King changes graduation ceremonies

21 09 2018

Graduation ceremonies in Thailand are important for more than those who celebrate their years of studying. For one thing, since the 1960s, the palace propagandists has recognized that having a royal hand out the certificates is a great way of having the then increasingly Sino-Thai middle-class graduates tied to the monarchy in a ceremony that was a kind of graduation into Thai-ness. As the higher education sector opened up, and graduation ceremonies got ever larger, the task of royal bonding was doled out to more royals. A financial benefit also accrues to the royal as each graduate is expected to pay amounts from 400 to 600 baht each which goes into the royal spare change purse.

When he was Crown Prince, Vajiralongkorn usually presided at Thammasat University and the Rajabhats.

A couple of days ago, The Nation reported, in an account reflecting the fear of king and monarchy, that:

King Maha Vajiralongkorn has accepted an invitation to bestow degrees on the newest batch of graduates at Thammasat University (TU) next April, the TU Graduate Committee’s social media page (facebook.com/TUgraduate60/) announced on Tuesday…. The dates for the Graduation Ceremony for the 2017-18 academic year were selected by … the King for April 7-8, 2019. The ceremony will be held at the Grand Auditorium, Thammasat University, Tha Phrachan Campus…. The announcement post received more than 12,000 ‘likes’ and was shared by 26,000 Facebook users.”

This is odd in the sense that graduation ceremonies have for years been at a particular time for each institution – indeed, there has been a graduation season – and most haven’t changed much over the years. Why the change? Why is the king deciding? And why to a hot period?

A day later, Khaosod reported that Thammasat and 39 Rajabhats all announced that “their year-end graduation ceremonies … have been postponed to April.” The changes were said to have been made to “accommodate a new schedule set by the palace.”

Thammasat vice rector Chalie Charoenlarpnopparut is reported: “The Royal Household Bureau stated that His Majesty the King has set the date to hand out diplomas for April 7-8, so we will hold the ceremonies on those days…” rather than November-December.

Some of the dates for the Rajabhats “have yet to be set by the palace.” It is reported that the “palace postponed the ceremonies … [but] no reason was given.”

There is much social media speculation: astrology and auspicious dates, the king will be skiing in Europe in winter, his coronation is to be announced for November/December.

Whatever the reason, one things is clear: this king does what he wants when he wants. It is all rather feudal.





Seethe against the military junta

21 09 2018

Punk fans and anti-Fascists rejoice! Tonight is the time for “BNK44: Four Years Later and All We Eat is Fortune Cookies,” will start at 8pm on the rooftop of The Overstay, an underground venue in the Pinklao area that hosts punk and reggae shows. Entry is free.

Recall that several punk bands involved in this gig are returning after the “Almost Four Years, You Motherfucker” concert that was shut down by the junta’s thugs. This time they want “to seethe against military rule, four months after their last show was raided by police” because they were considered anti-junta.

The bands are “lampooning the junta’s recruiting of a girl idol group for publicity, according to an the event organizer who asked not to be named ‘because our concept is anonymity and anarchism’.”





Judiciary, military, impunity

20 09 2018

Under the military dictatorship the judiciary has been less interventionist that it was when it opposed elected governments. The royalist elite charged the judiciary with drawing lines in the political sand and protecting it against uppity elected governments.

But the loyal servants of monarchy and military on the bench can still be quite royally repugnant when they are told to enforce the military’s will or charge themselves as enforcers.

Sawai Thongom was shot in a 2009 protest against the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. That left him disabled. Later, a “court ruled the armed forces must pay him 1.2 million baht…”.

Not long after that an appeals court “overturned the judgment on appeal, ruling that the bullet wounds sustained by Sawai and another injured plaintiff were caused by a type of gun not issued to soldiers.” [As far as PPT can recall, this is not the case, and the Army does have the weapon in question.]

The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided that not only was Sawai up for “over 300,000 baht in fees and damages for harming the military’s reputation.”

Yes, we know, the military’s reputation is as murderous thugs, but one of the judiciary’s tasks is to save the face of big bosses in state positions maintain the impunity of the military.

The latest twist is that not only has impunity and face been maintained, but the junta has decided to further punish the disabled Sawai; they have seized his land and his money.

In June, “all the money in his bank account, just over 5,000 baht” was grabbed by the military’s thugs. More recently, Sawai received a letter “telling him he must surrender the deed to his 8 rai (1.3 hectare) of land in … Surin province.”

The letter said his land was valued “at 460,980 baht, the letter said it would be auctioned off to compensate the military.”

Interestingly, Sawai is fighting back and is now supported by “[v]eteran political activist and former lese majeste prisoner Somyot Prueksakasemsuk [who] is helping him raise funds and file petitions.”

Somyos said:

Will citizens dare to sue the state in the future if there’s such a crackdown?… You get shot and become physically handicapped. Then you go to the court and end up having to pay the army.

Sawai is unwilling to hand over his land title. He also realizes the government can sell it regardless. He knows that he’s merely buying time for what he fears is the inevitable outcome.

The Army has been prancing about in red shirt-dominated electorates intervening in “loan sharking” and returning land to farmers. But when it comes to the “dignity” of the murderous thugs of the Royal Thai Army, there is no sympathy. Rather there is just punishment.

Justice in Thailand excludes the poor as it protects the rich, the monarchy and the military.

Sawai has another mark against him. He holds political views that irk the royalist elite. On joining the rallies in 2009, he says of the Abhisit regime: “I did not join the protest due to hatred. I just oppose a party with minority seats forming a government on a military base…”. He continued: “I am just a normal person who, unarmed and wearing a Redshirt, exercised my rights to sue the armed forces…”.

It seems that no such right exists. Impunity remain intact.





2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.





King Power monopoly assured

19 09 2018

Some time ago a private individual – former anti-graft official, Chanchai Aitsarasenalux – accused airport monopoly holder King Power and Airports of Thailand with failing to collect 14 billion baht that should have been paid to the state. He took them to court.

The outcome is now available. As usual, big money and military connections help, and a “judge at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases said on Tuesday Mr Chanchai ‘was not an affected party, therefore he cannot sue in this case’.”

Case closed without investigation. Taxpayers potentially screwed again.

Maybe not. Chanchai says he will appeal.

The fabulously wealthy clan with a royally-bestowed family name that own King Power is available here, here and here.

 





Dictatorship of bullies

18 09 2018

Today’s Bangkok Post has three stories that demonstrate that the military dictatorship is a coterie of thugs.

The first that caught our attention is an editorial where the Deputy Dictator’s adviser Pol Maj Gen Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparnhas decided that he has license to bully persons overseas. Of course, the military dictatorship has bullied those it accuses of lese majeste for years, but this relates to a young British woman who claims to have been raped at the “already infamous Koh Tao.”

Big Joke – his real nickname – “has announced an imminent trip to London. There, he claimed late last week, he intends to interrogate the 19-year-old woman who claims to be the victim.”

But this is not an investigation but a bullying. Big Joke has already been loud in his denunciations of the woman’s claims and has now declared that “his London visit could end up proving the rape claim was false.”

The Post states: “There are so many things wrong with this development.” It is right, but this is simply the way things are done under the junta’s regime. And there’s much that is wrong about that.

The second is the news that Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and two other executive members have “met police to hear the charge of violating the Computer Crime Act on Monday.”

They have been charged for telling the truth about the junta’s campaigning and its efforts at hoovering up MPs for the political parties supporting the dictators. The junta has spent more than four years bullying – sometimes jailing, abducting and worse – persons it identifies as opponents. It is the way of the dictatorship.

The complaint against the three came directly from the junta or National Council for Peace and Order. As the Post reports, the “person who filed the charges and allegations, Col Burin Thongprapai, Judge Advocate General (legal) officer for the NCPO…”.

The police “said they would forward the case to the attorney general within four months.” If found “guilty,” the three “who could face a fine up to 100,000 baht and/or a jail term up to five years…”.

And the third story is yet another report of the double standards adopted by the junta. It uses decrees and threats to prevent political parties from doing much at all that is usually associated with political parties, but the junta goes on its merry way, seeking popularity for the upcoming elections.

In the past, the junta and its anti-democrat supporters have referred to these activities as vote buying and policy corruption, but when the junta does it, it is met with wry smiles. Anything is okay in the effort to keep “bad” politicians out of office. “Bad” is now defined only by reference to whether an politician supports the junta.

With The Dictator, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta henchmen in Loei to hand out large piles of taxpayer loot and seek to steal former MPs away from their parties, it has targeted the Puea Thai Party.

In the past, the junta and its anti-democrat supporters have referred to these MPs as “bad” politicians, corrupt and a threat to the state. Their laundering to “good” politicians is achieved by their agreement to support the military’s thugs.





Un-updated: On the junta’s “election” II

17 09 2018

It seems no one trusts the military junta all that much. The Nation reports on a comment by law professor Ekachai Chainuvati who observes that the junta’s so-called green-light order on political activities “also empowers Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to propose changes if he deems any activity objectionable…”.

In other words, this is the junta’s way of controlling things. So the green light is no green light at all. We hazard a guess that it is also a way to entrap the politicians the junta deems threatening, popular or just doesn’t like. The Dictator can declare them in breach of the law.

As the professor says: “This means there’s no certainty. If they want to amend the order, they can,” he said. “There’s nothing certain about this. They can change everything again over the next three months.

Pro-democracy activist Nuttaa Mahattana makes a good point: “Keeping the peace is only an excuse – we should ask what the real reason behind the ban is…. The way I see it, political activity is a form of communication, and when that communication is banned, we have to ask what the NCPO is afraid people will find out about.”

Nuttaa called a spade a spade: “such limitations on freedom … serve … only the political ambition of individual junta figures. Until now, she pointed out, they’ve been the only ones with the power to communicate and campaign for support.”

Meanwhile, the Election Commission, which ages ago reckoned its provincial offices were almost done on redrawing the constituency boundaries, now seems to have decided that they might start work on that. We guess the junta will be watching that closely and will have lots of “advice”-cum-orders.

Update: It seems the EC has proven good on its original word and the boundaries were done. That’s one obstacle out of the way. We have seen no commentary yet on whether the boundaries have been well drawn. Nope, just about to redraw them.