Patani have the right to collectively determine their future and they have the right to separate from the Thai state if they so decide. But this cannot happen when religion is not separated from the state and the military continue to control the future of Patani.

Unfortunately, the Thai political parties who are now canvassing for votes are reluctant to propose radical progressive solutions to the war.

Other articles on Patani can be read here: https://bit.ly/2HHTwVN , https://bit.ly/2UqtRCc , https://bit.ly/1QCoOWs , https://bit.ly/2tZG5JK , https://bit.ly/1RmdMZs , https://bit.ly/2eBAzDj and https://bit.ly/2bemah3 .

See also, this report: https://bit.ly/2S2qx3N

Thai junta death squads eliminate exiled opponents

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Prayut’s military junta in Thailand have blood on their hands once again. Death squads have crossed the border into neighbouring Lao to abduct and murder exiled opponents and critics of the junta and the monarchy.

“Pu-Chana”, Surachai Darnwatananusorn and “Kasalong”. Photo from Prachatai.

DNA analysis has confirmed that two of the bodies found in the Mekong River at Nakorn Panom were that of “Pu-Chana” and “Kasalong”, close comrades of Surachai Darnwatananusorn. It is believed by a number of credible journalists that there was also a third body in the river which belonged to Surachai. That body cannot now be located. All three men had been living together in exile in Lao after Prayut’s military coup. They had been missing from their homes for over a month and there were clear signs of abduction.


The bodies were washed ashore on the Thai side of the Mekong River. The victims had been brutally mutilated, killed, tied up in sacking with concrete weights, and thrown in the river.

There is a history of abductions and killings of dissidents living in Lao. “Ko Tee”, a radio broadcaster and Redshirt activist, was abducted by 10 Thai-speaking men in black in July 2017. A year earlier, Ittipon Sukpaen, aka “DJ Sunho”, disappeared and was never seen again.


Prayut and the Thai military junta must be held to account for these brutal murders. Naturally, like all governments which use death squads, they will deny any responsibility and any knowledge of how the killings took place and it will be difficult to find e-mail trails or written confirmation of any direct orders.

But the junta has form.

The top generals were involved with killing unarmed red shirt protesters in 2010. The Thai military operates death squads against Muslim Malays in Patani, and since Prayut’s 2014 coup, the junta have increased repression, especially with the use of the lèse-majesté law.

bloody prayut

The junta’s extreme royalism has encouraged rabid and aggressive royalists such as Maj. Gen. Riantong Nanna, leader of the ultra-royalist vigilante group known as the “Rubbish Collection Organisation”. According to an article in the Japan Times by exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Riantong once wrote on his Facebook page that he would send a gunman to kill a critic of the monarchy who was living in Paris if he could do so. [See https://bit.ly/2UaJYnq]. Riantong has never been admonished by the military junta for his behaviour and he remains director of Mongkutwattana Hospital in Bangkok.

Riantong Nanna

It is highly likely that Surachai and his comrades were abducted and murdered by a death squad linked to the Thai military.

Opponents of the junta living in exile in Lao do not have protection from the Lao government as formal refugees. The Lao authorities merely tolerate their presence on an unofficial basis. This means that armed men can cross over the border and hunt them down at will. For this reason many exiles have to constantly move house. Added to this is the fact that up to now Western countries have refused to take these exiles as asylum seekers.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also been unhelpful, mainly because Lao does not allow the organisation into the country.

Despite the murders being highlighted by Human Rights Watch [https://bit.ly/2FRHjuS], the Thai National Human Rights Commission has so far been silent, preferring instead to publish proclamations condemning violence used by oppressed opponents of the Thai State in Patani. The NGOs and various political parties have not issued any statements either.

It is unlikely that the Lao government will do anything meaningful to investigate this atrocity. Their priority is to maintain good relations with the Thai ruling class. Besides, at least one Lao activist has also disappeared in recent years.

We must hold the Thai junta to account for the deaths of Surachai and his comrades.

Military Thuggery Rewarded

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Not only do the Thai military killers and thugs enjoy impunity after killing pro-democracy demonstrators, Malay Muslims or human rights activists, they also get promoted.

Army thug Apirat Khongsompong has been appointed as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Army. In early April 2010 he led a group of soldiers to attack unarmed pro-democracy Red Shirts at the Thai Khom Satellite Ground Control Station in Patum Tani. Several Red Shirts were injured in that attack. He can be seen in video footage shooting a handgun at the protesters. Obscenities were also mouthed.

The video can be seen on YouTube (assuming it isn’t removed at the request of the junta). The link is below.


The Thai military attack unarmed civilians as though they are enemy combatants, rushing forward as though they were involved in great feats of heroism. In fact they behave like cowardly thugs.

Some people have commented that because the new military reshuffle and appointments were done in the name of the king that Wachiralongkorn is somehow in charge of the military. This is just the usual nonsense from the conspiracy theorists. All such appointments have always been carried out in the name of the Head of State.

There is no evidence at all that Wachiralongkorn has any power over the armed forces and the military reshuffle was directed by the top generals and the ruling junta.

Military reshuffles and promotions are an occasion for top generals to get their turn to stick their snouts in the corrupt feeding trough and therefore much behind the scenes bargaining takes place between different factions.

In most European countries where there is a monarchy, top appointments of soldiers, Prime Ministers or judges are usually carried out in the name of the monarchy without the monarchy having any power whatsoever.

General Apirat clearly hated the Red Shirts and this is just another example of how the Thai military can never act as an honest broker between the different political factions.

Mafia style military rule ensures impunity

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Last year I reported that soldiers in Chiang Mai shot down Chaiyapoom Pasae, a 17 year old Lahu activist. This 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 https://bit.ly/2o4Wq99 ].

After many attempts by lawyers to get the military to release the CCTV footage of the event, which they repeatedly claimed they had, it now appears that the footage has been “lost”. This is despite the fact that a senior military officer, 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 because “he had drawn a knife and attempted to throw a bomb” at soldiers. How would he know what happened, given that there is now no physical evidence available?


The “loss” of CCTV footage is no surprise and it paves the way for the continued impunity enjoyed by the thugs in uniform.

Another recent news item reported that Sawai Tong-om, a pro-democracy red shirt protestor, who was shot and seriously injured by troops in 2009, has had his legal case against the military appointed Abhisit government and the military overturned. Initially the courts awarded him damages of more than a million baht. But the court of appeal overturned this ruling, and worse still, ruled that he must pay the military’s legal expenses. His property has now been seized and sold for this purpose.



So not only do security forces and their political lackeys enjoy impunity for state crimes, the victims have to pay for legal fees.

Witnesses to military killings are intimidated in order to silence them. “Wan” or Nattathida Meewangpla, was a volunteer paramedic who witnessed the military killings of red shirts at Wat Patum in 2010. Because she was a key witness to this event, she was fitted up with terrorism and lèse-majesté charges by the military and she has been languishing in jail for the past 3 years.

Nattathida Meewangpla

Of course, this kind of thing happens all the time over the situation in Patani, where innocent people end up being abused and jailed while security forces go unpunished. Fa-ist Mayu, a community volunteer from the NUSANTARA foundation, is the latest person to be arrested on questionable grounds by the security forces for a shooting incident in Naratiwat.

Fa-ist Mayu

Many Malay Muslim students, studying a Ramkamhaeng Open University fall foul of indiscriminate arrests by the police and military. They are then often subjected to torture in order to confess crimes they did not commit.

No politician, military officer or policeman has ever been punished for the disappearance of the lawyer Somchai or the massacre of unarmed civilians at Takbai.

The entire situation makes it feel like the country is being run by the Mafia, with a total lack of justice and no one at the top ever being accountable to the public.

Meanwhile it has been revealed that over the last 5 years the Mafia Bosses in Uniform have spent 1,061,171 million baht on the ever-increasing military budget…..


The thugs that rule Thailand

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

There has been a spate of scandals concerning the level of bullying and physical abuse, leading to a number of deaths and serious injuries, among young military recruits and those in military training schools. The viciousness and violence associated with this abuse shows the general thuggish culture of the Thai military.

The top generals’ standard response to these events is firstly to lie and deny any wrong doing, and then, when they cannot sustain the lies, it is to justify the harsh life for young recruits or students in the army by claiming that this was designed to make sure that only the strong were moulded into soldiers.

In response to one recent death, Deputy Prime Minster General Pig-face Prawit said that he had been through the same training and it didn’t do him any long term harm.

However, this has nothing to do with genuine physical training but is a culture designed to create violent thugs who obey those above them and oppress subordinates or those who are weaker. It is training so that soldiers in the Thai army learn to abuse members of the general public and kill any citizens who oppose the political power of the military without the slightest remorse.

This killing of citizens can also be done with total impunity. No single soldier has ever been charged with killing unarmed protesters who were calling for democracy, in 1973, 1976, 1992 or 2010. No single soldier or policeman has ever been charged with the continuing killing and torturing of innocent civilians in Patani. No soldier or policeman has been charged with extra-judicial killings in Taksin’s “war on drugs”.

Officers in the Thai military are socialised to believe that they have a God-given right to intervene in politics and enjoy rich pickings from their political power. This only encourages them to stage military coups on a continuous basis. They arrogantly strut about claiming that they are the true defenders of the monarchy as though that excused everything. The present king is also an arrogant thug, beholden to the military.

Not only are the leading members of the junta guilty of ordering the shooting of innocent civilians, they also do not know how to talk to the public in a polite and respectful manner. Both General Pig-Face Prawit and Generalissimo Prayut regularly swear at, use obscenities and threaten reporters or members of the public who ask them difficult questions.

These are the thugs who rule Thailand and refer to themselves as “good people”, unlike the “bad” elected politicians!! Yet they claim that they are “reforming” Thai politics with a road map towards elections and democracy.

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”.


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.