Further updated: The junta and the bombs

Rest assured. All is well and normal in Thailand now. The bombs were not terrorism. The authorities already have people in custody. Everything is under control.

That’s been the message from the military dictatorship and the one they want heard. It is not an unusual message as it has been heard with regard to previous bombings.

The problem for the junta is that it doesn’t know what’s happening and there are multiple messages from various junta members and their flunkies in the police and military.

What is clear, as was also seen a year ago with the Erawan bombing, even when the junta has no idea about who were the perpetrators, it seeks to make political capital from the bombs, blaming political opponents.

Of course, this is not unusual for the military. Over several decades, the military has been able to use bombings, some by others, some by the military itself, to make political capital. Indeed, this junta came to power after bombings and other violence were used to destabilize an elected regime. The junta made political gain from these events rather than doing what it was required to under the constitution.

They are again making the most of this set of coordinated bombings and fires. Some of the news shows us the contradictions and the political opportunism. (Did anyone say something about finishing of the Puea Thai Party?)

The Bangkok Post reported a little while after the blasts that “[p]olice say conditions have returned to normal following a series of deadly bomb blasts…”. The script was being followed.

The report also claimed police stated that “preliminary evidence suggested the attacks on Thursday and Friday were not the escalation of the secessionist campaign in the three southernmost provinces.”

As scripted, “[t]here were unconfirmed reports earlier that two suspects had been detained for questioning following the incidents that killed four people and injured 35…”. The first confirmed arrest, by the military, was “of a 67-year-old political activist and former constitution writer in the southern province of Trang.”

He was Prapas Rojanapithak. He was detained under Article 44. Oddly, and off script,

Mr Prapas was a member of the committee that drafted the 2007 constitution following the military coup that overthrew former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. He was also member of the Trang chapter of the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy, and belongs to other non-government organisations including the Trang Rubber Planters Network.

However, “Prapas joined 90 other southern academics and activists in signing a statement condemning the May 22, 2014 coup that overthrew the government of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.” The Post reported that he “insisted he had no link with the red-shirts’ United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).”

Deputy police chief Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen is also reported, stating “the violence was not a major expansion of the secessionist campaign that has been concentrated in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and rarely targets foreigners…”. This is simply untrue but fits the script.

Junta spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd “suggested those behind the blasts could be people who have ‘lost benefits’ — code for followers of Thaksin — because of last Sunday’s referendum, in which 61% of voters approved a new constitution that will entrench the power of the military for years to come.”

Police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda “vowed that this time the network of the perpetrators would be completely uprooted.” In case anyone wondered who he meant, he added: “People will finally know who was behind these acts aimed at destroying the country.”

A few hours later, the Bangkok Post reported that junta spokesman “Piyapong Klinpan said one suspect has been arrested and six activists detained…”.

The actual number abducted and detained is unknown. Based on previous experience, none of these persons is likely to involved in the bombing.

Joining the finger pointing is none other than the junta’s trained “academic” parrot, Panitan Wattanayagorn is reported at Prachatai: as a “security expert.” He’s not. He’s simply a paid adviser to a bunch of generals. He told the BBC “that series of arson and bomb attacks in southern provinces of Thailand on 11-12 August 2016 were likely to be connected people who are negatively affected by policies of the PM and political development.”

Panitan doesn’t just imply. He shouts: “He said that it was quite clear that the attack was motivated by politics by certain groups of people…”. The poisonous Panitan  declared that it was:

the old powerful groups, those who have been charged for defaming the Thai monarchy or corruption or powerful groups who have been negatively affected by arrests and policies to crackdown on regional powerful networks.

Read that carefully. This is Panitan using the monarchy for political gain. This is a paid dipstick using the monarchy for the military dictatorship. This is a fascist declaring the monarchy’s politics as the junta’s politics.

Joining the other dopey propagandists he also “told the BBC that the perpetrators of the attack are not likely to be Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) … because such attack outside the three restive Deep South provinces are counterproductive to the BRN’s goals.”

He’s wrong. He knows he’s wrong, but he is lying for the dictatorship.

Indicating that Panitan is as thick as a concrete slab, the police began moving away from the political line. Deputy police chief Pongsapat said “while the explosive devices were similar to those used in the South, the attacks are not related to the insurgency.” Yet he still claimed a “mastermind” was behind the attacks. (That rules out Panitan and the junta.)

Not long after, the Bangkok Post reported that Pol Maj Gen Sompong Chingduang said “three police units have been asking hotels, apartments and houses rented by foreign nationals to check their customers’ and tenants’ identification documents. If necessary, identification information should be sent to authorities.”

Recall that everyone else is saying the bombings have nothing to do with foreigners.

Pol Maj Gen Sompong then warned “people not to share or post online unverified information that could have far-reaching repercussions on security. Anyone with intent to spread messages to create havoc is liable for heavy punishment under the Computer Crimes Act.”

The Bangkok Post then reported that real “[f]orensic evidence suggests the explosive devices used in multiple bomb and arson attacks in seven southern provinces last week were of the same type used in the far South…”.

Junta spokesman Piyapong declared that “a campaign was under way by some groups to mislead the public into believing the violence was related to the insurgent movement in the deep South, particularly the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).”

Does he mean the police and their forensic teams? Pol Lt Gen Suchart Theerasawat stated: “The bombs used in the Phuket, Phangnga and Surat Thani attacks were related and similar to those found in insurgent attacks in the deep South…”.

The Post also reports that “intelligence officials have not brushed aside the possibility that the series bombings and arson attacks were the work of the BRN.” In fact, “[o]fficials investigating BRN field commandos are confident the recent attacks were a ‘show of force and network expansion’ of Thailand’s largest insurgent group.”

These officers note that BRN opposed the military’s charter:

They have also sent key messages that they did not want a new charter until the parliament — civilian or military — addresses their Malay Muslim identity as a group or state in the highest law….

At this stage, the source of the bombs remains unclear. The motives are also unknown. What we do know, is that, as before, the junta is making political gain from the events.

Update 1: A series of articles in the Bangkok Post refer to “confusion” in the regime on bombings, the “blame game” – blaming political opponents for bombings – and the investigations that are pointing south. The twist in the latter article is that the regime seems to be seeking to claim that southern “insurgents” might have built, planted and detonated the bombs, but at the behest of a “mastermind” in the political opposition.

Update 2: The reports coming form the junta and police continue to confuse. It is not clear to PPT if this is a problem solely with the authorities or also with the reporting. In a recent report, we are told that police have an arrest warrant “issued for a key suspect in two foiled bombings in Phuket last week, a man who also has links to the southern insurgency…”. Here’s the confusing bit:

Pol Gen Sriwara Rangsipramanakul said the military court of the 41st Army Circle in Nakhon Si Thammarat had approved the warrant after tests showed DNA samples collected at the bomb scenes clearly matched the DNA of a suspect involved in attacks around Tak Bai in Narathiwat since 2004. Details of the suspect were withheld because he was still being tracked down.

So the police and the military have had the DNA of a bomber since 2004 but have never arrested him? Are we the only ones who see this as damning of the police and military? Or is something else going on?

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