Sunday, 23 March 2014

Thailand: Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

We Oppose the Ruling of the Constitutional Court Intended to Render the 2 February 2014 Election Unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court has ruled on a matter forwarded to them by the Ombudsman under Article 245 (1) of the Constitution. The matter in question was whether or not the general parliamentary election held on 2 February 2014, in line with the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), was constitutional. In a statement announced by the Chief Spokesperson  of the Constitutional Court, the Court commented that there were 28 electoral districts in which there were no candidates who submitted applications to contend in the 2 February 2014 election.  The Court further commented that elections cannot be held in those districts after 2 February because the effect would be that the general election was not held simultaneously on the same day across the kingdom. Therefore, the Court ruled that the 2 February 2014 election was not one that was held simultaneously on the same day throughout the kingdom. The effect of this ruling is to make the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), particularly the setting of the date of 2 February 2014 for the election, unconstitutional and in contradiction with Article 108, paragraph two, of the Constitution. It is the view of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD) that this ruling of the Constitutional Court ruling contains the following problems of constitutionality and political legitimacy: 

1. Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of Thailand stipulates that the Ombudsman can propose a matter to the Constitutional Corut when he thinks that there is “any provision of law that begs the question of constitutionality.” Therefore, the substance of the case that the Ombudsman has the discretion to send to the Constitutional Court to consider must be a “provision of law.” But in this case, the clearly visible problem is that the substance of the case is “the holding of the general election.” When the substance of the case is not a “provision of law,” the Ombudsman cannot propose the case to the Constitutional Court, and if the Ombudsman forwards such a matter to the Constitutional Court, it is the duty of the Court to refuse to accept the request for examination. The acceptance of the aforementioned matter by the Constitutional Court is unconstitutional in line with Article 245 (1) and is equivalent to the Constitutional Court singlehandedly amending the Constitution and altering the substance of the permitted cases for examination under Article 245 (1). There is no provision in the Constitution that gives the Constitutional Court the authority to do so.

2. Article 108, paragraph two, of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand prescribes that, “The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed within the period of not less than forty five days but not more than sixty days as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom.” The facts show that the election day was set for the same date (2 February 2014) throughout the whole kingdom in the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013). The aforementioned setting of the date of the general election was therefore constitutional.

But in this case it appears that the Constitutional Court has used evidence of events that occurred after, and were unrelated to the setting of the date of the general election, as the basis of their examination. In other words, the Court used the fact of candidates not being able to register to compete in the election in 28 electoral districts to claim that if a general election was held in these districts after 2 February 2014, it would mean that the general election was not held on the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. The Court made this claim even though the Constitution does not mandate that the general election must occur on the same day throughout the whole kingdom. There may be acts of god or other unavoidable incidents which may make holding an election on the same day as the rest of the country impossible in some districts. The Constitution stipulates only that the election day must be “set” to be the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. Therefore, the setting of the date was already done constitutionally. 

3. In addition, there is also the fact that, on the whole, the 2 February 2014 election passed in an orderly fashion. The Constitutional Court’s raising of the instances of not being able to register to run for election in some districts as a result of obstruction by some individuals in order to claim that the section of the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013) that set the date for the general election was unconstitutional was done with the intention to spoil the  election. In addition to having no basis in law, there is an additional problem of interpretation of this ruling. Have the ballots of those people who went to vote on 2 February 2014 been destroyed or not, and under the authority of which Constitutional or other legal provision? 

4. Analyzed from a perspective of political struggle, it can be seen that the obstacle to the election came from the collaboration between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and individuals who support the PDRC inside and outside the Parliament, and collaboration between those who are overt and covert in their actions to destroy parliamentary democracy. In addition, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) did not act with an intention to work in line with their framework of authority and duty in order to successfully hold elections. Therefore, an effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court is to prop up opposition to electoral democracy and make it come to fruition. This ruling disregards and neglects the rights of the people: those who hold the authority [in the country] and can express this authority in line with the rules and regulations that are in force. 

5. This cooperation to oppose democracy will continue to create a political vacuum in order to open up the space for an extraconstitutional prime minister and government to come to power, and in order to push forward amendment of the Constitution in a direction that will weaken and devastate electoral democracy. The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy therefore condemns these attempts, those that have occurred and those that will occur in the near future, as antithetical to the basic rights and liberties of the people. 

6. It is clear that from the 2006 coup up until the present, all of the independent agencies and the judiciary have become instruments of a powerful minority group acting in opposition to democracy. This group does so simply because they wish to swiftly destroy their political opponents. This has allowed the independent organizations and the judiciary to become distorted and seized to be used in the service of the destruction of democracy and the economic development of the country for the the sole purpose of causing the nation to become stagnant in a smelly, clogged whirlpool of violent conflict without end. Therefore, it is time for the people to come together to demand that the independent organizations and the judiciary are reformed and checks and balances are established. It is time to demand that these important mechanisms of the country come to be under the supervision of organizations representive of the voice of the majority. The people must take on these important tasks and make these changes come to fruition in the near future. 

7. This method of spoiling elections has progressed for nearly a decade and may cause the nation to fall into a state of violence from which there is no exit. This state will remain until every authority and every side in Thai society comes to respect the equal voting rights of the people. 

The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy would like to assert that the only solution for Thai society at present is to accept the principles of “equality of the people,” “sovereignty belongs to the entirety of Thai people,” “legitimacy of the majority,” and “respect in the rights and liberties of minority voices.” This is necessary to carry out reforms to eradicate the mechanisms that are antithetical to democracy, and before democracy, which is barely holding on at present, is completely destroyed.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Wikileaks Reveals Human Rights Watch As Supporters of Illegal Thai Army Coup

 With the strong smell of a coup or other Thai military engagement wafting through the air in Bangkok it seems apt to remind readers of Human Rights Watch's position on the last coup in Thailand in 2006.

In October 2006 Sunai Phasuk, HRW's Thai researcher, visited the US Embassy and made a number of astonishing comments to the assembled embassy staff which they recorded for posterity and which were then later released by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Wikileaks.

HRW's secret support for an illegal military coup
In the cable dated October 17th 2006 Phasuk makes clear his support for an illegal military coup which overthrew not only a democratically elected government but also abrogated Thailand's 1997 Constitution (consider the most democratic in Thailand's history) by saying 

As a staunch anti-Thaksin activist [Phasuk] was initially relieved to see the Thaksin administration forced out. 

Reading further into the cable Phasuk also engages in an astonishing and shameless piece of Thai Political Doublespeak by claiming that a military coup designed to terminate democracy was actually an attempt to "restore democracy". 

In addition Phasuk also expresses his loyalty and admiration for the Thai Army - which is extraordinary give the 17 previous coups and massacres they'd been directly involved in, and never mind the massacre at Tak Bai the Thai Army had played a huge part in and which had occurred only two years earlier.

The cable states that Phasuk

emphasized that he was close to many officers and, in fact, taught many of them in his capacity as a guest lecturer at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy and the Royal Thai Air Force Academy.  He said that he had always held the military in high regard for their sense of honor and dedication to the country.
Of course none of Phasuk's secret fawning admiration for the Thai military, his obvious politicisation, his abandonment of the rule of law, his support for those attacking democracy and his bogus claims to being "neutral" have ever been questioned by one single member of Bangkok's international media. 

Yet that same media are more than happy to continue quoting Phasuk as though he is some credible, impartial source rather than the pro-coup phoney that he appears to be.

I guess Bangkok's international media corps prefer an easy life to actually pursuing the truth. Penthouse flats, maids and swimming pools to maintain.

We can only speculate on the latter.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

BBC News Apologise For Jonathan Head's Abusive Email

As many of my readers know I have been deeply critical of the conduct of the BBC's Bangkok correspondent, Jonathan Head.

I believe, with good grounds, he has acted in an unprofessional fashion, has deliberately misled the British public about what is going on in Thailand and has then hidden this deceit behind highly dubious and dangerous claims of "neutrality". Incredibly he has portrayed the violent fascist protests in Thailand as "friendly", lied about the deaths of children in Bangkok and then blamed the pro-democracy Red Shirts for those deaths without one scintilla of evidence - something which marks Mr Head down as a disgrace to his profession.

To that end he is absolutely perfect as the new President of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.

Back in January I inadvertently sent Mr Head an email when I forgot to remove his name from a very lengthy email list.

I immediately apologised to Mr Head for sending him the email yet was astonished when he responded with what can only be termed an abusive retort (see the screengrab below).

Today I received an apology from the BBC's Deputy Head of Newsgathering, Sara Beck, regarding Mr Head's conduct.

The BBC - whilst seeking £billions from UK taxpayers - have no real process of accountability even if they do send out the occasional apology when their correspondents act unprofessionally.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Insidious and Dangerous "Neutrality" of Thailand's Foreign Correspondent Club

"When a Western journalist interviews us, however, it is seldom done to render us service. In the war in Algeria, for example, the most liberal-minded French reporters make constant use of ambiguous epithets to portray our struggle. When we reproach them for it, they reply in all sincerity they are being objective. For the colonized subject, objectivity is always directed against him." - Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

There’s something insidious about Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondent Club Thailand. With its bogus claims of “neutrality/objectivity” and its tacit support of the worst excesses of the Thai establishment it attempts to create a “consensus” of what is “acceptable” and “bonafide” journalism.

The FCCT’s “bonafide” “neutral” journalism, in short, accepted the imprisonment of Thai journalists and activists Somyot Prusakasemsuk and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law without so much as raising its voice. This acceptance of one of the most brutal forms of repression in the Thai establishment’s arsenal is, of course, very very far from neutral. It does, in fact, support this repression and sides with the powerful forces that  implement this law’s vicious outcomes. 

Yet, whilst the FCCT’s neutrality is both bogus and ethically suspect its reasoning for doing so is dangerous and actually a direct attack on Thai press and media freedoms.

The reason Somyot and Daranee were abandoned by the FCCT was because they were not considered “bonafide” or “neutral” journalists. They were not considered “neutral” because they held views that were anti-establishment and therefore, according to the FCCT, they were no longer considered “bonafide” journalists.

The FCCT’s faux neutral position is NOTHING to do with journalism or a free press. 

A free press champions a diverse and pluralistic range of opinions, positions and politics.

A free press holds the powerful to account and challenges dominance.

It does not hide behind “neutrality” when press freedoms are threatened in the draconian fashion they are in Thailand. It takes a principled position.

As for “political neutrality” being a requisite for "bonafide journalism" - what on earth does that mean?

One of the greatest journalists and writers of the 20th Century, George Orwell, was very far from “politically neutral” and took up weapons to fight the fascists in Spain.

If Orwell was working in Thailand today and had the misfortune of being imprisoned the “neutral” journalists of the FCCT would abandon him to his fate and, no doubt, claim Mr Orwell wasn’t “bonafide” because he dared to express his political convictions.

According to the FCCT holding and expressing a political view means you are no longer a “bonafide” journalist and, therefore, the establishment is free to do what it wants with you.  

And it gets worse. These days the journalists and members of the FCCT spend their time attacking those bloggers, writers and commentators who suggest that the Thai establishment be held to account. Well-known FCCT members, right up to the executive, have openly embraced expat racists connected to the Thai Army on social media, refusing, point-blank to condemn activities which have included stalking family members of non-FCCT "approved" journalists and commentators. 

The campaign of intimidation and harassment that FCCT members engage in on social media against dissenting voices and the closing down of the debate to a narrow set of “approved” and “bonafide” views shows how little the members and the executive of the FCCT understand what freedom of expression actually means.

There is no pluralism or alternative at the FCCT. There is only “neutrality” which, in the face of some of the worst censorship laws on earth, can only ever be taken as connivance.