Bringing Prem back in

13 07 2014

Practised posterior polisher Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow is perhaps the appropriate person to bring Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanond back into open politics.

Of course, after the palace’s terrible political miscalculation of the 2006 military-palace coup, where Prem and his co-conspirators in the military and Privy Council were shown to have been directly involved in planning and implementing the coup. This mistake was compounded for the monarchy when the king and queen met the junta almost immediately and in person.

Everyone who watched knew that this was a coup the palace wanted and helped bring about. When politics became more complicated and divided, these mistakes and miscalculations became the grist of the political mill, severely damaging the monarchy and requiring the massive use of lese majeste and related laws to repress anti-monarchy sentiment.

So when the planning was underway for the 2014 coup – for years, according to one source who should know – the military and palace decided that the latter had to be quiet and operate behind the scenes. Quiet, seemingly disconnected, and saving a ton of face and a little remaining political capital.

Now that the coup is done and the military dictatorship firmly repressing dissent, rigging the future of politics and smashing red shirt organization, the palace is being brought back in.

The Bangkok Post reports that the leader of the royalist faction is being wheeled out to support dictatorship. Prem “has been invited to visit China to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries…”. What better way to mark a return of the boss than to have him make the links to other authoritarian regimes.

Bottom buffer Sihasak “said he was informed by the Chinese government about the invitation, which he claimed reflected the close and long-standing relationship between the countries.”

The dictatorship wants to make this event a big deal as it will be portrayed as a big deal for a regime that is pretty much isolated except from other authoritarians and dictators.

There will be “another exchange of high-level visits, including a royal visit.” Both Chulabhorn and  Sirindhorn have long links with the authoritarian regime in China, so one or both of them will continue that link. Sirindhorn has been the favored propagandist for China in Thailand.

Sihasak threatened the recalcitrant West, stating: “Thailand is ready to work with any country that wants to cooperate, but a true friend is a friend in tough times.” The palace seems ever ready to support authoritarianism at home and abroad.

Prayuth for PM

19 06 2014

PPT has watched many of the statements made about elections and the dictators and came to the conclusion that the Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has learned the lesson of failed military coup leader and would-be premier General Suchinda Kraprayoon. Suchinda led the 1991 coup against the allegedly corrupt elected government led by Chatichai Choonhavan.

The lesson? Back in 1991, Suchinda claimed the military was unsullied by the black economy, despite considerable evidence of border trading, gun-running, drug trading, human trafficking and so on, declared that he would never become prime minister. Following election is 1992, he did become prime minister. The backlash was huge and led to Black May.

The Dictator Prayuth has not made the mistake of stating that he will not be prime minister in the future. So it is no surprise that the Bangkok Post reports that:

Most military officers have come to believe National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will take the position of prime minister when he retires in September.

Interestingly, the Post refers to “possible lessons from previous coups [that] may persuade the NCPO chief to take the top administrative job.” The Post claims that the “unofficial rule of coups” is that “a coup-maker should never be prime minister,” which is an erroneous claim made by ignoring the real and actual history of coups in Thailand. However, the lesson that Prayuth is said to have drawn from the most recent putsches is this:

Look back at the coup-installed interim civilian governments, one headed by Anand Panyarachun in 1991, and the other by Gen Surayud Chulanont in 2006. They both refused to be the coup-makers’ puppets and stayed independent from the military.

The Surayud government probably doesn’t fit in the same category as Anand as it was so somnolent and incompetent.However, both Anand and Surayud were very close to the palace. In this sense, if Prayuth is tracking a different model, he may be doing that with the palace as well.

That said, the Post’s claim to speak for all of Thailand may be stupid and arrogant, but the suggestion of a military assertiveness that should worry those who aspire for a democratic Thailand:

Confidence in Gen Prayuth is overwhelming. Many Thais think we are in dire need of a strong, decisive leader to “sweep and clean” the country before we return to a democracy with general elections.

Gen Prayuth’s supporters include the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and its allies as well as the yellow shirts who want the NCPO to root out the so-called Thaksin regime.

Also in this camp are those “colour-neutral” people who are fed up with long-standing political conflicts. They wholeheartedly welcomed the coup when it was staged on May 22.

…In their view, Gen Prayuth is a hero who has freed the country from its troubles. Now people look to the general in hope as a stream of petitions floods his office.

In our view, there was never any doubt that Prayuth was doing the yellow shirts’ work, but in the past, the mobilized were expected to go home and let the “new regime” get on with their work. Not this time.

The military dictators, believing their own propaganda, reckon they and Prayuth are popular. So it is that Deputy NCPO leader ACM Prajin Jantong said that it will decide who will be the next premier: “The NCPO will listen to the people, including the media, about who should be the next prime minister and whether Gen Prayuth should be the choice.”

The report says Prayuth “seems fully confident in his ability to solve the nation’s problems.” That his retirement coincides with the estimated time for haveing a new premier cannot be an accident, and if there is insufficient fixing of election rules reform, then an election may be a long time away, meaning a dictatorial premier could stay on for a very long time. And it isn’t just Dictator Prayuth:

Some believe army men will be offered cabinet posts, and regard the appointment of the supreme commander and other top brass to various roles under the coup regime as a warm-up for the jobs they are likely to get in coming months after they retire.

As the article explains:

It’s clear the NCPO has learned from past coups — not the lesson against seizing power, but the need to exploit its power under the coup to bring about change.

It has also decided against limiting the duration of the coup before setting up an interim government, which won’t necessarily be a civilian one. It’s clear that men in green will be a major component of the interim cabinet.

Those who want a more democratic and progressive Thailand face a long and difficult time ahead.

Prayuth, Prem and fascists

10 05 2014

While Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to rule out a military coup, saying they “would not end the current political problems…”, he added that “soldiers would always be the people’s last resort.” PPT thinks this means: let the judicial coup work to its end, and the military will only intervene if the red shirts mass and it gets violent.

Meanwhile, Privy Council boss and political meddler par excellence General Prem Tinsulanonda has had one of his minions state that he is “not involved in the current political standoff in any way…”. Nobody believes him. That Prem returned to Bangkok on Friday in time for the anti-democrat rally and after Yingluck had been given the double whammy by Prem’s royalist courts is a statement of intent, if circumstantial evidence of the old dog’s continuing involvement in the political shenanigans.

Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda

Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda

More incriminating is the role of the geriatric royalists who went to Prem with ideas for royal intervention just a couple of weeks ago. Back in 2006, it was Prem who had to go out and convince the military to get rid of Thaksin Shinawatra. He can’t do that this time as he cost the monarchy dearly last time – so much so that the monarchy is now routinely seen as politicized.

In Prem’s stead, this time it is the geriatrics who are trying to convince the military to intervene. While the report states that “was cool to its appeal,” the actions of these closely connected royalists, all of whom have been close to the palace and Prem, suggest otherwise.

Led by a former military officer who has been close to Prem since at least the 1960s the old men’s group is to “push its agenda of seeking His Majesty the King’s discretion in ending the political crisis through armed forces commanders…”.

General Saiyud Kerdphol said his group”would ask commanders of the armed forces to seek the royal discretion.” “The royal discretion” means intervening and appointing an unelected government of royalists and fascists.

The Post identifies the conspirators as including “former air force chief ACM Gun Pimarnthip, ex-army chief Gen Wimol Wongwanich, former naval commander Adm Vichet Karunyavanij, ex-naval chief of staff Gen Suravudh Maharom, lawyer Amorn Chantarasomboon, political science scholars Pramote Nakhonthap and Chai-Anan Samudavanija, and former foreign affairs minister Surapong Jayanama.” All are coup plotters and/or royalist/fascist ideologues.

They say “the current crisis needs to be solved by the intervention of the army and … the King.” They seem rather less patient than Prayuth.

Secretive monarchists

1 05 2014

The Ad Hoc Committee on Studying and Monitoring Problems Concerning Law Enforcement and Measures for the Protection of the Royal Institution, chaired by Gen Lertrit Wechsawarn, is apparently a new “committee” formed by what the Bangkok Post refers to as a “group of ultra-royalist senators.”

The report says that the mostly unelected senators have “agreed to use social networking to protect the monarchy.”

This remarkable breakthrough in the struggle to prevent the decline and fall of the Thai monarchy came from a secret, “closed-door seminar Tuesday to brainstorm tactics at Government House.” Of course, secrecy is important for royalists because truth is dangerous and has to be kept from the public.

General Lertrit told journalists the aim of his secret cabal was “to build up a strong network of pro-monarchists” that would “create measures to counter those offending the royal institution…”.

Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai if citizens and the state performed their “duties well enough,” this would be a “starting point” to “ignite… the royal protection [movement]…”.

Reporters were thrown out after the opening speeches, “despite being invited, and given a handout about the group and its purposes.” That handout explained that:

the seminar was held because committee members had found that information and communication technology was being used improperly to insult the royal institution, and attempts were being made to link the monarchy to current political movements.

Perhaps they’ll close Princess Chulabhorn’s ludicrous Facebook page that has her supporting the anti-democrats.Chulabhorn

The unelected lot reckon that “a group of corrupt politicians has tried to discredit the royal institution.” It is clear they mean pro-Thaksin Shinawatra political parties that manage to win elections.

In fact, though, it was the 2006 coup and the stupidity and arrogance of the palace’s political manipulators did the discrediting.

Privy councilor as political dinosaur

27 04 2014

PPT and many of our readers noted that another privy councilor has decided to provide his observations on the ills of Thai society and their remedies.

Privy Councillor Kasem Watthanachai is reported at the Bangkok Post. His view is that:

Thailand has been mired in “a decade of darkness” resulting from the politics of populism and graft, told a seminar yesterday.

Mr Kasem said the crisis Thailand has been facing over the past decade is unprecedented.

He described it as a decade of darkness resulting from politics revolving around populist policies which have led people to crave and become addicted to materialism and consumerism.

He said corruption is a serious problem that needs to be addressed urgently.

Kasem has said similar things before, lecturing those who “sold” land to “foreigners” about “greed.” Then he complained about a third of Thailand being owned by “foreigners,” sold by “greedy” people; this was a nonsense.

A privy councilor since 2001, his claims about “darkness,” an unprecedented “crisis,” serious “corruption and linking this to “populism” is simply another privy councilor engaging in overt politics, attacking the elected governments that they loathe.

Hence, Kasem  can urge “people, including civil servants, to come out and ‘light candles’ to dispel and counter the darkness of corruption and for the government to make serious efforts to tackle the graft problem,” he may as well be asking them to welcome anti-democrats with gold whistles.

Supporting the anti-democrats? You bet he is. He was speaking at another of those “independent” agencies that have been carefully politicized under the influence of royalists, the Office of the Ombudsman.

The old men of the privy council worry that “Thai people are adopting some negative social values such as bowing to dishonest people, or admiring and supporting wealthy people who commit wrongdoings…”. He means Thaksin and the Shinawatra clan.

His political conservatism was matched by Ombudsman Sriracha Charoenpanich who:

told the seminar that Thai society has been “seriously ill” and is badly in need of “operations” at almost every level.

So it is that these political dinosaurs are encouraging right-wing extremists and gang of thugs just as they did when privy councilor Thanin Kraivixien was the royally-anointed premier. This time it is the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization led by Major-General Rientong Nan-nah and the enforcers of the anti-democrats.

Led by the ancients of the Privy Council, it is argued that the answer is to “restore moral and ethical values while national discipline must also be forged among people to move the country toward progress…”. They mean the king/monarchy.

Politically biased privy councilors and an Ombudsman who thinks he should engage in politics by attacking “impostor defenders of democracy,” and the battles lines are as clear as they were in 2006. This time, however, there is more push back. For example, the Puea Thai Party is needling General Prem Tinsulanonda. (Is it “greedy” to take 121,950 baht a month as a “position allowance” for a position that is not gazetted and does nothing? Is it corrupt for such an allowance to have been awarded by a buddy at the Privy Council who happened to be premier after the military coup?)

In essence, the Privy Council is the repository of much of the deeply reactionary thinking that exercises rightists and royalists in Jurassic Thailand.

Wikipedia notes that “[a]lthough the word dinosaur means ‘terrible lizard’, the name is somewhat misleading, as dinosaurs are not lizards.” Interestingly, for Thais, a “terrible lizard” can have a derogatory meaning. Obviously, PPT uses “dinosaur” to refer to a political dinosaur.

Such dinosaurs are dangerous because they are so disconnected from political realities, defining their “reality” by flunkies pandering to them and their connection to aged extremists and the class that believes it should rule Thailand and that is determined never to compromise with the rabble who favor elections.

Updated: Yingluck pulls the 112 trigger

10 04 2014

Of course, the reason we posted the VICE clip was to allow readers to see it. We knew that Wuthipong Kachathamkul or Ko Tee was being investigated on lese majeste charges arising from the interview he does in the VICE story.

As might be expected, it is going to be blocked as much as possible in Thailand by the thought and lese majeste police: “The TCSD [Technology Crime Suppression Division] was instructed to contact the Information and Communication Technology Ministry to block access to the clip…”. Worse, the police have been threatening and have “warned the public not to share the video clip as those doing so will also be subject to punishment under Section 112. Those found guilty are liable for a three- to 15-year jail term.”Ko Tee 1

The Bangkok Post reports that “Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered police to charge Pathum Thani-based red-shirt leader … Ko Tee, for an alleged lese majeste offence committed in an interview with a foreign journalist,” meaning the VICE interview.

The Post reports that a “video clip was circulated online showing the interview in which Mr Wuthipong made the offensive remark about the monarchy.” In fact, for PPT, it was hardly offensive. Ko Tee simply stated a matter of fact/conjecture [readers choose] that has been spoken of for about a decade now.

That royalists find his statement about the power of the palace and the king behind the various anti-democratic movements from PAD to be offensive is because this is meant to be unsayable in public. That he names his enemy is both courageous and frank, but immediately allows the royalists to paint the government and red shirts as anti-monarchy.Ko Tee 2

The Post reports that “Prime Minister’s secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva said Wednesday the premier had ordered him to submit a letter to national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew calling for action against Mr Wuthipong.” Of course, the police have sprung into action on Article 112.

Pol Gen Adul has been “informed by the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) that Mr Wuthipong’s remark in the clip shared on YouTube violates Section 112 on lese majeste in the Criminal Code.” There you go, as in most lese majeste cases, the conviction is already in place.

Not unexpectedly the leader of the failed monarchist party known as the Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva, acting like a toady prefect running to the headmaster, “has also instructed the party’s legal team to file a complaint against Mr Wuthipong for lese majeste…”.

Update: As is usual in lese majeste cases, the crazies get to work. Khaosod reports thatgroup of royalist activists … demanded that the authorities investigate any possible links between the Canada-based news agency [VICE] and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” It continues: “under the name Citizens Volunteer For Defence Of Three Institutes Network” – that’s a new bunch of monarchist crazies as far as PPT can tell, but we suspect it is the usual suspects – “met with police officers at the Crime Suppression Division HQ…. The group brought a DVD copy of the Vice News interview as evidence.” Hmm, in this surreal world of monarchists and lese majeste, this could probably constitute an act of lese majeste itself? (see above)

The leader of the mad monarchists Baworn Yasinthorn “asked the police to investigate whether Vice News is related to Mr. Roberts Amsterdam, a Canada-born lawyer and lobbyist hired by the former Prime Minister, who is also facing a separate lese majeste charge filed by an anti-government activist on Monday.” Below we print the only corporate information for VICE we can find. But really, how silly is this? Baworn is born in Thailand, so does that make him an ally of Thaksin or a red shirt because of place of birth?VICE

He’s back!

9 04 2014

We find it a little difficult to believe, but we are very pleased to see that veteran democracy campaigner Chalard Worachat is back at it. Prachatai reports that 22 years after he put backbone into the movement to prevent the military consolidating power in 1992, Chalard is camping out near Parliament House and has been there since 22 March (another report says 21 March). That is the day the Constitutional Court nullified the 2 February election.

Back in 1992, it was Chamlong Srimuang, now a grinning leader of the rightist Dhamma Army and of the People’s Alliance for Democracy who got credit for his hunger strike that eventually led to demonstrations and a massacre of civilians (note this report where a little-known intervention by the king is reported, trying to get Chamlong to abandon his hunger strike). In fact, though, it was Chalard who, as a very lonely protester, began a hunger strike that forced usually spineless politicians like Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party to take notice.


A Prachatai photo

Prachatai sates that:

Chalard’s very first hunger strike took place [in 1980]…. He protested against the right-wing Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan, who was installed after the 1977 military coup, for raising oil prices…. It caused Kriangsak to resign on the 36th hour of Chalard’s hunger strike.

In 1983, Chalard was back, protesting:

during the General Prem Tinasulanond government, the House tried to pass a bill allowing bureaucrats and military officers to become Prime Minister, in effect allowing Prem to extend his term. Chalard held a hunger strike for nine days before successfully stopping passage of the bill.

He was back again in 1992, and then “played an important role in pushing for the 1997 constitution…”. From 1965 to 1987, Chalard was a member of the now disgraced Democrat Party. He once represented the Party in parliament. However, he:

protested against his party leader by holding a hunger strike to call on Chuan to amend the 1992 constitution to be more democratic, but on the 49th day, he quit due to his deteriorating health. The Supreme Patriach asked him to ordain instead…. His strike however led to “Chalard’s Friends,” a committee which successfully pushed for political reform as its main social agenda, and later paved the way for the drafting of the 1997 constitution.

In the hours after the 2006 palace-military coup, Chalard was arrested for protesting against it.

As Prachatai puts it, he is now back at the spot:

… where this 71-year-old man held a 45-day long hunger strike in 1992 to protest against General Suchinda Kraprayoon, then Prime Minister who came from a coup he led in 1991. The protest led to Black May, a people’s uprising in Bangkok which toppled the military regime and paved the way to a more democratic government for Thailand.

And, he has much the “same demands — to abolish an undemocratic constitution and oppose an appointed Prime Minister, as well as a military coup.” He isn’t refusing food yet, “but he says he will, should a military coup happen.”

Today, Chalard said “the core problem of Thai politics is the 2007 constitution which allows independent agencies too much power over the government.” He says: “We must call for the abolition of the current seditious constitution, and bring back a more democratic one.” If this doesn’t happen, Chalard states that the “situation will lead to chaos, more violence and a military coup for sure…. What we need is a new election to be held as soon as possible. We need a Prime Minister who comes from elections.”

Asked about the failed Democrat Party, “Chalard said he first decided to join the party because it was against the military in the 1970s…. Now it changed from opposing dictatorship to supporting it…”. In fact, even in the 1970s, the party’s opposition to military government was tepid.

Chalard’s actions always spur reaction, so it will be interesting to see if this current lone protest has any impact.

A Chinese perspective on political crisis

8 04 2014

With the rise of China, we suppose that semi-official Chinese views on politics in Thailand are of some significance. In the Global Times, Zhou Fangye comments on the judiciary and politics. In parts the op-ed is a bit garbled, but the general position is clear. Zhou is an associate research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which is an official institute. He’s also at the CASS Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.

Zhou argues that the “eight-year political mess in Thailand has mainly been caused by the lack of a middle power that could act as a lever to balance both sides.” He reckons that, in the past, the “royal family played this role … from the 1970s to 1990s, during which time the country was able to maintain a generally peaceful state.”

The writer seems to have bought the palace propaganda. In fact, the royal family has never been “middle” on anything, and has always worked in its best interests and those of the royalist elite, and with the strong support of the murderous military. The description of the period as “generally peaceful” hides too much. So when the author states that the king “is aging” and his infirmity has “greatly limited the influence of the royal family,” this might be cause for some to celebrate.

Others, like the anti-democrats are scared out of their wits that the old elitist hegemony is crumbling. Zhou is correct to notice that “the royalists have moved from the central-right to the ultra-right,” but this is a result of their fear.

Zhou’s identification of Thailand’s political spectrum is not always accurate:

The left wing, composed of the new rising capital groups and the grass roots, insists on Shinawatra’s innovative economic path, while the traditional industrial groups and urban middle-income people oppose the path and advocate King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s “conservative sufficiency” [sufficiency] economic model.

It is a bit odd to see parts of the bourgeois class identified with the left, but Mao was wont to talk of the “national bourgeoisie” as kind of “progressive.” We are not convinced that the red-shirt supporting capitalists are doing more than seeking to back a democratic transition. Even Thaksin Shinawatra wasn’t a “populist” from the get-go.

What really motivates Zhou’s op-ed is the search for a new and interventionist “middle power,” which he sees as being “Thailand’s judicial branch,” which he says “used to keep its distance from political conflicts…”. He reckons it “could replace the royalists as a new lever in the political arena.” He says that “the judicial branch has clarified its position as an independent force, and maneuvered the political situation.”

It is difficult to know what Zhou means by “independent.” Indeed, the palace has always worked very hard to control of the judiciary. It might be recalled that one of the king’s first public acts was to sit on and rule in a minor case. JudgeAs can be seen in the snip from page 97 of the hagiographic King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A Life’s Work, part of the point of this was ideological and part propagandistic, giving the false impression that the king was trained in law.

Far more significantly, it was the king’s repeated call to judges to get involved in political cases that has advanced the process of judicialization. The courts have almost always ruled on major cases in ways that are in the interests of those who oppose the elected, pro-Thaksin governments since 2006. In other words, judicialization has also seen the politicization of the judiciary.

Despite this, Zhou thinks the “judiciary could offer new opportunities for Thailand to reach a political compromise.” While Zhou recognizes that the “the abuse of jurisdiction has greatly jeopardized the authority and credibility of Thailand’s judicial system,” for some reason, he still sees a potential for the “judicial branch” to work with “both sides” and “seek more common ground…”.

As far as PPT can tell, there is no real effort by the judiciary to force a compromise; rather, it seeks to progress a judicial coup. We think the judiciary has committed political and judicial suicide.

That the official/semi-official Chinese position considers the judiciary anything other than a royalist instrument is baffling and worrying.

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.



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