Going back to find a future

25 06 2016

A reader drew our attention to a small story in the Bangkok Post that our correspondent says is indicative of the backwardness of the military regime as it “reinvents” a past as the nation’s future.

This story is of “[p]eople … being taught how to make their own large concreted jars to store rainwater for home use during the dry season under a training project launched by the army.”

Our reader directs us to a document at our own pages (opens a PDF that would be illegal in Thailand), from 1987, that refers to royal celebrations that saw the “Department of Local Administration made sure that, want them or not, millions of suitably inscribed, large water storage jars would be distributed in rural areas.” These are the very same jars the military is now making (again).

Soldiers are being trained “to make the giant jars, which are a traditional method of storage.” In fact, they aren’t “traditional” at all, but as noted above, developed in the 1980s. Earlier jars were made of clay and were much smaller. The big jars have been adopted in other countries, as seen in this UN manual, and have even made it to the US.

Maj Gen Supoj Buranajaree, reported to be the commander of the 36th Military Circle, said the “intention is for the soldiers to complete training and then be deployed through the 12 districts of Phichit to teach people how to make the jars.” He added that the “army project is in line with the government’s policy to promote occupational training and self-reliance.” He says “[s]imilar programmes are in place in other provinces throughout the country.”

Going back 30 years may be natural for the military, as it places them in the era of the unelected regime of royal restorationist General Prem Tinsulanonda. Yet it seems they only learn some things from the past and forget others.

The UN reported on the jars, and notes that they were a part of a program that began in 1981. It says this of the program when it was run the way the army is doing it now:

There was also some corruption involving the Government funds provided for village jar construction, which resulted in the production of some substandard jars. Leakage and breakage were common in such cases. However, shifting of manufacture of the jars from Government programmes to the private sector eliminated this corruption.

The UN report adds:

According to a 1992 review by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the numbers of 2 m3 jars in use in Thailand increased from virtually none in 1985 to nearly 8 million in 1992. This increase was partially due to the Government’s National Jar Programme, but mostly due to the willing adoption of the technology by the public and to the widespread promotion of the technology by the commercial sector. Government intervention is no longer necessary.

The military really is hopelessly embedded in the past and somehow considers this a reinvented future.





Updated: On June 24 and the monarchy

24 06 2016

June 24 is an important day. On that day in 1932 the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed its well-planned Revolution. It marks the overthrew absolutist royal power.

This date used to be celebrated. In recent years, the event is barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries. Of course, for many years, the royalist aim has been to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and to “forget” all but their false claim that King Prajadiphok was the “real democrat.”Pridi

We invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong. It remains available from the Pridi/Phoonsuk website.

In addition, we link to two posts on the monarchy in Thailand today, each taking different views on the role of the monarchy under the military dictatorship. The first is by “Llewellyn McCann” at New Mandala and the second is from Ji Ungpakorn at Uglytruth-Thailand.

Update: Political repression associated with this anniversary is not unexpected. At the small 1932 Revolution Memorial, located in the middle of a royal plaza, meant to overpower the 1932 memorial, it was reported that an unknown man “denounced the revolution, saying that it was an event that caused damage to the Thai monarchy and religious institutions.” This was as students and others were gathering to commemorate the event that royalists want expunged from their Thai history.

When those remembering 1932 assembled, “police officers briefly detained Sirawit Serithiwat, a prominent anti-junta activist, who led a number of people to commemorate the 1932 Revolution at the memorial to the revolution…”.

Lak Si monument

Lak Si monument

Others, mostly from from Ramkhamhaeng and Kasetsart universities, gathered at the Lak Si monument, which commemorates the defeat of the restorationist rebellion led by Prince (and General, what else?) Boworadej in 1933. Police officers detained students at this event too.

Seven activists were arrested. They were from the two universities and Chanoknan Ruamsap, a youth activist from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) was also arrested. According to reports, the “police accused the seven of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings and on Saturday will request permission from the Military Court to detain them.”

1932 continues to drive some aspect of royalist and reactionary politics for the military junta.





Academic boycott II

23 06 2016

At the end of May, we posted on a call by Professor Thongchai Winichakul, made at New Mandala, for academics and three sets of conference organizers to think carefully about the consequences of holding academic conferences in unfree Thailand under the military dictatorship.

ICTS13

There was an unsatisfactory response from the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS), seemingly misunderstanding the situation in Thailand, although New Mandala’s new format seems to have removed the comments from the article.

Now New Mandala has published a response from Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti on behalf of the Organising Committee of the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies (ICTS13). This story has comments with it, currently featuring several comments by Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

For us, the critical point in Chayan’s post is that he affirms that any academically-qualified paper will be accepted, no matter what the topic, but adds this:

It goes without saying that presenters who wish to discuss issues of political sensitivity, such as the military coup, the monarchy or Article 112, will need to use their own judgement in presenting their arguments. The Organising Committee will neither interfere in topic selection, nor will the Committee or host institution (Chiang Mai University) be in a position to guarantee the safety of presenters whom the government at the time of the conference deems to have breached Thai laws.

Academics wanting to present on a range of political topics will need to consider the possibility that they could be arrested, detained or expelled from Thailand. We would also suggest that the Organizing Committee’s response is fraught with problems and unexplained issues. Think about the monarchy. If a paper is considered lese majeste by the regime, then those who accepted the paper for presentation and who provided a platform are also liable for prosecution under Article 112.





Dumb III

22 06 2016

This is another story of how dumb the military dictatorship is. It also proves that being dim means that repression is the preferred mode of political action.

Khaosod reports that a cartoonist for Matichon has been “summoned today to explain why he penned cartoons critical of a junta-backed draft constitution…”.

Most readers will consider this another example of the extensive repression that has accompanied the junta’s efforts to control the outcome of the current draft, about to go to a military-controlled referendum.

But, no, this is about last year’s draft that the junta itself canned.

For “lampooning that … draft, … the Election Commission said cartoonist Arun Watcharasawat must report himself next week to explain his action.”

Arguably the dopiest man in Thailand, anti-election Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn declares:

The cartoonist and online editors of Matichon Weekly must meet us on June 30 to explain whether the incident was a misunderstanding, and explain the intentions behind it…. If it was a misunderstanding, they must show responsibility and fix it, so that there will be correct understanding.

It seems that “Matichon Weekly re-published a collection of Arun’s cartoons from August 2015 on its Facebook page” and Somchai posted them on his own page.

This is why Somchai has been booted into more dopey action. Silly Somchai reckons “both Arun and Matichon Weekly might have violated the recently [April 2016] imposed referendum law by republishing the cartoons.”

Readers will recall that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, recently “explained” that “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”.

Cartoonists drawing on a previous draft charter are apparently excluded from “people.”





Secret lese majeste trial and a 10 year sentence

22 06 2016

Prachatai reports that a secret lese majeste trial before a military court resulted in a defendent being sentenced on 21 June 2016, to 10 years jail, halved for the more-or-less required guilty plea.

Taweesin (surname withheld) was charged “for uploading and sharing audio clips from the so-called anti-monarchy ‘Banpodj Network’.” More on the Banpot group, almost all now convicted, is available here.

Taweesin was “indicted by the military prosecutor … for uploading audio clips with [alleged] lèse majesté content recorded by Hassadin U., aka DJ Banpodj, a well-known red-shirt radio host at the centre of the alleged Banpodj Network, and sharing them on Facebook, banpodjthailandclips.simplesite.com, and OKTHAI.com between 2010 to January 2015.”

Unlike the rest of the Banpot “group,” Taweesin (and Kwanjai, surname withheld), chose to fight the case.

After being held in jail for a lengthy time, Taweesin apparently recanted his not guilty plea, and finally agreed to plead guilty. PPT has long pointed to this as a form of torture and coercion.





AI launches urgent campaign for human rights activists

21 06 2016

Amnesty International has launched a an urgent action appeal for three human rights activists who face up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 baht for their documentation of the use of  torture by state authorities in Thailand.

The three activists, Somchai Homlaor, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Anchana Heemmina “face charges of criminal defamation and for committing computer crimes for their documentation, and online publication, of reports of torture by the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces.”

AI has a PDF that can be downloaded with background information and the details of how to join the campaign.





The Dictator and deceit

21 06 2016

We are never sure if The Dictator is an inveterate liar or that his upbringing in the corrupt, hierarchical and royalist army means that he has no capacity for discerning truth from deceit.

It wasn’t that long ago that a huge team of junta flunkies was sent to Geneva to lie to the United Nations about the military dictatorship and its repression and oppression.

Now The Dictator, the General and the self-appointed prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has stated that he has spewed forth some of the very same lies directly to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

According to the Bangkok Post, The Dictator has bragged about his 30-minute phone call with Ban, where he claims to have spent 25 minutes “explaining” Thailand’s “situation” to Ban, setting him straight.

The UN secretary-general “raised concerns over freedom of expression with … Prayut … during a 30-minute telephone conversation as red-shirt leaders filed a complaint Monday with the UN against the regime’s operation to block the opening of their referendum watchdog centres.”

Prayuth says he called Ban “and explained to him what was going on in Thailand.” He bragged: “Most of the conversation consisted of me talking for about 25 minutes and the rest belonged to the secretary-general…”.

There is one immediate reason for doubting this – Prayuth’s English is not fluent and we don’t think he could talk for 25 minutes about issues like human rights without a translator.

But let’s stick with Prayuth’s personalized rant for a while more.

On the “charter referendum and preparations for a general election,” Prayuth blathered that he “told him everything is proceeding according to the road map,” meaning according to Prayuth’s plans for Thailand’s authoritarian future.

The Dictator “said he also told Mr Ban about activities by groups with ‘ill intentions’ toward the country…”. We assume he doesn’t mean the military and the junta. By “ill intentions” Prayuth seems to mean those advocating electoral democracy.

When Ban expressed concerns regarding the lack of freedom of expression in Thailand, Prayuth  claims he “explained” that “we have such freedom.” He means the junta has it, but no one who opposes or criticizes it or who opposes military land grabs or corrupt parks honoring dead and nearly dead kings or is seen to speak about the monarchy in a way the military junta finds unacceptable.

On the draft charter, Prayuth brazenly lied, claiming “people throughout the country have been given a chance to voice their opinions…”. No one believes this bald-faced deception. Even the Bangkok Post has an editorial beseeching The Dictator to allow some, any discussion.

Prayuth is like most dictators, willingly saying anything that suits his and the ruling elite’s interests.








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