5,000 posts

20 10 2014

PPT was staggered to discover that our last post was the 5,000th at this blog. We were staggered because, when we began in early 2009, we actually thought that we’d only be a relatively short-lived blog.

We began when the Democrat Party-led government of that time began to expanded censorship, blocked tens of thousands of web pages it considered offensive to the monarchy and presided over numerous new charges and arrests under the lese majeste law that makes critical discussion of the monarchy a political crime. All of this in the defense of some ill-defined notion of “national security.”

We mistakenly thought that people would come to their senses and end lese majeste nonsense.

Of course, lese majeste is much more than a political nonsense. It is a political tool to maintain the royalist regime and its social and economic order.

 

As it happens, things have only gotten worse. So PPT continues….





Missing the point

20 10 2014

One of the problems that faces “academics,” in Thailand and elsewhere, is that when they become media pundits they over-reach and write about things that aren’t based on their “comparative advantage,” which is writing about things they have actually researched. This problem becomes especially acute when some of these “academic” pundits don’t actually do any research in what is meant to be their day job and they blather on about things they don’t know much about.

PPT recently read yet another op-ed by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies in the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University. It was a view of the military and its politics which while summarizing some well-established information, also left out a pivotal piece of information. We’ll come to this a bit further down. First we’ll summarize some of Thitinan’s summary.

Thitinan remembers the late 1990s as “a promising period of de-politicisation” for the military. He blames Thaksin Shinawatra for “a manipulative re-politicisation in the early 2000s…”. Our view is quite different and we think that Thitinan should actually do some research on this to enable an inevitably more complex picture.

The logical conclusion of this view is to essentially blame Thaksin for the 2006 and 2014 putsches. That the rise of Thaksin prompted the two interventions is not in doubt, but the story is, as ever, more complex than Thitinan allows. He says:

The cradle of political power in the current phase of military rule is a fraternal cohort of senior army officers, known as the “tiger soldiers”, who hail from the 2nd Infantry Division (Queen’s Guard). Never have the former commanders of this division held so much power in Thai politics. Understanding Thailand’s new rulers and the sources of their power requires knowledge of the regimental cradle that bred them.

… Chuan [Leekpai] gambled and appointed Gen Surayud Chulanont from an obscure advisory position to the army commander-in-chief position in 1998. For a few years, it looked like Mr Chuan and Gen Surayud were going to remake the army into a professional fighting force, trying to do away with conscription, reducing the top-heavy number of generals, and scaling down the size of the rank-and-file.

That’s only partly true. His claim that it was when Chuan Leekpai doubled as defence minister that saw “wide-ranging reforms to make the military more accountable and professional” is an exaggeration and missing three critical points.

First, the move to “reform” the military was a defensive reaction by the military to a civilian uprising in 1992 that saw the military (briefly) disgraced for grabbing power in 1991 (which initially saw Chuan’s Democrat Party very quiet, even supportive) and engaging in a massacre of protesting citizens in May 1992. Chuan was dragged along by the public that literally spat on the military, jeered troops in uniform and demanded fundamental change. Chuan, as an indecisive and weak minister, was simply not up to the task of reforming the military.

Second, when Thitinan claims that “Chuan gambled and appointed Gen Surayud Chulanont from an obscure advisory position to the army commander-in-chief position in 1998,” this too is an exaggeration. The most important thing about Surayud was that he was close to powerful figures in the palace. In this sense, nothing had changed, and it was Prem Tinsulanonda and the queen who were managing appointments, not Chuan.

Third, Thitinan’s aim at Thaksin for politicizing the military by promoting his cousin, Gen Chaisit Shinawatra in 2003, to army chief fails to take account of the army brass’s moves against Thaksin, which were often involving the palace and sought to undermine the elected premier and his government, as had happened to Chatichai Choonhavan in 1988-91.

There’s much else that is debatable in this flimsy article, not least Thitinan’s claims that Thailand was about to be invaded by the Vietnamese in 1979.

Most importantly, though, for some reason, Thitinan has decided to muddy the role of Prem, the queen and the palace in manipulating the military for their own political purposes. After all that has happened over the past 15 years, that’s a political choice and an academic failure.





Only 93.3 percent

19 10 2014

Why does The Nation bother publishing dross? Why does the military dictatorship think that anyone believes ridiculous claims?

We think the answer to the last question is because they are delusional autocrats.

Here’s the joke:

The approval rating for the government rose to 93.3 per cent after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha attended the Asia-Europe Meeting in Italy, a survey by the Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association has found.
The rating rose from 77.2 per cent late September and 89.0 per cent early October, the pollster announced Sunday.

The opinion survey was carried out among leaders of 608 communities nationwide on Friday and Saturday.

For information on the polling jokers, see this post.





Updated: Apiwan’s funeral

19 10 2014

Large numbers of people attended the funeral of Apiwan Wiriyachai. Apiwan was a former leader of the Puea Thai Party and of the red shirts. The military dictatorship had accused him of lese majeste. They feared his funeral as a possible stage for a red shirt protest.

Yingluck at funeral

Update: Khaosod has a story on the funeral. Estimating a crowd of 10,000, it is described as “the largest public gathering of Redshirt supporters since the military coup on 22 May.” The story adds: “soldiers were deployed on the roads around Bang Phai Temple and many police officers were posted at the temple to observe the cremation.” The claim that “there were no political activities or speeches at the ceremony…” seems denied by the photo:

Red Shirt funeral





The Dictator’s lies

19 10 2014

Some readers may recall that General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who we properly identify as The Dictator ignore the recent changes to his name’s spelling, which probably has to do with the advice of astrologers, once complained that he wasn’t running coups for the pittance he received in salary and daily allowances.

As our readers know, the salary and allowances are chump change for the military brass. They make millions from corrupt activities.

This time, when The Dictator whines about how “tough” things are for the corrupt bastards who run Thailand – administering the country seems to distract their attention from the big money in their businesses and scams – he is finding no happiness while “returning happiness to the Thai people…”.Prayuth gunning for democracy

At BloombergBusinessweek it is reported that Prayuth speaking to Thai officials at a free dinner in Milan, after flying first class and staying in a plush hotel, whined: “I have no happiness…”. Jeez, how sad is that! But The Dictator is so detached from reality that he blubbers: “But I have to stay for the return of happiness of the Thai people. So I have to suffer.”

His other claims are equally ludicrous: “Prayuth has said he had no choice other than to topple Thailand’s democratically elected government in a May 22 coup to end political protests and heal divisions that he said risked tearing the country apart.” No choice? Leaders always have choices and when they say there are none, they are either stupid or lying. Maybe he could have supported an election, provided security and brought pressure on the anti-democrats to participate in an election. After all, his lot were paying them and protecting them, so he clearly had influence. Need we go on? He’s lying.

Prayuth said “he never wanted to be prime minister and that he thinks of resigning every day.” He added: “I don’t want to stay longer than I expect for even one day,” complaining “that his wife often questions his decisions as premier,” claiming, “Every day I have to fight…”. Imagine being this dope’s wife: “When I get home, I have an argument with my wife.”

How sad. Lying again? Yes. He loves the power and feels he’ll be well rewarded for supporting the royalist ruling class. Why not? Every other general who has run the country since Sarit Thanarat has ended up wealthy.

His biggest lie is this: “What we have done is to prevent a military coup in the future…”. What? He means 23 May or the day after? If we took the longer term view, and Prayuth is babbling about his coup being the last, then we say he’s a dunce. Politicizing the military, accepting its massive corruption, resisting professionalization, taking commissions, promoting impunity and sucking up to the palace’s political meddlers is exactly what any reasonable person would not do. In other words, he’s lying.

His biggest claim one that he repeats regularly, that “he staged the nation’s 12th coup since the end of direct rule by kings in 1932 in order to promote democracy.” We are willing to cut him some slack here because we at PPT understand that Prayuth has no mental capacity for understanding such a complicated term. His life experience prepares him for hierarchy and dictatorship, not something as complicated as democracy.

Prayuth was truthful about one thing. He said the country can have another election but that “there must first be no disagreement in society” for that to happen. Refer to the previous paragraph in order to understand this.





Further updated: Slavery and the dictatorship

18 10 2014

The BBC is reporting a story on modern slavery in Thailand that is truly stunning.

Watch the video report:

Note that towards the end, Jonathan Head states that the Thai government – he means the military dictatorship – is inexplicably dragging its feet on the case.

BBC News has now reported that the military dictatorship is protecting traffickers with high level connections and is considering charging the slaves.

Is this the worst “government” Thailand has ever had?

Update 1: Here’s the BBC News report on charging the slaves with illegal entry (about 1 minute into the report).

Update 2: There’s some pretty savage blocking of PPT at the moment and we suspect that this has more to do with protecting slavers than monarchy. A reader comments that the slave business in one likely explanation for the incredible wealth of some naval officers. We tend to concur based on previous reporting and the ferocious but boneheaded approach by the Navy to censor earlier revelations and punish those who exposed them.





Further updated: Royalists attack royalists

18 10 2014

Lese majeste is most often used to silence critics of the monarchy and other political opponents who cause fear amongst mad monarchists that their world is crumbling around them. Rarely is it used by royalists against other royalists. When it has been used in this way, it has been against Sulak Sivaraksa. We are losing count of the times this iconoclastic and conservative royalist has been subject to lese majeste allegations. We think this is the fifth charge accepted by the police.

Prachatai reports that two ultra-royalist generals have filed a lese majeste complaint against Sulak for a speech he made about King Naresuan, a historical figure considered important for the royalist mythology about Thailand.

SulakOn 16 October 2014, Lt Gen Padung Niwatwan and Lt Gen Pittaya Vimalin filed the complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station accusing Sulak of “defaming” the former king during a public speech on “Thai History: the Construction and Deconstruction” on 5 October at Thammasat University, Bangkok. It is reported that in the speech, Sulak claimed the legend of an elephant battle between Naresuan and a Burmese king was constructed and he criticized the king of some 400 years ago for being cruel.

It might be considered that “defaming” a figure from ancient history, for who there is only  scant reliable historical information, might be a nonsense. It might be considered that the historical records that do exist tend to support Sulak’s interpretation. However, this may not amount to anything before the madness of the royalist courts in Thailand. “Insulting” dead kings has led to jail for a defendant who made mention of the reign of King Mongkut involving people in slavery, a clear historical and undisputed fact, but implying that there was no freedom in that period. This was deemed an insult.

Even if Sulak is right – see here, here (opens a PDF) and here (opens a PDF) – many royalists cannot forgive Sulak for his outspokenness on monarchy and the lese majeste law.

Update 1: We fixed the links in the previous paragraph.

Update 2: We were confused by the claim made at the Bangkok Post attributed to “[h]uman rights lawyer Somchai Homlaor” who made the factually incorrect claim that “a person would be charged with lese majeste only if he or she defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir apparent or the regent…”. We agree that this is what the law says, but when he adds that the “law is unlikely to apply to a historical monarch such as King Naresuan,” we think he is neglecting the case mentioned above where a man was jailed for a claim considered to “defame” a historical king.








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