Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Frogs and Boobs Under Coconut Shells

There's a famous southeast Asian proverb about a frog which lives underneath a coconut shell.  A coconut shell is not transparent but most probably the frog doesn't know this. It believes everything in the shell is his entire world, with no conception of what goes on outside. The frog’s world is defined by what it sees. It lives contently within the shell, ignorant of the outside world, yet happy, since it knows nothing of what it is missing.

So, those who are like the frog underneath the coconut shell will have no knowledge of people, events, and places outside their 'world'.  They refuse to venture out into the world and they remain ignorant but are happy with it.

They also will get very upset if someone tries to help improve their plight by “removing the shell” and showing them a broader, better world.

However, there are some “frogs” which enjoy their shell being removed.  They will sit on top of their shell viewing and experiencing a greater world, full of differences and infinite possibilities.

And in time they’ll come to resent those who put the shell over them in the first place.

And some will be really, really angry.

Now, this is a relatively simple analogy about royalists and anti-royalists but it doesn’t include everyone. There are those ultra-royalists like Tul Sitthisomwong and Chaiwat Sinsuwong.

Tul Sitthisomwong and Chaiwat Sinsuwong

Those two ultra-royalists can be thought of as being underneath coconut shells – but they aren’t frogs.  They’re really just a couple of boobs!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Elitist Entitlement Mentality

What has happened and is currently happening in Thailand can be described as an enslavement of the population through the imposition of old-fashioned tyranny. The people are treated like sheep, a herd animal. Individuality and rights are constantly trampled upon.  
All this is true, and it deserves our constant attention.  But let’s shift the focus to the other side of the equation.  In order to work, tyranny needs not only to cultivate the sheep.  It also needs to foster a population of controlling bureaucrats, the shepherds of the system.  And this brings us to an entitlement mentality that threatens true democracy in Thailand:  A class of people which feels entitled to rule over everybody else.
They are the true enemies of democracy. They believe that they have a natural right to decide the fate of the country and its people it does not matter what the majority of the people want or not. Basically, they believe that there are some people who have a higher value and more rights than others.  Their thinking shows resemblance to royalist/fascists theories of some kind of superior people that have the right and even the duty to be rulers and to defend their rule by all means, even if it means the death of more than 90 people and 2000 people being injured as what happened 2 years ago.

This mentality is not solely a Thai Democrat trait, although it is mostly prevalent in that party.  It also affects — or infects — “Thailand’s political leaders of all parties,” hence the intractability of the problem.  While most voters view an unresponsive government as the problem, those who feel entitled to rule over everybody else see the voters as the problem.  And that’s the real crisis facing Thailand today.  The elitist class wants to govern like it’s the European Dark Ages, a time when kings were kings, they did what they pleased, ignoring the plight of the citizens, because consent of the governed didn’t matter.”
Our job is to remind them, as vividly as possible, that it matters quite a lot.
And just to remind us all what the European Dark Ages were like…

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Inquests Begin in Some Pro-Democracy Protest Deaths

Finally, Thailand is holding inquests into at least some of the deaths of the people killed during a crackdown on "Red Shirt" anti-government protests two years ago.  

More than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed and nearly 1,900 wounded during the 2010 pro-democracy rallies, which ended in a bloody military operation under then military-installed premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is now opposition leader.

Under Section 150 of Thailand's Criminal Procedure Code, prosecutors have the power to submit for inquest any deaths believed related to or involving the authorities.  Initially the inquest is focused on 16 deaths identified as likely to have been caused by the security forces' operation, Thai prosecutor Varidsanee Manyawut said earlier this week.  

The first case to go to inquest will be that of Channarong Polsrila. Channarong was shot dead near a Shell gas station on Soi Rang Nam near Victory Monument in Bangkok at the height of the anti-government protests on May 15, 2010.  He was shot in his stomach and right arm by high-velocity weapons according to reports.

Channarong Polsrila 

The Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road opened the inquest into the death of Channarong in Black Case Number Or Chor 1/2012, The court will hear evidence and decide on the identity of the deceased, the place of death, the cause and its circumstances, and whether the death was caused by an action of a particular person.  An initial hearing was held on Monday. It was attended by about 70 red shirt supporters, including the UDD chairwoman Thida Tawornseth, Deputy Transport Minister Chatt Kuldiloke, three army officers, and a representative of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission.  
The court agreed to the prosecutor's request to have 41 witnesses examined, and for the deceased's relatives to have 15 witnesses examined.  The hearing of witnesses will begin on June 18, when Channarong's wife and two foreign journalists, Bangkok-based Nick Nostitz and Thilo Thielke from Der Spiegel, will testify.
Nick Nostitz wrote about witnessing Channarong’s death…
"I heard a soldier giving orders to come out or be shot dead. At first I thought he meant me, but I saw his head over the wall shouting at the man in the pool (Channarong). I decided that I should make myself known, and shouted that I am a foreign journalist, and to please not shoot me. I shouted several times before the soldier seemed to take notice. I showed my open hands, he ordered me out. I walked towards him, and explained that the man in the water had a gut shot, and a bad shot in the arm. He floated in the pool, his face and stomach barely above the waterline.
The soldier ordered me to pull him out. Another soldier has also jumped over the wall, a third soldier secured from above the wall. While I tried to pull the man out of the water he pleaded, with a weak voice, that he just can’t take it anymore. He was too heavy. I asked one of the soldiers to help me, please. While roughly pulling at the man, he screamed that he should be dead, and because if he isn’t then they have to take him to the hospital, and that he should die. He walked off.
The injured man slipped back into the pool. The second soldier helped me pull him out, while the first kept on screaming. The soldier on the wall ordered me to take care of the man. I said that I have no idea how – he has a bad gut shot, and lifted the man’s shirt to show the small hole in the stomach. I just knelt down. The man asked me to lift his mangled arm and to turn him on his side as he can’t breathe anymore. I did so, while the man grunted with pain.”
The full account from Nick Nostitz can be found here in English and here in Thai.
Another three inquests were scheduled, for March 19 (Private Narongrit Sala), April 23 (Phan Kamkorn), and May 28 (Kunakorn Srisuwan). Kunakorn was a 14-year-old boy from an orphans' home in the Ramkhamhaeng area.
Last year, in an attempt to protect those responsible, the Department of Special Investigation initially concluded that of the 91 people killed during the crackdown, 13 cases might be the result of authorities’ operations.”  When the democratically elected Puea Thai government took power in August, they put the investigation files into police hands and inquest procedures have been accelerated with three more cases from the Wat Pathum Wanaram shootings being included.

It is a start.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ambassador Kristie Kenney: Her Slip is Showing

Current US Ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, has made quite a reputation for herself as being someone whose main concern is making her job easy by “kissing up” to the leaders of her assigned country and for saying to hell with democracy and human rights.   

In August of last year, Philippine foreign minister, Albert del Rosario, slammed the former ambassador to his country, Kristie Kenney, as a "dismal failure" in an angry reaction to a secret cable published by anti-secrecy website Wikileaks.  According to the Wikileaks documents, Kenney criticized the Philippines’ revered democracy heroine, the late president Corazon Aquino, as being a weak, tarnished leader who did not do enough to fight corruption. 

"She (Kenney) was a dismal failure in helping the Filipinos defend our democracy. It would seem that she preferred to be favorably looked upon by the (Philippine presidential) palace," del Rosario said.  These comments about Kenney referred to Kenney’s apparent desire to curry favor with the Phillippine president of the time, Gloria Arroyo, who has been accused of vote fraud and massive corruption during her nearly 10 years in power.

Being a “dismal failure for democracy,” supporting corrupt individuals in power, and in “currying favor with those at the palace” are experiences which look great on a resume if you’re applying to be the US Ambassador to Thailand.

And Kenney has performed her job well, especially with regards to currying favor with the Palace. This can be seen in her many tweets like in August when she wrote that she was excited about going to the Palace to sign the Queen’s Happy Birthday Book or in December when she tweeted that the celebration of the Thai King's 84th birthday was her "most memorable event of 2011." Then there was the meeting her at her residence where she told a small group of newspaper editors, "We love your king."

It’s too bad the Ambassador doesn’t “love” our citizens or even the basic of human rights such as “freedom of expression.”

The mission of the United States Embassy is to advance the interests of the United States, and to serve and protect US citizens in Thailand.” At least that’s what it says on the embassy’s website but that’s not what Ambassador Kristie has shown with regards to imprisoned American citizen Joe Gordon. To my knowledge, the Ambassador has never personally visited Joe in prison, nor has she signed his Happy Birthday Book.

For those who don’t know who Joe Gordon is, he is a Thai born US citizen and he was arrested for the bogus crime of lese majeste in Thailand on May 24, 2011. The DSI claimed that while he was in the US he was the owner of a blog which offered a Thai translation of a book banned in Thailand.  For months Joe maintained his innocence but was imprisoned anyway and denied bail. Not only was a complete travesty of justice but it was a potential embarrassing incident for both Thailand and the US.

Based upon the Ambassador’s MO, I would not be surprised that some deal was struck between the US Embassy and the Thai government to better make this embarrassing incident go away.  The embassy helps convince Joe that his best option is for him to plead guilty and seek a royal pardon.  Everybody wins… or do they?

Joe did finally agree to plead guilty. He was convicted on December 8, 2011 without a trial – because a guilty plea only requires sentencing – and was given 2.5 years in jail, and he publicly stated that he hoped for a royal pardon.

Now it is reported that the prosecutor has been granted another month to appeal Joe’s case. That means that the prosecutor will have had 3 months in which to appeal against Joe’s “light sentence” for allegedly translating a perfectly legal book in the US, where Joe is a citizen and resident.  Of course, the real reason for the appeal is to prevent Joe from getting that royal pardon.  A pardon cannot be given while a case is still open and, according to Joe’s lawyer, Anon Nampha, the prosecutor can ask the court to extend the period for appeal indefinitely.

Joe has been completely double crossed thanks to Ambassador Kenney and her stooges at the US embassy.  

Our US ambassador to Thailand seems determined to go down in history as the person who put the "ass" in "ambassador" although she would want everyone to believe she “advances the interests of the United States and to serves and protects US citizens in Thailand.” Unfortunately for Ambassador Kenney, her “slip” is showing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pheu Thai’s Plan for Maintaining Power: Ignore the Will of the People

With the shellacking of the military’s political party (Democrats) in the July 2010 election, the Pheu Thai Party, with their mandate from the people, should be able to easily advance a “progressive” pro-democracy agenda.  However, an electoral mandate in Thailand evidently doesn’t count for anything.  Despite all the evidence that the Thai people reject a non-civilian controlled military and the lese majeste laws as they are currently being enforced, the status quo of elitist repressive rule remains.

The Pheu Thai led government is not fully in charge of Thailand. Yingluck and her Deputy Ministers serve at the discretion of the Thai Military. Political issues such as the appointment of the Army Chief and the content/enforcement of the lese majeste laws are dictated by the military. Failure of this elected government to comply with military mandates will mean immediate removal via coup.

Therefore, don’t expect General Prayuth to be removed from duty or that there will be any relief from the draconian lese majeste law enforcement. The only way Pheu Thai can remain in power is that they continue to ignore the will of the people.

This is not democracy! Of course the Thai military does not want a democracy. Their power is derived from a faux monarchy system - propped up by them.

By the way, just what is the Thai Democratic Party’s plan for attaining power?

The same plan it’s always been—murder, lie, cheat and steal.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lèse Majesté and the Thai Inquisition

"Well, I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition," the mild-mannered Englishman grumbles at a woman's questioning--and then the door opens and in rush Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones, wearing blood-red cardinal's robes and waxed mustaches and golden crosses. "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Palin announces with ominous self-satisfaction, eyes bright beneath a broad-brimmed hat, as the Monty Python sketch continues, only to get caught up in the difficulties of enumerating the things one does expect from the Spanish Inquisition. ("Our chief weapon is surprise--surprise and fear. Fear and surprise. Our two weapons are fear and surprise. And ruthless efficiency. Our three weapons are fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Our four--no! Amongst our weaponry are such elements as fear and--I'll come in again.") The joke, of course, is that the Spanish Inquisition as a byword for cruel tyranny looks absurd in a modern setting.

But it is no joke.  The Spanish Inquisition is far from being a medieval relic. The inquisitors haven’t vanished. They’ve just changed countries and one of their “weaponry.”  Now, instead of an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, it is an almost fanatical devotion to the Thai Monarchy.

Yes, the Inquisition is an institution currently thriving in Thailand with regards to lèse majesté. Its fanaticism, its implicit totalitarianism (with inquisitors investigating every crevice of its victims’ lives), and its sheer bureaucratic brutality makes it central to who the Thai royalists are and what they are currently doing. The number of prosecutions under the world's strictest lèse majesté laws has risen sharply, as have jail terms, since the 2006 military coup.

Earlier this week at the notorious Bangkok Criminal Court (where much of the Thai autos-da-fé are held) Thai political activist, Surachai Danwattananusorn, was initially handed a 15-year term after finding him guilty on three counts of publicly insulting the monarchy. The sentence was halved to seven-and-a-half years in prison because he pleaded guilty. According to Surachai's wife Pranee, he has health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, blockage of blood vessels in the heart and inflammation of the prostate, so he wanted to confess in order to seek a royal pardon. 

Surachai Danwattananusorn

"He led the public to believe that the monarchy was the cause of Thailand's political conflict," the judge said. "This is considered an extreme offence, inciting hatred."

Of course, the judge is none other than Thai Grand Inquisitress Chanathip Muanpawong.  She is the same judge who last year convicted Grandpa SMS, Amphon Tangnopphakul to 20 years in prison for allegedly sending four text messages and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (Da Torpedo) to 15 years after a secret trial for alleged lèse majesté.

       Amphon Tangnopphakul                                   Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul    
Judge Chanathip is also presiding in the ongoing trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the Director of Thai news website Prachatai, for not removing third party comments criticizing the monarchy from her website quickly enough.  

Chiranuch Premchaiporn
The Grand Inquisitress Chanathip stated during that trial on 31 May, 2010:

“It is not necessary for the defendant to have many dates for witnesses. You do not have to worry. I can already make a verdict on this case based upon the information given by the public prosecutor.”

Chanathip and the other Thai judges have forebears in Torquemada and the men in the red hats of the Spanish Inquisition. They routinely deny bail to those who are charged with lese majeste. It is a form of torture in order to coerce a confession.  Torturers always do their work without regret, and out of necessity, certain that the existence of their country or their church or their king or their values depend on it. We know the cruelest of fanatics by their exceptionally clear consciences.

The rate of conviction among those charged with lèse majesté is 94% (according to Thai historian David Streckfuss).  The Thai inquisitors have no qualms about condemning poor and powerless people to long prison sentences as heretics because they dare to defy the orthodoxy of the political elite. 

Just like in sixteenth century Spain, there are not daily autos-da-fé in twenty-first century Thailand. But that should not alter our horror that they do happen and that they are so effectively institutionalized. Their purpose is to frighten and terrorize; the mark of their success is that they do not need to happen every day.

How will Thailand lose its inquisitional tendency? The truth seems to be that an actual democracy might help, but the idea of decency matters most. Unfortunately, decency is one thing lacking in Chanathip and the other hyper-royalist Thai judges in power. Like Torquemada, she will become infamous for her zealous campaign of lèse majesté and her name will become synonymous with the horror, bigotry, and cruel fanaticism that this Thai lèse majesté comprises.

Torquemada - do not beg him for mercy. Torquemada - do not ask him for forgiveness. Let's face it - you can't Torquemada anything!  The same goes with Chanathip Muanpawong.  I can envision her singing on the way to a Thai auto-da-fé

The Inquisition, what a show
The Inquisition, here we go
We know you're wishing
That we'd go away
But the Inquisition's here and it's here to stay!

You better change your point of views today
'Cause the Inquisition's here and it's here to stay!

Abolish Thai Lèse Majesté laws!  
Free Political Prisoners!