Thursday, January 26, 2012

Press Freedom in Thailand Improves Under Yingluck

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has issued its annual press freedom index for 179 countries around the world for the year 2011. Although Thailand remains on the list of "countries under surveillance," its ranking improved from 153 to 137.

Press freedom in Thailand suffered tremendously under Abhisit Vejjajiva as the RWB rankings dropped from 124th place in the world when he took office in 2008 to 153th place when he was booted out by the people in the national election of 2011. Only 25 countries ranked worse than Thailand in 2010.

Much of the free media paid dearly in Thailand under Abhisit. Control of news and information was part of the survival for Abhisit’s military installed government as it is for any other totalitarian and repressive regime. The press freedom ranking of 158 during Abhisit’s government was well higher than the worse press ranking Thailand had when democratically elected Thaksin Shinawatra was Prime Minister (107th place in 2005).

Now, since Thaksin Shinawatra’s younger sister, Yingluck, has been democratically elected on July 3, 2011, we see a dramatic increase in press freedom. She hasn’t shut down any newspapers, magazines or radio stations nor has she arrested or had the army shoot and kill any reporters as Abhisit had done.

Nevertheless, there is a great deal which Yingluck needs to do in order to further improve Thailand’s press freedom ranking. Repealing the draconian Lèse Majesté Law and the Computer Crimes Act would be a great start. Also, releasing Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Joe Gordon and others from prison would also improve the press freedom ranking as well as improve the overall status of Thailand as a member of the international community.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vasit Dejkunjorn: The Man And The Cartoon

When those right wing Thai royalists believe the palace is under attack, they wheel out one of their faithful tools, Vasit Dejkunjorn, a retired police general who has served as head of Palace Security in 1973 and a royal aide to the King for many years. He wrote the syrupy propaganda book; “In His Majesty’s Footsteps” and has worked with two different military-appointed governments (2007 and in 2011 under Abhisit).

With Vasit, it is the same old extremist anti-foreign and racist ideas that are his stock and trade.  No matter what the crisis, his broken record-like response is to lash out at foreigners and explain to Thais, that foreigners just can’t possibly understand and are malicious and/or stupid (and yes, Vasit says, some are even paid by Thaksin).

During the out-pouring of articles critical to the palace over 3 years ago, Vasit wrote an article in Matichon in December 2008 entitled “Lese Majeste”.  In that article, he argues that foreigners, no matter how long they study Thailand, can never understand the country because they lack the essential element of “Thainess.” This quality comes from being born, raised and educated in Thailand. In Vasit’s scheme of things, “Thainess” appears to mean support for the monarchy. Those Thais who read the work of feeble-minded foreignersand believe them are actually, he asserts, “mentally deranged and should seek immediate medical assessment.”

Fast forward 3 years to December 2011 when comments by the US Ambassador and the United Nations Office of Human Rights challenged Thailand’s lèse majesté law. Vasit wrote another article in Matichon saying he was not really surprised to hear that Kristie Kenney, the US Ambassador to Thailand, and Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had "come out to make comments critical of the Thai court in the case of Amphon Tangnoppakul who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for lèse majesté."

He was not surprised, in the case of Kenney, because he is aware that a number of Americans know and understand other peoples and countries only superficially, no matter how highly educated they are or how many degrees they have got from universities.

Citing Kenney’s degrees from various universities, Vasit said that he doubted whether those universities’ curricula had provided her with enough understanding about foreign countries including, in particular, Southeast Asian countries, and made her sufficiently aware that "the Thais’ feelings toward their King are completely different from those of Americans toward the President of the United States of America."

Considering her record of having served only in European and Latin American countries and the Philippines, he assumed that the Ambassador would never have had time to really study and get to know Thailand and the Thai people.

As for Ravina Shamdasani, he said that he could not find her record, except that she is a human rights advocate, “seeming quite young and looking Indonesian or Malay.”  "However, both Kenney and Shamdasani may not know that the Thai King has been enthroned by succession in the dynasty and not by election for a four-year term like the American president," he said.

He also believed that Kenney and Shamdasani did not know much about Thailand’s criminal law, otherwise they would have known that lèse majesté offences were not like offences against ordinary people, but were against national security.

Now, a month later, Vasit is attacking another threat for the palace with the same old tactic. A group of legal scholars from Thammasat University, under the name Nitirat (นิติราษฎร์), are proposing some innovative solutions to some of Thailand’s political difficulties.  Most controversial is the proposal that the legal consequences of the 2006 coup be nullified and that there should be amendments to Article 112 of the Criminal Code, Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law.

This spirit of the law has its origin in Thai history,” writes Vasit in a more recent Matichon article. “I have no idea how much basic knowledge they [the Nitirat group] had of Thai history before they received degrees from abroad.  But even elementary school children know that our Thailand has been ruled by kings since ancient times, at least since Sukhothai, until today for over 700 years.  The current Chakri dynasty, in particular, has lasted over 200 years.  Of course, kings and dynasties have been changed all along, but what has remained and been respected since our grandparents is His Majesty the King,” Vasit said.

Unfortunately, this old “cold” warrior thinks his country is still fighting for its survival against communists from Issan and Vietnam. His vision of things lost reality and relevance forty years ago yet he continues the same old rhetoric.  He’s just an angry old codger now.

I have a theory on why he is so angry at foreigners. Perhaps it’s because he thinks we make fun of him. For instance, he may have the belief that the character known as Hans Moleman on the animated American television series “The Simpsons” is based upon him.

In the television show, he normally appears in a running gag, where he usually suffers unfortunate, sometimes fatal events. Some of Vasit’s funnier moments in animation have been compiled in this video. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bad Behavior Caught on Video

Earlier this week, video of two separate instances of outrageous and shameful behavior were posted on Youtube for the world to see.  And, indeed, much of the world has been viewing it as these videos have both gone viral. 

The first video is a “disgusting” and “highly reprehensible” 39-second clip showing four men in combat gear standing over the three corpses with their genitals exposed as they relieve themselves. 

The men can be heard joking “Have a great day, buddy”, “Golden like a shower” and “Yeahhhh! as they groan with relief whilst urinating. The three corpses are all male and are wearing civilian clothes. The corpse appearing to be the youngest lies on his front with an overturned wheelbarrow dumped by his side. The other two are on their backs and one has a large blood stain on his chest.

It is not clear if the corpses belong to civilians or insurgents engaged in combat, although the film does appear to have been shot in Afghanistan. The anonymous person who posted it included the caption: “Scout sniper team 4 with 3rd battalion 2nd marines out of camp lejeune peeing on dead talibans.”

Camp Lejeune is in North Carolina and is the largest Marine Corps Base on the East Coast of the U.S., home to 40,000 marines.

The 3rd Batallion 2nd Marines consists of 800 Marines and sailors and is nicknamed the “Betio Bastards”, a reference to the island of Betio in the Tawara Atoll and the site of one of the most deadly battles with the Japanese in World War II. More recently they have served in Iraq, the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and in Afghanistan. Their motto is: “We quell the storm, and ride the thunder!” or “Strength and Honor”.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan described the acts as “highly reprehensible and disgusting.”

ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said: “The behavior depicted in this video is reprehensible and is not in keeping with the values of U.S. Armed Forces.”

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby said the video was deeply troubling: “Whoever it is, and whatever the circumstances, which we know is under investigation, it is egregious behavior.”

Marine spokeswoman Kendra Hardesty said: “While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.”

Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Upton added: “Allegations of Marines not doing the right thing in regard to dead Taliban insurgents are very serious and, if proven, represent a failure to adhere to the high standards expected of American military personnel.

The other viral video is equally disturbing as it shows reprehensible behavior and a blatant abuse of power by a Thai official.  The 1.14 minute long clip, taken from footage of a close circuit camera at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, shows 55-year-old Sombat Chatchaiwaiyawit walking through a security checkpoint at the airport. The walk-though detector sounded the alarm when he passed through, prompting security official Sirichai Maichum, 33, to follow standard security procedure and scan him with a hand-held detector.

Mr Sombat refused to be searched and then visibly lost his temper. He began publicly berating Mr Sirichai and then slapped him with both hands on the ears.

Mr Sombat then shakes his ID badge at the apologetic security agent to indicate “do you know who I am?” which prompted Mr Sirichai to bow to him humbly several times and offer his repeated apology in order to defuse the situation.

The clip was posted on You Tube by someone who calls themselves “BilingualThailand,” who also includes their own comment in the caption saying that just because some people have high ranking titles does not mean they have high intellect. They go on to comment about how sad it is that high ranking Thai officials like to flex their muscles when dealing with lower ranking officials, but once they walk off Thai soil, they become closed-lipped mice themselves. 

In the latest development, Suvarnabhumi Airport Police has issued a summons for Mr. Sombat to present himself for questioning. Mr Sombat is the chief of the Thai Customs contraband and narcotics unit at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Mr. Sombat Chatchaiwaiyawit has seven days to respond to the summons. If he does not report to police, we will issue a warrant to arrest him,” said Pol Col Nattanan Nanasombat, Superintendent of Suvarnabhumi Airport Police.

Customs Department Director-General Somchai Poonsawat has ordered Mr Sombat transferred out of Suvarnabhumi Airport to work at the Customs Facilitation Office in Klong Toey, Bangkok. Mr Somchai also ordered an internal investigation into the incident. He expects the investigation to conclude within 30 days.

If he is found guilty of misconduct, he will face action in line with the rules of the Office of Civil Service Commission,” said Mr Somchai.“His actions have caused serious damage to the reputation of the Customs Department and it is unacceptable,” he added.

Mr Sirichai, the security official who was attacked by Mr Sombat, works for Asia Security Management (ASM), a Loxley subsidiary that provides security services at the airport. He filed a complaint against Mr Sombat after a doctor had confirmed he had sustained damage to his left eardrum.“Mr Sirichai has always carried out his duties well, and from the [video] clip we can see that he did nothing wrong,” said Passakorn Aksornsuwan, ASM’s human resources manager. The company has covered Sirichai’s medical expenses and given him days off until he is fully recovered. He will resume his regular duties [after that],” he added.

There you have it, two despicable actions caught on video.  Now it is time to ask the all-important question… “What if?”

Mad Sombat vs Urinating Marine

I don’t know if “two wrongs make a right” or not, but it does make it interesting and entertaining. One is shaking his badge, the other is shaking something else. BTW, my money is on the marine.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thai Terrorists in the Toilet

Joe Gordon, a U.S. citizen received a 2 1/2-year prison sentence on Dec. 8 for translating a book which is banned in Thailand and posting it on a website while in the U.S. Two weeks earlier, Ampol Tangnoppakul, 61, received a 20-year jail term for allegedly sending four text messages that defamed Thailand’s Queen.

These are but two recent disgraceful acts by Thailand’s ultra-royalists. They have been very busy lately but that may be a good thing because every innocent person they arrest, every book they ban, and every website they block, enlightens the world.  And it has been very refreshing to see news stories around the world and especially in the US highlighting Thailand’s unjust lese majeste laws. This can only help to apply pressure on these miscreants.

But although these news stories have adequately exposed Thailand’s lese majeste laws as being fundamentally against democracy and freedom of expressionthey have been too damn polite to these ultra-royalists thugs who have been rallying in support of oppression.

Take for instance, a recent New York Times story which called them “the so-called yellow shirt royalist movement.”  – HAH!  Some “movement,” except if the word “bowel” is attached. These misanthropes are nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and thugs, an unruly mob, fed by violent October 6, 1976-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns have done nothing but harm Thailand.

Here is some more from that New York Times article:

“Tul Sittisomwong, a physician who has led a series of pro-monarchy street demonstrations, describes what he says is a plot to overthrow the monarchy by Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 military coup.
Mr. Thaksin is making a comeback in Thailand: His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became prime minister in August, and longtime allies of Mr. Thaksin are now running government ministries.
Dr. Tul and associates in the so-called yellow shirt royalist movement have long accused Mr. Thaksin of harboring republican leanings. (Mr. Thaksin remains in self-imposed exile overseas, but the government recently returned his passport, which had been confiscated by the previous government.)
“If you want to be the most powerful person in Thailand, you have to get rid of the royal family,” Dr. Tul said in an interview, summarizing what he believes to be Mr. Thaksin’s strategy. “Otherwise you will always be No.2.”
Personally, I think Dr. Tul is a "No. 2"!

Tul Sittisomwong
Maybe we should start calling it a Tul-let instead of toilet?

Tul is nothing more than a terrorist and this Thai royalist “movement” is no popular uprising. This is “shit.” And goodness knows they’re spewing their "shit" every which way they can find.  Extremely fanatical, they will condemn people who are suspected of lese majeste in a heartbeat that ‘they should die, they should rot in jail for speaking bad things against the King, they are betrayer of the nation and deserve to be hanged,’ and any other ridiculously barbaric and uncivilized remarks they can think of.

They were involved with the violent mob takeovers of Bangkok’s two airports in 2008 – and they WERE violent!  Here’s a picture during of one royalist terrorist thug shooting at people while another one holds up a picture of their beloved leader.  All in the name of their king!

 Nothing has changed much since then except that these terrorists have now targeted the United States. On December 16th a small mob of these ultra-royalists (some wearing masks) followed Dr. Tul to threateningly demonstrate at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. They’ve even posted threatening language on the U.S. embassy’s Facebook account, with some circulating violent images directed at Kristie Kenney, the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand – like this one  photo-shopped image of Ambassador Kenney's decapitated head.

Some of these Thai ultra-royalists make al-Qaeda look like boy scouts. 

Now most Thais are normally civil and yearn for a true democracy where they can have freedom of expression. They are the ones who voted out of power the mis-named Thai Democrat Party and their coalition in the national election this past July. However, the ultra-royalists in Thailand are nothing but terrorists and a threat to democracy and they are stinking up the planet. It is high time we Americans help the good people of Thailand flush that Toilet (or Tul-let, if you prefer).