Abhisit and elections

22 04 2014

Since Abhisit Vejjajiva became leader of the Democrat Party, the party has boycotted two elections, lost all the others, supported a coup and military junta, supported a gaggle of anti-democrat/anti-election groups, been hoisted into power by the military and other powerful forces, and twice shot down protesters. When in opposition, it has also trashed parliament by adopting violent methods and when in power was responsible for a regime of repression. The party is now in the hands of political extremists driven by ultra-nationalism, ultra-royalism and similar reactionary ideologies as well as deep personal hatreds of Thaksin Shinawatra and those associated with him.

That is an abysmal record. It is made worse by the party’s incapacity for anything with even a whiff of creative policy and Abhisit’s incapacity as a leader.abhisit whistle suthep

Yet Abhisit, born of the elite and with a huge ego, seems to think that he matters and makes grand statements to the media from time to time.

Most recently, the leader of the Democrat Party’s demise “has insisted that a new election is not a sufficient solution to Thailand’s ongoing political crisis, contrary to the government’s claims.” Indeed, Abhisit doesn’t just criticize the government, but a broad swathe of society that has viewed an election as an important element of decision-making in a so-called democratic polity. He whines: “At this moment many think … a smooth, problem-free election is an adequate solution…. But that is not the truth.”.

We are not sure what truth could emanate from Abhisit, and we agree that an election may not solve all of the political problems facing the country, but what is Abhisit’s alternative is unstated, at least in this report. However, as a famous philosopher once said, don’t look at what they say but what they do. In Abhisit’s case, what he and his party does is try to bring down elected governments by undemocratic means. To do this they support anti-democrats and fascists.

Abhisit’s view is that “even if the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra manages to organise a new round of polls—the previous general election on 2 February was invalidated by the Constitutional Court—the public may not accept the election results because of widespread mistrust towards the government.” We can only assume that Abhisit is again going to make his party boycott and election. Indeed, the report states: “Abhisit refused to say whether his party will run in the next election…”.

Of course, Abhisit’s hope is that the creeping judicial coup will have solved his problem of not being able to win an election before the dinosaurs at the Election Commission manage to arrange another poll.

Abhisit’s other hope is that the military ousts the government in favor of the Democrat Party-backed anti-democrat movement. He droned on about a possible coup if there are “clashes between rival protest groups” and compared this with the coup “that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.” There were virtually no clashes before the 2006 coup, but Abhisit is clear: “I want all sides to look at the events of 2006. The date of the election was already set, political parties already began vote canvassing, but it ended in a military coup…”.

Abhisit continues to head a political party that is meant to engage in electoral politics but repeatedly boycotts them in favor of extra-legal, semi-legal and illegal attacks on the electoral system.





Updated: Lese majeste fascism

21 04 2014

We began a post on a bizarre lese majeste trial yesterday with mention of a Khaosod story. A reader rightly points out that one aspect of the Khaosod story is not correct. This is the statement that the “number of lese majeste accusations has surged in recent weeks, as the political battle in Thailand deepens and both sides of the divide seek new ways to take their adversaries down.” As the reader points out, the use of lese majeste as a political weapon by rightists is hardly new. Indeed, our Commentary page indicates this.

On that PPT page, the use of lese majeste as a way to suppress and repress is a regular pattern of right-wing governments, especially those with close links to the palace, and of rightists who also close to the palace. Think of the 1976-77 government of Thanin Kraivixien and the Village Scout movement that was instigated by the palace as an anti-leftist movement in the early 1970s.

In the darkest days of the 1970s, royalist thugs conducted witch hunts for anti-monarchists. Like the royalist zealot who was made premier in 1976 with the support and approval of the king, these gangs had palace and royalist support. A report at the Bangkok Post warns of royalist efforts to establish “an organisation to eradicate those accused of anti-monarchy behaviour could spark [similar] witch-hunts.”

Back in the 1970s, one of the fascist groups that was formed and managed by royalists was the Red Gaurs. Robert F. Zimmerman in his Reflections on the Collapse of Democracy in Thailand, noted the efforts of Police Colonel Sudsai Thepsadin.Sudsai
As Wikipedia has it, “set up by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) of the Thai military to counter the country’s students movement after the democratic revolution of October 1973.” It adds:

In August 1975, the group assaulted the Thammasat University, trying to burn down the school building. Assassinations of labor and peasants union officials (namely of the Peasants Federation of Thailand), as well as progressive politicians, and grenade attacks on crowds have been attributed to the Red Gaurs. The organization’s militants often attacked and injured photo journalists who tried to take pictures of them and their guns. The Red Gaurs interfered in the campaign for the 1976 parliamentary election by harassing candidates and attacking political parties they perceived as “leftist” (in particular the New Force Party). Besides, the Red Gaurs were also employed to guard road construction crews against attacks in areas with communist insurgents.

Membership and support

The ultra-royalist vigilante group focused its activities on Bangkok. Its membership consisted mainly of discontent young unemployed, vocational school students and high school drop-outs. The majority of their key cadres however, were veterans of the Vietnam War or former mercenaries in Laos, and former army soldiers dismissed for disciplinary infractions. The Krathing Daeng [Red Gaur] militants were well paid, provided with free liquor, taken on drinking sprees and to brothels out of public money.

They were heavily funded and backed by the United States government. The US provided at least 250 million baht to help organize the Red Gaurs. Paul M. Handley, the author of The King Never Smiles, an unofficial biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, reports that the king also gave support to both the Red Gaurs and the “Village Scouts”, another patriotic anti-leftist paramilitary organization.

More than 40 years later, it seems that another military royalist has been given the job of forming a fascist gang of thugs, the so-called Rubbish Collection Organisation as a means to threaten and repress those with different political positions. Major-General Rientong Nan-nah says his thugs “will work to find and hurt those who insult the monarchy.”

Reportedly a director at the Mongkutwattana General Hospital and a medical doctor, Rienthong claimed his group was established “exterminate” – yes, that was the word – “people who insult the monarchy.”

Riengthong

Rienthong gets his anti-democrat photo op.

Amongst others, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that Rienthong’s gang will ignite “violent and deadly” attacks as in the mid-1970s.

Rienthong, like his fascist predecessors, “has denied the RCO is an underground organisation and vowed that it will operate within the law, without links to political or business groups.” No one should or could believe him as he is already an organizer for the anti-democrat movement.

The Post reports that the “RCO’s Facebook page had already attracted more than 93,000 followers as of Saturday. The page is intended to act as a channel for the public to share personal information on those accused of lese majeste.”

Sunai warned that:

the RCO’s activities could lead to the violent suppression of people accused of being disloyal to the monarchy, adding that even the name of the organisation attempts to “dehumanise” people. “I am also alarmed by the RCO’s offer of legal and financial assistance to members who take action against people accused of lese majeste ‘out of anger’,” Mr Sunai said.

“The group also announced that some anti-monarchists need to be handled using ‘special means’, which could implied as encouraging violence.”

Sunai is reported to have “said political groups on all sides had long used Section 112 of the Criminal Code to suppress their rivals. “Therefore we see a strong need to reform this law…”.

He’s wrong. The use of lese majeste has been almost entirely by rightists and royalists, and PPT can’t think of a case raised by red shirts or others associated with them that has made any legal progress. Likewise, this law doesn’t need reform, it needs to be abolished.

Not surprisingly, yellow-shirted “intellectual” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, of Chulalongkorn University, said:

political groups should not use the monarchy to try and justify their cause, but argued the RCO was an acceptable organisation, so long as it acts within the bounds of the law.

“All societies have their taboo issues. In France, people will not accept those who support Nazis.

“In Thailand, lese majeste behaviour is not acceptable and that is why a group like the RCO emerges to counter such acts.”

 Chaiyan has clearly identified himself with anti-democrats since he threw his support behind the People’s Alliance for Democracy and then signed up in support of the coup and the military junta. But even for an academic with such a record, to condone a hate group with fascist ideas is moving a long way towards condoning extremism. His claims about France are meaningless twaddle. For example, French skinheads remain active, and while some French do not accept them, they are connected with a range of far right groups and even the rightist parties that did well in recent elections, headed by Marine Le Pen. Nonsensical statements like these by Chaiyan indicate an “academic” who is muddying the waters in order to condone fascist royalism.

Update: Like most on the extreme right, Rienthong has already claimed that he is a victim, but that he will fight against those who “intimidate” him. Yes, the fascist who has declared he will exterminate those he disagrees with on the worth of the great feudal institution bizarrely seeks sympathy and an opportunity to extend his threats.

He vows “tit-for-tat measures against opponents who he claims are trying to intimidate him.” He has “warned critics that he would ‘respond with violence’ to any violent attacks committed against his supporters.” He was firm: “My policy to deal with your violence is to respond with violence…”.

Are you listening Chaiyan Chaiyaporn?

He creates a rationale for his future violence by asserting that “the anti-monarchy movement has an armed group inside it. If they are allowed to grow, they will pose a grave danger to the monarchy.”

This is sounding like the extremists of the 1970s. It is very dangerously so when he states: “I have my battle colleagues who are ready to respond. If we do it, we will have no mercy.” Even more so when he talks of a “People’s Army to Protect the Monarchy”, and invites “retired military and police officers who are loyal to the King to a meeting at his hospital … to help the National Police Office punish perpetrators of the lese majeste law.”

His other claims were largely a nonsense recital of lies about not using violence and rule of law.

One claim that will be chilling for many is his allegation that his:

group has now located almost 300 suspected offenders and is gathering evidence to file police complaints, he said. Many of the suspects are close associates of politicians, while others were teenagers who had “bad thoughts”, he added.

Rienthong said he has also “set up a team of online volunteers to stand by around the clock to monitor websites with anti-monarchy content.” Hopefully the vigilantes will enjoy PPT’s content, although we wonder about their capacity for dealing with facts rather than the fiction that royalists find they need to believe. We imagine that like some fundamentalist preacher, Rienthong has measures in place to re-indoctrinate his fellow snoops.

 

 





Updated: Bookseller escapes lese majeste

20 04 2014

As Khaosod has noted, the number of lese majeste accusations has suddenly spiked. Such spikes are usually a reliable measures of fascist and royalist efforts to control politics and increased political agitation.

In all of the madness associated with these allegations and charges, by crazed monarchists and even one by some unthinking red shirts, Prachatai reports one small piece of good news: “The Criminal Court on Thursday acquitted a 65-year-old vendor of a charge of lèse majesté. He had been arrested for selling the banned book The Devil’s Discus at yellow shirt rallies in 2006.”

The account of the secret trial is perhaps the most bizarre that PPT has seen to date, although we can only rely on short reports.Devils Discus

It took eight years to get a result, which we believe is potentially unconstitutional under Section 40 (3), which we list below.

But it apparently got stranger, for when Khun U (whose name has been withheld) was finally acquitted, it seems that the court decided to put the book on trial rather than the poor bookseller.  The bookseller was acquitted “because the prosecutors failed to prove that the defendant had the knowledge that the book had lèse majesté content.”

The Court “ruled that the book had content defaming the King, and the writer, Rayne Kruger, intended to insult the King,” which is not true at all, but then Kruger has been dead since 2003.

Prachatai’s account of events is revealing:

The book, written by English-South African author Rayne Kruger and published in 1964, was declared illegal by the Thai authorities in 2006. It was translated into Thai by Chalit Chaisithiwet and a Thai version was published in 1974. According to Wikipedia, as soon as the book was published, it was banned in Thailand and Kruger was also banned from further entry to Thailand.

According to the accusation, there are six sections in the book which constitute lèse majesté. The six sections are the author’s presentation of “theories” about the cause of the former King’s death which involve the current King. The author concluded that the former King was likely to have committed suicide because his relationship with a foreign woman was unacceptable.

The police arrested him and confiscated a copy of the book and also a copy of the Same Sky journal, the “Monarchy and Thai society” issue of Oct-Dec 2005 (the Coca Cola issue). The two works were banned under the now-abolished Printing Act. The Public Prosecutor, however, only pressed charges for selling ‘The Devil’s Discus’.

The judge said that even though the book concluded that King Rama VIII committed suicide and did not involve the current King, the younger brother of King Rama VIII, it still unnecessarily mentioned King Bhumibol, which may cause misunderstanding among readers. Therefore, the writer had the intention to defame the King and the book was deemed lèse majesté, the judge concluded.

Lese majeste judges are now literary critics as well as censors and mad monarchists.

All of the prosecution witnesses stated that they “only read the six excerpts of the book selected by the police, and had never read the whole book,” and yet could still determine that the book constituted lese majeste. Defense witness, Sulak Sivaraksa, who had read the book, “both in the original English version and the Thai translation, said that when reading in its entirety, it did not necessarily lead the reader to have a defamatory attitude toward the current [k]ing.”

In other words, this trial was really of The Devil’s Discus rather than the bookseller.

According to the report, one of the defendant’s lawyers, said: “the ruling created a new standard in Article 112 cases. The ruling means that a single line in a book can alone determine that the whole book constitutes lèse majesté without consideration of the writer’s intention from reading the whole book.

Clearly, any “discussion of King Ananda’s death might land a person in jail for lèse majesté.”

On the constitutionality of a secret trial, the constitution states:

Section 40. A person shall have the rights in judicial process as follows:

… (2) fundamental rights in judicial process composing of, at least, right to public trial; right to be informed of and to examine into facts and related documents adequately; right to present facts, defences and evidences in the case; right to object the partial judges; right to be considered by the full bench of judges; and right to be informed of justifications given in the judgement or order;

(3) right to correct, prompt and fair trial;…

Clearly, Section 40 (2) has been breached. Lese majeste is a law in Thailand that is above the constitution and allows judges to, in fact, breach the law, something they have done several times in cases involving, for example, Darunee Charnchoensilpakul and Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Update: A reader asks an intriguing question: did the bookseller get off because he was a vendor at a yellow shirt rally? What would have happened if he had been selling the book at a red shirt rally?

 





Vltchek on the Bangkok protests

20 04 2014

Readers might be interested in an article and photo essay at CounterPunch by Andre Vltchek and entitled The Bangkok Protests. This bit caught our attention:

And suddenly I see it! There is this huge poster proclaiming: “THAKSIN-ISM IS COMMUNISM TYRANNY”.

Thaksin commuinstThaksin Shinawatra a Communist? That very business tycoon, a turbo-capitalist, whose only ‘fault’ was that he introduced free medical care (much better than that in the United States), improved education, housed the poor, and aimed at a much more egalitarian society than anything ever seen to date in Southeast Asia?

That was, damn, of course, unacceptable to the Thai elites, military and their foreign handlers, simply because in Thailand it is not just about money, but mainly about the gap that the rulers feel they need to maintain between them and the rest of the people. The rulers of Thailand need people to prostrate in front of them, at their feet….

I went to talk to the people near the posters…. “What is Communism?” I asked…. Nobody seemed to know.

Then a guard approached me: “We think that Communism is… one person who is controlling everything…”

“You mean… the monarch?”

He backed up, in horror.

 

 





Resign

19 04 2014

PPT has never heard of the “Network of Civil Servants,” but we imagine that they are yet another of the “groups” that have deeply yellow links and keep getting reincarnated with new names for a particular political purpose that usually involves anti-democratic ideas and campaigns. If we’re wrong, let us know.

In any case, this so-called Network is reported at The Nation as having “slammed the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) over what it regards as bids to intimidate and humiliate people who adopt an anti-government stance.” By “people” they mean “civil servants” and in particular senior “civil servants.”

The “Network” says that “CAPO should not attack the heads of ministries and representatives of high-level officials as they have their own reasons for doing what they do.”

If these “civil servants” were real civil servants, they should know that they are meant to work at the direction of the government of the day. If they are unable to do that, then they resign.

It said high-level officials were key people needed to resolve the country’s political crisis, while all sides should listen to one another to find a way to relieve the tension.

The “Network” insisted that civil servants maintain impartiality over the political turmoil” yet the “Network’s” statement supported Justice Ministry permanent secretary Kittipong Kittayarak who invited anti-democrat leader Suthep Thaugsuban to visit his ministry. It also supported Public Health permanent secretary Narong Sahameta-pat, who openly supports the anti-democrats.

It’s re-definition of “civil servant” responsibility is that they should obey “leaders who adhered to legal and moral principles.” The “Network” is wrong.

These dissident “civil servants” are certainly not impartial, have taken a political stand, and should do the “legal and moral” thing and resign. If they don’t, they should be sacked, but we know the caretaker government won’t and can’t do that because anti-democrat officials are protected by biased and royalist courts.

 





Updated: Monarchist harassment and a new lese majeste charge

18 04 2014

Rose Amornpat or “London Rose” is seen by some as an “Angel of Democracy.” Her Facebook name/page is “Chatwadee Rose Amornpat.” The petite 34 year-old Thai-born British citizen has been causing quite a stir on social media with her sometimes poetic challenges to monarchy and monarchists.*

RoseHer Facebook page is direct in its attacks on royalty and those who support blind royalism. Royalists in Thailand and outside the country, particularly in the UK, have been angrily tracking her down and trying to silence her, even protesting against this dissident voice that seems to haunt them. They have even held protests in front of embassies and consulates. Worse, but reflective of the intolerance symbolized by the lese majeste law, they vow to harm her or even kill her. She has sought police protection in the UK.

At Facebook she has some 100,000 views a day and her YouTube clips have gone viral. She is opposed to the lese majeste law and its associated repression. She challenges the whole royal family and lampoons them on a daily basis. She opposes the taxpayer handouts to the fabulously wealthy royal family.

The latest news is that the royalist extremists have been harassing Rose’s parents to the extent that they have themselves lodged a lese majeste complaint against their own daughter (see here and here also). They claimed that their life has been made hellish as they have received numerous phone calls blaming them for the daughter’s behavior. They said they had disowned her a long time ago and never promoted her action. They apparently felt that taking allegations of lese majeste to the police would clear them.

Rose has said: “All I want is to tell the world the truth about Thailand without regard of the grave consequence of their draconian lese majeste law…. Lese majeste law must be erased…”. She explained: “I have been stalked by Thai royalists in London constantly. I am not afraid at all. Let it be known that, if I die or am harmed, it is by someone associated with this group or some agents from Thailand. I’d rather die fighting for democracy and the freedom of Thai people. I hope to see all political prisoners on lese majeste law set free, if I should die or be killed.”

*All of the information and links in this post were supplied by a long-time PPT reader. We thank that reader for the information supplied to us and for permission to use it.

Update: Khaosod now has an English-language account of this case. It seems it pretty much follows the material we have in our post above. It observes that Rose’s parents are “urging police to take legal action against their daughter…”. They even provided police with “seven clips of footage, which purportedly show Ms. Chatvadee making offensive remarks toward the monarchy, as evidence of her wrongdoing.” Her father added: “I want people to understand that just because a daughter is doing something wrong, it doesn’t mean the parents are also guilty, because we don’t condone such actions.”

It is also stated that Rose has  “recently acquired British citizenship.” But this means nothing when it comes to the bizarre lese majeste law: “The police said they will investigate the accusation and stressed that lese majeste is still considered a crime in Thailand even if the wrongdoing is committed outside the Kingdom.”





Succession planning

17 04 2014

In recent times there has been some debate about the nature of the decade-old political crisis in Thailand amongst commentators on social media. Some argue that the crisis is all about royal succession and a contest over that. Others argue that the crisis is better understood as a long-term political and historical struggle over the nature of Thailand’s politics that goes beyond the succession issue.

PPT, with its interest in lese majeste and monarchy, is naturally interested in all of the rumors and discussion about succession. That said, we also see the anxiety surrounding succession as just one, albeit very important, indicator of the the deep social roots of the current crisis.Prince and friend

Certainly, as we noted a couple of months ago, there does seem to be some succession planning underway. That account reported of the transfer of a “unit of elite soldiers, the Royal Security Command,” to “the authority of the Defence Ministry in its administrative streamlining of protective duties for the royal family.”

As we briefly noted a while ago, Matichon has reported a Government Gazette announcement of a consolidation of troops to Prince Vajiralongkorn’s personal command. Google Translate does a reasonable job of this announcement that shows the Prince preparing for the bigger role. More interestingly, the prince now has command of some seven regiments that are said to be providing protection for the aged king and queen. The presumed political position of the prince was also noted in our earlier post.

This news of the Gazette announcement has caused some interest. On Facebook, succession-in-chief protagonist Andrew MacGregor Marshall has taken the opportunity to refer to the prince’s role in the 6 October 1976 massacre and coup, with attention drawn to a British cable that uses rumor and talk from Australia to indicate that the prince’s return to Thailand was coincidental with those horrendous events.Prince 1976 - Copy

PPT doubts that this memorandum should be taken too seriously. At the time, the British, Americans and Australians all seemed to want to downplay the significance of the events around Thammasat University and the deep political involvement of the monarchy in mobilizing rabid royalists against those seen as enemies of the throne. Those countries, like the king in Thailand, were deeply disturbed by events in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, and wanted to shore up Thailand as the bastion of anti-communism on the mainland of Southeast Asia.

The imagery of the prince was well-used by rightists in justifying their attack on the students as “protecting” the monarchy. As noted in the cable, the prince had indeed returned suddenly from a brief stint with the Australian SAS in Perth, just prior to the coup. After the coup, the prince and his younger sisters gave their support to the rightists.

But back to the succession “crisis.” If there is such a crisis, it has been a very long one. Back in 1981, the Far Eastern Economic Review alluded to a kind of competition between the prince and Sirindhorn.

Succession1

The “crisis” was also a part of another FEER article in 1988, this time by none other than the princeling Sukhumphand Paribatra. His article is available for download at PPT’s Lese Majeste and the Monarchy page, identified at present with a “new” label. In that piece, which was produced after a bunch of anti-prince leaflets were circulated (also available at that PPT page), expressed the concerns. The beginning of the article explains “apprehension” regarding succession.Apprehension At the time of writing, Sukhumbhand was concerned that civilian politics was weak and in crisis and he was seeing that this opened the way for a military intervention.

Later, the article states:

Given the monarchy’s role in Thailand’s political and economic development, as well as its place in the hearts and minds of the populace, any uncertainty regarding the future of the monarch inevitably causes a great deal of apprehension. Doubts continue to be expressed, mostly in private but now increasingly in the open, about the crown prince’s capacity to evoke the kind of intense political loyalty from the people and the major domestic political power groupings that his father is able to do. Doubts also persist as to whether the crown prince can match his father’s subtle and mediatory role in politics.

Some of this is blarney, but the point is that the speculation about the prince and succession has been around for a very long time. We would have thought that if there was serious disputation regarding succession that there had been plenty of opportunities for some kind of intervention to move the prince aside or out of the picture.

In any case, it seems that Vajiralongkorn is doing his due diligence on succession, preparing for the day when he gets the crown.

 

 








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