Updated: Damned foreigners

5 06 2014

Many readers will have seen the article by the influential former U.S. senator Congressman Barney Frank. His op-ed is: “It’s time to stand up to Thai regime.” It has a sub-heading: “We should impose the toughest nonmilitary sanctions.” That will get the ultra-royalist loonies who populate social media agitated, but maybe they should read the article and not the headlines:

I have long been skeptical of the claim by many who push for more American intervention in the affairs of other nations that they are driven largely by the impulse to defend basic democratic values. In many cases, the stronger motivation seems clearly to be a desire to protect or expand American influence in the world, even when there is no discernible benefit to our country from doing so, nor any loss of anything important if we abstain. My conviction that this is the case is reinforced by the fact that the pressure for more intervention in recent times has come primarily from conservatives and have been predominately aimed at regimes that they perceive to be too far to the left.

But! And it is a big but:

The terrible situation in Thailand gives them a chance to prove me wrong. There is no situation in the world today where basic democratic values are more explicitly violated than in that unfortunate country.…

I await a demonstration that many of the conservatives who have been critical of President Obama for insufficient interventionism in the affairs of others are not upset only when those threats come from entities perceived to be on the left, but are in fact are demonstrating a genuine commitment to support for democracy whenever it is threatened. The relative silence with which the brutalization of democracy in Thailand has been greeted among many of those who clamor most loudly for a more assertive American role on behalf of “human rights” as they phrase it, is striking.

People seeking to establish their credentials as defenders of democracy must put the case of Thailand very high on their agendas.

Some of his factoids on recent history may be a little screwy, and some of the ultra-nuts will focus on that. Some loops will say he is calling for military intervention. That is not the case. He says: ” I am not urging American military intervention or arming the victims of this oppression. But any claim that we are acting in defense of fundamental human rights and democracy requires that we impose the toughest possible nonmilitary sanctions on the current Thai regime.”

As readers will also know, there is a bizarrely nationalist-monarchist conspiracy theory on Thaksin Shinawatra’s control of the Western media, politicians and public. Again, Bangkok Pundit has an excellent post on one of the more outlandish of these. Noticeable in this one is the (usual) inability for these conspiricists to grasp reality and fact. But, then, politics is about shaping perception (as well as the control of guns, coups, money and martial law).

This lot will also be very unhappy with The Financial Times:

Thailand’s coup is a public relations fiasco. A short-tempered general talking breezily about his junta’s wish to “restore happiness to the people and stamp out conflict”. Hundreds of people, including academics, rounded up for questioning. Soldiers descending on tiny groups of protesters. People facing arrest for reading books (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or for making three-fingered salutes (The Hunger Games). It is all so horribly retro. Thailand has become the land of the inverted smile.

Khaosod also has a couple of stories on the anti-foreign loonies. One is unimportant and about some private badminton school being anti-foreign. The other is a general account of anti-Americanism amongst the elite. An aspect of this story is the mention of Khunying [Lady] Songsuda Yodmanee, who, amongst other things, is “chairwoman of Thailand’s American University Alumni Association (AUAA).” Her supportive husband is Suvit, a coup-loving right-wing politician and elite functionary. Songsuda is quoted:

“It is time for the US Department of State to treat allies of the US in equal status, not as colonies of the US,” Ms. Songsuda said. “Thailand has never been colonised by anyone, and we will continue to maintain our independence and liberty.”

“All executive committee members of the AUAA have graduated from American universities. We know the US almost as much as we know our country,” explained Ms. Songsuda, who is the daughter of Field Marshal Thanorm Kittikachorn, the military dictator who was ousted in a student uprising in 1973.

Media commentator Pavin Chachavalpongpun took her comments up. He notes that during her father’s military dictatorship, the relationship between the U.S. and Thailand was close:

Throughout Thanom’s period, Thailand had worked closely with the United States, in constructing Thai policies that were essentially anti-communist, pro-American and pro-monarchy. Even in his exile, Thanom ran away to settle in Boston for a while. In other words, the United States became both the Kittikachorn’s second home and a political shelter.

He might have added that General Thanom and his family were engaged in massive levels of corruption, stuffing their pockets and bags with millions of dollars. The perception and evidence of rampant corruption, nepotism and impunity were an important part of the overthrow of his dictatorship in 1973.

In other words, Songsuda’s elite position owes everything to her father’s dictatorship, U.S. support, the military and his mammoth corruption. Like the unrepentent children of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, she wants a return to a bygone era, when money flowed to her lot and they could command politics without the need for constitution or elections. Her husband has worked long and hard to rehabilitate the image of the dictator Thanom and of his corrupt military regime.

Songsuda seems to have also inherited her father’s penchant for the disingenuous:

Songsuda added that the AUAA plans to submit a formal letter to the US Embassy in Bangkok to inform them of the “true” situation in Thailand. She stressed that the AUAA’s action are not political.

“We do this as friends who wish well for the US,” Ms. Songsuda said. “This is not a political commentary, because the AUAA is not involved in politics.”

Of course, this is nonsensical blather from a dictator’s daughter who bathes in his ill-gotten gains and who longs for a time when the U.S. simply ladled the cash into her father’s and the military’s very deep pockets. Back then, if Thailand wasn’t a colony, it was rented out to the U.S. by her father’s regime. They’d like a return to that era of Cold War political control when the money poured down on the elite like tropical rain.

 


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5 06 2014
Fascism and political prisoners | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] National chauvinism is emphasized by the regime through its emphasis on monarchy and the “difference” that “defines” Thailand. Many of its ideologues are ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists. […]

5 06 2014
Fascism and political prisoners | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] National chauvinism is emphasized by the regime through its emphasis on monarchy and the “difference” that “defines” Thailand. Many of its ideologues are ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists. […]

1 08 2014
Puppet assembly | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Chanthik, the notorious anti-foreign campaigner and wealthy scion of a corrupt military family, Songsuda Yodmani, and Kittisak Rattanvaraha, the “deputy chairman of the Thai Farmers’ Network who led […]

1 08 2014
Puppet assembly | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Chanthik, the notorious anti-foreign campaigner and wealthy scion of a corrupt military family, Songsuda Yodmani, and Kittisak Rattanvaraha, the “deputy chairman of the Thai Farmers’ Network who led […]