Updated: “The whim of this corrupt, mafia system”

12 11 2016

That quote is from British human rights activist Andy Hall who has recently fled Thailand. He did so, he says, because “he feared for his safety amid legal problems and harassment…”.

In a regime of repression under the military regime, Hall’s travails might be seen as just more of the same. However, this particular bit of harassment is not by the usual suspects. Rather, it is elements of the business elite that is responsible for harassment termed “irrational, vindictive and aggressive.”

Hall refers to the Natural Fruit Company, a pineapple producer. He says “it’s rare to have a company that is so irrational and so vindictive.” With due respect to Hall and his troubles over a long period, we think he’s wrong.

Many of Thailand’s business people regularly engage in actions that are vindictive and aggressive. They behave like gangsters when they are not hiring them. Often the gangsters are hired from the military and police. They act with impunity and use their wealth to ensure that justice is not for them. They invented double standards.

Rural landowners know that they are in danger when a tycoon takes a liking to their land. Union organizers have been harassed for decades. Many have been murdered.

Primitive accumulation in Thailand is still practiced and is barbarous, vicious accumulation.

Military, monarchy and local and national tycoons work together to maintain their ownership and control of Thailand. Their system is indeed corrupt and they act as a mafia.

Update: Readers will find the excellent Bangkok Post special report by Nanchanok Wongsamuth.It tells of new action against Hall by “Thammakaset Farm, a former Betagro poultry supplier, [that] had launched further legal action against him for criminal defamation and computer crimes.” The impression created is of a conspiracy among business tycoons to harass Hall.

What Trump can learn from the military dictatorship

11 11 2016

In a recent post at New Mandala, a supposedly populist Donald Trump – now U.S. president-elect – was compared with another said to be a populist, Thailand’s  Thaksin Shinawatra. The comparison was a little silly, with the differences seemingly to far outweigh the similarities.Udomdej

Such comparisons might include bad hair and the wide public acceptance of comb-overs. Trump has heinous hair, but so too do many leaders in Thailand. Think of the failed and corrupt General  Udomdej Sitabutr.

Trump can learn that one should never allow that comb-over to get out of control. One must maintain the orderliness of one’s appearance, for appearance can be considered to overcome a dark heart, ignorance or boorishness.trump1

This kind of comparison is no less silly than the one mentioned above. However, we can take this further and consider the characteristics of quite different political leaders.

General Udomdej’s carefully sculpted comb-over and his inability to allow any greying to appear has a lot to do with conceit and arrogance, and the forever orange-tanned and “blonde” Trump certainly displays such characteristics by the truckload.

In a list of characteristics of Thailand’s military regime, and of The Dictator himself, one that ranks high is arrogance.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has demonstrated remarkable arrogance, dominating the media, as all dictators do, and establishing his “values” as those for the nation. He even “pens” songs that Thais are forced to hear, again and again. The Dictator demands that Thailand be more like him. Narrow, loyalist and conservative.

Trump can learn a bit more about narrow nationalism and enforcing conservatism from the draconian actions of the military dictatorship. Of course, Trump is well known for his arrogance and remarkable hubris. This derives from privilege, wealth and the loyalty of jellyback servants in a hierarchical and dictatorial business organization. For the military dictatorship, loyalty and subservience also rank high. However, The Dictator’s arrogance derives not so much from wealth as from a surplus of power at the head of a murderous and hierarchical organization. The Dictator has shown how to enforce that jellyback subservience by weeding out “opponents” in the state’s organizations. Trump may seek to do similar things in the U.S.Prayuth angry

Related, as we emphasize through our labeling of General Prayuth as The Dictator,  narcissism and egoism drive him. These characteristics are most certainly defining of Trump. Some argued that he has shown the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Yet narcissism is not just a “disorder.” It is a political style that emphasizes authoritarianism and a personality cult.

One characteristic that The Dictator has taken to a remarkable level is disingenuousness. Just lie. Whenever anything mildly disturbing to The Dictator personally or is considered “threatening” to the regime, just lie. We are sure that Trump will have no difficulty following this example. Making stuff up is the essence of an authoritarian regime.

The Dictator and his regime also show the way on double standards. Under this military dictatorship, there are no standards that are not double standards. Again, we have no trouble believing that Trump can quickly adapt this when he becomes president.

Authoritarianism defines the military dictatorship. Liberal values and liberal patience for dissent are expunged. They are expunged from law, practice in the bureaucracy, in the media and educational institutions. In Thailand, this was made easy by the “tradition” of military authoritarianism and interventionist feudalism in the form of the monarchy. In the U.S., Trump will surely build on an illiberalism that has been built in civil society, much of it fostered by religious fundamentalism and conservative nationalism or “patriotism.” We can see him moving against institutions identified with U.S. liberalism. trump2

Anti-liberalism and authoritarianism in Thailand has long been associated with a deeply conservative emphasis on orderliness. This fetish has been fostered by the hierarchy of military and monarchy. Trump is unlikely to rely on the military, although many in the military will be ideologically drawn to him. He may seek to make his family more monarchical, just as The Dictator has adopted characteristics of the dead king.

Misogyny and boorishness have been defining elements of The Dictator’s personality and regime. As we know, Trump has little to learn from The Dictator on these scores. Yet we might understand that these characteristics are a part of a conservatism that allocates privilege to selected groups in society.

Ignorance is another central characteristic of the military dictatorship. The Dictator and his closest colleagues have little knowledge of the world.This group gained its leadership position based on royal posterior polishing and adherence to hierarchy. They have no experience of a real world, even in the military. Trump, for all of his investments, is essentially a New York property developer. He can learn from the military dictatorship that such narrowness simply doesn’t matter when your constituency is boorish and narrow too.

The final characteristic is an inability to “fail” or “lose.” The military dictatorship is never wrong and never gets anything wrong. The problem is “others” who are undermining the regime, opponents of the regime or duped by nasty politicians. Trump can learn from this. He certainly knows that even defeats must be reworked as “wins.” However, the targeting of opponents will likely become his excuse for all kinds of nastiness.

Thailand has demonstrated that authoritarianism is a slippery slope. The country is now at the bottom of the slope. The U.S. is no liberal heaven but Trump can easily knock away some of the remaining checks and balances and the slope gets steeper and the slide down it accelerates.

Red shirts still under attack

10 11 2016

With Jatuporn Promphan still jailed by the military dictatorship, it seems the junta is still pressuring red shirts. It still sees a threat from “political groups” and is desperate to stub this out.

Prachatai reports that a “military prosecutor in … Thailand’s northeast, has indicted 20 villagers accused of breaking the junta’s ban on political gatherings.”

The military prosecutor in Udon Thani “formally indicted 20 anti-establishment red shirts” for “violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] Head’s [The Dictator] Order 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons…”.

The villagers had met to discuss the “red-shirt referendum watch campaign on 19 June 2016 in neighboring Sakon Nakhon Province.” Some of them wore “black shirts with the message, ‘Referendum must not be stolen, cancelled, or shamed by Myanmar’.”

Most of those accused are described as “senior citizens.” These aged activists are a threat to the well-armed and funded military and its regime. The trembling regime reckons the “red shirt villagers were attempting to discredit the military government and the controversial referendum on the junta-sponsored draft constitution that was held on 7 August 2016.”

The regime does a pretty good job of discrediting itself.

Aged villagers don’t need to do very much to frighten the regime. The regime fears that the villagers will set an example to others in opposing the horrid regime.

The lese majeste abyss

10 11 2016

Yesterday we posted on lese majeste exile Jaran Ditapichai‘s view that Thailand’s already dismal human rights situation is likely to get worse. Jaran takes the view that the “special circumstances surrounding the succession” mean human rights abuses will grow.

How right he is.

Prachatai reports that that most corrupt of Thailand’s organizations, know as the “Royal Thai Police” have announced that they have now “documented 194 alleged violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.” The police say they have arrested 10 and are hunting 17 more “suspects.”

The officer added that 10 persons have already been arrested while the authorities are now trying to arrest 17 more.

That is not a human rights situation getting worse. It is an avalanche of human rights violations dragging Thailand into an abyss of abuse from where it will be difficult to recover. We are likely to be talking decades (or a violent and sudden overthrow of the military regime). Liberals in Thailand have no place to exist.

As a footnote, pointing to the belligerent General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the “uneducate” junta leader and self-appointed prime minister, the article claims that he “has ordered the authorities to speed up the arrest of lèse majesté suspects who fled abroad, adding that Thailand has extradition agreements with 16 nations.”

Thick as a brick” we hear you say. Maybe. Yet there is a lot of posing by the military junta, cementing its position as a wall of royalist bricks. They believe that they must protect the monarchy in order to make themselves the silverback gorillas in a post-Bhumibol Thailand.

A second footnote is our own. This announcement of the large number of lese majeste cases being investigated suggests both that the legal definition of the “crime” has been reduced to the lowest possible level so that anyone saying anything about the monarchy, past, present and future. At the same time, it suggests that disdain for the monarchy is far more widespread than the junta and royalist propaganda suggest.

Jaran on the human rights abyss

9 11 2016

Jaran Ditapichai, from The Organisation of Free Thai for Human Rights and Democracy and a political exile in France, having fled lese majeste charges, has an article at EurActiv.com on human rights in Thailand.

He says the human rights situation is “likely to get worse before they get better…”.

Jaran takes the view that the “special circumstances surrounding the succession” mean human rights abuses will grow.

A “marriage of convenience” between the military regime and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorm will be in control for “an extended period, under the pretext of stabilising the country, and a return to democracy will be delayed to 2018 or later.”

The new king, when he eventually succeeds, will be “unpredictable and will not have the aura of his father, so the military regime will clamp down even further to ensure that no negative views are expressed on his reign…”.

Since the king’s death, “police have so far prosecuted some 23 people for lèse majesté.”

The military-monarchy twinning and “paused royal succession” will see “the military regime continue to destroy or undermine all democratic forces…”.

He’s pretty much spot on.

Charter jitters remain

8 11 2016

The jitters over the junta’s draft constitution and the need for it to be signed into law still motivate claims that it will, one day, an unknown day, be signed by the new king who has yet to take the throne. Succession jitters seem to have been brought under control.

The Nation reports that the military’s constitution drafter Meechai Ruchupan stated that “he was convinced the new charter would be promulgated within 90 days after the government seeks royal endorsement from the new king.” Yet Meechai “declined to say when the new constitution would take effect.”

Meechai said The Dictator “would submit the draft constitution for royal endorsement tomorrow (Nov9)…”.

Meechai was also confident that the puppet “drafters would complete the four organic laws required before the next general election.” He explained that the “drafters were being particularly careful about provisions that would punish politicians who commit offences or have impacts on political party executives.” The talk of death sentences continues.

The junta’s “election” is scheduled for late 2017, but will not alter the military junta’s control of politics.

Somyos is still in prison

7 11 2016

Somyos Pruksakasemsuk has been in jail since 30 April 2011. He was sentenced to 10 years jail for working as an editor of a magazine that published articles considered to contravene the lese majeste law.somyos

In a recognition of Somyos as a prisoner of conscience and longtime labor activist, Prachatai reports that the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has awarded him the Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize. He is the first non-Korean to receive the award.

The Korean unions hope “that the award will support an international campaign to free Somyot from imprisonment.”

Somyos has refused “to plead guilty to end their trial and have their jail sentence reduced…”.

His refusal to bow down before royalist icons is why royalist regimes punish him.