Thong Daeng, Facebook and lese majeste

19 12 2014

Can it really be true? PPT posted on the lese majeste case brought against 41 year-old businessman Praphat Darasawang for “defaming the king on Facebook.”

Prachatai now reports that the lese majeste complaint has something to do with the king’s aged mutt Thong Daeng.

The royal woofers are apparently very significant in a society that enforces ultra-royalism. For more commentary on doggy nonsense and ultra-royalism, see this post from 2009. This indicates that the madness associated with royal dogs has been afflicting royal posterior polishers for a considerable time. And, don’t forget the bizarre Woody incident with another royal tail wagger.

In any reasonably sane society such royal ridiculousness would be treated with the scorn it deserves and the participants would rightly be considered strange, a bit deranged or laughably looney.

Not in ultra-royalist Thailand under the military dictatorship.

Prachatai tells us that Praphat’s “alleged Facebook post, published on December 7, expressed dissatisfaction about the King’s praise of the dog and the King’ comparison between the dog and others…”. By others, it seems to mean humans. It is alleged that “Praphat shared a headline of a news story which read [The King] praises Tongdaeng not arrogant. Unlike other [humans/คนอื่น] who likes to be arrogant.” Praphat allegedly “added a comment which expressed his anger and questioned about the comparison following by curses.”

Lese majeste has now reached the lowest level ever, although this depth may well be tested again as the deaths of king and queen approach and the military dictatorship deals with succession.

While many will consider this situation comical, for Praphat, it is extremely serious and could result in a couple of decades in jail.

As a footnote, Thong Daeng became the king’s pooch in 1998, and at what must now be a grand age for mutts, must be getting anti-aging therapy.


19 12 2014

Business site Barron’s Asia has taken an interest in the SET Index having fallen “since Thailand’s monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej cancelled the public celebration of his 87th birthday, on the advice of doctors who said he was too ill to make a public speech.” Related, it is noted that”the wife of the 62-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was demoted to a commoner after members of her family were arrested on corruption charges.”

As the report notes, these “events set off speculation that a royal succession is in order.”

It observes: “Not surprisingly, the stock market is nervous,” and notes that military coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha “said the sudden drop in stocks was because of ‘false rumors’.”

Interestingly, the story goes on to note that “Teneo Intelligence‘s Bob Herrera-Lim called him out on this and said market volatility was down to uncertainty over a royal succession,” quoting:

Given recent developments, such rumors may be related to the succession. Other large cap, non-energy companies dropped almost simultaneously with PTT, including retailer Big C Supercenter, which at its worst plunged 20% during the day, and food company Charoen Pokphand Foods, which dropped 13% before recovering. Telecoms stocks Advance Info Systems and True also fell. Previous instances of large stock market drops were in 2010, a year after Bhumibol was hospitalized and questions over his health suddenly increased, and in 2007 after the then military-installed government floated a draft amendment to the foreign business act that would make it more difficult for foreign investors to control domestic enterprises.

Herrera-Lim suggests that after the king dies, “The most likely scenario is that the succession will be multi-year affair, starting with a year-long tribute to King Bhumibol…”. With Prince Vajiralongkorn is considered likely to take the throne, although Herrera-Lim also has a side-bet on Sirindhorn, taking the speculation from Andrew MacGregor Marshall:

The alternative to Vajiralongkorn is … Sirindhorn, who is well-liked by Thais and would be better placed to preserve some of her father’s goodwill [sic.]. However, Thailand has never had a female monarch and Sirindhorn had previously disavowed any interest in becoming queen. A third option is the Crown Prince’s nine year old son, with Sirindhorn acting as a regent.

The article then asks about the “divorce.” Herrera-Lim’s view is:

Corruption is not uncommon among elite networks in Thailand, especially with the police, so the dismantling of Srirasmi’s network may be an effort by the prince to convince his opponents in the military and the monarchy that he is willing to take the needed steps to preserve the institution’s goodwill and, by consequence, its political power [sic.]. Srirasmi was not only unpopular but controversial, tied to the prince’s freewheeling party life.

PPT thinks some of the successionist discussion is rather too speculative. In fact, the dismissal of Srirasmi has seen considerable social media support for her. There has also been some attempt by the military dictatorship to suppress this as the junta manages succession.

A Kingdom in Crisis reviewed VII

19 12 2014

As we often do, below we re-post Ji Ungpakorn’s latest post:

Book Review: “A Kingdom in Crisis” by Andrew MacGregor Marshall

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s book “A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century” is misnamed because it has nothing to do with Thailand’s struggle for democracy. The reason for this is that Marshall is of the “elite-gazing school” and mass movements from below do not feature in his book.

The book is a tabloid account of gossip about the dysfunctional and parasitic Thai royal family, with the aim of trying to prove that the political crisis is all about the “succession question” after King Pumipon dies.  It will be a book which offers much entertainment to those who enjoy reading “Hello!” magazine.

Even in terms of analysing the Thai monarchy, Marshall fails to grasp the fluidity of support for the king throughout his reign. Popular support for any national leaders, anywhere in the world, rises and falls with circumstances. Support for the Thai king is no exception to this phenomenon, unless one believes that the majority of Thais are too brainwashed and stupid to think for themselves. Marshall is often in danger of sounding patronising towards ordinary people due to his tone throughout the book.

Marshall’s concentration on the “secrets” and cosmology of the royal family means that he also fails to grasp the changes to the monarchy throughout history and the Bourgeois Revolution against feudalism staged by King Chulalongkorn. He merely quotes Duncan McCargo who mistakenly believes that Chulalongkorn’s “reforms” were designed to “prevent change”.

By claiming that the anti-monarchy sentiment observed on the streets of Bangkok in September 2010 was a novel and momentous event, Marshall sweeps away the fighting history of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in the 1960s and 1970s and ignores the fact that in that era millions of Thais opposed the monarchy. The only academic references to the CPT that he quotes come from out of date right-wing academics.

Marshall ignores progressive Thai writers, failing to engage in any argument with them. He does not have the courage to admit that the king’s power is a matter for debate. He relies almost entirely on mainstream writers, writing in English. So for him the 1932 revolution is merely a coup by a small group of bureaucrats and soldiers. This has been the conservative line for decades. Marshall has clearly not read Nakarin Mektrairat’s research into this period of history.

Readers hoping for a better understanding of Thai politics will gain nothing from this book. Marshall totally ignores what I regard as the real cause of the crisis; Taksin’s unbeatable electoral alliance with the majority of the electorate through his concrete pro-poor policies, introduced immediately after the 1996 economic crisis. Universal health care is obviously not one of Marshall’s interests.

Marshall’s tabloid account of royal gossip is one thing. But the worst part of the book is when he absolves Abhisit and Prayut of any wrong-doing in killing 90 redshirt protesters. He allows himself to get carried away with the myth about “Taksin’s armed Men in Black”, but fails to offer a single shred of evidence, including photographs or reliable eye-witness accounts. Yet we know that no soldiers were killed or wounded by these Ghosts in Black throughout May 2010. This is an important issue today since the junta leader Prayut, who was in charge of the soldiers at that time, denies that soldiers killed anyone. Marshall is myopic in looking at the big picture of a military coup eventually installing an unelected Abhisit government, which then proceeded to use heavily armed soldiers and “free fire zones” against un-armed pro-democracy protesters.

Marshall seems to show little interest in the struggle for democracy and the necessary strategies and tactics we need to use. He seems to be only interested in selling royal gossip and Z Books seems to go along with this commercial enterprise. Marshall’s easy success in getting Z Books to publish his work speaks volumes about his publishing connections and the deteriorating standards of this so-called “radical” publishing house.

Facebook lese majeste cases grow

18 12 2014

The military dictatorship has been working hard to track down any whiff of lese majeste on Facebook. It is helped by ultra-royalist snitches who scour the internet looking for the allegedly disloyal.

Why the snitches spend so much time doing this has something to do with a fear for the future. It also has to do with a desire to protect a system of political, social and economic power that revolves around the monarchy. And, no doubt, it also reflects a deeply-embedded fascist mindset that all the “loyalty” to the monarchy propaganda has perpetuated.

There have now been several accusations of lese majeste based on Facebook posts.

Both Prachatai and ASTV/Manager report that the Army has filed a police complaint on 16 December 2014 in Chiang Rai, accusing businessman 41 year-old Praphat Darasawang “of defaming the king on Facebook.”

ASTV/Manager implies that internet vigilantes tracked Praphat as a red shirt supporter, stating that “the problematic post attracted several comments, adding that the there have been several posts in the same fashion before but were not obvious lese majeste.”

Repressing “the few”

18 12 2014

As everyone knows, the military dictatorship is ultra-royalist and desperate to “defend” and “protect” the monarchy and the system of power and recession it stands for.

This is why it is “normal” to view yet another report, this one at the Bangkok Post, that has a senior junta general declaring that “Thailand has asked countries where lese majeste suspects are believed to be hiding to extradite them so they can face legal action…”.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwon knows that most countries of the world do not have ludicrous and medieval laws like lese majeste. Most of them do not have extradition treaties with Thailand. This means that “extradiction” is pretty much a nonsense. Equally nonsensical is Prawit’s claim that he’s reporting lese majeste suspects to Interpol.

Prawit explained that The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha “wants all fugitives in lese majeste cases who have fled abroad, including Thammasat University history lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul, to return and fight the cases.” As everyone knows, “fighting” a lese majeste charge is virtually impossible, with almost all those accused eventually being convicted following long periods o jail time where bail is repeatedly refused.

In the same report, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, who is also a part of the junta, is reported as declaring that the military dictatorship’s massive lese majeste dragnet does not amount to having the “the law … applied too stringently.” It is just that the “army is working with various agencies to tackle the problem…”.

Udomdej is like most ultra-royalists, and can simply not grasp that others can think differently from himself and the people he surrounds himself with: “I think most people in the country love and respect the monarchy while only a few have a different point of view…”. He sounds like someone who believes palace propaganda when he declares:

“They [people opposed to the lese majeste law] may forget that our nation has remained peaceful for as long as it has because we have a monarch who has long been the soul of the nation and who has dedicated his time and energy to his people…”.

In such circumstances, it is “normal” for him to declare that he can’t think of a single case where the “lese majeste law has been abused for political reasons…”. In fact, every lese majeste case is political and is an abuse of human rights.

Tracking down “the few,” keeping them jailed without bail and denying constitutional rights is not a case of the regime having “abused any law to intimidate anyone…”. Udomdej is either lying or is dense or both.

Further updated: What is the rumor?

17 12 2014

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Stock Exchange of Thailand says it found no irregularities in Monday’s stock plunge as battered Thai shares Tuesday extended their six-day skid” of about 10% since 8 December. It cites several possible contributing factors and then states “[a]n undisclosed local rumour and the tumbling oil price prompted the selling spree.”

In fact, the undisclosed is disclosed. Prachatai, citing the ultra-royalist ASTV, states the:

Thai junta on Tuesday accused a Thai journalist living in self-exile of spreading rumours about the Thai King’s health, which caused the Stock Exchange of Thailand to plunge dramatically on Monday.

Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, Army and government spokesman, said the rumour about the King’s health was spread by Jom Petpradab, a veteran journalist now living in self-exile in the US.

In fact, PPT hasn’t followed Job, but we were also pretty sure that the SET trading was due to two things: that the king is so unwell that he is unable to operate; and related, that the succession has begun. Several of our recent posts about the “royal divorce” have indicated our guesses about this.

Because the media is so opaque and self-censoring on these things it is difficult to find evidence that is in any way solid. However, it seems pretty clear to us that the prince is preparing for his reign. That might be a cause for the sell-off as much as claims that the king is dead (or just resting).

Update 1: Another take on the rumors is provided by the Bangkok Post’s reporter assigned to the military, Wassana Nanuam, who claims several domestic rumors: General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh talking about a possible “counter-coup”; that the military dictatorship “might invalidate 1,000-baht banknotes in a bid to wipe out corrupt politicians and officials who keep all their money in cash”; an “internal conflict within the NCPO and between the NCPO and the ‘old powers’, a reference to soldiers loyal to Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda”; and, finally, although it is not quite stated as a rumor, “concern about His Majesty the King’s health…”.

Update 2: Prachatai has a story citing journalist Jom Petpradab mentioned above. He is reported to have issued “a statement released on Wednesday [stating] that he was very upset and worried with the allegation from the junta that he spreaded [sic.] the rumour which caused the biggest single-day loss in six years at the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).” He said that the story, “The inside story of the divorce between the Crown Prince and Mom Srirasmi,” which was published on Thai Voice Media website on 13 December 2014, “was initiated because he noticed that most of the public have sympathy for the former royal consort, so he intended to correct the popular misunderstanding about the divorce.” He states that he had “high level sources in the palace.” One of those sources stated that the “divorce” was done in “preparation for the succession. The source also speculated that the succession will take place during the military regime.”

Hunting and hating critics

17 12 2014

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who selected himself to be premier, is worried. Or at least he claims to be. He is apparently under pressure to arrest and jail dissidents who have fled abroad.

Khaosod reports that The Dictator has had to explain [to whom we are not sure] that the “authorities are seeking to extradite critics of the Thai monarchy living abroad for legal prosecution in Thailand but that progress is slow. Perhaps he is explaining to the “uneducate” amongst the ultra-royalists who do not understand that the Thai military dictatorship’s powers are limited. Perhaps he is explaining to the “uneducate” amongst the ultra-royalists who do not understand that other countries have laws. Perhaps he is explaining to the “uneducate” amongst the ultra-royalists who do not understand that lese majeste is a feudal remnant that is only regularly used in royalist Thailand.

Prayuth declared: “You can’t expect me to have all of them arrested right now.”

Royalist wanted poster

He also complained that some of the “wanted” critics didn’t play “fair.” Apparently, they “told security officers they would stop commenting on the monarchy, only to later flee abroad and continue with their ‘libelous’ remarks.” Prayuth is hardly one to complain about this. After all, he is a skilled practitioner of the publicly spoken lie.

But never fear dear ultra-royalists, for The Dictator is there to protect the royalist regime: “We are monitoring them…. We have many agencies involved in this, the ICT [Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology], the army, the Ministry of Defence. We have many.”

Prayuth went on to attack Thammasat University professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul, “who fled Thailand shortly after the military staged a coup on 22 May 2014″ and is living in exile in France.

Somsak has been a particular target for Prayuth. When he was Army chief, Prayuth was behind a lese majeste accusation against Somsak. Then, in February 2014, Khaosod reported that Prayuth was at it again: “The Royal Thai Army is considering a legal action against a prominent historian for his remarks about the monarchy…”. Acting for Prayuth, the Army claimed that Somsak “gravely insulted the Royal Family in his Facebook posts.” At the time, Somsak stated that “he has been simply parodying and criticising certain type of royalists.” He asked: “Can′t the Army Commander-in-Chief read Thai?” The Army then promised “unspecified ‘social measures’ to deter such inappropriate action.” The result was thugs attacking Somsak’s house.

Now The Dictator attacks Somsak for daring to write about the decrepit monarchy: “For example, Mr. Somsak, today he is still writing about the monarchy… All of you have seen that. He writes about this, he writes about that, he just keeps writing.” Prayuth seems befuddled: “He’s a teacher, how could he do this?… He can’t teach people to break the law. He’s supposed to teach people to respect the law. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but as for today, I cannot allow this to happen.”

Prayuth prefers no critics and would hope that all Thais would be disciplined and arranged in a hierarchy, just like the fascist military that socialized him as an ultra-royalist dolt.

Responding to The Dictator, Somsak took to Facebook declaring he was “exceedingly satisfied” that The Dictator mentioned him. He lampooned Prayuth: “It’s been less than a month since I returned to writing [on Facebook], but Our Dear Leader has noticed me already.”


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