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‘Men in black’ deal red shirts a blow

Posted by pakin On November - 3 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

special report: Political favour tips against UDD since the coup, writes Nattaya Chetchotiros

The police’s unveiling of the so-called “men in black” has been a game changer for red shirts embroiled in the legal consequences of 2010’s political violence.

It appears to tip the balance back in favour of the other side of the political conflict, represented by Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and former Democrat secretary-general, Suthep Thaugusban, whom the red shirts hold to account for the bloody consequences of the violent clashes four years ago.

The Democrat-led government, which was trying to hang on to power against a red-shirt led protest movement, claims the other side hired the men in black to shoot soldiers and innocent protesters, stoking a civil war to ensure it lost power.

The red shirts led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship have always denied the men in black’s existence, though several recent developments – including the arrests of five men police identify as the men in black – have upset their case.

The sense of unease among the red-shirt cause only increased last month with the appointment of Suwana Suwanjuta as Department of Special Investigation chief, who was hand-picked by the coup-maker the National Council for Peace and Order.

The red shirts fear a change at the top could have a knock-on effect on the investigation into the previously elusive men in black.

Both the red shirts and the other side – represented by Mr Abhisit Vejjvajiva and Phra Suthep – are locked in legal disputes connected to 2010’s political upheaval.

Mr Abhisit and Phra Suthep were indicted for allegedly ordering the soldiers to shoot the red-shirt protesters.

The pair appeared to be losing ground, particularly during the previous Yingluck Shinawatra government when the DSI, headed by Tarit Pengdith, made no mention of the men in black in its probes against the former premier and his deputy.

Mr Tarit carried on working as DSI chief despite the change of government. He was a member of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (Cres) which cracked down on the red-shirt protesters.

Some argue that under the Yingluck government the red shirts gained ground in their calls for justice against the Democrat pair. However, crucial turning points came after the May 22 coup with the identification of the men in black, which followed the Criminal Court’s dismissal of the case against Mr Abhisit and Phra Suthep, and the changing of the guard at the DSI.

On Aug 28, the Criminal Court dismissed the case against the ex-premier and his deputy, saying it did not have the authority to try the case and the jurisdiction rested with the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. The case now goes to the National Anti-Corruption Commission which is investigating the pair for abuse of authority, rather than murder.

If indicted by the prosecution, they will be tried in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

The case is now treated as a political one based on alleged abuse of power. The lawyers representing the red-shirts have appealed against the Criminal Court’s decision not to pursue the case.

The tide of political favour went against the red shirts again with the appointment of Pol Gen Somyot Phumpanmuang as national police chief. In early September he brought before the media five people who admitted to being the men in black.

Kittisak Soomsri, 45, Chamnan Phakeechai, 45, Preecha Yuyen, 24, Ronnarit Suricha, 33, and a 39-year-old woman, Punika Chusri were accused of using war weapons during the 2010 red-shirt protests in Bangkok which resulted in the deaths of soldiers and 21 others, including a foreign journalist during the Khok Wua intersection clash.

Red-shirt UDD co-leader Veerakarn Musikapong asked if the suspects were not in fact scapegoats, a claim Pol Gen Somyot denies.

The naming last week of Ms Suwana as head of the DSI comes as another setback for the red shirts.

She succeeds Pol Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit, senior adviser to the Royal Thai Police Office, who led the DSI for about five months after taking over from Mr Tarit.

Winyat Chatmontri, a lawyer representing the men in black, said the legal proceedings involving the men would have gone more smoothly had Mr Tarit still supervised the DSI.

The DSI is taking care of most aspects of the investigation into the men in black while delegating the probe specific to the weapons which they allegedly possessed during the protest to the Crime Suppression Division.

The CSD forwarded the case to the prosecution on Sept 15.

Mr Winyat said the men in black retracted their earlier confession, which they said was made under duress. His clients told him the authorities tortured them.

“Soldiers visited the men in their cells and asked why they claimed they had been assaulted in custody. This shows that mistreatment persists as we speak,” he said. The police dismissed the torture claim.

Mr Winyat and the Free Thai Legal Aid group on Friday petitioned the DSI to ensure fairness in the men in black probe.

He said no one in his lawyers’ team knows Ms Suwana personally, but it could be reasonably assumed the military government would want to install someone in the DSI who they can “control”.

Mr Winyat insisted that even if a directive had been issued that might dictate the course of the investigation, he was certain no one could twist the facts and the truth.

Ms Suwana, however, made it clear she has received no instruction from the government on how to conduct the probe related to the men in black.

“I’m aware some people might think of me as mere political conduit, but I can tell you now that I work with no preconceived agenda,” she said.

She said criminal investigations might not be her strength. But she has many legal experts at the department to help her.

Meanwhile, Bundit Siripan, lawyer to Mr Abhisit and Phra Suthep, said the retraction of the men in black’s statements would not stop authorities from tracking down the perpetrators of political violence.

Democrats urge scrutiny of government

Posted by pakin On September - 10 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Abhisit denies saying reform process will take three years

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has stressed the need for more vigorous monitoring mechanisms to scrutinise the interim government and keep corruption in check.

Mr Abhisit’s comments came as National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief Prayuth Chan-ocha began his job as prime minister at Government House on Tuesday.

Mr Abhisit said the Prayuth government wields total power in running the country, allowing it to take action more swiftly than past elected governments, particularly in pushing legislation.

Even though some independent organisations and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), which acts as a parliament, exist, the system to monitor and prevent corruption and policy mismanagement may not be as vigorous as when democracy ruled, Mr Abhisit said. The government leader must find ways to ensure monitoring mechanisms continue to function, he added.

Unlike democratically elected governments, which are usually judged by their pledged policy moves, the current government must explain to the people whether their measures respond to public needs, Mr Abhisit said.

However, he admitted such a comparison may not be applicable in all cases because the current government is only temporary and aims to solve nationwide problems.

Mr Abhisit also wanted the government to focus on solving bread-and-butter issues and high living costs.

He added that he supports Gen Prayuth’s anti-corruption drive, saying corruption will be widespread without mechanisms to monitor and prevent it.

Mr Abhisit also denied saying the Prayuth government could stay in power for up to three years to complete national reform.

He added that many analysts believe the government cannot afford to remain in power for only 18 months or two years.

He said the government’s job will from now on become difficult, particularly regarding reforms which will probably face differing responses and resistance.

Economic issues will be another difficult mission for the government. Besides budget constraints, the uncertainty of the global economy is another challenge.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam said yesterday all cabinet ministers will submit declarations of their assets to the National Anti-Corruption Commission by Oct 2 — within 30 days of being sworn into office last Thursday. Their assets will be revealed to the public, Mr Wissanu added.

Speaking about the NCPO’s role, Mr Wissanu said it will become only an organisation, not a government as it previously was.

From now on, the NCPO can no longer issue any announcements or orders, nor can it summon anyone to report as the government has taken on all decision-making powers on national administration. However, the NCPO can still exercise power under martial law.

During yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Gen Prayuth instructed NCPO section heads to report on their activities over the past three months to provide updates for cabinet ministers who will take over the NCPO’s work, Mr Wissanu said.

The cabinet also discussed the policy address statement which the government is due to deliver before the NLA on Friday, Mr Wissanu said.

He said Gen Prayuth instructed that the government’s policies include the strategies given by His Majesty the King as well as the monarch’s sufficiency economy principle; the NCPO’s three-stage plan for reconciliation, reform, and election; and solutions to problems facing the country and the public.

Mr Wissanu also said that in the past, governments were only required to run the country under constitutions.

But the current interim charter stipulates three tasks for the government for the first time — to run the country, to implement reform and to foster unity, Mr Wissanu said. Therefore, the government’s policy statement address must cover those tasks, he said.

He said the policy statement address will include the 11 areas of reform set out by the NCPO and an anti-corruption campaign will be included as a top priority in the 11 reform categories.

Gen Prayuth has vowed to make the anti-corruption campaign a national priority, saying fighting pervasive graft is a central theme of the government’s national reform strategy.

The 11 areas being targeted for change are politics, law and justice, national administration, local administration, education, the economy, energy, public health and environment, mass media, social affairs, plus a special category to deal with “other issues”.

Mr Wissanu said the interim government is well aware of the limited time frame for its work, unlike other governments which have four years in office.

Its policies are designed for the government to implement within a one-year framework, Mr Wissanu said.

Prayuth leads revamped security force

Posted by pakin On June - 20 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Three ‘arms’ to tackle stubborn insurgency

Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is reshaping the national security administration, making himself top policymaker to tackle the southern insurgency.

Gen Prayuth, now supervising the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), decided Thursday to restructure state security by dividing it into three arms, Isoc spokesman Banpot Phunpien said after a top-level meeting at army headquarters.

At the top and first level, Gen Prayuth will set policies to cope with the insurgency, with the National Security Council (NSC) advising him.

Those policies will be carried out over a two-year period from 2015 to 2017, Col Banpot said.

The insurgency lingers despite various approaches employed by the state, ranging from military operations to local development projects and,
since last year, peace talks with the separatist group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

Gen Prayuth wants to ensure policies are carried out more efficiently, Col Banpot said.

Another two levels of security arms will serve this purpose.

For the second security arm level, the general has assigned deputy army chief Udomdet Sitabutr to chair a new panel to put policies into practice, Col Banpot said.

NSC secretary-general Thawil Pliensri will be a secretary of the panel, helping Gen Udomdet streamline work on ending the unrest.

Meanwhile, Isoc Region 4’s Forward Command will handle the third level.

It will work with the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre to tackle militants and introduce development projects aimed at improving locals’ quality of life, Col Banpot said.

The move to establish three administrative levels was welcomed by former Democrat Party MP for Narathiwat, Cheaming Totayong, who chaired the House committee on national security.

Authorities cannot ignore social and cultural problems in the southernmost provinces, he said.

Above all, they must take quick action, he added.

Nimu Makajae, a respected Muslim leader in Yala, said he believed Gen Prayuth will be able to restore peace in the deep South.

“I think all agencies working to deal with southern problems will work together with more integration under
Gen Prayuth’s supervision,” Mr Nimu

“I noticed state authorities had worked separately in the past which is perhaps why some problems there remained unsolved.”

The drug trade, contraband oil and human trafficking are fuelling violence in the deep South.

Some authorities were believed to be involved in these crimes.

An army source said he wants the NCPO to focus on the peace talks with the BRN.

A new team comprising authorities and civil society should take shape once a new government is in place, the source said.

At least three people died and many others were injured in the latest attack on an antigovernment rally at the Democracy Monument early this morning.

Police said M-79 grenades landed near the monument on the Din Sor Road side. An M16 assault rifle was also used in the attack with bullet wounds consistent with a rifle clearly identifiable on the victims’ bodies.

Witnesses told police that following the explosion, a white pickup truck sped through the Khok Wua intersection where People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) guards were posted and its passengers opened fire.

The BMA’s Erawan Emergency Medical Centre later reported that 24 were wounded in the attack. They were sent to Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) General Hospital and Huachiew Hospital.

The two dead men were identified as Narayot Chanphet, 21, from Surat Thani and Somkuan Nuankhanai, 51, from Chumphon. They were pronounced dead at Huachiew and BMA General hospitals respectively. Narayot was shot in the chest and belly while Somkuan was hit in his chest and leg.

The third victim, whose name has not yet been revealed, succumbed to injuries this morning.

Four persons were still being treated at Huachiew Hospital, while seven remained at BMA General Hospital.

Police said three M-79 grenades landed on a roof of a hotel near the monument and blew holes in rooms, injuring an undisclosed number of people. Witnesses reported hearing gunfire for several minutes following the explosion and rifle attack.