Tag Archives: state crimes

A regime built upon corpses

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The present Thai military dictatorship, which came to power 3 years ago, is not only built upon the corpse of Thai freedom and democracy, it is also built upon the real human corpses of those gunned down on the streets of Bangkok.

In response to a Red Shirt pro-democracy protest, which started on 14th March 2010, the army leadership, which included present dictator Generalissimo Prayut, and the military appointed Abhisit government, started to massacred unarmed demonstrators in cold blood. The Red Shirt protesters were demanding genuine democratic elections after the military, the judges and other elites, had removed a democratically elected government for the second time since 2006.

The military deployed the Queen’s Guard troops from the Second Infantry Division, under the command of General Prayut Chano-cha, to carry out a night time suppression operation. Company-sized army groups took up positions directly facing the Red Shirt crowd at the Democracy Monument and Khok Wua Intersection, where a standoff ensued for more than an hour. Troops fired live ammunition above the crowd, including heavy .50 calibre machine guns, together with sporadic live fire directly into the crowd.

The specific objectives of the 10th April operation, near the Democracy Monument, were to terrorise the demonstrators, assassinate the Red Shirt leaders, and suppress the Red Shirt movement. Contrary to common perception, the strategy was not to disperse the demonstrators. Rather, the operational strategy was to concentrate the demonstrators in a confined area, provoke the crowd to violence in order to create a perceived need for self-defence, and open fire.

The military opened fire on unarmed demonstrators who posed no threat to the soldiers. At most the demonstrators were throwing plastic bottles at the troops. Twenty-one civilians died and 600 were injured in this initial crack-down. Five soldiers were also killed when an M67 military grenade was rolled into the command post from behind army lines, probably by a rival military group. Yet this first army operation did not achieve its aim. The Redshirts managed to seize a couple of APCs and the Red Shirt protests continued for another month into May.

After the military operation on Rachadamnoen Avenue on April 10th failed to end the Red Shirt demonstrations, the army turned its attention to suppressing the demonstrations that had now concentrated at the Ratchaprasong Intersection. The army’s plan called for establishing a “free fire” perimeter around the area. During the period between May 13th and May 19th, the army deployed troops from the Second Cavalry Division and the First Infantry Division to seal off the Bon Kai area south of Ratchaprasong, and the Din Dang and Rajaprarop areas north of Ratchaprasong. Again, snipers were deployed from buildings, using live ammunition. Although the official orders were to shoot threatening targets only, the actual orders for the commanding officers, which were unwritten, were to: (1) shoot all moving targets, regardless of threat level; (2) prevent any photographic or video evidence by shooting neutral foreign press photographers; and (3) prevent the removal of any bodies. These orders signified that troops were permitted to kill any person they wished, which allowed for the shootings of civilians and medical personnel at the Wat Patumwanaram temple on the evening of the 19th May. Claims that the Red Shirts were also armed with automatic weapons are not supported by any evidence of captured weapons or deaths or bullet injuries of any soldiers at Ratchaprasong.

There is overwhelming photographic and documentary evidence that the military and the government ordered the killing of unarmed Red Shirts by bringing in tanks, heavily armed soldiers and snipers to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok. Nearly 90 unarmed civilians, including paramedics and foreign journalists were shot by snipers in the “free-fire zones” set up by the Military.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and all government representatives at the time repeatedly denied that pro-democracy demonstrators had been deliberately shot down by soldiers. Deputy Prime Minister Sutep Tuaksuban told the media in March 2011 that the government “had not killed anyone” and that the Red Shirts had “run into the bullets themselves”.  Army Commander General Prayut denied that the Army shot anyone. An official report revealed that the military had used 117,923 bullets against Red Shirts in April and May, 2120 of which were sniper bullets. No military or government official has ever been jailed and General Prayut is now Thailand’s self-appointed Prime Minister.

The pattern of Thai State Crimes

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The bloody massacre in Bangkok of pro-democracy civilians by the military and the Democrat Party in April and May 2010 was not the first time that unarmed political protesters had been brutally killed by the Thai State. It is now 40 years since the cold-blooded massacre at Thammasart University on the 6th October 1976.

32261_399319099924_537184924_3928134_4527140_nsouth8

Before 2010, State Crimes were committed under the Thai Rak Thai Government in the South in 2004, by the military junta in 1992 in Bangkok, by the police and state-sponsored right-wing forces in October 1976 outside Thammasart University and by the army on the streets of Bangkok in October 1973. In 1973 and 1992, the people managed to overcome the army and win. But 1976, 2004 and 2010 were defeats. To date, no one has been punished or held responsible for any of these State Crimes.

ThuDecember2003-11-17-2-big4

[see http://bit.ly/1WxSkEF , http://bit.ly/22Ts5cM , http://bit.ly/1TKgv02  ]

There is a general pattern to the brutal methods which the Thai State has used over the last 40 years. Firstly, armed combat troops or paramilitary police are used to gun down unarmed protesters in the streets. Tanks are often deployed to intimidate people. Government officials then deny any shootings. There are no attempts to arrest people in order to keep the peace. Instead those that are captured are treated like enemy soldiers.  Captives are stripped to the waist and made to crawl along the ground under a hail of kicks and beatings. They are then tied up. After the incidents government spokespersons tell deliberate lies. One typical lie is to say that the security forces were “forced to act as the situation was getting out of hand”. Another lie is to claim that the “trouble-makers” were foreigners and couldn’t speak Thai or that they wanted to over-throw the monarchy. Yet another lie is to claim that the protesters were well-armed and posed a threat to security forces. These lies are all trotted out despite video, photographic and eye-witness evidence which directly contradicts the accounts given by the Thai State.

In the light of general amnesties given to all sides after the 6th October blood bath and also after the 1992 military crack-down, it is worth remembering that the most important function of these amnesties is to white-wash the actions of state officials in the name of “reconciliation”. This is why we must never accept any general amnesty for what happened between 2006 and 2010. The Red Shirts were carrying out legitimate pro-democracy demonstrations and need no amnesty. Those charged with lèse majesté have been imprisoned under an anti-democratic law. All these political prisoners should be immediately released. They do not need to be “pardoned” for they have done no wrong.

But what is of vital importance is to charge the coup makers of 2006 and 2014, and all those who were responsible for the killing of Red Shirts in 2010, and bring them to justice. A genuine enquiry should be conducted into the 2004 massacre in the South and other State Crimes before that. All those deemed to be guilty should be prosecuted.

A “Human Rights Marker” needs to be laid down in Thailand. Without such actions, Thailand can never have genuine standards of human rights or democracy. Making all laws and constitutions passed by military juntas null and void, would be an important first step. Drastically cutting the military budget, which is used to buy weapons which kill Thai citizens and to line the pockets of the generals via kick-backs, is also vital. The lèse majesté law needs to be scrapped and citizens need to have the right to openly discuss whether or not to maintain the monarchy.

But to achieve these things we need a mass movement allied to a political party of the left and the working class. Those who reject these necessary pre-conditions conditions for genuine change, and instead turn to symbolic gestures of a tiny handful of activists or look to international ruling classes or the United Nations, will change nothing of significance.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/1qGYT9r

6th October: Why are Somsak, Jaran and Ji in political exile abroad?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Many events have been planned for the 40th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 blood-bath, and that is a good thing, especially because of the involvement of young people who are from a different generation. But the question which needs to be addressed today is: why is it that Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Jaran Ditapicha and Ji Ungpakorn are all now political exiles in Europe? All three academics have close links to the 6th October 1976 events.

To answer that question we need to explore the link between the military and the weak monarchy and how the military uses the monarchy to justify military coups and cold-blooded murder of unarmed civilians. We need to explore how to abolish Lèse-majesté. We need to discuss whether Thailand should be a republic. But most of all, we need to discuss how to build a mass movement to topple the current military junta.

Somehow I feel that none of these issues will be discussed at this year’s events.

Latest news concerning the 6th October commemoration is that Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong activist who was due to speak at the 6th October event in Thailand, was been refused entry to Thailand on the request of the Chinese dictatorial regime. He was detained at Bangkok airport and has been sent back to Hong Kong. This is another important issue that needs to be discussed.

On the 6th October 2000, the monument for the 6th October at Thammasart, which had been planned since 1996, was finally finished. Those attending the opening ceremony were in the majority ex-October generation. No high-up officials of the Thai state came, or were invited. The International was played as the monument was unveiled. One column in the Thai language daily Krungtep Turakit reported the ceremony under the headline “socialism will return”. It is clear that any revival of the Thai socialist and democratic tradition will have to confront the history of 6th October and all its legacies head-on. There is no real mystery concerning the event, although those who wish to cover-up the truth claim this. The main point that the Thai ruling class collectively resorted to violence and brutality in order to destroy the struggle for social justice and democracy is obvious to all who care to look. The ruling class have never changed their spots and this is important to discuss today. The killing of pro-democracy Red Shirts by General Prayut and the conservatives in 2010 proves this. The human rights abuses by Taksin before that only add to the evidence. Today we once again live under a corrupt and brutal military dictatorship headed by Prayut. The modern Left has to win the argument with significant sections of society that 1976 shows the real nature of those who control the capitalist system and continue to rule over us to this day. Two even greater tasks of winning the argument for socialism and democracy involve, firstly, learning the lessons from both the achievements and mistakes of the Communist Party of Thailand (C.P.T.), and secondly, the re-examination post-C.P.T. ideology and the much needed methods of struggle by mass social movements in order to overthrow the present dictatorship.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/2d1iZbj  and http://bit.ly/1qGYT9r

The Opportunism and Crimes of Abhisit Vejjajiva

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Abhisit Vejjajiva is a slippery opportunist eel with a poisonous bite.

Over the constitutional referendum Abhisit said he opposed the draft charter. He said it did not go far enough in tackling corruption. That was just a code for wanting a more authoritarian constitution. He was positioning himself to look good from both sides, aiming to be on the winning side, which ever it was. He also revealed his pro-dictatorship leanings by saying that if the referendum failed Generalissimo Prayut should sit at the head of the table and draft a new charter.

Abhist and his fellow “Democrat Party” politician Sutep Tuaksuban have been playing a game of “good cop – bad cop” since their party wrecked the February 2014 elections. They were both part of the whistle-blowing middle-class mobsters who took over the streets and government buildings. While Sutep’s behaviour was more like a common gangster, Abhisit kept his distance, cultivatimg his upper-class English Gentleman image. He stayed away from any confrontations on the streets.

Sutep is head of a local family patronage network of mafia-style politicians in the south. Abhisit comes from a rich Bangkok family that sent him to study at Eton and Oxford. But these two guys share the same political goals of trying to come to power in an old-style elitist political process of using patronage and the influence of the military.

In the recent referendum discussions Sutep came out clearly in support of the military’s constitution while Abhist tried to take more discreet stance. But this was just the “good cop – bad cop” act.

They both hate Taksin and all that he stood for in terms of building support among poor working people. Abhisit was a long-time critic of the universal health care system. He and his former finance minister, Korn Chatikavanij, are extreme neo-liberals who believe that the government should not provide free health care to the public.

Abhisit, like former Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai, was always careful to claim that he did not support military coups, while doing absolutely nothing to oppose them. The Democrat Party has benefited from the end of military rule in the 1970s and 1990s while abstaining from the struggles to bring about such ends.

Abhisit’s supposed opposition to military coups never stopped him from working hand in glove with the military.

After the 2006 coup and the subsequent election victory of Taksin’s party, Sutep and Abhisit went along with the judicial coup which destroyed the elected government while yellow-shirted mobs tried to shut down the country. The military under Generals Prayut and Anupong then organised a new military sponsored government led by the Democrat Party. This was despite the fact that the Democrat Party has never won an overall majority in any election. Abhisit became Prime Minister.

Of course, like Taksin, Abhisit and Sutep were not against the use of violence.

Taksin murdered people in the southern Malay Muslim provinces and small scale drug dealers in his so-called war on drugs.

When Abhisit and Sutep’s government was faced with mass Red Shirt pro-democracy demonstrators, who called for fresh clean elections, they did not hesitate to work with the generals to gun down unarmed civilians in the streets. Abhisit and Sutep’s attitude to this cold-blooded murder was to suggest that “unfortunately some people died”. Before that Abhisit had masqueraded as an “expert in democracy” to give a talk at St John’s College, Oxford, in 2009, where he had previously studied politics.

Abhisit and the Democrat Party are just waiting for future elections so that they can once again be part of a civilian government, irrespective of whether the elections are democratic or not. The man is a contemptible and violent opportunist.

The myth of the “Land of Smiles”

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The recent video footage of a British family being brutally attacked by drunken thugs in the Thai seaside resort of Hua Hin should be enough to dispel the myth that Thailand is a “Land of Smiles”.

Associated with this myth is the idea that somehow the Buddhist religion ensures tolerance and a peaceful way of life. The truth is the absolute opposite. The violent behaviour of fascist monks in Burma and Thailand are confirmation of this. See http://bit.ly/1WA9UE0 and http://bit.ly/1W1AA3C

Thailand is a violent society in many ways. Politically the ruling class have always resorted to violence to suppress opposition. We have seen this on the streets of Bangkok many times in the last five decades. We have also seen this in Patani. The murder rate in Thailand is higher than the United States and approximately five times higher than Western Europe. People also die violent deaths on the roads due to poor public transport, poor roads and bad driving. This is a form of violence caused by the state of society.

Violence by drunken thugs also happens regularly in Western Europe, but the main targets of young thugs are other young men. This makes the repeated attack on the British woman who is in her sixties particularly horrifying. Thai culture is supposed to teach people to respect elderly people. How did this happen? She was punched and then kicked in the head when on the ground. Of course racists are known to attack black people or Muslims in Europe, including elderly people and racism plays an important role in promoting violence.

However, to be fair, the video does seem to show her slapping the face of a Thai man earlier during the incident. But that does not excuse the brutal attack upon her later.

It is not enough of an explanation to say that the attack at Hua Hin was just local youth copying the behaviour of the Thai ruling class, especially the military junta. However, junta strong man Prayut  did threaten those sharing the above video with jail sentences because it “gives Thailand a bad name”!

Many Thais may appear to smile or laugh easily, but this is often a cultural way in which to cover embarrassment. In reality, in public settings, people in Thailand are less polite than the citizens of Britain. Some may question my assertion that British people are more polite to each other in public settings. But consider the way British people tend to hold open doors for each other, how many drivers thank other drivers for giving way to them, how flashing your car lights in Britain means “you go first”, while it means the opposite in Thailand. Consider how people getting off buses in Oxford thank the driver or how there is a serious attempt to show general respect for the privacy and dignity of others, especially in hospitals and schools. It comes from past collective struggles, especially by the labour movement, to promote equality and dignity. There is nothing specifically “British” about this. It is a result of class struggle.

Thais are warm and generous people and are open minded about children in a way that is not present in British society and they are more spontaneous in sharing meals with people. So it isn’t really a case of who is a “nicer” nation. After all, the British Empire has a long and bloody history of oppression, slavery and violence.

Biologically Thais are no more prone to any particular behaviour than any Europeans. But there are important social factors which lead to violence in society and a lack of politeness in public settings.  The most important factor is that Thai society is extremely hierarchical. The ruling class continues to do whatever it can to ensure that a “culture of citizenship and equality” is not allowed to grow. The idea that people should respect the elderly is often closely associated with more powerful elders like teachers, parents or people of higher rank, than poor elderly folk. There is as yet no welfare state in Thailand and the trade union movement is weaker than in Western Europe. Collective class struggle has not been strong enough so far. These are all factors which lead to a lack of mutual respect and a lack of collective consciousness among many ordinary people. Everyone is often too busy trying to make sure they can defend their individual way of life or the interests of their close family because there is no collective guarantee of security that one gets from a welfare state. That also explains why most Thais are so bad at queuing.

Those at the lower end of the pile, like the thugs at Hua Hin, can only seem to gain some false dignity by getting drunk and acting tough. Violence against women and children, worldwide, is often because oppressed men pathetically try to make up for their lack of power in the outside world by using violence against weaker people in their own family.

The racism, which is prevalent in Thai society, especially to people from other Asian countries, but also against Westerners, is encouraged by the extreme nationalism of the ruling class. This is part of the explanation of why Western tourists are sometimes attacked. They are seen as a privileged group of people and Western women are seen as lacking in morals. See http://bit.ly/1JaeTJY

All in all Thai society is sick because it is ruled by a brutal sick ruling class. Yet, millions of Thais try to lead decent and caring lives where they attempt to respect others. That is the glimmer of hope for the future. But to encourage the good and collective side of Thais, we need to end the dictatorship, destroy hierarchy, promote the idea of equality and citizenship, and build a welfare state to reduce inequality.

 

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 military should have no role in Patani

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

On the 13th February 2016 the junta’s thugs banned a meeting to discuss ways to achieve peace in Patani. The meeting was organised by the Federation of Patani Students and Youth – PerMAS and was due to be held in the Yala Teachers’ Training College. The excuse for the banning of this meeting was that it referred to the word “self-determination”.

It comes as no surprise that the Thai military is against all forms of self-determination, either in Patani or in Thailand as a whole. The junta has constantly banned meetings to discuss the proposed draft constitution in Bangkok.

Numerous Thai constitutions contain an offensive clause about Thailand being a state which can never be divided. This shows the intention of the Thai ruling class to maintain tight control over all areas within the current border. It is an attitude which is an obstacle to peace in Patani because the long-running conflict here is caused by Bangkok’s oppression of the Muslim Malay majority. Anyone with a sprinkling of intelligence can understand that respect for the culture of Muslim Malays and their ability to determine their own future is the key to resolving this bloody war which has claimed too many lives already.

Yet despite this, the military has a leading policy and practical role in Patani, even representing past civilian governments in negotiations with insurgents. Under the military, the word “self-determination” is banned.

12744275_1720991521448066_4919859868376036493_n

A recently published report by The Cross Cultural Foundation and the Duay Jai Group in Patani showed that since 2014 there have been 32 known complaints of torture used by the Thai state on Muslim Malay prisoners. This torture is “systematic”. Prisoners have been repeatedly kicked, punched and beaten with blunt instruments. They have been stripped naked. Some have had plastic bags pulled over their heads until they couldn’t breathe. Some have been water boarded. Electric shocks and foot burning have been used. Many have been deprived of sleep. They have been threatened with summary executions. They have been told that their family members will be harmed. On some occasions the soldiers or policemen were drunk. There is clear and credible documentary and photographic evidence to support all these accusations.

The picture which is being painted here is of thugs in uniform rampaging with impunity across the region. Not surprisingly, not a single member of the security forces has ever been punished for these crimes. Under the various special security laws they can never be prosecuted. Added to this is the fact that military thugs like Prayut are running the government. For them, they know only one response to the grievances of Malay Muslims: systematic and violent oppression. Such oppression will only spawn more desperate and violent actions against the Thai state.

Naturally, the junta denies the torture allegations. They have a long record of telling lies about all their actions since the military coup of 2014.

The junta also sent uniformed thugs to intimidate and pay a visit to the human rights defenders who published the report.

As we have stated on many occasions in this blog site, the only peaceful solution to the conflict in Patani is to withdraw all soldiers and police from the area and to initiate widespread discussions about self-determination by citizens of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. This means that in practice the determination of government policy and any negotiations need to be taken out of the hands of the military.

For the full report on torture in Thai see http://bit.ly/1Xrdam5