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Thailand’s exotic nature goes well beyond its breath taking landscapes. It permeates deep within Thai society. Foreigners living here or passing through who are blocked by the language barrier glimpse only the tip of the iceberg of Thai society and its politics. The two main English language Thai newspapers fail to report the full story on many issues. Sometimes they don’t bother to report at all. Personally, I am not part of any side of Thai politics. I am on the side of truth and transparency, and really get annoyed when people try to pull a fast one over the public, and by extension, me.

In the game of politics, knowledge is power, and the people in power try to keep the people ignorant. Thailand is no better or worse than any other democracy in this sense. Yet with its generally weak mainstream media, it is up to independent media to shine the light into the dark crevasse of Thai power-politics. In this weekly posting, I will try to briefly draw out under-reported stories of the past week and ask the questions that remain unanswered by mainstream media. With any luck, these stories will interest you as well, and hopefully give readers a bit more power through knowledge.

Week of January 15
The accused or the accuser?
In a functioning legal system, a person is innocent until proven guilty. In Thailand however, that axiom is perhaps taken too far. Apparently, defendants in ongoing trials have the right to sue police investigators for “malfeasance” and making false accusations against them. Call me old fashioned, but isn’t it the job of police and prosecutors to accuse people? It is the job of judges to decide on guilt or innocence, not defendants….
Twenty years after the disappearance, and alleged torture and murder of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaily, charges were finally brought against five police officers this week. Also this week, one of the accused, Pol Lt Gen Somkid  filed a complaint against three senior investigators, accusing them of making false allegations against him. As an outside observer, wouldn’t it be more prudent to wait what the court says about his guilt?
As Bangkok Pundit commented, the threshold set for negligence and other "crimes" is set so low that it can easily be applied to anyone, suspects and investigators alike. In the absence of special immunity, investigators in Thailand face legal harassment and intimidation. Clearly such a system, in which the accused can attack his accuser before final judgment is reached, does not encourage pro-active investigations. Maybe that is why it took 20 years to issue an arrest warrant in the al-Ruwaily case. 
Hmong out to dry
While everybody was distracted with their New Years celebrations, more than 4,500 men, women, and children were forcibly repatriated back to Laos from the Hmong encampment in Phetchabun Province, in Northeastern Thailand. A lot has been said about this, including the fact the military-organized media blackout violated Thai law. In addition to everything else, the recent operation sheds light on how key policy decisions are made in Thailand, and by whom.
Why was the National Security Council and later ISOC (Internal Security Operations Command) in charge of such a delicate issue affecting Thailand’s bilateral relations of with Laos, rather then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? At some point, the Hmong were deemed a “National Security” issue, and thus fell under the purview of the Military establishment. Why and how this decision was made remains a mystery. Whether the Hmong are refugees facing persecution at home or economic migrants seeking better opportunities in Thailand is clearly not an issue for the military.
Thailand’s treatment of the Hmong raises the question, once again of: who is in charge, civilians or the military? In this context it is worth remembering last year’s scandalous revelation that the Thai military decided to cast Rohingya refugees into the ocean to meet their fates on crippled boats. As with the Hmong, it was the military that called the shots, with effectiveness. Maybe during this years Cobra Gold exercise, Thailand’s military can practice following the orders from elected civilian, rather then dictating policy to them. 
Stories to keep an eye on….
Will Thailand begin mass deportations of migrant workers later this month? A definite possibility, according to Andy Hall, director of the Human Rights and Development Foundation's Migrant Justice Program.
The Thai News Agency reported that PM Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered the establishment of an Advisory Committee on National Security Cases Involving the Monarchy. The Committee will advise the police, DSI and relevant ministries on the “careful, appropriate and fair conduct” of lèse majesté cases. Does this mean Thailand will “reverse backward slide in freedom of expression” as called for by Amnesty International? Lets hope so.
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