Repressing “the few”

18 12 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Magic and media

4 12 2014

It is a fact that many Thais are deeply influenced by astrology and other forms of magical beliefs. Most leaders in the corporate, military and government sectors seem to worry about astrology, numbers, feng shui, spirits and more. Some delve into black magic. Others have used taxpayer funding to buy the GT200, a fraudulent remote substance and bomb detector.

The generals of the military dictatorship are strongly influenced by astrology.

Recall that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, changed the spelling of his name in English to Prayut Chan-o-cha. We believe that was due to astrological advice, telling him how to maintain his power and rule.Astrology

Now a government spokesman Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd says the well-known astrologer Khomsan Phanwichartkul has “been approached to join a team of government spokespeople in a bid to counter anti-coup criticism on social media.”

The report states that he is “thought to be eyed for the job because of his ties to the regime, not because of his astrological powers.”

That’s unlikely to be true. Prayuth and other senior members of the junta have a long record of consulting astrologers, including from Khomsan, and as the regime comes under pressure from demonstrators, they want in-house advice.

Khomsan, also known as Sin Sae Jo, is reportedly “a former Democrat Party councillor who represented Bang Phlat.” He is reportedly close to junta deputy General Prawit Wongsuwan.

If social media is the excuse for a taxpayer-funded astrologer, the puppet National Reform Council is seeking to censor media in other ways.

Its “committee on media and information technology reform has agreed media councils should be set up at regional and provincial levels to control the ethics of media organisations.”

In the Orwellian doublespeak of Thailand’s military dictatorship, “ethics” is a word that actually means censorship. The NRC puppets say that the “media’s freedom of expression creates conflict and hatred and councils are needed to ensure this freedom is not abused…”.

No freedom is to be allowed for the media.





Regime challenges

25 11 2014

Readers following Thailand’s politics will recognize that there have been a series of events that have challenged the military dictatorship in recent days. These events may be suppressed, but they represent a turn in events, as anti-coup activists are not simply going away, as the regime had hoped.

Many of these activists are relatively young students. They have used three-finger salutes, social media and a a range of activities to directly challenge the junta and its royalist regime. They are seemingly inviting arrest by the jittery authorities. They seem unafraid of the prospect of police or military action against them.

The most recent example is of university students at Thammasat University’s inner city campus. At least eight students distributed leaflets at the campus celebrating the return to Facebook of prominent historian and monarchy critic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who went into hiding after the 22 May coup and who has apparently fled to France.Leaflet

Police swiftly arrested eight students for distributing the leaflets. According to Khaosod, the leaflets included “an excerpt from a poem by the late historian and activist Chit Phumisak, who was summarily executed by authorities in 1966,” which had been cited by Somsak on Facebook. It stated: “Even in the ruthless era when evils rule the country with their guns … people are still people.”

The student activists were members of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), described as “an anti-coup student group based in Thammasat.” This group has been a persistent and brave opponent of the military dictatorship.

Prachatai reports that: “One of the detained students is Natchacha Kongudom, a Bangkok University student who was previously arrested for flashing the forbidden ‘three finger salute’ in front of Siam Paragon cinema in Bangkok downtown on 19 November.”

Persistent challenges to the military and royalist regime by brave young students are emblematic of a broader change that has wafted through Thailand in recent decades and suggests a rejection of the hierarchical traditions of monarchy and military that may well become louder and will resonate more widely as the regime seeks to re-embed authoritarian structures.

In responding, the military dictatorship has urged that protests be curtailed. General Prawit Wongsuwan babbled about “opinion surveys that show most people disapprove of anti-coup protests.” Prawit asked that protesters keep quiet for a year: “We only ask for one year to achieve our mission…”. Meanwhile, The Dictator has directed the National Reform Council (NRC) and the King Prajadhipok Institute to “allow students to participate in the reform process by expressing their views and knowledge.” This seems like his attempt to direct student opposition into the junta’s controlled environment.

 





In for the long haul II

13 11 2014

Some time ago, PPT posted on the military dictatorship being in position for the long haul. Then we were observing that despite claims about “democracy” and an “election” in about 12-15 months, the military dictatorship was likely to maintain control for a very long time.

Wassana Nanuam a senior reporter at the Bangkok Post now seems to agree with us, setting out the path to deep military involvement in Thailand’s post-junta regime.

She focuses on “speculation is growing over a plan by the men in green to form a new political party, or perhaps a nominee party with military backing.”

Previous military regimes that decided not to rule more directly tried this. Some past efforts have failed. In the post 2006 period, the military backed Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, and it did poorly in the 2011 election. Before that, when General Suchinda Kraprayoon tried a military party, it resulted in the 1992 rebellion.

She details moves that might politically position the military for the long term. The important considerations seems to be the observation that “[s]ome people in the military believe the Democrat Party will never win the next election, so the military might have to step in, or at least throw its support behind a party to challenge Pheu Thai.”

As a footnote, Wassana’s discussion of the dealings between General Prawit Wongsuwan and Thaksin Shinawatra put a different spin on this part of the story, worth considering.

In terms of transition beyond the military dictatorship, 12 years has often been mentioned as the period required to get back to full electoral democracy. It was 12 years from the coup in 1976 until Prem Tinsulanonda finally stepped aside in 1988.





Death and after III

12 10 2014

A couple of days ago, PPT posted on Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan deciding that he was such an important boss that he could tell people how to behave at funerals. The Deputy Dictator feared that the funeral of former Puea Thai MP and red shirt leader Apiwan Wiriyachai might become an opportunity for expressions of resistance to the royalist military dictatorship.

ApiwanApiwan died in exile, forced out of the country by the military coup in May, and harassed with lese majeste charges.

At The Nation it is reported that “huge numbers” of red shirts gathered at the international airport, which was also “heavily secured” as Apiwan’s body was returned from Manila for a funeral.

Key red shirt leaders present included Weng Tojirakarn, Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, Nattawut Saikua and Jatuporn Promphan, surrounded by “hundreds of police and soldiers [who] guarded all entrances.”

The apparently fearful police “frequently warned the crowd not to express anything political in nature.” Unusually wealthy businessman, junta sycophant and incompetent police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang was there to ensure the “gathering was non-political.”

Jatuporn said that” many red-shirt supporters were likely to attend the funeral rites for Apiwan, as he had fought side by side with them.” Yingluck Shinawatra was also expected to attend the funeral despite the military dictatorship attempting to limit her participation in public events.

Many will find the dictatorship’s interference with a funeral distasteful and lacking appropriate respect.





Death and after II

9 10 2014

While the military dictatorship may see one of its major tasks as being to manage the death and succession of the king, it also seeks to manage politics.

One of the most remarkable pieces of pompous dictating that has come out of the current junta – and there have been plenty – is Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan deciding that he can dictate who goes to funerals.Apiwan

The Nation reports that the Deputy Dictator “urged that the funeral rites of former Pheu Thai MP Col Apiwan Wiriyachai be kept free of politics.” Apiwan died in exile, essentially forced out of the country by the military coup in May, and harrassed with lese majeste charges laid on 26 June 2014, three years after a speech deemed by the military to constitute lese majeste.

The Deputy Dictator felt that it was his prerogative to dictate how his relatives and friends could pay their respects. He said:

“It is okay for relatives, friends, and people who respect him, to mourn for him [at the funeral] but they will have to abide by the law. But if [the gathering] is about a political agenda and will lead to political chaos, we [the fascist military dictatorship] will send officials to look over the funeral,” said Prawit.

Prawit was worried that supporters of Apiwan, “who was also a red-shirt leader,” who wanted to pay their respects “would create an opportunity for the red-shirt supporters to create chaos and disrupt the government’s reconciliation plan.” The Deputy Dictator – who will no doubt get a royally-sponsored funeral when he is dead, if the monarchy still exists – declared: “We’ve been working on national security and other aspects to keep the country stable, please do not make any movement to interfere with the country’s stability…”. The implied threat of arresting people at a funeral is stark and cruel.

Meanwhile, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, “said Apiwan’s charge of violating lese majeste law would be dropped due to his death.” How big-hearted and generous of him. But he also showed his true colors as a military despot by warning that his dictatorship “could not tolerate any violation of order.” That is well known; the dictatorship is intolerant.

When he also stated that “he would not attend the funeral,” and said he “hop[ed] everyone would understand,” we were confused and didn’t understand. Is Prayuth simply full of political and personal hatred? Is he disdainful of red shirts despite all the nonsensical rhetoric about reconciliation?





Opposing junta repression and censorship

25 09 2014

The censorship and repression of the military dictatorship is suffocating for many.

Opposing it is difficult and often requires considerable courage.

At Khaosod and also at The Nation, it is reported that some brave academics have opposed the military junta’s ban on any discussion it considers to be about “politics.” Artists are joining protests.

The aged General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is the junta’s Minister of Defense, has been threatening academics who had the temerity to oppose the junta’s censorship.censorship-1

Those academics were condemning “the arrest of three student activists and four professors at Thammasat University for organising a panel on the ‘Demise of Foreign Dictators’ on 18 September.” Prawit responded, demanding that academics “toe the line.”

Khaosod reports that Prach Panchakunathorn, a Chulalongkorn University philosophy lecturer, has “lashed out” at Prawit and the junta’s smothering of academic freedom. Prach stated:

Academics never crossed any line. It’s the military who crossed the line by arresting lecturers and students inside the premises of the university…. We cannot accept that.

Referring to intimidation, Prach stated that “the military has no right to require academics seek permission before organising a public discussion.”

Another academic, Hara Shintaro, from the Prince of Songkhla University, called the junta’s actions “irrational.”

The NCPO  banned all forms of political activity and public protest after seizing power in late May. Violators have been sent to face trials in military court and five anti-coup protesters have been given suspended jail sentences.

Last week, the military also “forced academics at Chiang Mai University to cancel a discussion scheduled for Thursday, titled ‘Happiness and Reconciliation Under 2014 Interim Charter’.” Somchai Preechasilpakul, a law lecturer at Chiang Mai University, pointed out the obvious: “academic freedom is an important issue.”

Some activists have take to social media and others to public protest, wearing box metal cans (beeps) or woven baskets on their heads, said to “embody a Thai idiom for feeling shameful.”

They also pointed at royalist university administrators who joined anti-democrats and who now work for the junta and express shame about this. Somchai pointed out that they have no legitimacy.

Another academic has said, at The Nation, that he and his colleagues would “continue to try and organise a political talk” despite the junta’s restrictions. This came after the military cancelled a third talk, “on shame and the right to freedom of speech slated for yesterday [at Chiang Mai University, which] had to be abruptly called off after a local Army officer contacted the organisers.”

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that another social media campaign against censorship and lese majeste repression is involving some in the arts. Using “The Song of Commoners,” they are calling “for the release of two theatre artists Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkong” accused of lese majeste and for the release of other political prisoners.

The two accused of lese majeste were involved in the play called Jaosao Mapa (The Wolf Bride), the first rime that a “theatre production has been accused violating lese majeste.”

Some artists feel that their space and creativity as been “trespassed on.” The reaction against The Wolf Bride saw ultra-royalists baying for charges to be laid. The attention of such monarchist fascists is unsettling for some artists. One stated: “Frankly, I don’t feel safe to communicate because I don’t know how my work will be interpreted…. This [lese majeste] law is dangerous to everyone…. If someone interprets your intention the wrong way, that’s the end of you.” Another said, “I’m afraid, but I’m also interested in the challenge of how to handle this topic in my work…”.








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