Business as usual?

8 09 2014

Andrew Stevens is a CNN journalist who is said to have been “a specialist business correspondent and has extensively covered news and business stories across the region.” He is said to have “interviewed many of the world’s political and business leaders and has reported on Asia-Pacific for more than two decades.” He is also said to have “covered elections across many countries and reported on many of the most significant events across the region in the last 20 years.”

Readers will recall that we posted on another foreign propagandist for the military who is some kind of property salesman. That person had some kind of personal interest in propagandizing for the junta. What is in it for Stevens when, at the China Post, this business journalist turns his attention to Thailand and writes as if he is doing a paid promotion for the military dictatorship?

Remarkably, as a business journalist used to praising “Bangkok’s free-wheeling capitalist system,” he seems on a job for the military dictatorship when he writes of  “a public crackdown on illegal businesses, corruption and organized crime.” Given that about 60% of Thailand’s working population is in the “informal sector,” we wonder if such crackdowns are winning “hearts and minds.” Stevens continues on his advert for the junta:

It’s been a little more than three months since a bloodless military coup ousted the government of Yingluck Shinawatra and in that time Thailand has slipped from the front pages and is returning to business as usual [well, not quite, he just told us that]. Not the business that was constantly under the threat of disruption from endless and sometimes deadly street protests or political deadlock in the capital, but business operating in conditions of relative stability and certainty.

Tell the filthy rich, who have gotten richer during the period of political crisis, that they can now reap more profits!

Stevens has been out talking to every single person in Bangkok:

Talk to Thai people in Bangkok and there is an overwhelming view that the coup was a positive development to break nearly a decade of political paralysis. Admittedly Bangkok has always been an anti-Thaksin stronghold and public dissent has been closed down by the military but there is still a sense of calm, even of optimism that the suspension of democracy may reap longer term benefits.

Perhaps if you are an anti-democrat, you would be over the moon at the junta’s decisions to repress, take power into the hands of a tiny military cabal, ban elections, and demand happiness.

When The Dictator takes over national television is a propaganda harangue each Friday, in Orwellian doublespeak, Stevens sees this as a “type of transparency” that he says is “a key policy of the new leadership…”. Stevens “source” for this remarkably stupid claim is “advisers close to the General.” Of course!

Stevens continues on this propaganda line: “Senior leaders of the new administration regularly meet with so-called ‘stakeholders’ — politicians of all affiliations, and business and civic leaders — to talk about the key issues they face.” Focus groups? We suspect they might have told Stevens that these “meetings” were what was really happening in the military detention centers.

After promoting the junta’s “business plans,” with not a single mention of their plagiarism of the Yingluck Shinawatra government policies or the adoption of the “populist” they want to “ban,” Stevens turns to politics:

The leadership talks of a “Thai-style” democracy which is essentially putting the interests of the country before the interests of the individual. It’s about a more inclusive and more equitable society. Advisers say it reflects the moral compass of the man now leading the country.

Of course, this is propaganda with piles of buffalo manure. Thai-style democracy is no democracy at all. Whichever way one spins it, Thai-style democracy is about the military-palace political alliance dominating in a paternalistic system known as “despotic paternalism.”

Finally, Stevens gets down to the main point, where the junta’s “advisers” tell him to propagandize for longer term dictatorship:

But the biggest problem facing this new leadership is one of time. There is a roadmap for elections to be held as early as next year to return Thailand to the democratic process but that will only happen if the leadership deems the country sufficiently recovered from its recent traumas.

We suspect the military junta is just beginning to work the international propaganda circuit and that there will be a lot more of this buffalo dung strewn about.





Prayuth and the prophecy

20 08 2014

Banyan at The Economist uses the ascendancy of the military dictatorship and the personal power of The Leader and dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha to resurrect an old prophecy – used in the 1970s too [clicking downloads a PDF] – about the demise of the Chakri dynasty:

The king is unwell, the crown prince unpopular and their kingdom is unquiet. An old prophecy holds that the Chakri dynasty will only last nine generations. King Bhumibol Adulyadej happens to be Rama IX. In May a coup brought to an end a series of elected governments that had been run by a clan of civilians.

The prospect of another military man temporarily in civilian garb while grabbing and holding the premiership at the head of a palace-backed, reactionary and right-wing regime prompts this apt description:

The army men in charge of the new dictatorship say their aim is to build a “Thai-style democracy”. Their intervention looks more interested in reviving a system of tutelary democracy, in which a bunch of royalist elites control the state, though the new regime denies it. Their alternative explanation, based on a notion of Thai uniqueness, seems to have been pulled out of a hat like a rabbit.

Most of the rest of the article is spent discussing the so-called China card. This involves the military’s “turn to China” [and other authoritarian regimes] as it has been criticized by some Western governments and the support to Sino-Thai capitalists by Chinese state investment.





Martial law and the royalist state

17 08 2014

When Western governments call for an end to martial law and a return to democracy and freedoms, these governments misunderstand the nature of Thailand’s military dictatorship.

In fact, as the dictatorship itself makes clear, these restrictions are critical for the regime as it destroys its enemies and those it views as threats to the royalist state and “Thai-style anti-democracy.”

A military boss has stated that martial law “is still necessary to combat opponents intending to derail the work of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”. General Theerachai Nakwanich says that marital law will “keep them [opponents] in check…”. Revealingly, he adds that martial law is an important “tool” for the military dictatorship and facilitates its repression of opponents.

It is now almost 3 months since coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared martial law as a prelude to the military coup.

Martial law is not critical for the existence of the military dictatorship, but it is reflective of the repressive character of the regime and its intolerance of any signs of dissent. In fixing the cracks in the royalist state, martial law is important for it grants the military dictatorship impunity in its political mission.

It will be removed when the military dictatorship and the powers-that-be feel that the rules of politics have been changed in ways that prevent any further challenge to the existing order of economic and political power.





Thai-style anti-democracy

16 08 2014

A few days ago, Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation had a story on The Leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, and his speech last Saturday where he twice mentioned that “the country needs is ‘Thai-style democracy’.” Pravit rightly asks: What is Thai-style democracy? He begins by observing:

While Prayuth did not elaborate on the differences between Thai-style democracy and the so-called Western democracies, the fact that he used the words “Thai-style democracy”, and even added at one point that Asean needed its own form of democracy, has led some to suspect that what he meant was a new form of limited democracy and Asian values.

Naturally, by the use of the term “Thai-style democracy,” it will necessarily “deviate from what we expect from Western democracies.” Pravit argues that this Thai version of “democracy” is “about making semi-dictatorship seem more natural and palatable to Thais and the world.” What seems to be “Thai” about it is limited to the fact that it is a military dictatorship that is using the term to describe the deviation.

Pravit notes that “[c]alling it ‘Thai’ makes Thai-style democracy sound more natural and suitable for us…”. He wonders if Thai-style democracy is just another term for “semi-dictatorship.” He might have asked if it is just “Thai-style dictatorship.”

Academically, there have been attempts to delineate what “Thai-style democracy” is and why it was “invented.” [Some of the following links open and download PDFs] There’s this study after the 2006 coup, which PPT finds less than convincing, and Andrew Walker’s response to it. Federico Ferrara had it on the way out. Michael Connors had a discussion of it linked to ideology. Kevin Hewison and Kengkij Kitirianglarp spent time analyzing the concept of Thai-Style Democracy and wrote of its use by royalists.

In the end, Thai-style democracy is revealed as no democracy at all.

We think all of these are worth a read as they say quite a lot about the military dictatorship’s political direction.





Updated: Dopey diplomat

14 08 2014

Update: Below we add a relevant post from Ji Ungpakorn.

A “senior Western diplomat” is quoted in the Bangkok Post, doing “his” best impression of the yellow-shirted, coup-promoting, pro-military U.S. Ambassador Ralph “Skip” Boyce, who enthusiastically supported the military coup in 2006.

This Boyce-like “pragmatist” believes that “[a]lthough the composition of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) ‘does not look as good as we had hoped’ because of its heavy military membership, the medium and long term outlook is more important.”

Really? This diplomat, based in Bangkok, watching events of recent times, actually thought that the military wasn’t going to dominate the puppet assembly? Could this senior diplomat be so uninformed and so politically silly? Living in a bubble might take on a new meaning.

This “senior Western diplomat” said “we should look at ways to engage with the new Thai government in every way we can…”. Why would that be? Western diplomats just want to coy up with military dictatorships and military fascism? Well, yes, some of them do seem to like that.

The “senior Western diplomat” went on to observe that “[o]nce the composition of the NRC is revealed it would provide some indication as to whether Thailand can achieve its roadmap towards democracy.”

Really? This diplomat, based in Bangkok, watching events of recent times, actually thinks the military is about establishing something other than the anti-democratic “Thai-style democracy”? Too many nights out with the royalist elite?

It seems so, for this “senior Western diplomat” states:

Thailand is in the process of finding its way towards a broad democracy but also one that works. Both these bodies will try to shape a new system. The months of political turmoil and protests leading up to the coup are the latest attempt by Thailand to find a democratic system that works [for Thailand]. It may take Thailand another 10 to 20 years before it achieves its objectives….

There must be a reason why a “senior Western diplomat” would come up with such military and anti-democrat nonsense. Just an uniformed royalist? Perhaps it has to do with a hope for a nice post-retirement sinecure? Or maybe “he” is just about being a class-conscious royalist twit. Or perhaps “he” just believed the military dictatorship’s propaganda.

Lies

“Reform” turned on its head, 1984 style

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Just as the dictatorship in George Orwell’s book “1984” claimed that “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”, the Thai junta is claiming that a military dictatorship which destroyed democracy is “kicking off a process of political reform”.

Let us be clear about this. General Prayut Chan-ocha, the head of the junta, ordered the cold-blooded murder of 90 unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok in 2010. He and his military mates have taken part in two coup d’états against elected governments and they have threatened, imprisoned and tortured political prisoners. The military’s allies in the Democrat Party have staged violent street protests against the electoral process with total impunity, while the army sat back and watched with satisfaction. This reactionary shower have repeatedly stated that Thai citizens are “too uneducated” to have the right to vote. They hate all public spending which benefits the poor. These are people who support the use of the lèse-majesté law to jail activists for decades for merely criticising the status quo. Those who protest against the dictatorship are summonsed to “have their attitudes changed” in military camps.

The anti-democrats hated Taksin and his political machine because he won the hearts and mind of millions of ordinary people through real pro-poor policies. These reactionaries could never win mass support in society, so they resort to the use of force.

Taksin’s parties were not leading the struggle for democratisation, but that is not the point. The point is that most citizens used their brains to vote for these parties for very good reasons. This is what the anti-democrats hate about democracy.

If Prayut and his loathsome cronies are trying to reform the Thai political system to make it more democratic, the Earth must be flat, there must be fairies at the bottom of our gardens and aliens must be able to control our thoughts through the TV!!

Yet there is no shortage of lick-spittle, fawning, devious, reactionaries lining up to take part in the military’s anti-reforms. Among them are right-wing university academics, judges, the Electoral Commission, business people and civilian and military officials. They tell bare-faced lies that this will “reform” Thailand and put us on the road to freedom and peace.

There is also no shortage of gutter journalists at the Bangkok Post and the Nation newspapers who report this circus as though it was a real reform process.

Finally there are the pathetic NGO activists and the worst sections of the labour movement who are falling over themselves to get on the anti-reform train with suggestions for the junta. They are either cheap opportunists or political idiots. Maybe they are both.

But the creation of a “Burmese-style Guided Democracy”, where the military and their allies control power whatever the election results, will be unstable in Thailand. People have a long tradition of fighting for democracy and they will not tolerate for long the turning of the clock back to the old dictatorship days.

When the fight for democracy resumes in strength, we shall have to sweep the military and all their fawning toadies from power and deny them any role in building a future democratic system.





Moral hectoring

14 07 2014

Like most military dictatorships, the Leader’s regime can’t keep itself under control. The Leader has decided that it is his role to hector Thais on their moral failures.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, in another of his televised speeches on Friday, that there are 12 main values as decided by the junta:

1. Love for the nation, religions and monarchy
2. Honesty, patience and good intention for the public
3. Gratitude to parents, guardians and teachers
4. Perseverance in learning
5. Conservation of Thai culture
6. Morality and sharing with others
7. Correctly understanding democracy with the monarchy as head of the state
8. Discipline and respect for the law and elders
9. Awareness in thinking and doing things, and following the guidance of His Majesty the King
10. Living by the sufficiency economy philosophy guided by His Majesty the King
11. Physical and mental strength against greed
12. Concern about the public and national good more than self-interest.

In a dictatorship, no sooner does the dictator make a statement than loyal minions must implement it, no matter how nonsensical.

So it was that in less than 24 hours, the Ministry of Education proudly announcedc that it “plans to implement junta leader Gen.Prayuth Chan-ocha’s 12 main Thai values into the education reform roadmap for the years 2015-2021.” We can’t imagine this bunch of military chumps being around in 2021, but this is all part of re-establishing order and hierarchy, all underpinned by a North Korean-like “love” for the monarchy.

The significance of the military dictatorship’s determination to wind back the clock is expressed by Suthasri Wongsaman, who is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education. She “said that the Ministry had already started revising history and civic duties in order to make students learn about the duty of Thais, discipline, morality and patriotism.” That curriculum begins later this year! The junta’s lackey also stated that her Ministry would “strengthen” the curriculum for the boy/girl scouts and Red Cross Youth.

It is remarkable that curriculum change can take place so quickly and with no attention to education, just propaganda, order and hierarchy. Just like Sarit in the late 1950s! Thai-style democracy is re-established.





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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