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.


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.


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