Harrison George

Working on the well-known principle that it is far more important to conceal a scandal than deal with it, Gen Prayut last week threatened to summon a Channel 3 reporter.  This brave young woman had travelled to Indonesia to report on the plight of Thais who had escaped slavery on fishing boats.  Some were languishing in prison on a remote island (that the Thai media call ‘Benjina’ although that is the name of a town on Kobroor Island).  Others sadly had died and been buried there.

Gen Prayut, despite copious documentary evidence to the contrary, seems to believe that the problem of slavery aboard Thai fishing boats is unknown to the rest of the world (well, apart from the remote Indonesian island, one assumes).  And the world would continue in its ignorance, blissfully consuming the produce of the Thai ‘slave ships’, if only these overeager reporters would not persist in sabotaging the country’s good name and export earnings.

‘The media should consider the impact the news will have on the country,’ Gen Prayut is reported as saying. ‘It may cause problems, and affect national security.’  In other words, slavery is not so much as problem for national security as the reporting of it, which must be a comforting message to the slaves.

With the inexorable logic of a man who puts his first foot wrong and ploughs on regardless, Gen. Prayut warned that if Thailand’s seafood industry loses customers, ‘the people who published the news will have to be held responsible’.  Rather than the owners and operators of the boats that actually do the illegal fishing.  Or the authorities that fail to stop them.

This policy has caused some nervousness in the nation’s newsrooms as various media outlets assess the cost to the nation of their irresponsibly honest journalism.  Hence the following highly inaccurate transcript of a secret meeting of the high heidyins at the Bangkok Post this last weekend.

‘So I’ve asked Khanit to do a quick assessment of any stories in the last week that, er, may cause us difficulties if the government decides that they have affected the economy and the Post has to pay compensation any lost exports.  Khun Khanit?’

‘Well I only looked at a small sample – Monday to Friday last week.’

‘And was there anything that might cause us problems?’

‘Oh yes, every day.’

‘Every day?  Surely not.’

‘Well on Monday, we ran a story about 3 tigers that have disappeared from that tourist temple in Kanchanburi under suspicious circumstances.’

‘But we don’t export dodgy tigers, do we?’

‘Er, in fact we do.  To overseas zoos.  Or rather we’d like to if only there was proper documentation to go with them.  This kind of case, with the resident vet resigning in disgust, well, it just tars Thailand with the brush of illegal wildlife trading.’

‘But the trade in wildlife can’t add up to much.  What was in Tuesday’s paper?’

‘We ran this Thai Airways piece about khao phad bai krapao producing the highest level of greenhouse gas and ordering their catering department to reduce emissions.’

‘So goodbye to Kitchen of the World, I suppose.’

‘Not only that, it makes Thai look really dumb if it thinks a puff piece on its catering is a serious answer to climate change.  I mean, its core business involves pumping tons upon tons of GHG into the atmosphere every day.

‘Then on Wednesday we reported that police had stopped more than 40 trucks delivering oil to Myawaddy because they appeared to exceed the 25-tonne limit.  So the Karen Border Guard closed 23 border ports.’

‘The oil trade to Karen state can’t be that valuable.’

‘But every exporter in the land trucks their stuff to port.  Note that the police didn’t actually check the overloading.  The trucks just ‘appeared’ to be over the limit.  It means that they can stop anyone’s business on a whim.

‘On Thursday we ran the report of the NRC sub-committee that says there are flaws in the digital economy bills.’

‘And we ran an editorial on that.  But that’s the government’s own people.  That wouldn’t harm the national economy, would it?’

‘I dunno.  Their take is that the bills are more about snooping than computer security and they said, and I quote, ‘This may affect confidence among business operators which could harm the economy.’  Show me a digital entrepreneur who will want to invest here if that’s what government’s own appointees are saying.’

‘But that’s not our fault.  The NRC said it.’

‘And the fishing trawler slaves aren’t the fault of Channel 3 but it’s their reporter that’s earmarked for attitude adjustment.  So Friday was pesticide contamination of veggies.’

‘But it was only krapao and a couple of other insignificant crops.  The exports of those can’t add up to much.’

‘Ah, but the report makes clear that some produce with the Q mark is also contaminated.  Any prospective buyer of Thai produce now knows they can’t trust any government certification.  They can stick all the symbols they like on the stuff, but it can still poison you.’

‘Oh dear, oh dear.  So suppose we add all this lot up.  If the government says we have to pay for the damage, what’s the bottom line?’

‘Well, there are a lot of imponderables and I’ve had to make some educated guesses, but my ball park figure is about 5 times the total stock market capitalization of Post Publishing.’

‘So we’re toast.’

‘Yes, but we mustn’t tell anyone.  It would only have a negative effect on foreign investor confidence.’

About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).


Thai military has dismissed the UN’s concern and suggestion that Thai authorities should uphold human rights while solving land conflicts, saying the information which says the military harassed villagers are false.     

Col Tawee Kerdsomboon, the Deputy Army Commander of the southern province of Surat Thani, the province with the highest tension on land dispute, on Monday clarified to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the communication from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regarding the junta’s policy to solve protected area issue by forced eviction and violence.

In the statement issued on 11 March, the OHCHR said it is “concerned” with the situation. The land dispute has led to four murders and one disappearance of land rights activists in the past ten months, the OHCHR stated. The office also suggested that the Thai Thai government should stop forced evictions -- the result of the junta’s “Return the Forest” policy, which are happening countrywide.   

On June 2014, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order No. 64/2014, which states that encroachers of protected areas and poachers of illegal forest goods shall face severe legal actions.

Col Tawee said Phoemsap community members, the embattled community of Chai Buri District in the southern Province of Surat Thani, illegally encroached public areas, and alleged  the leaders of the community of acting as a local mafia group to occupy the land plot under the claims of the villagers’ grievances.

After the military gave statement on the issue, the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand (SPFT), the leading land right advocate group in the South, declared the military’s statement as false and pointed out that the military’s response was aimed at covering up the conflict to benefit the local interest groups.

Meanwhile, on Monday, SPFT urged the governor of the southern province of Nakhon Srithammarat to stop the eviction of Tung Tab Kway Community in Bang Kan District of Nakhon Srithammarat.

The community is located on land plots which overlap with Tung Tab Kway protected area.

According to SPFT, the acting governor of Nakhon Srithammarat in January authorised an order to evict Tung Tab Kway Community by 15 April.

The eviction order was authorised before the survey to determine the boundary between the protected area and the community is complete, SPFT pointed out.

The organisation stated in the letter that the local authorities should wait for the final resolution from the committee to solve land conflict which was established by Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the junta’s leader and prime minister, on November 2014.

NOTE: BP is still on hiatus. The recent posts about MMP and the electoral system are an exception. The posts are designed to explain MMP and its proposed implementation. The posts do not endorse any electoral system or represent the views of anyone else. This post is co-authored and cross-posted with Allen Hicken of Thaidatapoints.com Read more...
Human Rights Watch

(New York, April 1, 2015) – Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha is seeking to invoke a constitutional provision that would give him unlimited powers without safeguards against human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said today. 

On March 31, 2015, Prayuth announced that he has requested King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s permission to lift martial law, which has been enforced nationwide since the May 2014 military coup. Prayuth, who chairs the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, said he would replace the Martial Law Act of 1914 with section 44 of the 2014 interim constitution, which would allow him to issue orders without administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability. 

“General Prayuth’s activation of constitution section 44 will mark Thailand’s deepening descent into dictatorship,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Thailand’s friends abroad should not be fooled by this obvious sleight of hand by the junta leader to replace martial law with a constitutional provision that effectively provides unlimited and unaccountable powers.”

Under section 44, Prayuth as the NCPO chairman can issue orders and undertake acts without regard to the human rights implications, Human Rights Watch said. Section 44 states that “where the head of the NCPO is of opinion that it is necessary for the benefit of reforms in any field, or to strengthen public unity and harmony, or for the prevention, disruption or suppression of any act that undermines public peace and order or national security, the monarchy, national economics or administration of State affairs,” the head of the NCPO is empowered to “issue orders, suspend or act as deemed necessary.… Such actions are completely legal and constitutional.” No judicial or other oversight mechanism exists to examine use of these powers. Prayuth only needs to report his decisions and actions to the National Legislative Assembly and to the prime minister, a position he also occupies, after they are taken.

Prayuth has previously stated that orders issued under section 44 would allow the military to arrest and detain civilians. Since the May 2014 coup, the junta has detained hundreds of politicians, activists, journalists, and others who they accuse of supporting the deposed Yingluck Shinawatra government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities. Military personnel have interrogated many of these detainees in secret and unauthorized military facilities without providing access to their lawyers or ensuring other safeguards against mistreatment. 

The NCPO has continually refused to provide information about people in secret detention. The risk of enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill treatment significantly increases when detainees are held incommunicado in military detention. However, there have been no indications of any official inquiry by Thai authorities into reports of torture and mistreatment in military custody.

The use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians is likely to continue under section 44, Human Rights Watch said. Three days after seizing power on May 22, 2014, the NCPO issued its 37th order, which replaced civilian courts with military tribunals for some offenses – including actions violating penal code articles 107 to 112, which concern lese majeste crimes, and crimes regarding national security and sedition as stipulated in penal code articles 113 to 118. Individuals who violate the NCPO’s orders have also been subjected to trial by military court. Hundreds of people, most of them political dissidents, have been sent to trials in military courts since the coup.

The imposition of section 44 means the junta’s lifting of martial law is unlikely to lead to improvement of respect for human rights in Thailand, Human Rights Watch said. The junta will have legal justification to continue its crackdown on those exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms. Criticism of the government can still be prosecuted, peaceful political activity banned, free speech censored and subject to punishment, and opposition of military rule not permitted. 

“General Prayuth’s action to tighten rather than loosen his grip on power puts the restoration of democratic civilian rule further into the future,” Adams said. “Concerted pressure from Thailand’s allies is urgently needed to reverse this dangerous course.”


The good news: the Thai military junta may soon lift martial law, which has been in place for nearly a year. The bad news: it will be replaced by something worse that could give junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha much more power. Read more...
April gets underway today and all over Southeast Asia, thoughts are turning to how to spend the upcoming holiday as the old year gives way to another new circle. April is also the month when the Sun God ramps up the thermometer from hot to extremely ho... Read more...
Posted in Okategoriserade.
Ambassador Calvert meeting with 
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
BANGKOK - Embassy of Canada press release following bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
H.E. Philip Calvert, Ambassador of Canada to the Kingdom of Thailand, met today (31 March 2015) with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to review key elements of the bilateral relationship, encompassing commercial, political, security and people-to-people ties.  During the meeting, Ambassador Calvert reiterated Canada’s expectation that the Thai military will return Thailand to democratic governance as soon as possible through free and fair elections, and highlighted the importance of a transparent, inclusive and democratic reform process. Ambassador Calvert also raised human rights concerns and urged Thailand to respect its international human rights obligations.
Ambassador Calvert noted the considerable potential in bilateral commercial relations and opportunities for expanding two-way trade and investment. 
He stressed the importance of a predictable business climate and the rule of law to current and future trade partners.  He also noted the importance of the ASEAN region to Canada.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's prime minister and junta leader has asked the king for formal approval to lift martial law, which the military imposed ahead of a coup last May that overturned an elected government. The monarch's approval is considered a formality. Read more...

The criminal court on Tuesday postponed for a second time the preliminary hearing against a suspect, known as "popcorn gunman" accused of shooting at red shirt protesters during a confrontation between the red shirts and anti-election protesters in February 2014.

According to Matichon Online, Bangkok’s Criminal Court on Tuesday morning granted the prosecutor’s request to postpone the preliminary hearing against Wiwat Yodprasit, the 24 years-old suspect indicted with attempted murder and carrying weapons during the political unrest at Laksi, northern Bangkok, on 2 February 2014.

The preliminary hearing was rescheduled to 18 May because the prosecutor wanted to escalate an attempted murder charge in the case file to murder charge after the death of Akaew Sae-Liew, a 72-year-old street vendor, who was allegedly shot by the suspect.

This is the second time that the preliminary for Wiwat was postponed.

On 19 January, the prosecutor requested the court to reschedule the preliminary hearing on the case because the collection of forensic evidence on the death of Akaew was incomplete.      

Wiwat is accused of being the so-called ‘popcorn gunman’, who used a popcorn sack to conceal an M16 and shot at the anti-establishment red-shirt demonstrators during the confrontation between the red shirts and anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters on 2 February 2014 at Laksi intersection in Bangkok.

He was arrested by police on 20 March 2014 and was indicted by the prosecutor on 11 June 2014 for murder and carrying weapons and ammunition in public, including breaking the emergency decree which was declared during the political unrest in 2014.

In March 2014, several sources reported that Wiwat confessed during a police press conference that he was the popcorn gunman and the police charged him with illegal possession of weapons and attempted murder. However, according to Khaosod, Wiwat only confessed that he was a PDRC guard.

Contrary to the police findings, Puangthip Boonsanong, the lawyer from the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT), a group allied to the PDRC, claimed that Wiwat was a scapegoat who was tortured by the police into admitting that he was the popcorn gunman. 

BANGKOK, 31 March 2015: Thai authorities Monday said they would use special powers under junta rule to “urgently” improve airline safety as several carriers face bans on new international flights following concerns raised by a UN aviation agency. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body, recently reported “significant safety concerns” to Thailand’s […] Read more...