Killing people

3 07 2015

As most PPT readers know, General Prayuth Chan-ocha bears considerable responsibility for the murder of protesters by his soldiers in April and May 2010. Because of elite agreements and the impunity long enjoyed by murderous soldiers, he is unlikely to ever face a court for his crimes.

There are other ways to kill people that do not involve the direct use of military weapons. At the Bangkok Post Prayuth states that the “universal healthcare scheme” is nothing more than a “costly populist” policy which “helped deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra win the 2001 election.”

Prayuth is correct that the the scheme was popular with electors. At the same time, Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party had widespread support in that election campaign, including from the royalist elite, largely due to the failures of the Democrat Party-led government that was reviled, not least for its implementation of IMF programs that destroyed swathes of Thai businesses and failed to provide meaningful safety nets for average people.

The went further, stating that “Thailand is not financially ready for such a multi-billion-baht health insurance project.” He added that the scheme will “bankrupt a lot of hospitals in the next few years…”. And he then declared: “The universal healthcare scheme is a populist project. Though people are benefiting from it, is Thailand ready for it? Why aren’t 190 other countries doing it? Only a few countries have done it…”.

Prayuth reportedly stated that “he would not abolish the scheme, but would seek ways of increasing funding.” This is code for winding back the universalism of the scheme. As Sureerat Trimakka, coordinator for the People’s Health System Movement stated: “This government [he means the junta] is making the national health system a scapegoat.”

We have no doubt that Prayuth hates the program as it is representative of the Thaksin revolution and is still a basis of political support for Thaksin and his parties. Prayuth’s royalist supporters loathe the scheme and want to be rid of it as a way of wiping out the memory of Thaksin.

This is not the first time the royalists have attacked the scheme since the military coup. Within weeks of that coup, the first thrust was made. The MOPH leadership, dominated by anti-Thaksin royalists, is wanting to raise “co-payments.” Steep co-payments will chase patients back to private clinics where MOPH doctors moonlight and make enough money to keep their Mercedes cars on the road. Uprooting the Thaksin regime-cum-revolution will be profitable for them.

PPT has previously mentioned independent assessments of the success of the program. And we have posted on a short paper at East Asia Forum that assesses some of the post-coup  politicking over the scheme.

Prior to 30 Baht scheme, the first linked report states that in “poorer provinces had significantly higher infant mortality rates than richer provinces. After 30 Baht, this correlation evaporates to zero. The results suggest that increased access to healthcare among the poor can significantly reduce their infant mortality rates.”

If Prayuth changes the scheme, he will be personally responsible for the deaths of infants as that mortality rate climbs again. He will also be responsible for the deaths of the aged and poor patients who will no longer be able to afford health care.

This responsibility for increased deaths will be far in excess of the deaths caused by military weapons in 2010.



Protecting the prince

2 07 2015

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta’s first major public outing for the crown prince, a public bike ride, has “attracted” a bumper crop of co-riders. The Post breathlessly reports that: “Just two days after opening for public registration, 40,000 people have signed up to take part in the Bangkok rally and another 110,000 registered for simultaneous rides in 76 other provinces at 3pm on Sunday, Aug 16…”.

Of course, as is usual in concocting royal events, these “participants” include diehard royalists wanting to peddle for the queen and prince. They also include people “encouraged” or ordered to “participate.”

Most interesting is the comment that a “combined force of 20,000 policemen, soldiers and civilian volunteers will be deployed along the 43-kilometre cycling route in Bangkok…”. The junta is taking no chances.

Blame Yingluck for climate change

2 07 2015

Yingluck Shinawatra has been blamed for many things by her political opponents. Some of the accusations descended to base misogyny. In a report at the Bangkok Post, Nipon Poapongsakorn of the royalist Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) says that “the current water shortage has its origin in the mega-flood that hit the country in 2011.”

We tend to agree with this and with his statement that: “It [drought] is the failure of the water management policy. Drought and flooding are related problems and cannot be managed separately…”.

We are a little less sanguine about this as the bureaucrats are ignored:

In the wake of the disastrous flooding, the Yingluck Shinawatra government adopted a policy to maintain low water levels in the Sirikit dam in Uttraradit and the Bhumibol dam in Tak, to create capacity to collect water during heavy downpours.

PPT has few doubts that the Irrigation Department has become reluctant to store large amounts of water in dams after being severely criticized in 2011. Nipon’s other claim is, we think, him being nothing more than royalist critic:

Later in 2013, the Yingluck government introduced the rice-pledging scheme, which significantly increased rice planting in the Central region and required a large amount of water for paddy fields.

Nipon always hated this scheme, as did many of the other royalists at TDRI. Yet much of the criticism of Yingluck and her government ignored the fact that she and her government had only been in place a couple of months before the deluge, yet she and her government copped a lot of the blame for the 2011 flooding.

Nipon seems to be blaming Yingluck for everything including natural forces, climate change and more. Yet consider this report in the Asia Times:

Thailand and Vietnam, the world’s two largest rice exporters, face severe drought conditions that threaten to severely undermine this year’s crops and global supplies. Climate change and El Nino are variously being blamed for the unusually hot weather and lack of rainfall, which began with an early end to last year’s tropical rainy season.

We should quickly add that this report is dated 2 July 2010. That’s today, five years ago. According to a research paper, the 2010 droughts and floods:

… provided evidence of increasing extreme weather events in Thailand. In 2010, Thailand experienced the worst droughts and the second worst floods in the past two decades. Because the tropical rainy season ended earlier than usual in November 2009, together with global warming and the El Niño phenomenon, Thailand experienced unusually hot weather and a lack of rainfall at the beginning of 2010. As the country entered the hot season in March, experts had issued national drought warnings, and these droughts stretched until almost the end of August. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department declared 64 provinces to be disaster areas because of severe water shortages. The drought had an adverse impact on more than 4 million people, mainly through damaged agricultural production. The drought damaged 2746 km² of farmland with the estimated loss of 1.5 billion baht (US$46 million; Rerngnirunsathit 2012). Later in the year, Thailand experienced a series of flash floods and seven incidents of flooding. From 15 July to 30 December 2010, all regions in Thailand were hit by floods caused by the La Niña phenomenon, which brought about higher than average rainfall and a longer period of precipitation. The southern part was further hit by a tropical depression, which brought about heavy rainfall and flash floods lasting from 1 November 2010 to 25 February 2011. A combination of inadequate drainage and a well above average rainfall intensity left the country totally unprepared for the disaster. The death toll from the floods stands at 266 people with 1665 people injured. In total, 74 provinces were affected by the floods, 17,455 km² of farmland was damaged with the total estimated loss of 16 billion baht (US$536.6 million; Rerngnirunsathit 2012). A long, severe drought prolonged beyond the first half of the year, followed by destructive floods later in the year, made 2010 a unique year to study the impacts of climate variability.

Perhaps not so unique. The 2011 floods followed extraordinary rainfall in early 2011.

But, heck, if a royalist, let’s blame Yingluck for floods, droughts and for time slowing down.

Protecting Prayuth

2 07 2015

Not that long ago PPT posted on the fear that underpins the rule of generals. This fear has been demonstrated again, when The Dictator recently visited Chiang Mai with members of his junta dressed for a Cabinet meeting.

The junta and General Prayuth Chan-ocha cannot abide any demonstration, unless it is for them, but even then, they are twitchy.

Prior to the meeting, the junta’s military and police minions called in “more than 15 activists, academics, writers, students, and others” from 23 to 29 June, threatening them to ensure “that no anti-junta activity will take place during the junta cabinet meeting on 29-30 June 2015.” Other “security” authorities went out to “talk” with others considered political activists. Again, there was the implicit threat.

With some red shirts called in and “visited,” the very quiet official red shirts in the North announced that there would be “no protests during junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha’s visit to Chiang Mai…”. Pichit Tamoon, who is reported to lead a Red Shirt group in Chiang Mai declared, quite incorrectly in our view: “It is not yet the time for dissent or opposition…. We are still giving the government a chance to work, solve problems, and fix the economy. But we do ask them to stick to the road map, and organize a democratic election that will return power to the people.”

He and his colleagues seem politically deaf and blind. Then again, the sight of armed soldiers and a knowledge of the military’s penchant for shooting protesters can be depoliticizing.Guarding goons

Indeed, the Chiangrai Times reports that some 3,200 security personnel, some kitted out for combat, were deployed to protect the junta and its Cabinet.

As it turned out, and as it has been elsewhere, it was apparently students and other activists, not connected to the official red shirts, who turned out.  As reported at Khaosod, “ten masked activists gathered in front of the US Consulate in Chiang Mai province this afternoon and held signs pledging their support for human rights, democracy, and non-violence.”

The article states: “The consulate was presumably chosen as the location for the rally because of the US government’s criticism of the 2014 May coup and the junta’s ongoing suppression of civil rights.” We guess that the spaces for protest are so limited and that the protesters seek locations where they feel they will have some visibility and protection.

The protesters wore masks to show support for the Neo-Democracy Movement students currently jailed in Bangkok. They read a letter that “condemned the arrests, and called upon authorities to release the fourteen activists without any conditions…”. They stated:

Students protest

Our [decision] to come out and make this demand today is nothing more than doing a duty of friends who see their friends being bullied by injustice…. We do not understand why the state sees the youths of this nation, who hold the principles of democracy, human rights, justice, public participation, and non-violence, as individuals who are dangerous to national security. The brutality that is happening to our friends today is so irrational that we find it hard to believe that it is a reality.

While the protesters dispersed before the soldiers and police arrived, several who were alleged to have been involved were sought out by the “authorities” and three arrested.

The fear amongst the generals is palpable.

1976 redux

1 07 2015

As we read the latest offering from The Dictator, as repeated by his puppet Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, in the Bangkok Post, PPT had a feeling that our collective body was time-traveling, back, way back, to 1976. We have said it before, and no doubt we’ll say it again, but The Dictator’s royalist regime thinks – if that word is appropriate in this context – a lot like the royalist Thanin Kraivixien regime.

Both are repressive royalist regimes, and some of the inputs are coming from the very same people. If not the same people, then there are political clones that walk zombie-like on the political field strewn with repression, lese majeste and royalist shibboleths about national security.

In the latest report, it is stated that the cabinet – essentially the junta and a couple of royalist lapdogs – “has approved a committee to draw up a 20-year national strategy blueprint to shore up reforms as it attempts to ensure future governments carry on with its changes.” By “carry on” they also mean cannot change any of the reactionary “reforms” of the military regime.

The report states that the “20-year strategy will cover security, the economy, social issues, legal and foreign affairs, which correspond with the work of the government’s five deputy prime ministers…”. The committee will be chaired by the secretary-general to the prime minister and is claimed to have been established at General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s “suggestion.” By “suggestion” they mean it was an order. No one, not even a few students, may oppose The Dictator’s views.

This is just one more way to prevent meaningful representation and people’s sovereignty in royalist Thailand.

Thanin 1We recall a similar move made by Thanin, and as we searched for the relevant old clippings we found others that matched this regime and the current royalists.

One of these was the ability to “legally” do anything the regime wanted. At right we have a clip from the Asiaweek magazine No. 45 in 1976.

It is clear that both Thanin and Prayuth operate with no real legal constraints, and can do anything they feel fits their warped royalist ideology.

In TIME magazine’s issue of 8 November 1976, we located a quotation from a then second-ranked Army boss, General Kriangsak Chomanan, who after the coup cheered for “democracy,” not unlike Prayuth has done.

Clearly Prayuth has no conception of democracy and we doubt Kriangsak did when he made the claim shown on the right.Kriangsak

Early in the regime that came to power over the bodies of massacred students, and as the military junta and Thanin royalist government initially came together, they announced that a return to democracy would take some 16 years, as reported by the Far Eastern Economic Review of 22 October 1976 (see left).16 years

Thanin later reduced this to a 12-year plan. While that “plan” was 4-8 years short of Prayuth’s 20 year plan, the resemblances are quite clear.

Both dictators feel the need to maintain a headlock on democratic decision-making in order to establish the rule of the royalist elite. Both claimed to be fashioning a democracy that would be strong and sustainable. In other words, a political regime for the elite, by the elite and of the elite. Backed, of course by the military’s weapons and the sharing of wealth and symbols of power between the elite and its praetorian guard.

Thanin failed and Prayuth is probably doomed to follow in those footsteps. We can speculate as to whether another dictator with blood on his hands will be promoted to the Privy Council where his sins will be laundered.

One of the other similarities is the attacks on students. Prayuth won’r allow students to demonstrate and has 14 currently locked up. Thanin had hundreds of students arrested – today they are threatened or called in – and jailed 19 students, keeping them locked up into 1978.

A further similarity between dedicators is in their views of what they are doing and their self-perception of having soothed a troubled polity.

For Thanin, as shown in a clip from a Newsweek interview published on 25 July 1977, his self-perception was a self-deception.Thanin

PPT tends to think that the same will be true for Prayuth’s regime.

Remarkably, so many of the “targets” and complaints remain common to the Prayuth regime that comes almost 40 years after Thanin. We guess that for military and royalist troglodytes, four decades is a mere blink of the eye.

While we can predict that Prayuth will stumble further down the Thanin path of self-destruction, it was another military coup that brought down Thanin. It was then a long decade before an elected premier was back in place in Thailand.

That cannot be allowed to happen again. Prayuth’s regime must be brought down in a way that allows representative and people’s politics to flourish.

Rose on the lawless country with the king as head of state

30 06 2015

Chatwadee Rose Amornpat is a Thai activist living abroad who has been accused and charged with lese majeste. She has sent the following article to PPT and we reproduce it as received, with a couple of links added:

RoseWith all the turmoil which is being waged in Thailand now, it is interesting to observe that one so-called “revered” institution, namely, the monarch and/or the monarchy, has not come out to stop the chaos and the daily arrests of unarmed and peaceful democracy activists and alleged lese majeste violators.

Thai royalists and the royal household often surreptitiously inform the local and foreign media that the king has no political power to do anything, but a quick glance at the current constitution reveals the opposite results.

Though the junta chief. Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha stated last May 22, 2014 after he successfully seized power from a democratically-elected government, that the constitution was then abrogated except “all the constitutional articles relating to the monarch and lese majeste law.” That is to say, the laws concerning the power of the king, his welfare and his protection through the barbaric and unjust lese majeste law would be left intact and enforceable.

It is very odd indeed. To me, now we do not have just one dictator but two dictators in the same country!

This is symbiotic relationships between the monarchy and the military, which have been going on for the past six decades, while the poor people of Thailand continue to suffer and their quality of life worsen. One can still see many poor children of Thailand selling garlands to drivers of cars on the busy and smoggy streets in Bangkok every morning. Such poor children should have been in school, not selling garlands or flowers to help their family! It pains me to see such a sight.

Symbiotic relationships, according to “,” are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.

Indeed I compare the Thai monarchy and military to low-class animals which are the lowest of the lows as they have done nothing good for the Thai people. The monarchy has always stayed intact while the general changes every 5 or 10 years during the past 19 coup d’ tates. Because of this fact, one can only see that with all the troubles happening in Thailand, we can only blame it at the top, the monarchy. This is the main character which never changes.

Here’s a look at the current laws relating to the monarchy which Gen. Prayuth left intact, though he abrogated the constitution when he seized power from the former PM Yingluck Sinawatra.

Section 3 of the Thai constitution states:
The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. The King as Head of State shall exercise such power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Courts in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
The above Section is not known to Westerners or even most Thais. It is like saying the car belongs to the people but only the king can drive the car. Or, the people own the gun but only the
king can pull the trigger. In both cases, the people have to do the maintenance and upkeep of the car and gun.

Section 8 of the Thai constitution states:
The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.
This section means the Thai King is like God and no one can sue the King even if he commits robbery, blatant lies, mayhem or murders. Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code states:
No one can criticize the king and any member of his family, even if such criticisms are based on the truth.
This is called “lese majeste” and it carries a jail term of 3 to 15 years for each offense.

Section 10 states:
The King holds the position of Supreme Commander of the Thai Armed Forces.

Section 11 is:
The King has the prerogative to create titles and confer decorations.
Last Friday, June 19, 2015, Thai police arrested 14 students who had been protesting against the ruling junta, in defiance of a ban on public gatherings. These are young university students who are brave and full of democratic spirit. They just want nothing except the rights to express themselves freely on issues effecting their lives and future. They are now confined to a filthy and crowded Thai jail in Bangkok.

I urge the leaders of the civilized world and all the human rights organizations to put pressures on the Thai junta to release these students unconditionally.

The students took part in peaceful rallies calling for an end to military rule under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The army commander-in-chief, Gen. Udomdej Seetabutr, publicly accused the 14 student activists of being backed by anti-government groups and claimed their actions could lead to disturbances and violence.

Additionally, Gen. Udomdej Seetabutr, who was hand-picked by the top royals to head the Army’s top brass, has indicated that a charge of lese majeste may be leveled on them, because these students may have gotten supports from anti-monarchy elements as well.

It is against the international norm that the Thai Army is designed to protect only the monarchy as opposed to protecting the country!

I can’t help but to draw the attention to another group of students who were arrested and charged with lese majeste law violations in 2014. These brave young people are university students with bright future but cut short by the military and the monarchy. Two were arrested and sentenced in jail while the rest of them had to leave their university study and are now in hiding or flee the country.

Patiwat Saraiyaem, 23, and Pornthip Munkong, 26, involved in producing a play called “The Wolf Bride” about a fictional monarch and his adviser. It was performed at the prestigeous Thammasat University in 2013 to mark the anniversary of a successful 1973 anti-dictatorship uprising led by students.

Their bail requests were repeatedly turned down by a Bangkok court. Both had pleaded guilty, a common practice in lese majeste cases in December 2014. Because failure to do so only means a 100% guilty verdict and a long jail term.

In announcing the verdict, a Bangkok Criminal Court judge said the play contained content that insulted and defamed the monarchy and was shown in front of a large number of spectators.

Keep in mind all Thai judges are approved and appointed by the king. Thus there is no chance of acquittal in any lese majeste case. Now all the lese majeste cases are being handled by the military court.

Now not even people who are suffering from mental illness are spared from lese majeste charge.

A man was sentenced to more than three years in jail last week under lese majeste law, a controversial royal defamation law, despite having a history of mental illness. Tanet Nonthakot, 45, from northeastern Phetchabun province, is the second person in the last few months suffering from mental health condition to be convicted under this barbaric law.

Not even a very friendly and mild-mannered editor of the prestigious on-line newspaper, Thai E-News, Somsak Pakdeedej, 36, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison for allowing an article deemed lese majeste to be published three years ago.

Since the coup on May 22, 2014, in addition to the hundreds and hundreds of intellectuals and democracy activists who are now serving long jail term, scores of free spirited academics have fled the country and are now living in exile in neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Thanks to the Internet, they are now waging a daily and weekly war in cyberspace against the military junta as well as the monarchy who is alleged to be the mastermind of all the messes including the 10 coups in Thailand.

Three distinguished individuals with whom I greatly admire and who have sacrificed all their life for equality, justice and democracy for Thailand:

Suda Rangkupan, in her 40’s, a Fullbright scholar and holder of a doctorate degree and university professor, chose to flee the country when she received a call from the military junta to report to their central command for the so-called “attitude adjustment.”

Dr. Rangkupan is a very courageous woman who has cared for the poor much more than herself. She has a long history of fighting for justice and equality. She is a champion for the poor. A woman with her impressive credentials, she could have easily enjoyed her life as a university professor, just as the rest of the complacent academics in universities throughout Thailand now.

Because of her democracy activism, after 13 years as a professor at Chulalornkorn University, she was forced to resign or fired by her department chief. Soon after that, a call from the junta, she informed me that she chose to flee the country and continues with her noble struggle for justice. She had been at the forefront of Thailand’s democracy movements. She is now waging a cyber war against the military junta and the monarchy. Her Facebook page ( ) receives thousands of views from her supporters, Thai and foreigners alike, from all over the world each day. Here’s Dr. Suda Rangkupan’s impressive resume.

Surachai Dangwathananusorn, aka, Surachai Sae Dang, in his mid 70’s. Surachai is considered a legendary democracy activist since the era of student uprising at Thammasart university in 1973 during the era of Gen. Thanom Kitikachon. He spent a total of 22 years in Thai jail for the alleged “encouraging uprisings against the military regimes.” He, too, chose to flee the country, because the military junta filed a lese majeste charge on him after the coup by Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha. He is considered the Nelson Mandela of Thailand. His weekly broadcast in YouTube is heard by his supporters all over the world.

Phisanu Phomsorn, aks “Anti” who was charged with lese majeste law violation for giving several speeches at Red Shirt’s political events. He, too, fled the country and is now living in exile at the border around Vietnam and Cambodia. His weekly program on Thai royalty and politics has been very popular among Thai audience in Northeast Thailand.

It is now becoming clearer and clearer that Thailand is being raped and governed by 2 types of thieves-in-uniforms which share a symbiotic relationship.

Under the so-called “Article 44″ which gives unlimited power to the junta, they can just about do anything they so please from search anyone house or body without a warrant or jailing anyone on any minor charges. Now many lower ranking soldiers are behaving like hooligans extorting money from street vendors and retailers in up-country and big cities in open daylight with impunity.

The first type of thieves-in-uniform is the monarchy with the king dubbed as head of state who often wears decorative pins and trappings and occasionally wears uniforms similar to characters in ancient, Ramayana play, with head gears ancient hat for religious ceremonies. This type is only concerned about their stability and their vast wealth under the control of his investment arms, “Crown Property Bureau.” They tend to prolong their continued status qua and privileges and entitlement for generations to come.

The second thieves-in-uniform is the military, the generals, who benefit from their collusion with the monarchy for decades. Each top general has benefited from the yearly military budget and the allocation for purchases of arms. Each year, the budget gets increased by 10-20 percents even though Thailand has no wars or conflicts with her neighbors.

The top brass stands to benefit millions and millions of dollars or bahts in terms of commission.
This is a known fact among officials in the Thai Armed Forces.

Unless Thai people unite and demand the reorganization of the two institutions from the group floor and up, the chance of realizing a true democracy is probably next to nothing.

Last but not least, I hope that world leaders from the United States, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany and all the civilized nations which have commercial contacts or educational exchanges with Thailand continue to put pressures and bring about the human rights issue and the need to abolish their despicable lese majeste law once and for all.

Ji on the students

30 06 2015

As we often do, we reproduce a post by Ji Ungpakorn that is worthy of attention and consideration:

Pro-democracy students throw down a challenge to all of us and themselves

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The brave young pro-democracy student activists, who call themselves the “New Democracy Movement” and the “Dao-Din” students, have thrown down a challenge to all of us and also to themselves. In a statement read out the day before they were arrested and sent to a military court for just peacefully demanding freedom and democracy, they made the following call to all of us who want an end to this vile military dictatorship.

“We understand very well that you may not feel ready to come out and fight in the open. We understand if you have fear in your hearts. We also harbour that fear. But you can no long remain silent and inactive because by doing that in the face of the junta’s illegitimate use of power, you end up condoning the regime by your silence. Our struggle today will be meaningless if you remain passive. You might not feel that the state of affairs has had a negative impact on you right now, but we all know that this cannot remain the case forever. Do not wait until it is too late and there is no one left who is prepared to fight.”

One thing is clear: it is no longer enough to praise these young activists and wish them well. If we remain as mere spectators, viewing some symbolic defiance of the junta by the students, the dictatorship can never be overthrown.

But merely making a call for action, in the way that these activists have done, does not automatically result in a mass uprising against the military. The act of merely writing this short article which you are now reading is also not going to result in an uprising.

We need to learn from the lessons of the 14th October 1973 uprising against the dictatorship, when half a million students and working people came out on to the streets of Bangkok and faced down tanks and guns and beat the military. That uprising was sparked by the arrests of pro-democracy activists. But there are some crucial differences.

We can obviously ignore the infantile stupidity of Generalissimo Prayut when he said that “today is not like the 16th October”. In Thailand, people who refer to the “16th of October” show a total ignorance of Thai history. The uprising against the military in the 1970s took place of the 14th October BE2516. The repressive back-lash that destroyed those hard won freedoms took place three years later on 6th October BE 2519. The “16th of October” therefore has no meaning. For all his Thai nationalism, Prayut knows nothing of Thai history.

But we must take seriously a mistaken view among some of the student activists today who believe that the difference between 1973 and today is the power of the media and the internet. Certainly there was no internet in those days, but people still knew what was going on.

One of the most important lessons from the 14th October 1973 uprising was that it did not just arise out of thin air. Students and workers in those days had mass organisations and the anger at the military repression fed into those mass organisations and resulted in half a millions people being pulled on to the streets. Added to this was the political influence of the Communist Party in building a clear and unified critique of society, even though the party played little role in organising the uprising itself.

What we urgently need is mass organisation. The Red Shirts were a mass movement, but the UDD leadership has placed the Red Shirt Movement in cold storage. It is up to all of us to step up to the challenge and rebuild a democracy movement which can eventually respond to the call by today’s students.

The absence of a Left political party has also created difficulties. The idiot generals may claim that “they know who is backing the students”, but this is just a routine lie. Unfortunately there is no organisation backing the students. If we look around Thai society we see that the so-called NGO-led “Peoples Movement” is blinded by its post-communist adherence to single-issues. Many even support the junta. The Labour Solidarity Committee can make a futile call to Prayut to raise the minimum wage, while refusing to oppose the junta. Many other single issue campaigners are doing the same.

But the “Dao Din” students have gone beyond single issues. They campaign for land rights and against the dictatorship at the same time. Such an approach is of vital importance. The 14th October 1973 uprising linked discontent with social and economic issues in with the struggle against the military. That was why it was so powerful.

Today the challenge for us all, but also for the active students, is whether we can all help to rebuild a mass movement for democracy which weaves together all the pressing issues of society.


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