We began a post on a bizarre lese majeste trial yesterday with mention of a Khaosod story. A reader rightly points out that one aspect of the Khaosod story is not correct. This is the statement that the “number of lese majeste accusations has surged in recent weeks, as the political battle in Thailand deepens and both sides of the divide seek new ways to take their adversaries down.” As the reader points out, the use of lese majeste as a political weapon by rightists is hardly new. Indeed, our Commentary page indicates this.
On that PPT page, the use of lese majeste as a way to suppress and repress is a regular pattern of right-wing governments, especially those with close links to the palace, and of rightists who also close to the palace. Think of the 1976-77 government of Thanin Kraivixien and the Village Scout movement that was instigated by the palace as an anti-leftist movement in the early 1970s.
In the darkest days of the 1970s, royalist thugs conducted witch hunts for anti-monarchists. Like the royalist zealot who was made premier in 1976 with the support and approval of the king, these gangs had palace and royalist support. A report at the Bangkok Post warns of royalist efforts to establish “an organisation to eradicate those accused of anti-monarchy behaviour could spark [similar] witch-hunts.”
Back in the 1970s, one of the fascist groups that was formed and managed by royalists was the Red Gaurs. Robert F. Zimmerman in his Reflections on the Collapse of Democracy in Thailand, noted the efforts of Police Colonel Sudsai Thepsadin.
As Wikipedia has it, “set up by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) of the Thai military to counter the country’s students movement after the democratic revolution of October 1973.” It adds:
In August 1975, the group assaulted the Thammasat University, trying to burn down the school building. Assassinations of labor and peasants union officials (namely of the Peasants Federation of Thailand), as well as progressive politicians, and grenade attacks on crowds have been attributed to the Red Gaurs. The organization’s militants often attacked and injured photo journalists who tried to take pictures of them and their guns. The Red Gaurs interfered in the campaign for the 1976 parliamentary election by harassing candidates and attacking political parties they perceived as “leftist” (in particular the New Force Party). Besides, the Red Gaurs were also employed to guard road construction crews against attacks in areas with communist insurgents.
Membership and support
The ultra-royalist vigilante group focused its activities on Bangkok. Its membership consisted mainly of discontent young unemployed, vocational school students and high school drop-outs. The majority of their key cadres however, were veterans of the Vietnam War or former mercenaries in Laos, and former army soldiers dismissed for disciplinary infractions. The Krathing Daeng [Red Gaur] militants were well paid, provided with free liquor, taken on drinking sprees and to brothels out of public money.
They were heavily funded and backed by the United States government. The US provided at least 250 million baht to help organize the Red Gaurs. Paul M. Handley, the author of The King Never Smiles, an unofficial biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, reports that the king also gave support to both the Red Gaurs and the “Village Scouts”, another patriotic anti-leftist paramilitary organization.
More than 40 years later, it seems that another military royalist has been given the job of forming a fascist gang of thugs, the so-called Rubbish Collection Organisation as a means to threaten and repress those with different political positions. Major-General Rientong Nan-nah says his thugs “will work to find and hurt those who insult the monarchy.”
Reportedly a director at the Mongkutwattana General Hospital and a medical doctor, Rienthong claimed his group was established “exterminate” – yes, that was the word – “people who insult the monarchy.”
Rienthong gets his anti-democrat photo op.
Amongst others, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that Rienthong’s gang will ignite “violent and deadly” attacks as in the mid-1970s.
Rienthong, like his fascist predecessors, “has denied the RCO is an underground organisation and vowed that it will operate within the law, without links to political or business groups.” No one should or could believe him as he is already an organizer for the anti-democrat movement.
The Post reports that the “RCO’s Facebook page had already attracted more than 93,000 followers as of Saturday. The page is intended to act as a channel for the public to share personal information on those accused of lese majeste.”
Sunai warned that:
the RCO’s activities could lead to the violent suppression of people accused of being disloyal to the monarchy, adding that even the name of the organisation attempts to “dehumanise” people. “I am also alarmed by the RCO’s offer of legal and financial assistance to members who take action against people accused of lese majeste ‘out of anger’,” Mr Sunai said.
“The group also announced that some anti-monarchists need to be handled using ‘special means’, which could implied as encouraging violence.”
Sunai is reported to have “said political groups on all sides had long used Section 112 of the Criminal Code to suppress their rivals. “Therefore we see a strong need to reform this law…”.
He’s wrong. The use of lese majeste has been almost entirely by rightists and royalists, and PPT can’t think of a case raised by red shirts or others associated with them that has made any legal progress. Likewise, this law doesn’t need reform, it needs to be abolished.
Not surprisingly, yellow-shirted “intellectual” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, of Chulalongkorn University, said:
political groups should not use the monarchy to try and justify their cause, but argued the RCO was an acceptable organisation, so long as it acts within the bounds of the law.
“All societies have their taboo issues. In France, people will not accept those who support Nazis.
“In Thailand, lese majeste behaviour is not acceptable and that is why a group like the RCO emerges to counter such acts.”
Chaiyan has clearly identified himself with anti-democrats since he threw his support behind the People’s Alliance for Democracy and then signed up in support of the coup and the military junta. But even for an academic with such a record, to condone a hate group with fascist ideas is moving a long way towards condoning extremism. His claims about France are meaningless twaddle. For example, French skinheads remain active, and while some French do not accept them, they are connected with a range of far right groups and even the rightist parties that did well in recent elections, headed by Marine Le Pen. Nonsensical statements like these by Chaiyan indicate an “academic” who is muddying the waters in order to condone fascist royalism.
Update: Like most on the extreme right, Rienthong has already claimed that he is a victim, but that he will fight against those who “intimidate” him. Yes, the fascist who has declared he will exterminate those he disagrees with on the worth of the great feudal institution bizarrely seeks sympathy and an opportunity to extend his threats.
He vows “tit-for-tat measures against opponents who he claims are trying to intimidate him.” He has “warned critics that he would ‘respond with violence’ to any violent attacks committed against his supporters.” He was firm: “My policy to deal with your violence is to respond with violence…”.
Are you listening Chaiyan Chaiyaporn?
He creates a rationale for his future violence by asserting that “the anti-monarchy movement has an armed group inside it. If they are allowed to grow, they will pose a grave danger to the monarchy.”
This is sounding like the extremists of the 1970s. It is very dangerously so when he states: “I have my battle colleagues who are ready to respond. If we do it, we will have no mercy.” Even more so when he talks of a “People’s Army to Protect the Monarchy”, and invites “retired military and police officers who are loyal to the King to a meeting at his hospital … to help the National Police Office punish perpetrators of the lese majeste law.”
His other claims were largely a nonsense recital of lies about not using violence and rule of law.
One claim that will be chilling for many is his allegation that his:
group has now located almost 300 suspected offenders and is gathering evidence to file police complaints, he said. Many of the suspects are close associates of politicians, while others were teenagers who had “bad thoughts”, he added.
Rienthong said he has also “set up a team of online volunteers to stand by around the clock to monitor websites with anti-monarchy content.” Hopefully the vigilantes will enjoy PPT’s content, although we wonder about their capacity for dealing with facts rather than the fiction that royalists find they need to believe. We imagine that like some fundamentalist preacher, Rienthong has measures in place to re-indoctrinate his fellow snoops.