Google named again

26 10 2016

On Sunday PPT posted a story about Deputy Prime Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong having “asked Google and YouTube to cooperate in blocking websites and videos with alleged lèse majesté content.” He claimed Ann Lavin, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs in Asia Pacific, Google Asia Pacific and she “agreed to set up an ad hoc team in the US to monitor alleged lèse majesté content with Thai nationals in the team and adjust the complaint form in the Thai language to make it easier for Thai people to file complaints about such online content…”.

We added that that team has reportedly begun work.

We also said that this was a junta-sourced claim. Sure enough, Google “denied it is monitoring posts by Thai social media users but said it would simply consider Thai government requests to remove certain sensitive posts on a case-by-case basis.” That is, its standard operating procedure and nothing special for the junta. The implication was that the junta was not entirely truthful.

Now it seems that it was the junta that was more truthful. A report in the Bangkok Post states that the junta claims a “joint blocking effort” with Google has seen almost 100 YouTube addresses or URLs “blocked over the past four days for insulting the monarchy…”. Four days exactly matches the joint teams establishment claimed by the junta.

The military regime also claims that “[a]nother 380 web addresses … run by a subsidiary of Google, are in the process of being blocked…”.3

How does 480 URLs compare with previous Thai government requests approved by Google?

Our not always competent mathematicians got to work and calculated that for the period 2010 to 2013, the various governments made 21 requests for 754 “items” (we assume URLs). The big years were 2011 (374 items) and 2013 (322). After that, 2014 saw 18 requests for 73 items and 2015 saw 33 requests for 1,566 items. Of these items, for 2010 to June 2012, 100% of requests were partially or fully processed, blocking 431 items. For the following years, requests were not fulfilled entirely in 2013 (27% approved), 2014 (56%) and 2015 (85%). It is not clear how many items were fully or partially blocked. Only one of these requests over the entire period was on the basis of a court order. It doesn’t say it, but the majority of items relate to monarchy.

So 480 items in a few days is huge! 2016 will probably be a bumper year for the junta and will see Google folding under even more. A regime source stated that the “government [the military junta] needs strong assistance from Google to permanently remove all the web addresses showing inappropriate videos on YouTube…”.

The censorship success with Google has inspired the military dictatorship, and it is now calling in “representatives of Facebook this week to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in blocking users that post content or comments insulting the monarchy.”

The media giants are falling into line for the worlds longest serving military regime. The junta is actually playing the death card effectively, using it to further tighten repression in Thailand.

We are pretty sure that PigProgress won’t be one of those blocked. It might be an odd outlet, but it has joined in with a laudatory and fawning article on the dead king among other items on robust piglets and gut problems in pigs.


The prince cometh

25 10 2016

Australian academic Patrick Jory has one of the best pieces we’ve seen on “delayed succession.” Sure, it is all still speculation, yet Jory bases his “best guesses” on “what we know.” His piece appears at The Interpreter. Some tidbits:

Some observers of Thailand’s politics are attracted to the theory that the Crown Prince may have been ‘blocked’ from assuming the throne by his enemies in the Thai royalist establishment. Such a view is particularly influential among some sections of the Red Shirts movement, who believe that succession instability may provide an opportunity for an uprising against the royalist establishment….

We don’t think the latter view is widespread. However, many yellow shirts believe the view is widespread – and so are frightened – and dislike the prince for this and other failures.

Jory thinks the successionist “speculation is almost certainly wrong…”. He lists several reasons for arguing that the prince will become king.

First, the long official mourning period – at least one year – means that any overt political activity at this time would be portrayed by the military regime as disrespectful to the late king….

Second, … the military coup of 2014 was carried out precisely to ensure that the military was in control when the succession took place. The military has been successful in suppressing all political activity during this time. There is no reason why this should not continue.

Third, the military and the monarchy have been in a close and mutually beneficial political alliance since the late 1950s. The military provides ultimate protection for the monarchy; the monarchy has long provided legitimacy for the military’s political role, which has included sanctioning coups and approving amnesty bills which absolve the military from all legal responsibility for their actions. For this reason, it is in the interests of both to ensure that the succession is as smooth as possible. The last thing either institution wants is disunity.

Fourth, and most importantly, it is clear that the Crown Prince is already in a powerful position….

This sounds reasonable. So why wait to become king?

As exiled political historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul has argued, it is likely that the Crown Prince’s decision to delay the succession is purely idiosyncratic, typical of his well-known lack of respect for convention and tradition. Given the prince’s reputation, few would dare question his decision.

familyMaybe. At the same time, the prince doesn’t look grasping and covetous of the kingship. He also gains some of his father’s aura from attending to the funeral, which has displayed the royal family as united rather than split (although we wonder why the family pictures at a Bangkok Post story have apparently been removed when we last looked). It has introduced the country to the idea of Suthida as consort.


Suthida is the woman in uniform

That helps him work on a problem Jory identifies for the new king: “how to win the hearts and minds of the Thai population.”

Jory spends a bit of time on the alleged relationship between Thaksin Shinawatra and the prince.

We tend to think that that the relationship – whatever it was – is weakened by the military’s now dominant position, including its dominance of the monarchy:

The new constitution drafted by a military-appointed lawyer and approved at a tightly-controlled plebiscite in August makes for a weak parliament, an enhanced political role for the military, and the possibility of a non-elected prime minister. This is also to the benefit of the new king.

Jory concludes:

All this suggests that the authority of the Crown Prince has been underestimated. In particular, his ruthless use of the lèse majesté law as his political weapon of choice, not only to destroy his enemies but to forbid any criticism of his actions, is an indication of what we might expect when the reign of King Rama X finally officially begins.

Lese majeste arrest

25 10 2016

Prachatai reported this arrest some days ago, and we reproduce it as a matter of record.

We should add that we are having trouble getting accurate information of those arrested in this “mourning” period. If any readers have details for other cases and some links to a source for the information, this would be appreciated, sent to: (we do not recommend readers in Thailand use this address).

A teenager from Thailand’s northeast has been arrested for posting a lèse majesté message on Facebook. He says he was high on marijuana when he posted the message

On 19 October 2016, police officers arrested an 18-year-old male, whose name was withheld by the original source, in his room in Sa Kaeo Police Province after receiving a report that the teenager had posted a lèse majesté message on Facebook, reported Bangkokbiz News.

The teenager was arrested only four hours after posting the message. The authorities also searched his room and found 26 packs of marijuana, totalling a weight of 25.44 grams.

According to Bangkokbiz News, the teenager initially denied the lèse majesté allegation, saying the message was posted by someone else who had used his phone. After eight hours of interrogation, however, he pled guilty and claimed that he was high on marijuana when he posted.

The authorities then sent him to Sa Kaeo Police Station the next morning for further prosecution. He was accused of lèse majesté and, of course, drug offenses.

Human rights lawyer faces several charges

24 10 2016

Readers will be aware that lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri has been the subject of a concerted police campaign, which human rights organizations say include “the specious accusation of sedition, which apparently relate to her organization’s representation of 14 student activists peacefully protesting in June 2015…”.



With the country in compulsory mourning for the dead king, the police remained hard at “work” harassing Sirikan. The Chiangrai Times reports that, on Saturday, the police filed criminal charges against Sirikan. Political repression cannot be reduced for the king’s death.

The filing of the charges was witnessed by representatives of the European Union and officials of European embassies at Bangkok’s Samranrat police station.

Sirikan works with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and “was charged with illegal political assembly of more than five people, incitement of unrest and resistance of the state among the people for her role in providing legal assistance to political activists deemed to be critical of the Monarchy.”

The last bit seems a little odd and we take it as descriptive, for Sirikan’s Facebook page states: “Charged with sedition & violating junta’s ban on political gathering for my legal representation to activists. If indicted, the trial will be processed in military court.”

These charges stem from Sirikarn’s observation of a rally on 25 June 2015 at the “Democracy Monument on Rajdamnoen road by the so-called New Democracy Movement.”

Earlier, on “May 12, 2016, Ms Sirikarn was charged with concealing evidence and resisting police order in accordance with Sections 142 and 368 of the Criminal Code, for refusing to allow the police to search her car without a warrant in order to seize 14 smart phones belonging to 14 students of the New Democracy Movement before they were escorted into prison.” The police then stole her car until they had a warrant.

If found guilty, “Sirikan could face a punishment of up to to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 baht…”.

Anti-election EC and the deceased king

23 10 2016

The American media has been in a spin because wealthy businessman Donald Trump claims the election is rigged and that he may not accept the results. He’s also highly critical of “politicians” and the corruption he says they preside over. Of course, we at PPT don’t know anything much about U.S. politics but we do throw bags of salt around when listening to this particular Republican.

We do know that, in Thailand, the elite has essentially never accepted election results they don’t like. Its claims about vote-buying and policy corruption are a way of saying free elections are rigged. And, its allegations against elected politicians as evil and corrupt are repeated daily.

Thailand’s Election Commission is very much enveloped by this royalist perspective on politics. Essentially anti-election, it is composed of anti-democrats who do their best to prevent elected politicians actually being able to govern while working to deprive the people of their sovereignty.

In an interesting report at the Bangkok Post the EC has joined the junta bandwagon using the dead king to justify its anti-politics. In this case, they have a point.

The EC claims to have adopted one of the late king’s “famous speech” from 1969 when he spoke at the 6th National Scout Jamboree, and “which specifically calls for Thais to ‘strip bad people of power’.” Armed king

At the time, the king strongly supported the dictatorial and corrupt Thanom Kittikachorn regime.  That’s Thanom in the picture, between the king and prince.

The speech, the EC claims, “provides a guide to five strategies aimed to prevent election fraud next year.” The genuflection to the king’s authoritarian anti-politics fits neatly with the current military dictatorship’s approach to a “controlled election.”

The EC’s “five strategies” for that election involve mobilising “well-trained people” – they mean indoctrinated anti-democrats – “to help the EC organise and look out for irregularities in the general election” and said to “match the King’s 1969 speech that emphasises a key principle of the government’s administration — to support good people and ‘keep away bad ones’…”.

The EC is committed to “help screen out bad election candidates.” As part of this, the “EC is training hundreds of people who will learn how to prepare accusation documents and file petitions with the court…”.

So much for any democratic notions of representation and popular sovereignty. As the EC states, “All of these strategies are aimed at achieving the late King and the nation’s goal — to have ‘only good people’ rule the country.” No prizes for guessing who might be “good.”

Boxing lessons

23 10 2016

The fawning and treacly accolades continue for the deceased monarch.

One of the more interesting tributes is from the boxing world with parallels between boxing and monarchy.

The dead king has been credited with a remarkable array of skills and exploits. One might imagine – and that is what people do – that anything and everything in Thailand owes most to the king. The boxing establishment in Thailand, dominated for decades by military men, has decided thta it should join the fawning displays, with the linked article declaring that “not many people are aware of the enormous contributions that … the King made to develop boxing and Muay Thai out of the public view.”

Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the World Boxing Council, is quoted: “Boxing has lost one of the most influential persons who has ever supported the sport: King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away last week in Bangkok…”. He claims that the king “played an important role in promoting professional boxing in the country and also in introducing Muay Thai … to the world.”

The WBC had awarded the king its “Golden Shining Symbol of World Leadership Award” in 2001. We did a quick search and can’t find this award listed anywhere other than in stories about the king, so it may be another of the awards created just for him, at the urging of royal acolytes of the time.

The WBC president at the time was Mauricio Sulaiman’s “late father Jose Sulaiman,” proving that like monarchies, the WBC has hereditary positions. Sulaiman Senior was “Lifetime President” of the WBC and was a skillful propagandist for his group and himself. His Board of Governors looked like a Privy Council and the WBC is a bit like a family business, not unlike the Crown Property Bureau.

As Wikipedia notes, Sulaiman Senior was a controversial figure. One critical journalist stated that the WBC head “became more King’s junior partner…”. He means Don King. And, it states, Sulaiman was accused of corruption numerous times.

The WBC’s headquarters are in Mexico. While only formed in 1963, like monarchies, the WBC creates a “history” that links it to figures from an ancient world.

Khaosai Galaxy is quoted in the story as also saying good things about the king. It might be noted that he did all of his work with the World Boxing Association.

The world of boxing is riven with splits, coups and failures to acknowledge the results of internal elections. That’s why it has four international and competing federations.

Updated: In bed with the fascist regime

23 10 2016

We guess it should not be any surprise at all, but after years of trying, a report at Prachatai indicates that, by using the death of the king and the extraordinarily gushing reporting that is appearing, the military dictatorship has finally signed up some of the big, global, internet firms to the junta’s parochial, nasty and repressive internet censorship program.

We should note that the account is from the junta itself, so we do hope that the firms involved are willing to deny the accuracy of the report.

Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Junthong, who is also deputy junta head says he “has asked Google and YouTube to cooperate in blocking websites and videos with alleged lèse majesté content.”censorship-1

He says that on 21 October 2016, he invited Ann Lavin, the Director of Public Policy of Google’s Southeast Asia and Greater China Office, to a meeting where censorship was the topic. The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore lists her as “Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs in Asia Pacific, Google Asia Pacific.” It also notes that she has been a member and executive of several organizations with links into the palace.

The junta’s website states that “Prajin consulted with Lavin about ways to block websites and video clips deemed defamatory or offensive to the Thai [m]onarchy.”

According to the junta, Lavin “placed great importance on the case under the current circumstances after the recent death of King Bhumibol.” We are not at all sure why the death of a king (or anyone else) should be cause for censorship.

The report states that Lavin “agreed to set up an ad hoc team in the US to monitor alleged lèse majesté content with Thai nationals in the team and adjust the complaint form in the Thai language to make it easier for Thai people to file complaints about such online content…”. That team has reportedly begun work.

The junta “will also set up a team in Thailand to send web addresses and URLs of people alleged to have posted such online content to the Google team after which the team will consider within 24 hours whether the content should be blocked.” Prajin added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “will send a request to the US to obtain information from Google about people who post lèse majesté content on the internet…”.

Prajin noted that “on 19-20 October, 120 people, mostly Thais, reportedly posted online content deemed offensive to the … monarchy.” It is not clear if this refers to persons overseas, in Thailand or both.

The junta’s deputy leader said that pressure would also be brought to bear on Line and Facebook.

The junta is using the king’s death to promote and embed its politics and enhanced censorship is critical for the junta in denying critical voices.

Update: Above, we stated: We should note that the account is from the junta itself, so we do hope that the firms involved are willing to deny the accuracy of the report. At The Nation, it is stated:

INTERNET giant Google has denied it is monitoring posts by Thai social media users but said it would simply consider Thai government requests to remove certain sensitive posts on a case-by-case basis.

Google was reacting to a claim by Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong that it would help the government scan sensitive posts during the mourning period for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In a statement to The Nation, Google said: “We have always had clear and consistent policies for removal requests from governments around the world. We have not changed those policies in Thailand.

“We rely on governments around the world to notify us of content that they believe is illegal through official processes, and will restrict it as appropriate after a thorough review. All of these requests are tracked and included in our Transparency Report.”

We’d tend to believe Google as the junta has a terrible record of lying. Let’s see if Prajin responds.