Updated: 1931 moves closer

10 10 2019

A defining feature of recent royalism and especially of this king’s (still short) reign has been the rolling back of limits on the monarchy’s “prestige.” That has meant expunging the changes that made for a constitutional monarchy. It is clear to PPT that King Vajiralongkorn wants his reign to mark a return to the monarch’s economic and political power prior to the 1932 revolution.

The king has made it clear that he hates the limits on his power. He has demanded and got changes to the junta’s constitution – the changes made in secret – and taken full personal control of the monarchy’s treasure and made the Crown Property Bureau his own, expunging even the minor limits on what he could do with his property and huge wealth. Those limits were imposed after 1932 (and watered down under his father).

The king has grabbed land that he reckons belongs to his royal family and that was “lost” after 1932. New laws in 2018 gave the king enormous power to grab land.

The king has vastly expanded his political power by taking control of large police and Army units – up to regiment size – for his and his family’s “protection.” Most recently, this has involved the illegal use of emergency powers in the constitution.

At the same time, the obsessive–compulsive king has promoted retro-fashion that favors pre-1932 uniforms, haircuts and attire. Personally, he has promoted royal polygamy.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Why are we recounting all of this? One reason is because the king has, with the support of the military junta and now supported by the post-junta military-backed government, he’s gotten away with all of this with barely a peep of dissent. (Of course, dissenters are threatened, jailed, disappeared, tortured and murdered.)

Under this king there’s also been a concerted effort to expunge the symbols of 1932. It wasn’t that long ago that a monument to the defeat of the royalist restorationist rebellion in 1933.

Known as the Boworadej Rebellion, it was led by Prince Boworadej and supported by the anti-democratic King Prajadhipok.

The king, probably reflecting the influence of his grandmother’s and his mother’s family’s hatred of the 1932 People’s Party revolution, the king has demanded that the military adopt symbols of the pre-1932 royal family.

The most recent effort has involved the Army’s celebration of leaders of that rebellion – a coup – who engaged in treason and mutiny.

It is reported that:

two halls in the army’s museum are named after royalist rebels who attempted to overthrow an elected government eight decades ago.

Clipped from Khaosod

Prince Bovoradej and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram, who led the 1933 failed revolt, now grace the two rooms at the Royal Thai Army headquarters’ newly renovated museum, which honors illustrious figures in army history. The rooms were inaugurated today by none other than Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong.

The Army “said the naming was meant to honor the two men for their loyalty to the monarchy…”.

The Army has tried to downplay this move, but no one should be fooled. This is yet another nail in the coffin of the constitutional monarchy as the king pushes for a neo-feudal political arrangement.

A democracy activist, Abhisit Sapnaphapan wrote:

“This is a declaration that even though they did not succeed that day … their legacies are being continued today…. Welcome to the old regime of absolute monarchy.”

Another observed: “Thai people united and brought down Bovoradej’s revolt to defend their constitution, yet Tuu [Gen Prayuth] is naming a meeting room after Bovoradej…”.

It is late 2019 but 1931 seems just around the corner.

Update: Readers might find an interview with Pridi Phanomyong from 1977 of some interest. It has emerged from behind a paywall, here.





Denying constitutionalism, affirming neo-feudalism I

21 08 2019

“Modern” Thailand is looking increasingly like a neo-feudal kingdom. We know that the moniker “Kingdom” has become increasingly common as a kind of affirmation that Thailand has a monarchy. but that has usually meant a constitutional monarchy.

In the previous reign, the monarchy was steadily moved to a position of greater ideological, economic and political power and influence. In the current reign, which began under the military junta, more changes have been made that have further empowered the monarchy, including land grabs, new laws and constitutional changes.

Many of these changes have been enshrined in laws made in secret session by the junta’s appointed and puppet National Legislative Assembly. Others have a dubious legal basis in palace announcements (which the Constitutional Court has interpreted, in one case, as law).

Neo-feudalism enshrined

There’s also been the secretive destruction of symbols of the 1932 revolution. Such historical vandalism has been rightly interpreted as “announcements” of neo-feudalism.

The most recent “announcement” of neo-feudalism was Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s “solemn declaration before the King” legally meant to be made under Section 161 of the junta’s constitution. That section states:

Before taking office, a Minister must make a solemn declaration before the King in the following words: “I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.”

As everyone knows, Gen Prayuth read a different declaration:

I, (name of the declarer), do solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the King and will faithfully perform my duties in the interests of the country and of the people. I will also uphold and observe the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand in every respect.

Just for interest, a (random) look at other constitutions – here, the 1974 version – showed no difference in the required oath:

As far as we are aware, that oath has never previously been denied (at least when constitutions have been in place).

So, despite denials, this oath to the king rather than (also) to the constitution, is highly significant.

It is also clear that, if they can get away with it, Gen Prayuth and his regime (and the palace) are seeking to make the discussion of the unconstitutional oath go away, with no rectification and no winding back of this act of embedding neo-feudalism.

The Bangkok Post reports an opposition demanded parliamentary debate on the neo-feudal oath “will likely occur next month…”. This announcement came from the government’s Deputy Parliament President Supachai Phosu. It is said that it is “up to Parliament President [and member of the government coalition] Chuan Leekpai to fix a date for the debate, which will proceed without a vote.”

Whether it happens is open to debate. What is clear is that the parliament’s bosses are trying to delay and quieten things so that Gen Prayuth, his regime and the palace can get away with unconstitutional actions and the further embedding of neo-feudalism.

Meanwhile Gen Prayuth said “he is too preoccupied with work to explain” his actions.

Gen Prayuth made his oath ashe and the king intended. They seem confident that they can break the most basic law. As it was under the junta, Thailand remains essentially under a lawless regime.





Updated: Reporting on cowardly attack

30 06 2019

While yellow shirts on social media continue to cheer the vicious and cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat, the reporting of the attack, the patterns it reveals and the future it portends, reporting has been extensive. We felt readers may finding a linked list of some use:

Reuters, 28 June: “Thai anti-junta activist attacked, latest in ‘pattern’ of violence.”

La voi dumond, 28 June: “Thaïlande: un militant pro-démocratie passé à tabac en pleine rue.”

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Prawit orders police to speed up ‘Ja New’ case.” While some politicians on the right made statements against violence, the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party voiced a concoction that also circulates on yellow-shirt social media, claimed that the assault was probably by supporters of the Future Forward Party in order to gain support. If neither the junta nor her party doesn’t condemn her bizarre statement, then we may assume she’s speaking their collective mind. Pareena mimicks the fascists of 1976.

Political cartoon by @stephffart in support of activist Sirawith Serithiwat

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Future Forward MP has ‘Ja New’ attack clip.” The clip is widely available on social media and its publication preempts any attempt to claim that CCTV was inoperable and prevents the media “disappearing.”

Daily Wiews, 29 June: “Thai anti-militare attivista attaccato e lasciato inconscio.”

News.com.au, 29 June: “Shocking pictures show brutal bashing of political activist in Thailand.”

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Thammasat U professor suspects Ja New’s assailants used blackjack batons.”

The Nation, 29 June: “Former senator calls for public donations for Sirawith.” Interestingly and symbolically, Jon Ungpakorn called for 247.5 baht donation, channeling the 1932 Revolution.

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Fund-raising campaign to help cover Ja New’s medical bills.”

Korn

The Nation, 29 June: “Korn condemns assault on anti-junta activist.” Democrat Party deputy leader and plutocrat Korn Chatikavanij managed to (sort of) condemn the attack on Sirawith, only by referring to alleged attacks on his “subordinates” at some unstated time. Korn was complicit in the Abhisit government and cabinet that presided over a period where dozens were killed by the murderous military and hundreds were injured. Korn blamed others.

The Nation, 29 June: “Pheu Thai MP raises Bt103,000 to support assaulted anti-junta activist

The Nation, 29 June: “‘Ja New’ needs eye socket operation, say human rights lawyers.” This report has stills from CCTV showing attackers and lists the damage done to the young activist in the brutal attack.

The Nation, 29 June: “Concert held to support Ja New after anti-junta activist assaulted again.” In fact, Sirawith “helped organise the concert, named ‘Democracy 24 June: What’s day?’, to mark the 87th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 that overthrew absolute monarchy…”, suggesting that thugs involved in the attack may be ultra-royalist hirelings or acting for the military, which has a record of creating and managing such rightist thugs.

Bangkok Post, 30 June: “Activist assaults go unpunished.”

Update: Khaosod reports on CCTV footage being available, while the police are already saying such footage is “unclear.” No one can expect justice from this junta (except the rich and powerful friends of the junta).





With 3 updates: On (the real) National Day

24 06 2019

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong. We do so again today.

Pridi

In 2009 we noted that in recent years the anniversary of the event was barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries.

In this reign and under the military junta, there has been a determined attempt to erase the symbols of 1932 and to erase anti-monarchism.

Royalists and the king seek to erase an event they consider horrendous for reducing royal powers and granting sovereignty to common people. Of course, for many years, the royalist aim has been to push the events of 1932 from the public agenda and to “forget” that the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy.

As we did in 2009, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if the mad monarchists could get away with it.

PPT has extracted and lightly edited this document from the excellent book Pridi on Pridi, translated by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, and published by Silkworm Books. It is available from the Pridi/Phoonsuk website.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod has a useful op-ed on the real National Day. He says that “Today, only history buffs and pro-democracy activists care to mark the day as one of the most important in the Kingdom’s history. Few newspapers have mentioned it this year.” We don’t think that’s entirely true. PPT has met many who remember the day, but they dare not do much about it in royalist Thailand. Then this:

What’s more, some important relics of the 1932 revolt have mysteriously disappeared. A brass plaque at the Royal Plaza marking the June 24 revolt went missing in 2016, only to be replaced by a new plaque extolling royalist ideology. No one has claimed responsibility.

At the end of last year, something even larger disappeared. The Constitution Defense Monument at Bangkok’s Lak Si intersection, which was at least three-stories tall, was removed. Again, no one was held responsible and the majority of the Thai press neglected to report the incident. The monument had marked the defeat of a royalist rebellion which sought to restore absolute monarchy.

It’s almost as if the day never existed, which says a lot about today’s Thailand.

Now, the press extols the virtues of royalist ideology instead….

Update 2: Seemingly making Pravit’s last point, the Bangkok Post produced an atrociously royalist and unnecessarily nasty attack on those who don’t think like Patcharawalai Sanyanusin and other mad monarchists. While the attack is couched in terms that suggest something milder, this op-ed is one of the ugliest we have read in the Post for some time.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS marked the day with a schizophrenic piece that acknowledges 1932 but then lists the role of monarchs after that event. Nor does it discuss why National Day was changed to King Bhumibol’s birthday by a military dictatorship in 1960. It is breathtakingly royalist.

Showing that 1932 remains a potent political symbol, Khaosod reports on “Opposition politicians … marking the 87th year since the birth of Thai democracy by calling for charter amendments aimed at ridding the junta’s influence.” Likely to cause royalists even more angst, it is reported that:

In an online post, the Future Forward Party said the 1932 revolt inspired Thais to seek not only a constitution to govern their country, but one guaranteeing rights, liberty and equality among citizens.

“Not every constitution is a ‘constitution’ by itself,” the party’s statement said. “Some documents that they are trying to describe as a ‘constitution’ may never really constitute a constitution, because they lack the principles we discussed.”

Update 3: What is it with the “new” Bangkok Post? Has it been decided that it has to be triumphantly royalist? As far as we can tell, 24 June came and went with not a peep from the elite’s newspaper, except for a nasty snipe at anti-monarchists. Now, two days later, it comes up with a story of “Siam on the world stage.” Nothing to do with 1932, but about Siam’s royals belatedly deciding to join the allies in WW1, not doing anything much at all, but getting in on the peace deal. So what’s the big deal? Nothing much at all. It is a footnote in anyone’s serious history. But, it is celebrated now because it is about royals and their doings. Pile it high!





Does parliament matter?

9 06 2019

That may seem like an odd question given that there was a first election in eight years not that long ago. But it’s 11 weeks since that election and the country still doesn’t have a government resulting from that election. And, that election was rigged, even if the result was not exactly what the junta planned and hoped.

Then there’s Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who now claims to have been anointed by a parliament that he scorns by not bothering to deal with, probably something that will probably be common going forward, if “forward” is the appropriate word for the troglodyte regime and its spawn.

Most symbolic of the deep, dark trench that has been scoured by the monarchy-military regime, trying to excavate a politics that was meant to have been buried in 1932, is the homelessness of parliament. The previous parliament house has been acquired by King Vajiralongkorn before the new parliament house has been completely built.

A story at The Nation adds more information on the new parliament house. Not that long ago the public was told that the king’s takeover of the land and building would mean that parliament would remain homeless until the middle of next year. Now, it seems, “the current completion date leaning towards the end of 2020.” The date remains rubbery. It could be that parliament remains homeless well into 2021 or even longer.

As The Nation says, “In the meantime legislators will continue meeting at various large venues around Bangkok as needs dictate.”

While the new parliament building is heralded as a splendid piece of architecture, the building for the people’s representatives is also built with the monarchy in mind – indeed, a special royal functions hall – and will also house, for now, the unelected swill of the junta’s Senate.

Gen Prayuth is hoping that parliament doesn’t matter all that much, but the electors have (repeatedly) shown it does matter (even if rigged). Their votes have presented The Dictator with a nopposition that he can’t simply ignore, harass, jail or silence with the ease afforded by Article 44 and military power.





Junta, queen and Prem

2 06 2019

Politics seems remarkably quiet as the junta seeks to seal its stolen election victory (all of the last three words need inverted commas). As in many political deals, the junta’s machinations with various anti-democrat parties is going on behind closed doors.

How much all of this will cost the taxpayer is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, with yet another holiday for royal stuff, its a queen’s birthday holiday. As expected, this is the first opportunity for the palace propaganda machine to lumber into action to give the former consort a royal makeover.

This is a palace process that follows patterns set in the previous reign that seeks to manipulate public opinion with propagandized “histories” and “life stories.” Of course, within a couple years, barring a fallout with the king, she will be another super royal, at least in the propaganda.

And kind of related, for those readers who haven’t seen it, Pravit Rojanaphruk’s op-ed that holds a mirror to the sycophantic (part) memories of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. Divided opinions on Prem are actually a fair representation of this divisive royalist figure. His efforts built on the work of disgruntled princes and royalists that have sought to roll back 1932. That effort continues in the current reign.

 





Hippo manure

18 05 2019

The Bangkok Post has a fluff story on all of the animals that have been removed from the Dusit zoo and how “happy” one hippo is. Perhaps the editor felt that people needed to know that 897 animals had been removed and resettled. Not a single one has died, been tortured, garroted and disemboweled or forcibly disappeared.

We make this point because while the story explains that “the Zoological Park Organisation (ZPO), which falls under the auspices of the Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King,” it tells  (necesary?) untruth when it states the “ZPO decided to close Dusit Zoo.” In a truthful statement it adds that the ZPO “is now building a larger replacement on 300 rai of land donated by … the King in Pathum Thani.”

The truth that the Post seems unable or unwilling to mention is that the king decided he wanted the land where the Dusit zoo had sat for decades and took it, throwing out the zoo and all its animals years before a new zoo will be ready (see here, here, here and here).

Of course, the zoo isn’t the only place inconvenienced and homeless because of the king’s land acquisitions. Several universities were ditched, the Red Cross lost a fair ground, and most symbolic of all, the parliament has nowhere to meet.

All of this seems to revolve around aggrandizement, wealth and rolling back 1932.