Thai Insider. Part 3.
In recent posts, based on current lese majeste cases and deaths in military custody, I concluded that Thailand is administered by thugs, scoundrels and liars. Sadly, I must add that the military junta and its enforcers are also as mad as hatters.
This story at Prachatai is so bizarre and if one considers the direction being taken, so frightening that I reproduce it in full. The essence of the story is that a 77 year old has been charged with sedition for presenting a flower to an anti-coup activist: The authorities arrested and pressed sedition charge against a 77-year-old teacher for giving flowers to support an anti-junta activist.
According to Free Thai Legal Aid (FTLA), the FTLA lawyers on Monday 10 am, 26 October 2015, submitted a bail request for Preecha Kaewbanpaew, a 77-year-old retired teacher, to the Military Court of Bangkok.
At around 2 pm, the Military Court granted bail to the retired teacher with 150,000 baht bond, confiscating his Government Saving Bank’s Lottery and 1,000 baht cash as surety.
According to Winyat Chatmontri, the General Secretary of the FTLA, Preecha is charged with Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the sedition law, and the violation of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 7/2014 for participating in a political gathering of more than five people.
Winyat told Prachatai that the retired teacher was charged for giving flowers to support Pansak Srithep, a pro-democracy activist and the father of a boy killed by the military during the 2010 political violence, while the activist was leading a three-day march called “I Walk Therefore I Am” on 15 March 2015 to campaign against the use of military courts to try civilians. The march was organised by Resistant Citizen, an anti-junta activist group which started.
He also joined the march briefly from the Democracy Monument to Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus.
Preecha was only informed about his charges and that there was an arrest warrant against him when he was arrested by the immigration officers and sent to Chana Songkhram Police Station in Bangkok on Sunday, 25 October 2015, while he was about to travel to Laos for sightseeing.
He was detained at Chana Songkhram Police Station for a night for interrogation.
Similarly to the retired teacher, Pansak and three other activists from the Resistant Citizen Group are also accused of sedition and of violating the junta’s political gathering ban for their anti-junta activities.
Article 116 of the Criminal Code or the sedition law states that whoever makes apparent to the public by words, writing or any other means anything which is not an act within the purpose of the constitution or which is not the expression of an honest opinion or criticism (a) in order to bring about a change in the laws or the government by the use of coercion or violence, (b) in order to raise confusion or disaffection amongst the people to the point of causing unrest in the kingdom, or (c) have people violate the law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.
It seems that flowers have a power that the military junta cannot abide. They really are demonstrating that they are barking mad.
The expanding “lese majeste” cases and the death in military custody as well as other arrests for offending the junta suggest that Thailand’s military bosses are seeing threats to their regime everywhere. Angst is becoming panic.
The most recent example is the military’s “summoning” of Prachatai’s Thaweeporn Kummetha, editor of Prachatai English. Thaweeporn was called in for publishing a rather innocuous infographic that simply displays the activities that can land one in jail for years if deemed to be lese majeste.
Four soldiers showed up at Thaweeporn’s home and demanded she appear before the thought police.
Apparently, despite the fact that the graphic linked to earlier reports of lese majeste and penalties imposed by the courts, it was “deemed overly broad in describing the kingdom’s strict law against defaming the monarchy.” The authorities considered the “graphic wastoo vague and might cause misunderstanding.”
A total of “10 officers from the military, police and other law enforcement agencies asked Prachatai to be more careful in how it presented information” about lese majeste.
It seems factual reporting is now problematic in the junta’s Thailand.
The world has seen many electoral and voting systems, from first-past-the-post to proportional representation and preferential voting.
The Bangkok Post (Oct. 27) reports that the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) is considering a proposal for a new voting system…”. The essence of the “thinking” behind the CDCs consideration is a view that if one votes for a losing candidate, one’s vote is “wasted.”
The committee noted that “the 2011 general election saw a turnout of 36 million voters…. But the combined votes of all winning candidates came to 19 million, whereas the votes of failed candidates, combined with spoiled ballots and no-votes, were a staggering 17 million.”
I am not sure why this is “staggering.” In most first-past-the-post systems, almost 53% for the winning party would be considered a landslide.
But the giant intellects with tiny understanding consider that the “17 million votes lost their meaning. People came out to vote for nothing…”.
They propose that “the votes gained by candidates who lose in the constituency system will be used to calculate the number of party-list seats of each political party nationwide.” This would mean that losing “candidates still have a chance of being party-list MPs…”.
This “thinking” is guided by the fear that a popular party could win an election. This is what they mean when they say that a new voting system “should be suited to the circumstances of Thai society…”. That is, to the circumstances of the royalist elite that demands it rule Thailand.
Is it just me reading the media and thinking that the official cover-up of the death in military custody of lese majeste suspect Prakrom Warunprapha is being justified by the fact that he is accused of that crime?
It seems to us that the deliberate leaks of information on the lese majeste cases that involved three men is only about Prakrom. Because he died while in military custody, the cover-up is that he really was a bad guy and somehow this justifies his unusual death. In a sense, he deserved to die. It may be that lese majeste justifies murder.
This is pretty horrible stuff, but par for the course for the increasingly horrid military dictatorship.
In order to make the murder/suicide/death in military custody and the lack of any serious investigation seem somehow palatable, at Khaosod it is reported that the lese majeste investigation into Prakrom Warunprapha’s demise now links him to “the disgraced former head of the Central Investigation Bureau, who was arrested for the same crime one year ago.”
They mean Pongpat Chayapan. I find this interesting, to say the least. Wasn’t all of Pongpat’s loot said to have been seized (if it was, in fact, Pongpat’s)? So how did it come to be with Prakrom? Was he holding the loot before it went back to its real “owner”?
If it was a case of Prakrom getting his hands on the loot, then he is stealing from someone, and has been made to pay. This is starting to look a little like the Saudi gems caper of a few years ago, where cops killed each other, murdered witnesses and claims were made about high-level people wearing the stolen gems. In that frenzy of greed and bloodshed, the body count eventually got into the 20s or 30s. As far as I know, the body count in the lese majeste caper is, so far, two.
The second body was an “assistant of Pongpat, Police Col. Akkarawuth Limrat, who reportedly jumped to his death last year after being rolled up in the scandal.”
Because the military dictatorship has censored news on this case, the Bangkok Post has a similar story. There, a list of supposedly ill-gotten gains is supplied:
… 26 rooms in La Maison Condominium on Soi Phahon Yothin 24. He had also paid for another four rooms worth 500,000 baht each but had not yet obtained the ownership rights…. Hundreds of thousands of baht in foreign currency, including US dollars and Japanese yen…. Several cars owned by Pol Maj Prakrom, including a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz and a Toyota…. 10 valuable Buddha amulets [said to have]… belonged to Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, the former chief of the Crime Suppression Division’s Sub-Division 1 and a former member of Pongpat’s network who died after falling from a building. [Of course, this “fall” was never investigated.] … [T]hree guitars, including one worth more than 400,000 baht [said to “belong” to Pongpat] … [and] several Buddha images … earlier … seized from Pongpat’s network…. [M]ore than 200 radio communication devices and five signal antennae…. Six police cars which Pol Maj Prakrom had ordered for use in his work have also disappeared.
That’s a good haul. No one noticed this before? Or was he “protected”? It seems like the story being manufactured here is that Prakrom was a bad guy and was nasty to the monarchy so that he deserved to die. What next? No more show trials in military courts for lese majeste? Just heads on stakes in front of the palace.
Bangkok Post, 28 October 2015:
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has reassured US ambassador Glyn Davies that Thailand is following the roadmap to restore democracy and a general election will be held by May 2017….
He said he told the US envoy the country is moving towards full democracy under the roadmap.
Bangkok Post 29 October 2015:
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he may need to remain in power as long as the country is not at peace.
Gen Prayut was speaking in parliament at Wednesday’s meeting of the so-called “five rivers of power” — the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly, the Constitution Drafting Committee and the National Reform Steering Assembly….
As the NCPO proceeds with the roadmap, there must be no attempts to stir up sedition or hatred, Gen Prayut said.
“Politicians do not have to be suspicious of me. [The media] writes every day that I intend to cling on to power. I must make it clear. If there is no peace and order, I must stay on…”.
Believe it or not, but the event linked to a supposedly huge conspiracy to use the name of the monarchy for personal gain and wealth, is still on.
The Thailand propaganda news agency, NNT, reports that “Thai Embassies and Consulates have invited Thais living abroad to take part in the ‘Bike For Dad’ event to be held on December 11 this year.”
So lets get this right… At least three, perhaps four, maybe dozens, of persons have been arrested, charged with lese majeste, died in military custody or are being investigated. Those accused, dead and alive, were all somehow linked to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s Bike for Mom and Bike for Dad palace propaganda exercises. Those events have been supported to the hilt by The Dictator and his lot. Despite this national scandal, the event is continuing to be promoted as if nothing untoward has happened.
It certainly isn’t Denmark, but something has a certain whiff to it.
“I’M SO SORRY, BUT MY WIFE HAS MADE A MISTAKE!”
In the Bangkok Post of 29 October 2015, self-proclaimed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was reported as stating “he may need to remain in power as long as the country is not at peace.” He added: “If there is no peace and order, I must stay on…”.
What I didn’t comment on was Prayuth’s statement that he would “close the country” if peace in Thailand proves elusive.” He means “peace” as defined by him as The Dictator.
Sounding like something out of the Fawlty Towers episode “The Wedding Party,” the junta’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that Prayuth made a mistake. Well, as I know, The Dictator can’t actually be mistaken, but anyway, you get our drift.
Prawit says: “The prime minister did not mean it literally…”. But he did confirm that if there is no peace and order, Prayuth and the junta would stay in power.
Yes, that’s exactly what Prayuth said.
Yes, these military thugs are difficult to follow, but Prawit has the answer: “Don’t think too much…”.
On 26 October, Minister for “Justice” General Paiboon Khumchaya declared that lese majeste suspect Suriyan Sujaritpalawong was not dead. The General declared: “Mor Yong’s [Suriyan] fine. I don’t understand what caused these rumours.” In case people were still concerned about Suriyan following the death of Prakrom Warunprapha in military custody, Paiboon declared: “He’s alive and well. We were told he even asked to have rice porridge for breakfast this morning…”.
Maybe, although no evidence of the fortune teller’s health was provided by Paiboon, except for his assurances and those of Vitaya Suriyawong, director-general of the Corrections Department. He accused Suriyan of “faking” symptoms – he “was sent for a CT scan on Thursday after it appeared his mouth was twisted and his jaws locked.”
Maybe, but now there’s a problem.
Khaosod reports that the astrologer “failed to appear in court as scheduled today.” Police stated that Suriyan “was too ill to attend today’s court session…”.
Suriyan has not been seen since 21 October.
Update 1: The Nation reports that Suriyan was “was rushed from his detention cell on Thursday to a prison hospital after suffering a severe headache, stomach pain and difficulty in speaking.” These were some of the symptoms he was claimed to be “faking.” The claim is that Suriyan has “high blood pressure, liver disease, plus stress.” The newspaper states that he is still in hospital.
Update 2: The Bangkok Post states that Suriyan is “back to his cell at a Bangkok military base after medical treatment.” The Corrections Department says that “Suriyan has a number of conditions. When he’s stressed, his blood pressure rises and other symptoms follow. In any case, he will be kept at the temporary prison because it’s convenient for the investigation…”. Really? “Convenient?
Umesh Pandey is editor of Asia Focus at the Bangkok Post. I don’t think I’ve mentioned one of his stories in the past, yet his recent account of The Dictator’s speech to his so-called five rivers deserves attention.
The five rivers has resonances of Chinese designations of institutions and includes the cabinet, the National Council for Peace and Order (the military junta), the junta-appointed appointed National Legislative Assembly, the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee and the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly.
It seems that having all of his people in front of his as a captured audience gave General Prayuth Chan-ocha the opportunity to run on, a bit like a river, with a two hour and 15 minute rant.
As Umesh points out, this meeting was said to be “a venue for the exchange of information between the parties that are running the country and will instigate reforms that will have implications for years, if not decades, to come.” But because of Prayuth’s “outburst,” Umesh says that, “at the end of it there was no debate.”
This rant was all about Prayuth’s view of:
… how wrong things are in the country and how hard he has been trying to overcome these obstacles though it has not been an easy task.
In a flurry of anger at people opposed to him, the coup leader used some demeaning words in parliament for which he later apologised saying those words were not appropriate for that venue.
To make matters worse, he ended up saying things that not many would have wanted to hear, especially not foreign investors, the expatriate community or even the international community.
In his frenzy to rein in those who oppose his rule, Gen Prayut said he would isolate the country from the world if that is what is required to get Thailand back on track.
Umesh spends most of the rest of his article explaining the negative impressions this creates for business people, local and foreign. Prayuth’s acerbic and undisciplined rant is a true reflection of not just his personal failings but, more importantly, shows that a dictatorship dominated by an erratic personality is threatening and dangerous for individuals and the nation.
The article ends with “advice” to The Dictator:
… rather than letting anger and emotions overtake oneself, a leader should learn to keep calm and not embark on emotional outbursts — especially not in parliament where nobody has the guts to question his authority.
Prayuth doesn’t take advice.
Readers will be well aware of the death in military custody of Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, accused of lese majeste. Officially, I am told by the Minister responsible for “Justice” General Paiboon Khumchaya that “the case is now closed” and that Prakrom committed suicide. The public is left to ponder a lese majeste accusation that was never explained, detention in a military prison under circumstances that will never be explained and a death in military custody that will not be explained or investigated.
Yet reader may have missed the story of another “suicide” story this week, reported at The Nation: “Sitthikorn Boonchim, 44, better known as Sia Oud, was found dead in his Phitsanulok hotel room on Thursday night. There were no signs of a struggle or an assault.” He is said to have left a suicide note. A friend stated that he had met the dead man several times in the past week and that his sudden unresponsiveness was abrupt.
Sia Oud “was once a high-profile and tremendously rich amulet maker. ” The report states that his “life began to spiral out of control after several amulet buyers complained that his company wrongfully advertised that the production and distribution of amulets had been backed by the Palace since late 2007.” He was later sent to jail for 5 years for the “use and imitation of an official emblem without permission.”
These are interesting times.
The “lese majeste” investigations associated with the recent apprehension of Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, Jirawong Wattanathewasilp and Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha are reported in The Nation as involving “[d]ozens of investigation teams [who] are currently questioning suspects…”.
This story reveals that investigators “plan to question people close to billionaire tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont,” one of Thailand’s wealthiest businessmen and a longtime and large donor to all things royal.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Pol Maj-General Chayapol Chatchaidej said “unnamed company employees of Dhanin’s businesses would be questioned.” He added that: “The investigators will not directly question Dhanin…. Only people involved will be questioned.”
This follows the police having displayed a “chart that shows five affiliates of Dhanin’s Charoen Pokphand (CP) conglomerate were hired by Mac Bara to produce the pins.” Mac Bara is a company involved in producing commemorative pins for the Bike for Mom and Bike for Dad royal propaganda events.
Helpfully, Chayapol pointed out that each investigation “team would be headed by a senior police officer above the rank of colonel and below the rank of major-general when questioning important figures.”
I can’t help but wonder how many “important figures” are going to be caught up in this remarkable but unexplained purge.