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…”.





Updated: Junta warns academics

22 09 2014

It is probably correct to say that most of Thailand’s university teachers are not likely to oppose the military dictatorship. Some are huge supporters of royalist anti-democrats and Thai fascism. A brave few are prepared to stand up to the junta, its total control and its oppression.

As reported in the Bangkok Post, “60 academics from 16 universities … signed a petition against the action taken by police and soldiers who abruptly cut short a forum on ‘The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries‘ on Sept 18 at the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University.”

The scholars “asked” the junta to “show more respect for academic freedom,” describing the military dictatorship’s action as “highly unacceptable.” They were being polite to the military despots.

Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister, junta member and General Prawit Wongsuwan was not so polite in his response. He ordered them to “toe the line and stay within the law because the country is not yet back to normal and is still in need of reconciliation…”. By “reconciliation” he means toeing the line of the military junta.

As is usual when the military dictators do what they want, Prawit barked that “everything must be done according to the law.  Since the NCPO wants peace and reconciliation, I am afraid we can’t allow a politically-related (seminar) to be held…”.

His message is the same as all dictators: do what we tell you to do or you are in trouble.

Update: The Asian Human Rights Commission has comments on this action and condemned the military dictatorship:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-172-2014
September 22, 2014

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand 

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to express grave concern about the arrest, interrogation, and harassment of four academics and three students during a public lecture on 17 September 2014 at Thammasat University in Bangkok. This is the latest in a series of actions by the authorities in the four months since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) overturned the civilian government in a coup on 22 May 2014. These actions constrict the freedom of thought and expression of individual citizens while simultaneously contributing to the creation of a broad climate of fear in Thailand. Since the NCPO took power, the junta has demonstrated a profound lack of respect for basic human rights principles, despite their repeated claims otherwise.

On 17 September 2014, the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), a student organization, had organized a lecture in their Democracy Classroom series, titled “Democracy Classroom #2: Toppling Dictatorship in Other Countries.” The primary lecture was to be given by Nidhi Eoseewong, prominent senior Thai historian retired from Chiang Mai University and public intellectual, with commentary by Janjira Sombutpoonsiri (Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University) and Chaowarit Chaowsangrat (Faculty of Arts, Thammasat University) and with Prajak Kongkirati (Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University) as moderator. The LLTD had requested and been granted permission by the university to hold the event.

One day prior to the event, General Pallop Fuangfu, the Commander of the Control Division of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment in Pathumthani province, where the Rangsit campus is located, sent a letter to the deputy rector of the university asking that he liaise with the LLTD to cancel the event. In the letter, General Pallop commented that, “…the aforementioned lecture may affect the resolution of the nation’s problems. In addition, at present, in order to protect against the increased arising of divisions or different political opinions and perspectives, every entity is cooperating in support of the reconciliation and harmony of people in the nation” (unofficial AHRC translation). In response, the university locked the door of the lecture room for which they had originally granted the students permission to use. The students then decided to use an open air space on the first floor of the building instead, and many people crowded into the space to listen.

Before Nidhi Eoseewong had completed even thirty minutes of his lecture, at approximately 5:30 pm, the authorities approached him directly and told him to stop speaking. Then, he, as well as Prajak Kongkirati, Janjira Sombutpoonsiri, Chaowarit Chaowsangrat, and three of the student organizers, were ordered to go to the local police station in Khlong Luang. The seven individuals were then interrogated during which time they were denied access to legal counsel. After several hours, at approximately 9:30 pm, all seven individuals were then released without charges being brought.

By not charging the seven individuals with the violation of any laws or orders, the authorities can still attempt to claim that this was not an arrest, but was rather a discussion to “create understanding,” as they have in cases of arbitrary detention following the coup. However, the lack of formal charges does not change the meaning of this incident as a form of intimidation and violation of the rights of the seven individuals to freedom of thought and expression. At the conclusion of the interrogation, the authorities announced that in the future, topics and outlines of the content of academic events needed to be submitted for approval beforehand.

The incident at Thammasat University is not an isolated one, but is rather part of a broader pattern of intervention by the junta in public events organized by students, academics and human rights activists. The intervention is carried out by the local military unit in a given area, which then cites the authority and wishes of the NCPO as the reason for their intervention. While the interventions have been described by the authorities as “requests for cooperation,” those who have made the requests have the power of guns, military courts, and executive power behind them. These are not “requests” but are rather a form of intimidation and harassment. The authorities have the sole power to decide who can speak when, where, and on what topic. If their wishes are not followed voluntarily, then they will act with the power they have under the gun, the military court (AHRC-OLT-006-2014), and executive power, to compel citizens to follow their wishes.

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup and the ongoing criminalization of thought and speech by the National Council on Peace and Order. The AHRC calls on the NCPO in the strongest terms possible to cease intervening in academic and other public discussions and to cease harassing students, academics, and citizens who think differently. To think differently than the junta is not a crime. Finally, the AHRC encourages all concerned with human rights and justice to closely monitor the situation in Thailand.





On length

12 09 2014
Wassana Nanuam is a senior news reporter covering military affairs for for the Bangkok Post. She usually knows what The Dictator is planning and sometimes acts as a conduit for the military in getting its view known. That is always very useful for her readers because they are getting an inside perspective.

In this context, her recent comments on the longevity of the junta are important:

With a hint delivered during his weekly address last Friday, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha let us know that his tenure will not end in one year as initially announced.

She’s right that this should be “no surprise.” She says this is because Prayuth has an “ambitious” plan. We’d suggest the agenda is as ambitious as is required to establish a Prem-like “semi-dictatorship.” Wassana says this “may take two to three years or longer…”. We think it will take as long as The Dictator thinks is necessary. “Necessity” may demand staying in power long enough for the king to die and ensure a successful succession.

Wassana reckons there is a threat to the military dictatorship: “the underground movements of anti-coup groups which are ready to surge once martial law is lifted.” This is little more than junta propaganda and there’s no evidence for the claim. Her hclaim that the military dictatorship will be around for a considerable time because “pro-coup people want the military to … make sure that the ‘Thaksin regime’ will not return” is much closer to the mark.Prayuth and Suthep

Wassana notes that Prayuth “has strengthened his power base for a long tenure” through “military transfers.” He “handpicked deputy army chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr as his successor for the top army position and also deputy defence minister.” Udomdej is Queen’s Guard and the two have “been close since they were junior officers.”

The two of them have concocted a story that they “fought side by side in 1983, when the Vietnamese army” and that the “two eventually pushed the Vietnamese out of the Thai border.” As far as we can recall, the Thai Army, trained only for killing its own citizens, was repeatedly in trouble against the Vietnamese, who were attacking Khmer Rouge sites protected by the Thai military.

Udomdej has also “served both Gen Prawit Wongsuwon and Gen Anupong Paojinda.” Udomdej is likely to only last a year as he retires in 2015, and is likely to be replaced by “Lt Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, younger brother of Gen Prayuth who was promoted to the rank of full general to become assistant army chief.” Wassana states:

It is said that Gen Prayuth, as prime minister, will have a major say in naming the next army chief, and it would not be unusual to push his own brother to the top post. It would be an honour for the Chan-ocha family if two members become army chief, and Gen Prayuth has no doubts over his brother’s loyalty.

Wassana concludes that:

Prayuth has nothing to worry about while he runs the country. A counter-coup is not possible. If the situation is not good for general elections, Gen Prayuth can prolong his interim government with no challenges from the armed forces.

Prayuth can stay in power for a log time. The only question that is unanswered is whether The Dictator can keep control of the population. That is usually where dictatorships stumble.

The tale of junta longevity is confirmed in another Bangkok Post story where the military sycophant-cum-Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam makes the bizarre claim that the junta “will become only an organisation, not a government as it previously was.” This claim is that the junta is being replaced by a “government.” That this government is entirely the offspring of the junta is somethign Wissanu is hired to deny and propagandize about.

This claim by Wissanu is so loopy that when he says that the junta “can no longer issue any announcements or orders, nor can it summon anyone to report as the government has taken on all decision-making powers on national administration” is simply a ridiculous lie.

Wissanu is simply making the case for a long-term military-dominated government.





Prem reincarnated?

10 09 2014

Bangkok Pundit has a recent post suggesting that the grand old man of political maneuvering for the palace-military alliance may be sulking as he feels he’s being pushed aside. General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, has had a major say in politics and especially on military promotions for five decades.

PremWe are not sure if the old man is sulking or is aged, sick and weak, a bit like his junior, the king. He’s 94 and the last time we saw him, he was frail and not quite making sense. Senility? Illness? Both? Whatever it is, he’s being replaced by a generation of military men who are 30 years younger and “battle-hardened” from their murderous attacks on red shirts.

These are the generals who will take over the management of the royalist elite’s bigger decisions: General Prawit Wongsuwan, General Anupong Paojinda and General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These mean are more or less from the same generation and have pretty good relations. They are determined royalists with long-term palace relationships.

Some might think that the transition represents a major change. We are not so sure. We think the rejigging has been underway for some time and will probably see them reporting to their old boss General Surayud Chulanont in the Privy Council. The Privy Council is full of very old men and we don’t foresee any major changes there unless Prem dies before the king.

What is clear is that the military dictatorship is Prem-oriented and is unlikely to need to clash with him. The links to Prem and his style in government have been clear for some time since the coup. Prayuth as Prem

As if to emphasize this, Prayuth has just paraded before the cameras dressed as Prem, as seen in the two pictures appended to this post. Prayuth has garbed himself in the shirt that Prem made famous when prime minister in the 1980s.

We think the omens are about Premocracy. Thai-style shirts inevitably mean Thai-style democracy.








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