His way

3 04 2014

PPT always enjoys reading accounts of the statements of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Army’s chief and chief loudmouth. Of course, in a democratic system (and even communist systems of yore) Army chiefs were not meant to mouth off about politics. Prayuth knows this, but obviously gets frustrated and is unable to control his tongue. The latest report of his uncontrollable muscular hydrostat is from Khaosod.

Prayuth reportedly declared:

“Every Thai must return to be the order-loving Thais, not the do-whatever-I-want Thais…. Today we have to be the Thais who have order, respect the laws, and sacrifice our personal interests for the sake of the national interests, to ensure that the Nation, the Religion, and the Monarchy will be safe.”Prayuth

Our response to the General is that he should not only keep his mouth shut, but the days he hankers for are long gone. General, your thinking is of an old military-palace-aligned elite that is well beyond its “use-by” date. The coup in 2006, that you supported and have continued to support sounded the death-knell of a time that was already gone.

He apparently continued, “No one would win if they keep fighting each other like this. We would all be in trouble. That is why we must find the solution, either by legal or special ways“.

Our response to the General is that he should not only keep his mouth shut, but we thank him for confirmation that the old military-palace-aligned elite is indeed intent on a “special” judicial coup to get rid of yet another elected government that it quite mistakenly views as the ource of all of the royalist elite’s fears and pining for a past of military enforced “order-loving” Thailand. General, society has changed, and you haven’t. Neither have your political bosses in the elite. They are too old to change and too protective of their economic and political privilege.

All the chatter will now be about the potential for a military coup because of the reference to “special ways.” Prayuth has refused to rule out a coup, but PPT thinks that only a very serious deterioration will lead to a coup. The military boss is banking on a judicial coup that will, with the protesters still on the streets, presumably be given some legitimacy in the post-judicial coup propaganda that will attempt to explain yet another illegal ousting of an elected government. Keeping the protesters organized and active is a bit risky, but a judicial coup without “popular mobilization” also carries risks.

 





Royalist “constitutionalism”

16 03 2014

As PPT has posted before, there is support for the anti-democratic movement from various scholars connected to royalists and Thailand’s right since the days of the CIA’s involvement in the U.S.’s support for anti-communist and authoritarian regimes fronted by the military. The royalists have regularly wheeled out the relatively unknown American Stephen B. Young to support the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-democratic movement and to promote palace-inspired and conservative royalist ideas regarding politics and forms of “Thai-style democracy.”

We have previously mentioned Young as a commentator who heads up his own organization, the Caux Round Table, which is about shameless self-promotion. While the royalists like to say Young is a “scholar,” this is a misrepresentation. His major publication appears to have close connections to CIA-funded operations. His other publications are his own rants published in pretty meaningless places or self-published as a result of royalist support for their talking head.

A reader sent us a long version of yet another “paper” that Young has produced on the royalist “vision” for Thailand, and we were content to ignore it and let it disappear without trace. However, the conservative Bangkok Post has seen fit to publish a shortened version, so we are pushed to comment. In his longer paper, not only does the author spell “constitutionalism” incorrectly, but is listed as “Stephen B. Young, Esq.” as if from the 19th century. Both seem appropriate for that paper, which is a travesty of uniformed nonsense about Locke, Rousseau and constitutionalism.Young

For more and better information on these 17th and 18th century philosophers and their impact on constitutionalism, try here, here, and here. A bit of searching produces many papers that are learned and which contradict Young’s sometimes bizarre interpretations of Locke and Rousseau in this longer piece. So odd is his interpretations of Thailand’s history are impossible to briefly characterize here. What is more significant is Young’s remarkable confusion in his call for conservative reform.

Young’s basic point is that Locke’s approach to constitutionalism is a kind of perfect liberalism, while Rousseau’s is more radical and leads to authoritarianism. He argues that Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts are the inheritors of Rousseau’s alleged authoritarianism via the People’s Party, 1932, Pridi Phanomyong and Plaek Phibulsonggram. Indeed, Young makes the claim that Rousseau’s thought is the basis of all totalitarianism, and notion that has been refuted time and again since the early 19th century:

These interpretations, based on the concepts of the “total surrender” of individual rights (“l’aliéna-tion totale”) and of the absolute sovereignty of the state over all its members, draw conclusions from the Contrat social that are fundamentally opposed to the intentions of its author. Indeed, for Rousseau, liberty was the most precious of possessions, a gift which nature has made to men. They can no more be deprived of it rightfully than they can be deprived of life itself; nor can they be permitted to divest themselves of it for any price whatsoever. The social pact should not be interpreted as abrogating, in effect, a right which Rousseau declared inalienable and inseparable from the essential character of man.

Based on false premises, Young proceeds to make a nonsense of Thailand’s modern history. His interpretation of Locke and Rousseau is a manipulation to make a political point that resonates with palace and royalists. His selective use of quotes from these two philosophers is banal. PPT could be just as selective and note that Locke was “a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company. In addition, he participated in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina while Shaftesbury’s secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves.” Hardly liberal, but also an unduly narrow interpretation.

His claim that “Thailand now needs sustainable constitutionalism harmonising with its Buddhist culture of seeking the equilibrium of the middle path between extremes and aligning with the rule of law” is a plagiarism of much earlier conservative ideas about constitutionalism that were developed in the early 1960s by Kukrit Pramoj (opens a PDF) and other royalists as elements of military-backed monarchism.

Firmly based in this conservative tradition, both Western and Thai, Young wants to provide a way forward for Thailand. He begins with an interpretation that Locke’s writings allow a popularly-elected government to be disposed of if it is believed to threaten liberty or property. Young chooses to interpret this as meaning:

“Thaksin’s manoeuvres to concentrate power in his hand by means of bringing elected officials under his personal sway caused his government to lose its legitimacy under Locke’s constitutional system. So, under that system, by seizing too much power Thaksin forfeited his authority and the people of Thailand were within their rights to withdraw allegiance from him and his ministers and seek to replace his government with one more faithful to upholding the public trust.

Young does not explain how this interpretation can be applied in circumstances where pro-Thaksin governments have been elected in every single national election since 2001. His claim that “the people of Thailand” could rise up against the elected government is simply an acceptance of anti-democrat propaganda. Other anti-democrats and royalists have avoided this philosophical gap by simply rejected elections.

Young, however, demonstrating his confusion and lack of imagination by arguing for more elections and a political system that looks a lot like the U.S. presidential system:

The executive branch of the national government should be removed from direct dependence on the National Assembly. The chief administrative officer of the cabinet of ministers should be directly elected by the people for — say — a three-year term of office. The election of the chief administrative officer would be held in years when the House of Representatives is not elected.

His other suggestions on decentralization, police, the judiciary (which he acknowledges is politicized), impeachment, and House and Senate are essentially American. Fixed term legislatures may or may not be relevant for Thailand, but certainly limit the very Lockean interpretation of threats to liberty and property he claims are the base of his “constitutionalism.”

He then suggests a path forward for Thailand current political stand-off that has no basis in law or constitution.

PPT takes all of this a a sign that the royalists have been very confused and challenged by the Yingluck Shinawatra’s seeming ability to hold out against the old threat of military coup and the newer threat from judicial coup (at least for the moment). It seems that the old men who have always believed they have the answers for Thailand are flummoxed.

 





Army, prince and social media

6 02 2014

A report at Khaosod struck PPT as interesting for two reasons. First, it appears to indicate yet another Army brass mutiny, and second for its apparent confirmation of social media rumors regarding the political involvement of the prince.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul has claimed that the “Army has refused to comply with the government for deployment of troops to protect Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” He claims his request came after the anti-democrats “targeted a Ministry of Defence building where Ms. Yingluck held meeting with her Cabinet members.”

Lt.Col. Winthai Suvaree, a deputy Army spokesman said “Surapong has to submit the request via an appropriate channel, which is the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.” Winthai labored on about bureaucratic procedure and then made a remarkable claim:

“No one should expect the army to suddenly send troops without proper request, because that′s against the procedure,” Lt.Col. Winthai explained, adding that the army is still waiting for “more clarity” from Mr. Surapong in his requests.

“As far as I know, … [t]here has been no written document requesting [the troops] so far”.

Sounds like mutiny to us. The responsible officers should be sacked and discharged.RTAF troops

The second interesting item is this:

The government was forced to request presence of troops from a nearby Royal Thai Air Force base to protect the Prime Minister yesterday.

As we noted above, social media lit up with claims that the crown prince had personally ordered “his” troops to protect Yingluck. A document was circulated, including at Thai E-News, that claimed to be about this deployment. When the Air Force troops showed up, and we reproduce Khaosod’s picture, there was apparent confirmation.

PPT isn’t sure if this is coincidence + hoax or whether it is real. However, the social media seemed to be either convinced that this arrival of troops represented confirmation of a political split within the palace and of a succession struggle or was warmly welcomed as a sign of royal support.

What we didn’t see – and we may have missed it – was any statement that made the point that royals should stay in their palaces and shut up on politics. Royals should not be involved in any politics, ever. Thailand really does need to grow up.





Old men united

3 02 2014

This video is all over social media. Unfortunately, PPT doesn’t have the time (or even inclination) to translate the meandering machinations of a bunch of silly old men who think Thailand is theirs.

You get a flavor for their perspective from earlier, very popular posts at PPT:

Dangerous old men or just silly old men?

A country for old men? Also available as ประเทศนี้สำหรับคนรุ่นเก่าหรือไง.

What is it about these silly old men that makes them think they are able make the best decisions for the country. Some of them are suffering the problems of old age, such as memory loss, but this doesn’t seem to bother them in deciding that they know what is best for the country. Military men and anti-democratic propagandists, they seem to want to return to a period way back in the 20th century.

Siam Intelligence blog lists those involved. Some of the names that stuck out for PPT were: old Cold War warrior General Saiyud Kerdphol (he’s 92 and acts it, if the video there is anything to go by as the reporter finishes his sentences for him), yellow-shirted ideologue Chai-Anan Samudavanija, 84 year-old royalist Amorn Chantarasomboon, a former secretary-general of the Council of State, ultra-royalist propagandist Pramote Nakhonthap, who is meant to be in jail as a 2008 airport occupier, former junta-appointed government secretary of the PM’s Office Suraphong Chainam, former Army boss General Wimol Wongwanich, Air Force General Kan Pimarnthip, and a bunch of other aged air force and navy brass

Some of this lot were also mentioned recently as “negotiators” for the palace in ousting the “Thaksin regime.” Many of them first became activist – if that is the right word for these geriatrics – this time around when the so-called “anti-government People’s Army” mentioned “the names of 30 high-ranking officials, including military men, who back the group in its campaign to bring down the Thaksin [Shinawatra] regime.” The names listed then were:

The group, led by Admiral Chai Suwannaphap, Thaikorn Polsuwan and General Preecha Iamsupan, held a press conference announcing the names of supporters. These include former Army chief General Wimol Wongwanit, former supreme commander General Saiyud Kerdphol, former Air Force chief ACM Kan Pimanthip, and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian. Prasong Soonsiri, former chief of the National Security Council, would act as adviser.

We are unsure who the woman in the photo is, although a reader suggests it is one of Chai-Anan’s collaborators.

This geriatric lot might have been Thailand’s future in 1973, when they were younger and were the elite’s ideas men. Now they are just old men with nothing to make but political mischief in support of the elite of the past.





This is for the king III

3 02 2014

Our third post in this series is prompted by a story at the Wall Street Journal. This account is of anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban masterminding the concoction – yes, we know we are using this word a lot – of yet another republican conspiracy that attempts to make use of the monarchy against Thaksin Shinawatra.

Suthep is a master of these conspiratorial claims, none of which have ever been proven to have any facts associated with them in the past.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban answers questions during a news conference in BangkokTo be sure, perhaps more than any politician since Pridi Phanomyong, Thaksin has cause to be a republican. The royalists and the palace have certainly sent plenty of trouble his way.

Suthep has been dogged in his claims of Thaksin-led republican plots for several years. He’s mentioned the Finland Plot, manufactured by PAD ideologues, referred to a Taksin Plan, and presided over the bizarre and concocted diagram of an anti-monarchy plot headed by Thaksin.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Perhaps desperate, Suthep has been at it again.

On Saturday, the WSJ says Suthep targeted Thaksin with yet another accusation that Thaksin is “organizing a militant group including several former communist leaders with a mission to overthrow the revered monarchy.”

Suthep mischievously added: “The intention was to transform Thailand into a republic with himself as President Thaksin…”.

As the WSJ says, this “is incendiary stuff in Thailand,” but then so many people have heard it so often from Suthep that they may just mentally file it under “deranged conspiracy theory.” The WSJ notes that Thaksin repeatedly denies these accusations. It adds:

Suthep’s decision to voice the allegations underscores the stakes which the country’s political power brokers are playing for as the king enters what could be the twilight of his reign.

“Could be”? What? He’s going on forever? Sure, Thais who have been indoctrinated about the king’s political and moral role may be worried by succession, but if that process is now fraught with uncertainty, then the palace can only blame itself for screwing up  the succession by its open involvement in politics on the anti-democrat side.





Politics and the succession question

18 01 2014

A reader drew PPT’s collective attention to a recent, lavishly illustrated National Geographic story on Thailand. Part of the URL is revealing of the story: thailand-red-yellow-shirts-thaksin-bhumibol-insurgency-bangkok-world/. The sections that most interested us were on the monarchy.

National Geographic has a long history of support for the monarchy, born first of crude Orientalism and later of Cold War activism. Not that long ago, National Geographic teamed up with STG Multimedia to commodify king and royalism. They essentially re-packaged a bunch of old clips about the king. As we noted then, National Geographic was involved in propagandizing for the monarchy, and PPT has a PDF of a 1973 memo of comments from then U.S. Ambassador Leonard Unger to William Graves at National Geographic. Unger was the link to the palace as a story on the royals was constructed to the palace’s satisfaction. The embassy and the palace essentially dictated how the magazine should frame its story for best effect and when Unger states that he is “confident that the magnitude of your efforts … will not be lost on the palace” seems to explain the relationship.

Wax kingThe present article has quite a bit on the monarchy, and those who subscribe to royal conspiracies will be able to make quite a bit of the attention to Princess Sirindhorn, especially in the context of the sub-header: “A bitter struggle for control of the government is compounded by uncertainty over the future of the monarchy.” The story states:

On December 5, King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 86th birthday, the protests abruptly, but temporarily, stopped. All Thais, it was evident, instinctively recognized that violent demonstrations were absolutely off-limits for the moment: too disrespectful.

Well, only the anti-democrats were demonstrating, and as they are royalists, of course they’d stop for the purpose of having the “big boss” heard and demonstrate their “respect,” but many others couldn’t have cared less and hate the treacle associated with these events. In any case, the king’s incoherence due to he apparent dementia, showed all that this king, while he might cling to life, has already faded to the background. Even Sirindhorn told the author that her father was “frail, so we must be careful with him.” Others are steering the palace. Hence, this makes sense:

Questions about who will succeed King Bhumibol—who is sick, and after 67 years on the throne, the only monarch most have ever known—adds a layer of complexity to the ongoing political struggle and the country’s worrisome outlook. His designated heir, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, is widely disliked.

In further discussion, in red shirt areas, this quote says much about conflicts:

By courting the masses and then delivering on his promises, Thaksin [Shinawatra] won the kind of adoration once reserved solely for the demigodly King Bhumibol.

ThaksinThe politicization that came from Thaksin’s period is clear in the quote from one villager:

Kullakarn said she had lived most of her 42 years taking little interest in politics, but that changed after Thaksin came to power in 2001. “As a farmer, I benefited from his policies, including getting a better price for my rice,” she said. “Most Thais voted for him, not once but twice. When the army overthrew him, I realized that something was wrong.”

That adds to the fear amongst those associated with the palace’s tribute and profit system.

The conversation then returned to the monarchy:

Most stunning to Kullakarn was what did not happen [after the coup and in red shirt demonstrations]. The king was nowhere to be seen, his voice unheard. “If you ask if we love the king, yes, we do,” Kullakarn told me. “But today there is some distance between the king and his people—us. He was the only one who could have stopped the crackdown, but he didn’t say anything.” She said people want to know why the king treats yellow shirts and red shirts differently, why he didn’t help. “We want to ask the king questions but can’t, because lèse-majesté stops us from having direct dialogue with the palace. We’re afraid of it.”

 On the political use of the lese majeste law, the story states: “… the lèse-majesté law appears to be backfiring. Once sacrosanct, the royal family is now subjected to online insults and accusations.” A devoted yellow-shirt responds on this and explains why Thaksin is a threat to the monarchy:

Chumseri conceded that some Thais, particularly leftist intellectuals, had been criticizing the royal family throughout Bhumibol’s 67 years on the throne. “But it was never organized,” she said. “Now everyone knows Thaksin wants all the power for himself, so his very existence encourages lèse-majesté.”

VajiralongkornThe conclusion of the story is with Sirindhorn:

She is thought of throughout the country as the sole member of the royal family above reproach. Many call her “angel.” If the king chooses Sirindhorn instead of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, she’ll become Thailand’s first ever female ruler. Sirindhorn was noncommittal about the question of succession.

There it is for the conspiricists: she is “non-committal” when the law is that the succession is with the prince. Is this more reflection of a palace battle?

The author gets a little pointed:Sirindhorn “Why … at this late stage in the king’s highly regarded reign, were so many ordinary Thais speaking out against him—something that rarely used to happen or at least was kept from the public?” This isn’t quite true. As we have tried to document in our pages, there has been a history criticism. It is true that before social media it was much harder to circulate criticisms. Sirindhorn notes this:

“People have more and more ideas…. The social media have made these ideas more widespread. But I don’t think we should care much about it. The Buddha taught that you shouldn’t think it’s a big deal if anyone says bad things.”

Yet that isn’t the point of lese majeste, which is not to prevent “bad things” being said, but seeks to prevent all criticism, true or not, and anything that doesn’t suit the decades of royal posterior polishing hagiography. More to the point, lese majeste is meant to dull criticism of the palace’s tribute and profit system, including the political alliance of conservative royalism and military authoritarianism.

The author then says Sirindhorn said: “I don’t think it is possible to force people to love you.” She’s speaking colloquially but she’s wrong. If she isn’t, she’s involved in an enormous, expensive and deceitful scam. We’d ask why has the palace, the military and various governments invested so much – hundreds of billions of baht – in trying to achieve this end?  Why all the billboards, all the schoolroom propaganda, all the television propaganda, the hagiographies that are provided with official funding, and all the rest? What all of this has been about is the establishment of royalist dominance, including its ideological hegemony.

We are sure others can make more out of this interview and the succession issue than we can.





Dueling oligarchs and settling old scores

7 01 2014

In some of the analysis of the events around the 2006 palace-military coup, there was a line of argument that considered the political struggle to be between dueling elites, with Thaksin Shinawatra representing one side – new capital, perhaps – and the palace, king and Crown Property Bureau representing old capital.

In the Bangkok Post about a month ago, there was a set of stories that might add to this line of analysis. The first story was about “former Democrat Party secretary-general” Suthep Thaugsuban, now the frontman for the anti-democracy movement, and his family.

PPT was intrigued to learn that Suthep’s wife is Srisakul Promphan. Back in 2009, The Nation described her this way:

The case of Srisakul Promphan, mistress of Deputy Prime minister and Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, has also been the rounds.

Suthep did not file an asset declaration for Srisakul to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, saying they were not married. The opposition plans to take up the morality of this on the floor of the House.Suthep and wife

Srisakul, a former star of Chulalongkorn University, is the sister of PM’s secretary-general and Democrat deputy leader Niphon Promphan and divorced from Porntep Techapaibul, a former Democrat who is now in the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party.

A Facebook post states that her first marriage was to Krit Rattanarak, but we are unable to confirm this.Also unconfirmed is a statement at New Mandala that one of the Promphans bunked in with Prince Vajiralongkorn when students in Australia.

Suthep is obviously well-connected, with this photo (left) showing, from left, Niran Promphan, Sukanya Promphan, Suthikiati Chirathivat, Danapat Promphan, Thippawan Limsakdakul, Suthep Thaugsuban, Srisakul Promphan, Suthichai Chirathivat, Teevee Limsakdakul, Virat Limsakdakul, and Supatra Chirathivat.

Add together the names Tejapaibul, Ratanarak and Chirathivat, and some of the biggest Sino-Thai capitalists are connected to Suthep and his family, itself having large holdings and big businesses in the south.

Sutheps linksDescribed in the Post story as “[h]is wife,” Srisakul is said to have strongly supported Suthep, as have “their children from the couple’s previous marriages.” For example:

Mrs Srisakul’s son, Akanat Promphan, is close to his step-father. He has resigned as a Democrat Party MP along with Mr Suthep to lead the protesters and works as Mr Suthep’s personal secretary, according to a source close to the family….

Before he became an MP for the first time, Mr Akanat worked as Mr Suthep’s political secretary….

Tan Thaugsuban, Mr Suthep’s eldest biological son, serves as his father’s bodyguard at the protest site.

The source said normally Mr Tan takes care of his family’s Sri Suban farm and other businesses in the southern province of Surat Thani.

Perhaps the big business connections are a reason why the protesters have “many food stands are sponsored by protest leaders and financiers,” and why they “have mountains of donated goods _ from drinking water to gas masks to swimming goggles to rice sacks.”

However, if dueling capitalists is not the motivation one seeks for explaining anti-democracy, how about long-held royalist hatred of anyone seen to diminish the charisma, political and economic power of the monarchy.  The same Post story says that:

Given the political upheaval, the Krairiksh siblings _ Democrat Party MP for Phitsanulok Juti and his sister, senator Pikulkaew _ feel there is no better time to dust off their grandfather’s book and have it reprinted.

Authored by “Lt Jongkol Krairiksh, a former deputy House speaker and a three-time MP for Phitsanulok, under the pseudonym ‘Saowarak’,” the book is a royalist account of the 1932 Revolution by a man who “arrested and imprisoned for 11 years for his involvement in the Baworndej [Boworadej] revolt,” a restorationist  rebellion supported by King Prajadhipok in 1933. The book whitewashes the event and paints democracy as chaotic.

Old feuds get replayed in current contexts.





Royalist propaganda

5 01 2014

PPT has made a few comments recently on the domestic media and the work of anti-democracy propagandists like Veera Prateepchaikul and Thanong Khanthong. We haven’t commented too much on royalist and anti-democracy propagandists who are popping up in the international media, except to briefly mention royalist dolts like Stephen B. Young and extremists who have latched onto Thailand as a site for bizarre rants disguised as commentary.

In recent days, several readers have passed on more of the international propaganda that is being cranked up by the royalist anti-democracy campaigners in Thailand. As with much of this stuff, it tells a story that is not meant to be accurate or factual. Rather its purpose is to establish a discourse that “proves” the anti-democrats’ claims and program.

Interestingly, some of this is by exactly the same “friends of Thailand” who were prodded into action to defend the 2006 military coup and the actions of the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government that used military force to smash the red shirts in 2010.  Like Young, these propagandists are those who have had long connections with the palace and monarchy. Indicative of this is David Van Praagh, a former professor and former Canadian Globe and Mail correspondent in South and Southeast Asia who is the author of Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M. R. Seni Pramoj. The book is a hagiography of a prince and royalist politician who was one of the founders of the Democrat Party.

His recent piece in the Globe and Mail was under the headline “Why Thailand is crucial to democracy in Asia.” It is about “royalist democracy,” and seems somewhat awkwardly twinned with a far more scurrilous fairy tale on democracy at YouTube, apparently produced by people so closely connected to events that Thaksin becomes Tharksin, with Thaksin and his cronies being elected by uneducated, dumb or bought peasants and – this is a surprise – controls the military, police and independent agencies. Ho hum, but it tells the story of why democracy doesn’t exist in Thailand and why it is that pro-Thaksin parties have won every national election since 2001 but that this is wrong and bad.

Van Praagh does argue that his favorite Democrat Party should stand in the upcoming election. That’s all well and good, except that it is too late for this. He also seems to miss the point that the Democrat Party is now in the hands of extremists. Yet van Praagh lives in a different political world that wants the monarchy to be something it isn’t. The extremists in the Democrat Party know that they must grab the future. So while van Praagh supports “democracy” it is a “democracy” that is monarchist.

He begins his op-ed with a complete nonsense:

But Thais never learned from farangs (foreigners) how to make democracy work. Instead they have endured a long series of military coups, corrupt politicians and, at especially critical times, pro-democracy intervention by the revered constitutional monarch Bhumiphol Adulyadej.

Should we point out that the monarchy’s interventions have been some of the most anti-democratic? Think of 1976. Think of 2006. Think of the monarchy’s long support of military dictatorships. Should we point out that Thais don’t need to be taught about democracy by foreigners?

His perspective is colored by his prejudices:

One group, led by wealthy exiled Sino-Thai profiteer Thaksin Shinawatra, whose younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra is Prime Minister in his absence, thrives politically as well as economically on corruption – routinely paying poor rice-growing farmers for their votes.

Vote-buying? Really? There are still people who believe this after all of the recent commentary that has shown this claim to be a “dangerous nonsense.” Note the claim that Thaksin is a rich Sino-Thai profiteer and compare this with the description of Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is mistakenly taken to be somehow critical for the “other group” in this conflict:

… growing out of the middle-class Prachatipat or Democrat Party founded in 1946, has in effect thrown away this vital credential by opposing and even planning to disrupt a Feb. 2 parliamentary election called by Yingluck, who has rejected a postponement proposed by Thailand’s Election Commission.

Led by Oxford-educated Abbisit Vejjajiva, the Democrats have turned their back on democracy by following dissident Suthep Thaugsuban, who favors a non-elected national council.

Perhaps Abhisit could also be described as an elitist Sino-Thai who has never really worked, having been groomed for wealth and power? Perhaps the Democrat Party can also be accused of vote-buying, when the military poured funds into coalition constituencies in the last election? And the claim that the Democrat Party is a party of democracy is a claim that simply cannot be maintained when its long history of royalist support for coups and military rule are considered. In fact, Abhisit is the most recent in a line of anti-democratic Democrat Party leaders.

Van Praagh then comes up with a series of nonsensical claims:

The underlying assumption among Thais is that Yingluck and her ironically named Clean Thai Party will win another election.

The first claim is true enough, but “Clean Thai”? We think the author has been watching the propaganda video above, where the Puea Thai Party – For Thai Party – is referred to as the “Pure Thai Party.”

If she does, and brings back Thaksin under an amnesty – the first reason for anti-Thaksin street demonstrations – the so far laid-back army is likely to take matters into its own hands, reviving the tradition of military coups by again deposing the Shinawatra family. The army commander has neither accepted nor rejected the possibility of another coup.

For a start, PPT does not believe that an election will be completed and a government formed from it. But that’s our guess.The amnesty is pretty much dead and a coup is likely.

Living in a fantasy world, van Praagh opines:

If Prachatipat does not return to its senses and its roots, and does not win the early February election, Thailand’s democracy landscape will be all but barren.

Win? Really?

This will have an adverse impact on other Southeast Asian nations aspiring to genuine democracy, especially Indonesia with its army in waiting, and the Philippines with its gap between rich and poor much greater than Thailand’s.

Moreover, setbacks for democracy in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific will provide grist for the mill of China’s expansionism, with Southeast Asia its first regional target for anti-democracy statist regimes. Thailand’s Thaksin, for example, has strong ties to Beijing.

The extremists and the anti-democracy lot reckon that Thaksin is an ally of a secretive U.S. alliance to tie Thailand into a global capitalist plutocracy. But then there is a long royal discourse on nasty Chinese capitalist who only become Thai by their allegiance to the king, and by funding his quirky projects and ideas. Thaksin is anti-royal and therefore not a “good Chinese,” but an evil one:

Thaksin, the root of Thailand’s troubles, also claims he owes allegiance to King Bhumiphol. Many Thais do not believe him, and they may also be swayed by the sharp drop in Thailand’s economy, particularly the decline in exports of rice.

We have no idea how the rice bit adds to the royal stuff, but plenty of farmers like the rice support scheme. To hammer the “bad Chinese” bit home, van Praagh makes the obvious point:

Presumably, the king does not believe Thaksin either. He has publicly excoriated Thaksin for corruption. That was before he was compelled for health reasons to suspend the role he had created of mediator of last resort in Thai politics. But after four years in hospital, and while anti-Thaksin demonstrations were going on, King Bhumiphol, looking healthy on his 86th birthday, drove with Queen Sirikit to his palace on the ocean near Bangkok.

He then gets to his point. Only the king can deliver democracy and “save the nation”:

The king’s appearance during the latest Thai crisis clearly sent a signal. It was not clear immediately what the signal is. But many Thais who have yearned for democracy for decades strongly hope that Bhumiphol is reasserting his role when he banished autocratic governments in 1973 and 1992, and thereby saved the nation.

Frankly, we think the palace learned a lot from its identification with the 2006 coup. It wants to stay behind the scenes. Indeed, both the king and queen are weak and doddery yet we have little reason to think that they are not supporting the anti-democrats. Van Praagh’s op-ed seems to suggest just this, calling for what the protesters say is absolute democracy with the king as revered head of state.





Glee over anarchy

3 01 2014

PPT almost never cites The Nation’s ASTV-like op-ed writer Thanong Khanthong, except when the point is to illustrate the extreme anti-democratic position. Reluctantly, we do it again, as his most recent gleeful scribbling tells the story of the next couple of weeks.

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the people’s uprising [PPT: sic. he means the umpteenth attempt to throw out an elected government], has set January 13 as the day for a Bangkok shutdown. The momentum is in his favour. [PPT: just this once, we agree with him]

… Supporters from other provinces have been arriving in the capital since before New Year, joining Bangkokians in preparing for the shutdown. Whistles will be blown by the millions as the capital is shut down to force the removal of Yingluck. [PPT: notice the words used refer to a "removal"] We are about to witness a classic people’s revolution against a government that has lost all moral and political legitimacy. [PPT: it remains unclear how this is a "people's movement" when the consensus is that the majority would still vote for Yingluck, if given a chance]

To stage a people’s revolution without ripping up the Constitution, the number of people on the streets does matter. [PPT: of course, the movement is entirely about another illegal and amoral removal of a popularly-elected government] And Suthep has millions from various walks of life behind him. An unprecedented number of more than a million anti-government protesters showed up on November 24. [PPT: recall that this movement denigrates numbers when they are associated with landslide election victories] But the record was broken again on December 9 – the day Yingluck Shinawatra caved in by declaring a House dissolution. [PPT: compromise is capitualtion in the eyes of the anti-democrats] The people [PPT: propgandists always claim to speak for "the people"] now want back the rights and power they had temporarily given to the government. They do not need a military coup. Unarmed and peaceful, they can reclaim sovereignty over the country from a tyrant government that has proved to be working against the interests of the people. The learning curve will be tough. But democracy will have to be earned the hard way. If the people want to change the country, they have to take action rather than praying for a miracle. [PPT: oddly, he is pessimistic about the military (or monarchy) stepping in. PPT reckons an intervention - military, judicial or palace - is increasingly likely, especially as the military brass is opposing an emergency decree; this is not that different to its failure to respond to airport occupations in 2008]

… If the Yingluck government were to be toppled, it would not only wipe out the political and business interests of the Shinawatras but would also upset the geopolitical interests of the US. [PPT: this indicates how the leadership of the anti-democracy movement and its propagandists have been swayed by the rants of extremists] It is an open secret that the US has already “handcuffed” the Thai government into allowing it to revive the U-tapao military base. Thailand is an important Asian ally in Washington’s campaign to contain China. Oil deals in the Gulf of Thailand are also on the table, not to mention security arrangements in the South China Sea, and the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade area. That is why the US has openly intervened in Thai affairs by calling on the people to honour the February 2 election. The international media have also been parroting this line of pseudo-democracy, which would extend the tenure of the corrupt Shinawatra regime. [PPT: this again indicates how anti-democracy propagandists have been swayed by the rants of extremists]

[PPT: Thanong then sets out the scenario for the protesters] … Bangkok will be shut down for several days. Suthep has hinted that 10 or 20 days of uprising could finish off the caretaker government. This would pave the way to ending the Thaksin regime once and for all. The people plan to fall back on Article 3 of the Constitution to declare they have taken sovereign power back from Yingluck. There are strong legal and constitutional grounds for doing so: the Yingluck government lost its morality and legitimacy by introducing an amnesty bill to whitewash corruption and those with charged with serious criminal acts. [PPT: he refers to a bill that was defeated before it became law] It also attempted to amend the Constitution to consolidate its power over the Senate. [PPT: amending the constitution is entirely legal and aimed at implementing a long-held election promise to make the senate more democratic, as it was before the 2006 military-palace coup] When the Constitutional Court ruled against that amendment, the Yingluck government and members of the ruling party publicly declared they would not accept the ruling. This blatant challenge to judicial power rendered the government obsolete. [PPT: as far as we are aware, disagreeing with a court decision is not yet grounds for dissolving a government]

After the people invoke their sovereign power as per Article 3 of the Constitution, they will resort to the extraordinary measures afforded by Article 7 to seek royal endorsement for the appointment of an interim prime minister and government. [PPT: neither article of the constitution is considered appropriate for the current situation. However, we have no doubt that, should the anti-democracy lot get hold of government, no law will constrain them] A people’s council will then be formed to lay down foundations for comprehensive reform to end corruption and set Thailand back on the path of genuine democracy. [PPT: he means that the rules of politics will (again) be changed to allow the minority supporting the anti-democracy movement to retain power] This is how events will play out in the coming weeks. Nobody knows the outcome, but the scene could turn ugly. The certainty is that Yingluck and her supporters will not relinquish power easily. [PPT: in fact, the Yingluck government has made several compromises; it is the anti-democracy movement and its Democrat Party that have refused to compromise or accept the results of elections]

Contrast Thanong’s views with those of an entirely less gleeful editorial at the Jakarta Post:

Thailand is sliding into anarchy, which from experience has meant intervention.

Following a spell of military rule, elections will be called or, more likely, forced on the caretakers. A government could also be appointed via some constitutional artifice.

What follows has not varied much – dissatisfaction over blatant or exaggerated misrule brings the establishment class and the masses into open conflict again, to be resolved temporarily by applying a variation of the old formula. The polarisation in the stand-off between the Puea Thai government and the Democrat Party-inspired insurrection shows that the country is more divided than ever – but mind the attendant dangers.

Will Thailand ever get off the wearying cycle of self-flagellation? Its Asean partners admire the Thai insouciance and the nation’s immense gifts, but are dismayed the country is being torn apart by feudal notions of class distinction, demonstrated in an inability to acknowledge the existence and interests of the other.

The worry is that a Thailand that continues on this course would destroy itself, with Asean the loser. If the election called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not produce an outcome that is accepted by all Thais, are there alternatives?

Indefinite military rule is anathema to most Thais as it is unnatural, unwanted, and its past record has not been exemplary. A grand coalition, or a government of national unity, is an idea that could be explored, however far-fetched it may sound.

But Thailand’s party political tradition is not strong, and it lacks enough leaders of vision and unquestioned devotion to the idea of equal opportunity. As for rule by the unelected, it could never hold for lack of majority consent.

Would a return to an absolute monarchy be acceptable, as the royal house commands respect while past civilian and military choices have mostly been disappointing? But after the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is over, how the Thais would regard such a scenario is unknown.

There is another unspeakable, remote possibility – civil war that could lead to a break-up of the kingdom. The present deadlock is different in that there is little room for compromise.

The elites insist on a right to rule, whichever form it takes. The pro-government red shirts, who have felt patronised and put upon, have spoken the first murmurs about secession if a re-elected Puea Thai party were cast aside, or an unelected claque [PPT: clique] were foisted on them. If the election is disrupted or put off, or results that favour the incumbents are voided, Thailand will have entered a fateful phase.





Updated: Suthep’s call

9 12 2013

We thought readers might find the demands of the anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban of interest. It is easy to see the influence of years of People’s Alliance for Democracy and yellow-shirted “academics” at work. Note that this is sent out as a Declaration. We add some comments in brackets:

Issued: 9 DEC 2013

Declaration 1 / 2013

People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)

It has become clearly evident that the government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the ruling Pheu Thai Party, has exercised its powers under the influence and direction of Thaksin Shinawatra, an escaped and convicted criminal [Democrat Party-speak since 2008], currently in exile. This puppet government has abused its executive power, acted unlawfully, and blatantly violated the Thai Constitution [this is why the Constitutional Court's decision was so critical to the plan to overthrow the government], reinforced at every step by the Pheu Thai Party’s abuse of legislative majority in the lower and upper houses of parliament. Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, in its capacity both as the executive and through its dominance of the legislature, has distorted the principles and spirit of democracy in its acquisition and consolidation of unconstitutional power as follows:

First

The government and the Pheu Thai and coalition parties’ lower house representatives and senate members under its leadership, have amended the Constitution [they did not amend it; rather they passed a bill in parliament that, under the constitution should have been made into law, but was blocked by the constitutional court] in an attempt to demolish the underlying constitutional principle of checks and balances between separate branches of government [this is nonsense; the law was about the legislature and making it fully elected. The opponents don't like elections]. This attempt was undertaken by abusing the parliamentary majority in a tyrannical manner despite widespread, repeated protests from all factions of the Thai public that the government and Pheu Thai Party claim to represent [this is  fabrication. The bill was debated in parliament and protests on this bill were very small. "Tyrannical" appears to refer to a normal parliamentary procedure that limits "filibustering"]. This amendment was found by the Constitution Court to violate the constitution both substantively and procedurally. Substantively, the amendment demolishes the constitutionally mandated balance between the lower and upper houses as well as that between the legislative and executive branches [this is untrue]. Procedurally, the amendment process was undertaken in an unconstitutional manner because votes were retroactively counted and the right of parliamentary representatives to debate the draft amendment were cut short. Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and lower and upper house representatives have therefore destroyed public trust by abusing their parliamentary majority in a tyrannical, undemocratic manner, unpracticed by and unheard of by civilized nations [this is a propaganda point].

Subsequently, the Constitution Court ruled that these actions undermined the rule of law and democratic principles and amounted to an attempt to obtain authority in a manner violating the Constitution. Despite its awareness that the Constitution Court’s findings bind parliament, the cabinet, courts, and all state organs, in accordance with Article 216, paragraph 5 of the Constitution. The government, through the Prime Minister, knowingly, deliberately, and urgently submitted the draft amendment for Royal approval. Furthermore, the speaker of the house of representatives, the speaker of the senate, along with the minister of the interior who is obligated to uphold domestic laws and peace — all under the influence of the Pheu Thai Party – blatantly rejected the Constitution Court’s ruling. This rejection is in and of itself a clear and intentional violation of the Constitution, and serves to simultaneously destroy the rule of law and elevate the government and its parliamentary allies above the constitution and supreme law of the land. [as we have shown time and again, this Court practices politics, not law]

Second

The Amnesty Bill supported by Yingluck’s government and its allies is an abomination [on this, we agree, and it is gone, defeated in parliament and withdrawn as well]. The lower house of representatives, under the tyranny of the parliamentary majority [PAD-speak], urgently passed the Amnesty Bill to whitewash convicted criminals and acts of malfeasance and graft retrospectively from 2004 onwards and also to absolve the illegal acts and 2,873 murders related to the fight against drugs in southern Thailand, specifically benefitting Thaksin Shinawatra. Not only does the Amnesty Bill violate Pheu Thai’s vow to the public to limit the bill’s scope to assist politically-motivated protestors during the civil unrest of 2010, it contravenes international principles and agreements to which Thailand subscribes [not that such things ever bothered Suthep when his party was in power; it is the usual double standards], such as the the UN Convention against Corruption and the principle against granting immunity to state officials committing human rights violations, on which the UN Commissioner for Human Rights issued a warning statement [which Suthep and his lot repeatedly ignored on things like lese majeste when in power]. Much like its attempt to unlawfully amend the Constitution, the government and its parliamentary representatives’ push for the Amnesty Bill abuses public trust by exploiting its majority position, and is further evidence of the government’s dissolution of the separation of executive and legislative powers despite the Prime Minister’s repeated portrayals otherwise.

Third

Since 2010 the government has disregarded illegal acts of violence committed by its supporters [well, they were only elected in August 2011 - fixed typo - and the courts released red shirts jailed by Abhisit and Suthep for lack of evidence; at the same time, under them, charges against PAD went nowhere and were ignored], even discriminately compensating them for their transgressions. Most recently, the government turned a blind eye to evidence of actions by law enforcement-related operatives resulting in hundreds of injuries and in some cases, deaths, of innocent and unarmed Ramkhamheang University students peacefully protesting the government on 1 December 2013 [this is PDRC's fantasy "history" of those events, still under investigation]. In addition, the government has provided monetary compensation for civilians affected by civil unrest in 2010 above and beyond that granted to soldiers, policeman and civil servants under similar circumstances. The government’s discriminatory exercise of its authority runs counter to democratic principles and plain decency.

Fourth

The government, in conjunction with its tyrannical parliamentary majority PAD-speak], has acted to deeply divide Thai society into pro vs. anti-government factions [in fact, it was the military-palace coup, PAD, the Abhisit government and PDRC that has done this], and to permanently entrench such division in every manner. In addition to provoking acts of violence against government opponents previously mentioned, its own defiance of the judiciary – particularly its rejection of the Constitution Court’s rulings and jurisdiction (except those rulings beneficial to the government) – has served to encourage its supporters to threaten individuals and organs criticizing the government as well, including the justices of the Constitution Court who ruled against the constitutional amendment recently passed by parliament [we have seen no evidence of this]. The government’s hypocritical approach is deeply damaging to the rule of law in Thailand.

Fifth

The systemic cronyism employed by the government is an abuse and misuse of executive authority. Corrupt, inexperienced, and incompetent officials who support the government and the Thaksin regime without question are regularly promoted to positions of power over their honest, competent peers who dare question government policies and actions. This cronyism further serves Thaksin, resulting in irreparable damage to meritocracy and good governance, taking the bureaucracy backwards towards a feudal patronage system. [it is the PAD and PDRC that covet a feudal past; the evidence of cronyism is limited and less than under the Abhisit government]

Sixth

This government was involved in widespread corruption in its administrative governance. Through its populist policies, it allowed policy-led corruption [PAD-speak] to negatively affect the country’s interests and on its economy, [c]ausing damage to the country’s financial and budgeting systems. The resulting massive increase in public debt and adverse effect on the country’s credibility and decreased competitiveness. The failed “Rice Scheme”, was wrought with corruption in its process and caused over two hundred billion Baht in damages. The “Water Management Plan” will involve more policy corruptions and will put Thailand more deeply in debt. Its 2.2 trillion Baht debt scheme, voted illegally through parliament, will lead to more corrupt practices, administrative failures and compound the country and the Thai people to indebtedness [these are Democrat Party claims that seem to have no substantial evidentiary support]. These blatant corrupt policies were undertaken with impunity by this government, not in the interest of the nation, but for the benefit of Thaksin Shinawatra and his family [PAD-speak, lacking evidence].

Therefore, PDRC, comprised of Thai Citizens from all walks of life, cannot allow the political tyranny under the guise of majority rule and crony, monopolistic capitalism, collude to use parliamentary dictatorship to betray the trust of the people, destroy the balance of democratic and sovereign power, and to commit acts to assume and consolidate power contrary to democratic traditions and values [we assume they mean "Thai-style democracy"]. When a sitting government, whose responsibility is to uphold the public’s interest, betrays the trust of its people and uses its powers for the personal benefits and gains of Thaksin, his family and cronies, such a government clearly violates the social contract between the people and itself. Therefore the people have the right to reject the authority of these representatives. [as they did in the 2011 election, legally throwing out Abhisit and Suthep's tainted government; claiming a legal basis to overthrowing the elected government is bizarre]

Therefore, as Article 3 of the Thai Constitution states, “the Sovereign Power Resides with the Thai People”, we hereby declare that we, as people who aspire for justice and freedom, have come together in a show of power unprecedented in Thai history, have the duty to protect the principles of democracy and the constitution. We therefore exercise our rights to reclaim our sovereign power from the said political groups back to the Thai people. Through this People’s Reformation, we, the people have chosen to act to reform the country, eliminate the damaging effects of corruption, and ensure justice and fairness to all sectors of society.

PDRC will fully respect our sovereign obligations and continue to maintain good relations with all states and international organizations.

We ask for the cooperation of all Thais in building a future which is free, fair and peaceful for future generations to come.

It is interesting that the monarchy is completely missing, despite the symbolism of the monarchy in the demonstrations.

Update: A reader asks what the anti-government movement does when the king has already signed off on the election day. Is the lack of mention of the king a kind of rebellion now that the king is seen as ineffective for them?

Another reader points out that the War on Drugs data is the usual incorrect data on the number killed. We agree and we should have pointed this out as a matter of fact.








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