Merchants of death

10 03 2012

Sudarat Keyuraphan and Robert Amsterdam have made related observations in recent media appearances. Amsterdam is well known as one of Thaksin Shinawatra’s legal representatives and Sudarat was a significant minister in Thaksin’s  Thai Rak Thai Party government.


Sudarat has long been close to Thaksin, having begun her political career in the Phalang Dharma party and being one of the first to jump to TRT when it formed. After TRT was thrown out in the 2006 military coup, she was banned when the party was dissolved. It is said that Sudarat has had a behind-the-scenes role in steering Yingluck Shinawatra and her government.

In a recent Bangkok Post interview, translated from Post Today, where Sudarat is reported on issues that may affect the current government’s stability. She refers to the

efforts of “merchants of death” to create divisiveness by using the lese majeste issue to whip up public frenzy. If all across the political divide agree not to touch this issue, the merchants of death will lose their opportunity.

I think the constitution rewrite is a scapegoat to create divisiveness. The merchants of death will try every means to stir up trouble and if the government is careless, it can fail.

Who does she mean? PPT assumes she essentially refers to the military command and the Democrat Party. After all, the former has a long history of killing political opponents (including during Thaksin’s time in government) and the latter sat atop the regime that three times ordered violent repression of red shirt demonstrators (April 2009, April 2010 and May 2010).


Interestingly, Amsterdam has more to say on this in a piece he has authored at Foreign Policy Journal. He makes the all too obvious point that much of the media, both Thai and international, repeatedly refer to Thaksin as a “divisive figure,” when his parties are repeatedly elected and while – to borrow Sudarat’s apt term – the merchants of death in Abhisit Vejjajiva and General Prayuth Chan-ocha hold significant positions:

These men did not just escape legal accountability for their actions, which is the historical norm in Thailand, but got to keep their positions and titles. Few in the domestic and international press have seriously questioned their fitness to serve….

Writers at the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, the Wall Street Journal, or the Council on Foreign Relations have never so much as suggested that these people leave their posts, much less leave the country.

Amsterdam also correctly observes that “Thaksin’s enemies may have given up on elections altogether” as they seek to maintain elite control of Thailand’s politics and economy despite having had their “leadership” rejected several times. It seems the merchants of death are not defeated until their instruments of violent repression are wrenched from their hands.

PPT cannot conclude this post without a negative comment on Sudarat’s interview. She babbles about the monarchy in terms that would not be out of place for the elitists and royalists who hate Thaksin, Yingluck and red shirts.

When she is asked about challenges facing the Yingluck government, Sudarat nominates the amendment of the constitution and then quickly adds:

One must not touch Section 112 of the Criminal Code concerning lese majeste because this provision does not cause any trouble to the people. In fact, the monarchical institution is very beneficial in driving the country’s development and is a unifying force.

It can be said that our country is stable and peaceful because we have a monarchy.

Of course, as PPT has pointed out many times, the latter statement is demonstrably inaccurate as the monarchy has been at the center of most of the most divisive and destabilizing events in Thailand’s modern history. The other notion, that people are not troubled by lese majeste, is equally fatuous.

Sudarat’s next comments are confused:

we must accept that there are some who have bad intentions, but most people don’t feel like that. In developed countries, their monarchs are not closely involved with the people as much as our King who has devoted himself to the people’s betterment over decades.

Her view of overseas monarchies is, as with most royalists, sadly shallow and her knowledge of her own monarchy seems to have come solely from the nightly royal news. Then her royalist feelings are set free: “Instead of amending Section 112, we must strengthen it as our King is not a politician and cannot defend himself.

The idea that the monarchy needs to be protected by others is infantile. The idea that people should be locked away for more than the up to 20 years of recent sentences is medieval.



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