The search for the anti-monarchist conspiracy

23 07 2014

Claudio Sopranzetti is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University All Souls College has a story at Al Jazeera on the military dictatorship’s renewed search for an anti-monarchy cabal and plot. The military junta has been on the hunt for mythical beast since the May 2014 coup.

The previous royalist regime under the puerile Abhisit Vejjajiva produced a “diagram” of a plot. It might have been drawn by elementary school children but was probably military-inspired and drawn.

Sopranzetti  begins:

Two months after the military coup, the Thai junta continues to interrogate, detain, and persecute activists, journalists, and academics. The period of “attitude adjustment”, as the military dictatorship calls these arbitrary detentions, may vary from a few hours to seven days, depending on how far removed the victims are from the fairy tale of peace, unity, and happiness that the junta wants them to repeat.

While these “conversations” have been quite effective in silencing opposition, they also reveal the army’s paranoid belief in the existence of an organised plot to bring down the Thai monarchy. Many among the summoned reported that the interrogators attempted to identify and expose such an organisation. Pitch Pongsawat was among them. A professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University and the host of the popular satellite TV programme “Wake Up Thailand”, Pitch wrote of being called up to meet with the army and hearing about an alleged plot to take down the monarchy put together by a structured organisation.

The military dictatorship believes that there is an “organisation revolving around former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, republican intellectuals, and fringes of the Red Shirts” that is seeking to bring down the monarchy.Prayuth planking

We wish there was….

In fact, though, whether the military dolts believe their own nonsense or not, their conspiracy theory is “providing both legitimacy and urgency for unprecedented repressive measures by the Thai military, which has historically presented the protection of the monarchy as their top priority.”

“Historically” is not entirely accurate as the “mission” can only be dated to 1957-8, when General Sarit Thanarat ran his coups and made the monarchy his legitimizing force. The current lot seem to have a 1957-8 model in mind. As the article notes,

The revival of the idea of “enemies of the state” to describe anybody who voices criticism, an important tool for violent military repression of progressive forces during the Cold War, is a sign of Thailand’s slow descent into a new dark era. Once the monarchy and the nation are perceived to be under attack, any form of dissent can be deemed by the military as a real challenge to Thai identity and repressed with any means possible.

Discussing lese majeste, Sopranzetti notes that:

Since the coup on May 22, the junta led by General Prayut Chan-ocha has elevated this strategy to an unprecedented degree and set out to crush the imagined plot against the monarchy. Only in the last  few months, 13 lese majeste cases were filled [filed]. In the military paranoia, enemies of the state are everywhere, from students protesting the coup to media commentators, from vocal taxi drivers to academics advocating for a reform of the law.

Sopranzetti observes that “human history is dotted with similar authoritarian regimes and the disastrous consequences of their quixotic fights against imagined conspiracies.” They may be imagined, but the results for those harrassed, tortured, arrested and killed are real enough.

The author states that it “is undeniable that the Thai monarchy has lost popularity since the palace has been seen as taking sides in the present political crisis, and often voiced to be the mind behind it. However, this discontent is a dispersed murmur rather than an actual conspiracy.”

Things look dark indeed.

 


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